Summer Recipes

August 8, 2008

In addition to my somewhere-over-70 cookbooks, I currently I get three food magazines – Gourmet, Food and Wine, and Bon Appetit. At different points in my life I have also gotten Cooking Light and Cook’s Illustrated (which I plan to re-subscribe to.) Every month, these little treasures come and I relish being able to sit down on the couch with a pen and mark each thing that looks good to me. Then they go into a magazine basket to be forgotten until the day, six months later, when I realize that I am six months behind and I go on a recipe tearing-out frenzy. I spend a day tearing, a day cutting the recipes out, and another day taping the recipes into four notebooks that I have expressly for this purpose.

I am not a neat or organized person. But my recipes notebooks are one of my greatest achievements of the organized person I wish I was. It all started with one notebook which then became a really big notebook, which then got split into two, and has now become four. One houses appetizers, salads, and side dishes, one houses soups, breads, and cookies, one houses main courses, and another houses desserts. If my house caught on fire and I got my family out safe, and all the photographs…I would save the notebooks next. Any of my cookbooks and any of my kitchen equipment can be replaced, these can’t.

The problem with being perpetually six months behind is that when I open the pages to the most recent recipes I have pasted in there, I am totally off seasonally. What sounded good in the February issue is not what sounds good now. It will sound good next February when I stumble on it again so all is not lost, but it doesn’t work for me now. That is why, when my Food and Wine and Bon Appetit came last week, I was determined to make a dinner out of some of those recipes. That way, when I finally get around to cutting and pasting them next winter, I will have actually gotten to enjoy some of them.

Last night’s dinner was Pasta with Cauliflower and Peppers, Leeks Vinaigrette with Mustard Breadcrumbs, and Green Gazpacho Salad. I made the leeks because they sounded so tantalizing – and they were incredibly delicious. They were sliced in half and baked at high heat for a long time with wine and broth so they became soft, browned and incredibly sweet. An intense mustard-y vinaigrette was poured over them and then they were topped with breadcrumbs which had been baked with more mustard. Really an incredible way to serve this delicious vegetable, but NOT for summer time. I have two ovens and they were both on for a grand total of somewhere around 80 minutes and so my not-too-hot house became really hot. I will absolutely make this recipe again (and share it with you), but not until the fall comes.

Now pasta is another story. I find I make a lot of pasta in the summer because it tastes nice and light to me and the prep is often minimal. And perhaps more importantly, the stove time is minimal. I don’t often bring pasta to my clients because many of the recipes that I love need to be served right after they finish cooking. But this lovely recipe states that it tastes good warm or cold which means it can be made in advance. The pesto for this pasta is made from cilantro, parsley, garlic, and olive oil and it coated the pasta beautifully and tasted rich and nutty. If you are not a huge fan of cilantro – I can honestly tell you that, although it calls for a fair amount of it, it’s flavor is pretty muted. You could probably just use all parlsey or even substitute basil. The pesto can be made a day ahead which makes the finished dish really quick. And your stove is only on for the time it takes the pasta to cook.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers, and Walnut Pesto
Adapted from
Food and Wine Magazine
Serves 6

I needed to serve 7 people so I upped the pesto slightly and used one pound of pasta. There was plenty left over. Because I was not going to serve this right away, I used more of the pasta broth so it wouldn’t get dried out.

1 1/2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves
cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
cup walnuts
2 garlic cloves

cups olive oil
Kosher salt

pound orecchiette
1 small head of cauliflower (1
1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2-by-
1/4 inch strips
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-by-
1/4 inch strips
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, parsley, walnuts, and garlic until finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons of the oil and process until smooth. Season with salt.

2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the cauliflower and season with salt. Cook over moderately high heat until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook until tender and brown in spots, about 5 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl.

4. Add the pasta, pesto, and the reserved pasta water to the vegetables; toss until the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper.

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