SUMMER & PESTO

Parsley Pesto Pasta

Summertime quickly thrusts itself onto the South. Spring lasts for what seems like only a week, and as soon as the trees lose their bloom, summer appears the very next day. Along with the sweltering heat comes a silver lining in the form of backyard barbecues, bonfires, and nights at the river where the waves that break against the shore never rival the sound of laughter coming from the deck above. Fireflies dance from the water to the woods, blazing a trail as the long, hot summer days come to an end, only to awaken the promise of another day filled with childlike wonder.

Summer is also the season of barbecued ribs, fresh tomato salads tossed with oregano and olive oil, grilled corn on the cob happily gleaming with melted butter, roasted seafood adorned with lemon wedges and Malden sea salt, watermelon slices served with chopped mint for dessert and pasta slicked with an herbaceous pesto. After a day spent soaking in the sun, this is the dish I crave.

This pesto has a warm nuttiness from the toasted almonds, freshness from the parsley and chives, and a slight rich, full-bodied flavor from the olive oil and Parmesan cheese. After a day spent in the heat, my body and mind begins to wind down and all I want is an herbaceous, simple, light pasta to fill my tummy and reenergize my soul for another wonderful summer day.

Recipe: From Bon Appétit, June 2013

Serves 6

1 pound of spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)

Kosher salt

½ cup unsalted, toasted almonds

4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

¾ cup chopped chives

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup finely grated Parmesan

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta liquid for sauce.

Using either a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind/pulse the toasted almonds until ground (the almonds should resemble coarse sand.) Add parsley leaves, chives, oil and Parmesan cheese, and continue to grind/pulse until smooth. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

Toss pasta and pesto together in a large bowl, adding the reserved pasta liquid ¼-cupfuls at a time until the pesto loosens and becomes saucy. Season with salt, pepper and more olive oil.

Gristmill & The Guadalupe

While living in Texas, tubing trips down the Guadalupe River quickly became an end of the summer tradition. Long, hot days melted away with a lazy ride down the lengthy, winding river. There was nowhere else I wanted to be, except whenever I would smell the glorious vittles coming from Gristmill Restaurant in the historic district of Gruene. Sitting under towering oak trees while watching the meandering river created a relaxing atmosphere for a glorious meal. One of my favorite dishes was a classic meat and potatoes dish. The chicken was cooked to perfection and then covered in the most beautiful, fresh green sauce. Their potatoes were mashed with the skins on and seasoned perfectly. When I’m craving the mill, this is the dish that I crank out while dreaming about the Guadalupe River on a crazy, hazy, lazy, summer day.

Recipe: Serves 4-5

Roasted Chicken:

1 stick of butter, room temperature

1 pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

1 whole chicken, backbone discarded and flattened

4 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 4000

In a sauté pan, crank the heat to high with oil in the pan. Combine the butter, red pepper, black pepper and salt together with a fork. Going on top and under the skin of the chicken, slather on all of the butter mixture. Once the oil comes to a smoking point, lay the chicken skin side down onto the pan. Be careful, there is moisture in the butter that will make the oil sizzle so try to lay the chicken away from your body. Place a foil-lined skillet on top of the chicken. Let the skin crisp in the pan for 5-10 minutes.

Once the chicken is crisp, place the whole pan/skillet/chicken combo in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Let the chicken rest after taking it out of the oven to reserve all of the juices. Slather skin with the pesto.

Pesto:

2 garlic cloves

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

2 sprigs of basil, leaves only

2 sprigs of parsley

¼  cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup of olive oil, add more for desired consistency if needed

In a mortar and pestle, crush garlic, salt and pepper flakes together. Pulverize the garlic into very small pieces. Add the herbs. Crush the herbs until the basil and parsley are in very small pieces. Add half of the cheese. Keep pulverizing the mixture together. Add the rest of the cheese and the olive oil. If you want a smoother pesto, add a little more oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

Roasted Potatoes: Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

½ stick of butter

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of red pepper

1 pound of baby Yukon Gold potatoes or baby new potatoes

2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley

In a large pan with a lid, melt the butter on low heat. Once melted, add potatoes, red pepper and salt. Place the lid on the pot and cook, covered on low heat for 30-40 minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes once the largest potato can be poked with a fork with ease. Turn off the heat and let steam for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.