It’s June! Can you believe it? It feels like we were just dragging our way through February, and now we’re in full-blown spring mode. We snapped our vegetable patch into shape last weekend—there’s marjoram, eggplants, chives, spicy peppers, basil, a few kinds of tomatoes, zucchini (which means these guys are not too far off…), mint, thyme, pineapple sage (!), the usual sage, parsley, cilantro, and probably a thing or two more we’re forgetting right now. We’re just excited to be outside, and growing things (which, of course, means ultimately eating things), and being our warm-weather selves after such an icy winter. The excitement definitely extends to the incredible produce that’s springing up everywhere. Though our backyard labors will take a few weeks to really get going (chives aside—we have MONSTER chives with the most beautiful puffs of purple flowers), we’re already up to our elbows in produce love elsewhere.
When the weather heats up, we start to crave all things green. Lettuces, asparagus, limes, tomatillos, herbs, cucumbers, fennel—the list is long. They all just sound so good after a day in the sun. Basil, zucchini, and arugula definitely top our favorites list as some of the most versatile green things. Are there any meals that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of at least one of these? We honestly can’t think of one.
Part of the green hunger is probably naturally wanting to eat a little healthier, a little lighter when it’s hot outside. We just don’t eat the same way we do during the winter. For us, that means making adjustments even to simple meals like pasta, which is an all-year, all-hour, all-days food for us. Our warm weather pastas are, yes, less heavy, but they’re also packed with spring and summer flavors. One of our favorite ways to eat pasta from now through September is to change-up the vegetable-to-pasta ratio so that it’s more half and half (or even more vegetable than pasta). It’s a kind-of pasta salad.
So many of our best cooking ideas come out of sudden food cravings. When trying to decide what we wanted to eat one day last week, Lou said, “I just want a big bowl of green,” and I said, “How about we add some pasta?” And ta-da: this seriously incredible, gorgeously green pasta dish.
We love the idea of subbing in zucchini ribbons for some of the pasta. The zucchini and the linguine twirl together so easily that every bite is the perfect satisfying mix of pasta and vegetable. You not only don’t mind that this dish is a bit healthier than the usual pasta—you so don’t mind that you make it again and again.
The pesto, which gets a bit of an added summery (and healthful) kick from the arugula is garlicky and bright and coats every strand of pasta and zucchini. The walnuts and edamame, again, up the wholesomeness of this meal, but also balance the flavors with their nuttiness and add great texture. A sprinkle of herbs, lemon, and cheese on top brings everything together and easily knocks the whole bowl into Favorite Summer Meals territory.
We’re going to be eating this a lot this summer. We may have already eaten it more than once this week… And writing this post is making us want it again, so…
Dinner tonight? We’ll start on the pesto, you start on the zucchini.
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Arugula-Basil Pesto Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
– 1 cup arugula, packed
– 1 cup fresh basil, packed
– 3 cloves garlic (or more/less if you like—we like ours garlicky)
– 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
– 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
– Red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to taste (remember you’ll get a lot of saltiness from the cheese)
* Wash and dry the arugula and basil—add to the bowl of your food processor. Smash the garlic and add it, as well.
* Toss in the walnuts, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes. Pulse to chop. (You can always add more seasoning towards the end, if you need.)
* With the motor running, add the olive oil in a stream through the top, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and process until well blended.
* Add the grated cheese and give the pesto another couple of pulses to mix.
* Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.
* Cover and set aside. If you’re making this the day before, cover well and refrigerate.
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Linguine with Arugula-Basil Pesto, Zucchini & Edamame
Notes: We used a vegetable peeler to create our zucchini ribbons. However, you can also use a mandolin to get a 1/8 inch julienne, or you can simply slice the zucchini into very thin slices with your knife, then cut these slices into thin strips.
– 1 pound linguine
– 3 small zucchini squash, gently scrubbed, washed & dried
– 1 1/2 cups cooked edamame (If using frozen, prepare according to the instructions on the package)
– Basil leaves, lemon zest to taste, and walnuts for garnish (and extra flavor and crunch)
– Parmesan or pecorino Romano grated cheese
* Set a large pot of well-salted water to boil over medium-high heat.
* Run your vegetable peeler down the side of the zucchini to make ribbons. When you get down to the last bit of the zucchini and can’t peel anymore, you can slice it up with a knife (or just eat it). Stack the slices and cut into thin strips—about as wide as linguine.
* When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
* Drain the pasta, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta water.
* Put the pasta back in the pot and add the zucchini, edamame, and pesto. Toss gently, adding one cup of the reserved pasta water. Add more water as needed to create a creamier sauce. You want the pesto to coat each strand of linguine, so you need to make sure there’s enough moisture to loosen everything up.
* Divide pasta among plates. Garnish with torn basil, walnuts, lemon zest, and top with grated cheese.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All Rights Reserved.