Hi. I’ll have 8 oz of the grass-fed–no-antibiotics–natural–no-artificial-growth-hormone–happy-cow steak. No, not that one, the one behind it and to the right, please. Sound familiar?
It’s sad that the barriers between industrialization and gastronomy have been breached, but it’s the truth. After reading Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilema, I’m scared, or rather disgusted, to buy any other meat. I’ll usually pass on the massaged cattle lavished with all-they-can-drink sake, unless the parents are paying, and simply go for the healthy, happy cow instead. Slightly more expensive than the hormone-injected alternative, but I make it stretch to fit the occasion. If it’s dinner for two, I’ll break open a bottle of wine and enjoy a nice steak perhaps alongside some pureed parsnips or celery root. If it’s for a party, I’ll serve it as an appetizer and share it with my guests.
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ATOM: A Taste of the Mediterranean
If it weren’t for the whole making-a-living part of life, I would spend all my days traveling the world without even giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, making a living seems to be one of the cruel prerequisites to my globe-trotting dreams; so, until then, I travel when I get the chance and often resort to cooking to fulfill the rest of my curiosity.
Continue reading “Pesto with my Italian Double & ATOM” →
Living in the godforsaken Ithaca tundra, I realized that despite how bad the weather is, there are always things to look forward to. In the spring, for instance, it’s regaining the sensation in my fingertips and the opening day at the farmer’s market. Last Saturday, the latter of the two was realized. The weather is still too cold for my liking; but a 40-degree high is certainly appreciated after such a brutal winter.
Luckily, the rest of America is right on schedule with the commencement of spring and so I was excited to find ripe avocados calling my name at the store last week. After poking all of them to pick the ripest out of the bunch (don’t judge, I know you do it too) I bought 4; I used the first one to shoot the Avocado Milkshake Video, and the rest to experiment on an Avocado Pesto I dreamt up recently. Believe me, just like the milkshake, it’s a lot tastier than it sounds.
mise en place
The ingredients are similar to a regular pesto, but with minor alterations. The bulk of the greenness now comes from the avocado while the basil is merely a supporting actor in the whole production (I didn’t have the heart to exclude it). Then I decided to add lemon juice for zing and milk for a creamy touch.
No, the sauce will not curdle because the natural fats in the avocado help keep everything together (clever, huh?).
the spoon test
After processing everything together you’ll have a super thick sauce. No panicking is necessary as you’re only a couple steps away from pesto heaven at this point. The sauce will later be brought to consistency with pasta water, so just remember to reserve a cup before draining it.
vibrant green color
One of my favorite components of this dish is the vibrant forest-green color that the spinach takes on after sautéing. Of course, I keep it Italian by throwing in some toasted pine nuts. And if you don’t dig spinach, you can substitute arugula for a more peppery flavor that works out just fine (especially if you’re a big fan of arugula, as I am).
Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water and toss the pasta with the sautéed spinach and sauce. You’ll notice that the sauce is still very thick and this is completely normal. Incorporate the pasta water a little at a time until you reach the perfect consistency you’re looking for.
Avocado Pesto Pasta
Avocado Pesto Pasta
(yields approx. 4-6 servings)
- 1 lb. pasta
- 1 hass avocado
- 1/3 cup milk
- 10-12 leaves of basil
- ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
- 2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 oz. pine nuts, toasted (approx ½ cup)
- 6 oz. baby spinach
- salt & pepper, to taste
Putting them all together
- In a large pot, cook pasta to specifications as directed on the package and set aside a cup of the cooking water.
- Blend the avocado, milk, basil, Parmigiano, 2 tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and ¼ of the pine nuts until smooth to make the sauce.
- Using the remaining olive oil, sauté the spinach and the pine nuts just until the spinach wilts and turns a vibrant green.
- Toss the cooked pasta, sauce and sautéed spinach together and add a little of the cooking water at a time until you reach the consistency you like.
- Serve with some extra Parmigiano shredded on top
Festive green, nutty and full of fragrance; Pasta alla Zarina is my spin on the classic pesto Genovese. This dish is fresh, modern and was inspired by my fashionista friend, Zarina (and her love of spinach).
Zarina and I met at an internship one summer and were practically joined at the hip. Between our Shakira-tuned car rides to work and our late-night mint chocolate chip sessions, there wasn’t much we didn’t do together. This pasta dish is her absolute favorite (or so she tells me) and the least I could do was name it after her… and blog about it.
Continue reading “Pasta alla Zarina” →