Summer & Pesto
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 a herbaceous, simple, light pasta to fill my tummy and reenergize my soul for another wonderful summer day.
Amber Ryder-Wilson was born into a Cajun family in which making roux became a rite of passage. She is a freelance writer and the author, recipe developer and photographer for the Southern memoir-style blog www.fortheloveofthesouth.com.
Recipe: From Bon Appétit, June 2013
1 pound of spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)
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.