Thursday, March 31, 2011
In San Francisco, we take our summer where we can get it. Unlike the rest of the country, the months of June, July, and August are generally cold and foggy here. We run our heat and wear sweaters. Pictures in catalogs, or images on TV, showing people frolicking in bathing suits at the beach, or grilling on the patio because it's too hot to cook inside, seem like they're from another planet. It makes for a very grumpy city.
However, we do get sprinkles of summertime throughout the year: a few weeks in the fall, a couple in the spring, and sporadic days in the early part of the year, like now.
The thing is you never know when the warmth will arrive, or how long it will last. Sometimes the day starts out gorgeous and you're opening windows and unearthing flipflops. At 5:00, the fog and wind has rolled in, windows are clamped shut, and you're thinking about making beef stew for dinner.
What I do love about this is that it makes people deeply appreciate the nice days. When it's hot in San Francisco, everyone is out, riding bikes, walking dogs, picnicking, and even sunbathing (if you're at Dolores Park, at least). No one assumes tomorrow will be nice too, so they get out while they can.
Yesterday was in the high 70s and utterly breezeless. It was beautiful. For dinner, I thought it would be nice to skip the oven and minimize stove use. After watching a rerun of Ina Garten making pesto pasta salad, that's what I decided on, although with a few twists.
For one thing, I didn't want to make a salad--i.e. I didn't want to use mayo the way she did. I'm not anti-mayo but it didn't sound good to me with pesto. I did, however, like the idea of something creamy balancing out the pesto, which I often find harsh. Here's what I did, call it a recipe if you like, although it was more making it up as I went.
I made pesto. I don't follow a recipe for pesto, so I have no measurements. This was garlic (two cloves is plenty for me), basil, walnuts, olive oil, salt, and--this I stole from Ina--defrosted frozen spinach to hold the green color, and a few tablespoons of lemon juice.
When the pasta was cooked I set aside a few spoonfuls of pasta water and tossed the hot pasta with 2-3 ounces of goat cheese to give it that creamy base I was looking for. Then I added the pesto, a little pasta water to get it to the consistency I wanted, some grated parmesan, about a cup of defrosted peas, chopped toasted walnuts, and a cup or so of halved grape tomatoes.
We opened up the windows along with a nice bottle of wine, and voila, a summer's dinner.