Thursday, October 14, 2004

Simple Green

Thursday nights can be challenging. The refrigerator has just enough ingredients for dinner. However, we're both tired and it's tempting to just phone up San Tung for an order of chicken wings and beef chow fun.

Nights like these call for something simple, straightforward and so satisfying that you can't believe you actually considered greasy springrolls. For us, that means a great pasta. Miraculously, a giant bunch of basil I bought at the farmer's market hadn't whithered away, so pesto was in order.

I brought a large pot of water to boil while I made the pesto. In college, I lived in a co-op with 61 women and ate my share of gummy, sticky pasta. Because it takes a long time to boil that much water, whoever had kitchen duty would boil the minimum amount of water and add the maximum amount of pasta. The noodles have no room to move, so the starch congeals and they stick together. Since then, I have used a large pot, a lot of salted water, and restraint in the amount of pasta I cook.

I crushed three garlic cloves and put them in a blender with two big handfuls of basil, some toasted pinenuts, and roughly a quarter cup of olive oil. After scraping down the sides and making sure there were no chunks of garlic, I stirred in some grated pamigiano-reggiano. I seasoned the pesto with salt and pepper and set it aside.

John's favorite pasta shape is spaghetti, which pesto coats beautifully. The thing is, he eats a lot of it. It's charming how he disregards the suggested serving size, but I sometimes wonder about cooking half a pound of pasta just for him.

From start to finish, dinner was on the table in twenty minutes--which is still faster than takeout.

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