Monday, August 4, 2008

Keeping it easy in late summer

Our friend, the pig. Note Pasquale Ravioli on the window sign.

My older kids are away at summer camp and we are down to the Freedman 3. I had envisioned more elaborate, adventurous fare, like curries, paella or hot pots, during their time away. My kids are foodies compared to many their age, but there is still a long list of meals that my children tolerate but do not appreciate in the least. So, the effort seems wasted and many foods my husband and I like are not part of the standard rotation. Hence fantasies of more adult fare...

I'm surprised to report that quite the opposite has happened. With only two real eaters, the dinner efforts have dwindled significantly. (My almost three year old eats heartily but her consumption amounts to a pittance compared to a couple of preteens.) The heat doesn't help. Who wants to put together a multi-step meal after a long, hot day, be it slaving at the office or doing playground duty. A salad and a nice glass of chilled wine are what's called for.

Wonderful summer produce makes it easy to make great no cook meals and to be happy and sated with a salad or sandwich. My best quick and delicious summer meal so far has been: fresh cheese ravioli (purchased at Esposito and Sons Pork Store in Carroll Gardens, see photo above) with homemade pesto, local cherry tomatoes, and chopped bacon. The only cooking part was boiling water and cooking the ravioli, which went quickly since they were fresh (maybe 5 minutes). Easy, cool, delicious. The presentation: served on nice plates, with candles was very adult, but any kids would love this too.
Homemade Pesto
1 bunch of fresh basil*
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil, depending on consistency
1-2 cloves of garlic, depending on taste
1/4 cup of chopped nuts or seeds (pine nuts are traditional, but I usually have walnuts on hand, and have used sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup or less of fresh Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash basil and pick leaves off stem. (I had my toddler help with this.) In food processor, mince garlic. Stuff the basil leaves into the food processor bowl, then process while drizzling olive oil through chute. Add nuts and Parmesan cheese and continue to process. Add small amounts of olive oil if needed until the mixture is the consistency of a wet paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta or in any other dish. If you don't use the entire amount in your dish, freeze the remainder or use within a couple of days.
*I only do this in the summer when the basil is plentiful and inexpensive. You can mix fresh parsley with basil if you need to stretch the amount.

More No Cook Ideas:
No cook menus by the Food Network
No bake blueberry cheesecake by Mark Bittman
Summer Express, Bittman's list from last summer of 101 quick summer meal ideas.

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