Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Easily Seduced

I am easily seduced by food. Even as I flip through a cooking magazine to choose, say, the short ribs with sun-dried tomato gravy, I'm watching a cooking show where Barefoot Contessa is making a roast beef sandwich with truffle butter and I'm torn. Two delectable lovers stand before me and I cannot choose. I want them both, and if I choose either one I will surely end up craving the other.

What's a girl to do?

A friend was telling me today about how wonderful her boyfriend is and how much she loves him, but doesn't feel about him the way she felt about her ex - who would take her back if she'd have him. And such is her dilemma, whether to go back to her passionate first love, who comes with a roller coaster of emotions, or settle in with a stable man who she has grown to love.

How do we choose what to eat every day, what we crave or what we have a taste for? What's just a momentary fling versus a recipe that stands the test of time? Who would have guessed that a simple spicy spinach pesto could woo me week after week, but the promising Ethiopian chicken would fall flat? And every once in a while I remember the summer I ate breakfast couscous every day, I couldn't get enough, and now it hardly seems worth the effort. But damn it was good at the time. I couldn't have predicted that roasted broccoli was impressive enough to introduce to my parents, or that roasted tomatoes would have my friends talking. The only thing they all might complain about in the end, is that I won't just settle down already with all the recipes I've collected rather than running around with new ones all the time. But I'll distract them with some homemade butter pecan ice cream on a slice of oatmeal cake. They can be seduced too.

I swear this pesto is better than any basil pesto. Giada's version has arugula but I prefer just spinach which is less bitter. Get a good olive oil for this, it contributes at least half the flavor.

Spinach Pesto (Adapted from Giada's Fusilli with Spicy Pesto on foodnetwork.com)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2-inch long) red or green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped* see Cook's Note
  • 2 cups grated (4 ounces) parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fusilli or penne pasta

For the pesto: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, cheese, salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and process until blended. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the cooked pasta and pesto in a large serving bowl. Toss well and thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed.

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