Monday, July 20, 2009

Prince's Pesto Pasta Salad

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It's the dog days of summer. For us, that usually means all the fans are circulating hot and humid air around, Tangerine passed out in the corner, baseball is on the tube, and we're not cooking. I can't even stand in the kitchen, let alone turn on the oven. So we end up eating salads a lot more than I'd like. But after attending East Bay's least vegetarian friendly barbecue on Saturday (vegetables = portabella mushrooms wrapped in bacon), I can't wait to have this salad.
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 cups of basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 pound of pasta (I used fusilli)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, cubed (or 1 1/2 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 bag of mixed greens
  • grated Pecorino cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place peeled garlic cloves into 2 tablespoon of hot olive oil and lightly fry over low heat until just golden brown. Remove from heat and allow oil to cool. Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil and cook pasta until just al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Return pasta into the emptied pot. Any water on the pasta will evaporate from the residual heat of the pot.

Using a food processer, puree basil leaves, garlic cloves, garlic oil, and pine nuts. Drizzling in the remaining olive oil and process until the mixture has a paste-like consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss together mixed greens, tomatoes, pasta and pesto. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add grated Pecorino cheese if desired.

This is different from a traditional pesto sauce because roasted garlic is used instead of raw garlic. If you like raw garlic, by all means use it. I tend to like the milder and nutty flavor of roasted garlic. Also, cheese is not incorporated into the pesto, making this a vegan optional dish. Finally, this pesto pasta salad is named in honor of the home run derby champion this year, Prince Fielder. It was well publicized when he became a vegetarian in 2008 and one of his favorite vegetarian dishes is pesto salad. In my opinion, it's a dish worthy of a home run king.

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