Even though the calendar claims that it is mid-August and some kids are already back to school, I feel like my summer is just beginning. Chicago had a record breaking “cold” July so it never felt like hot summer (not that I would have known since I was inside studying all day) but my day yesterday made me feel that summer had finally arrived.
I woke up and took a leisurely trip to the market. Went for the first run in a while that unfortunately was a bit asthma plagued but it still felt great to have the 74 degree breeze on my face. I bought a new bike saddle at Kozy who pumped up my tires (which were apparently always flat-whoops) and now my bike is fast and comfortable to ride. I spent an hour sitting outside the Starbucks in my neighborhood, people watching and reading a book and then came home to whip up a pasta salad to take with me to the free concert in Grant Park for a picnic with friends.
I enjoyed just figuring out what to make by getting inspiration with what I picked up at the market. I knew that I would make a pesto since I bought a HUGE bunch of basil for only $2 from Green Acres. Then I decided that it would be tasty to toss the pesto with some small fork-able pasta, blanched and sliced green beans, sliced cherry tomatoes and small cubes of fresh mozzarella. It came together simply and it tasted fresh and just like summer.
After the concert, Dave and I rode our bikes back to our apartment along the Chicago lakefront. The sun had set but the buildings and the boats were glittering in the water. People were still playing volleyball on the beach or enjoying the quiet evening. As I was biking, I just kept thinking, “I am so lucky to live in a place where you can listen to live music in a beautiful park for free with a picnic of great food and wine with friends and get there by riding a bike along an incredible lakefront.” Chicago really is a special place.
Pesto Pasta Salad
An original Whitney in Chicago creation
(I didn’t really measure anything while I was making it but I am sure you can easily recreate it)
For the pesto:
Big Bunch of Basil, washed and dried (it filled half of my large salad spinner bowl)
1/2 cup or so of walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Olive oil (probably used 1/3 cup or so but I was just pouring from my bottle)
2 inch block of parmigiano-reggiano, chopped in small pieces or grated
Kosher salt to taste
Place all the basil, walnuts, garlic and salt into a food processor. I did it in a few batches because I only have a mini food processor but if you have a full sized, just do it all at once. Pulse the ingredients while drizzling in olive oil until it forms a paste. You might have to scrap down the sides to make sure the nuts and garlic are getting chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the salad:
1/2 pound of small pasta (I used a tri-color type from Trader Joes)
1 cup or so of sliced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of blanched and sliced green beans
1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small bites
Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and quickly rinse with cold water to stop cooking and get the pasta color. Toss the pasta with the pesto until evenly coated. Save any extra pesto topped with a little olive oil in the fridge. Toss the pesto coated pasta with the tomatoes, green beans and mozzarella. Add additional pesto if necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat, hopefully on a picnic blanket enjoyed with friends and wine.