Today's is my mother's birthday. Even though she is no longer with us, every year it is easier for me to imagine that she would fully expect us to spend the day celebrating.
As time heals and happier memories replace more difficult times, I've found comfort in doing things she loved. My mom loved to cook and we often cooked together. When I was older this was mostly over the holidays when we'd travel to get together with family. My dad would always politely complain that we would make too much and would warn us to keep it simple. But really, that's not much fun is it?
But today is all about fun and simple and definitely celebration. With warmer (and almost downright hot) temperatures finally here, I start thinking again about summer foods. Fresh pesto tops the list. When the basil is still young, green and fresh and hasn't yet blossomed out of control, or worse yet, wilted and withered into dusty shades of old brown crispy leaves.
This simple pesto begins with the most basic ingredients: spinach, basil, olive oil, lemon, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Thrown into the blender and that's about it.
Tonight this pesto will transform a summer pasta dish I am experimenting with for our little birthday party. Whole wheat pasta tossed with all of the best (almost) summer vegetables I could find, roasted in the oven and bursting with flavor. Treated with a coating of freshly made pesto, I'm thinking this is not only going to be good, but celebration worthy. And that's really what today is all about.
Before we get to the recipe, here's a few images from a family trip to Italy about five years back which inspired this birthday menu. We spent a memorable day together in Cinque Terre, hiking the hills, sipping local wine and eating fresh pesto with even fresher pasta on the edge of the sea. Cinque Terre is everything that good pesto is. Simple, beautiful, fresh, lemony, earthy, and just a touch salty.
Spinach Basil Pesto
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
juice of one medium lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Add the first five ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until combined. Add in cheese and blend again. Salt to taste.
It's that simple!
I'll let you know how the summer pasta turns out. Wishing you a celebration of your own kind tonight!