Monday, July 12, 2010

Yesterday two things happened

The first thing is that I tried to make purple basil into purple pesto. I had two gorgeous bunches of the basil, plans for polenta that night to spread it over, and a very concise recipe.

What I did not have were measurements.

The recipe comes from my poetry adviser from Regent College in Vancouver. He is the quintessential philosopher-poet. He is logical and intuitive. He is a teacher. He loves food. He loves making food. He is not, however, a recipe writer.

I'm not sure what I was thinking trying to follow this recipe. I guess I assumed I was intuitive enough to just feel the quantities, to taste, adjust, and taste again. Finished product:

the ugliest pesto I have ever seen. This is the color you try to keep nice-looking pesto from developing. I thought purple basil would make purple pesto. But even before I added an extra bunch of green basil (because the pesto wasn't too basil-y) the color was awful. The flavor was pretty good actually, but by the time I had a finished product, I also had a recipe as precise as the recipe my poetry professor had. So. Not. Helpful. I refuse to pass on such madness to you, so today you do not get a recipe for pesto. You get a recipe for how to use pesto instead.

Because, the second thing that happened yesterday is: I discovered yellow crookneck squash! I can honestly say I have never consciously eaten a yellow crookneck squash and liked it until last night. It is one of those unfortunate vegetables that people try and eat when it is not squash season in their area, and when prepared has an off taste, like soap maybe, or rotting pumpkins. Well, I had been pondering this variety of summer squash recently because I can't name another member of the veggie family that I don't like, and I find disliking foods to be very disconcerting, disorienting even. I saw it at the farmer's market this weekend and decided it was time to try again. I did what I always do to the squash family when I'm trying a new variety. I roasted it. But before that even I was in love. I tried a raw piece and Lo! and Behold! Its flavor was distinct, sweet, delightful! Similar to yellow patty-pan but also reminiscent of the heartier winter squash varieties. It was a little waxy too, which fresh tastes just fine, but I believe that is what goes awry in the out-of-season.

Anyway, I had enough pesto and uncooked squash leftover to make this salad tonight. And now, as the parents just came through the door and my child is whining and my beloved and I are famished, I am going to eat it!

Summer Wheat Berry Salad adapted from Vegetarian Planet, Didi Emmons

A few things: I used plain wheat berries here, but sprouted would have been even better. No matter how much I am currently attached to the crookneck squash, other summer squashes would substitute well. And golden balsamic vinegar, if you have not yet experienced its glory, is perfect for summer, giving that balsamic zoom without the full-throttle of dark balsamic. Do try!

2 cups cooked wheat berries*

6-8 yellow crookneck squash, about 3 cups
2 baskets small tomatoes (such as cherry, grape, pear-shaped)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
salt for sprinkling
lots of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim ends off squash and cut in approximately the same 3/4 inch pieces. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake in another 9x13 baking dish for about an hour, or until soft and just starting to caramelize.

Meanwhile, wash, stem, and halve tomatoes lengthwise. Coat in olive oil, sprinkle with a little sea salt, and arrange cut-side up in a baking dish or two (I used two 9x13 glass dishes). Bake for about 30 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned on top. The juices should be already browned in the bottom.

Meanwhile still, mix together remaining ingredients and store in the refrigerator if you want a cold salad, or at room temperature if you want a tepid salad.

When the tomatoes and squash are cool, add to the grainy mix. Toss very carefully to keep roasted veggies in tact. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Enjoy!

*To cook wheat berries, soak about two overnight in plenty of fresh, unchlorinated water. Drain, place in a heavy-bottomed pot, and cover with about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook until firmed up and chewy, about 20 minutes. (Note: if you do not soak them, it will take an hour to cook, and you'll be looking for a new softness rather than firmness.)


  1. Yes I know a lot of philosophers and the recipe is very indicative of the style, I'm a physicist so the recipe would of be full of precise measurement with lots of side notes LOL LOL. I just love the look of the final dish, and I don't think the purple pesto looks that bad at all. OBTW the figs do look fabulous your writing style is very clear and lucid. And the camping trip sounds so thrilling. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Ahh yes, that recipe looks familiar...hi, Amanda!

  3. Thanks Audax! I have to admit, now I appreciate more beginning with the physicist-type recipe and letting my philosopheresque tendencies morph the recipe into "a nice consistency."

  4. Ha. I wrote that "recipe". I remember sitting at the table while Loren was doing something, trying to get him to tell me about how much of everything he put in it. What I finally wrote down is what you have up there (which, in my defense, is a lot more specific than what he told me).