Fusili with Pea, Lemon, and Herb Pesto

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Hot, hot hot!!!

For the past 4 days, the weather has been seriously warm. And with the temperature exceeding 30°C  with sweltering sunshine, I finally wanted to cook with basil. In my kitchen, I usually try to cook with the season’s ingredients. The other day, I was thinking about food pairings, especially with herbs. For example, it’s rare that there are autumn or winter vegetables that match well with soft herbs like chervil, dill, tarragon, basil, or mint, but on the other hand, sturdy herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme,  or bay, go better together with these vegetables. Let me give you some specific examples; basil goes well with tomatoes, strawberries, capsicums, and zucchini, which are summer vegetables. But, it’s not such a good pairing with to earthy tasting, hearty cold weather vegetables like pumpkin, squash, parsnip, or cabbage.  Now summer is finally upon us here, I started craving basil, which hasn’t happened in many months for me. Peas are one of the first summer vegetables you can find and basil and mint are natural pairings. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find fresh local peas. I bought some once years ago but I haven’t been lucky since. If you are buying fresh peas, it’s important to buy the ones from your local farms, as the sweetness of the peas starts to diminish quickly after they are picked.  Here in this recipe, I have used frozen peas. I know using frozen vegetables might not sound too “foodie”, but peas are about the only frozen vegetable you would find in my freezer, and I find they taste actually quite similar to freshly podded peas.

This dish I made for lunch today is easy and quick to make. It is delicious served either hot or cold, so depending on how hot it is outside, you can give it a ring of change in the dish’s temperature too.

If you are looking for another recipe for a hot day, the recipe I submitted, cold beetroot and yoghurt soup, for the Guardian won the Reader’s Recipe Swap two weeks ago. Click here to see the full recipe.

Have a nice week guys! xo-A.

Fusili with Pea, Lemon, and Herb Pesto

Note: This dish can be served either hot or cold.

Serves 2-3

200g frozen or fresh peas (podded weight)
1 medium sized leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 clove garlic, (new season’s garlic, if possible)
A small handful mint leaves (about 4g)
A large handful basil leaves (about 8g)
40ml olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
350g fusili
80g feta cheese, (I used goat’s feta but any feta would work well) to serve- optional

1. In a small saucepan, bring the lightly salted water to boil. Add the peas, sliced leek, and garlic. Boil for 1.5 mins. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain well and add to the food processor. Add the herbs, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until roughly pureed. Set aside.
2. Bring a large saucepan with generously salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dante. Drain. Refresh under cold water, if serving cold. Stir in the pesto and serve with some feta cheese on top.

Linguine with roasted pumpkin and spinach

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After a very hot summer this year, the season ended abruptly in Germany at the beginning of last month. When the summer is gone for good, it can get quite depressing, as the weather won’t get warmer or very sunny again until around April/May the next year. I have a thing in my kitchen, where I wait as long as I can until I cook with the first pumpkin of the season. Pumpkin to me, and I’m sure to everyone else, means autumn, and in turn accepting the fact that summer is completely GONE. I’m sure this odd thing of mine isn’t so comprehensible for most people who haven’t experienced the cold and dark winters of Germany. But I can assure you, it’s no fun at all.  Waking up in the dark even if you wake up around 8am-ish, grey skies, sunset (if there’s sun that is) at 4:30pm-ish, and the freezing temperature almost everyday can be extremely gloomy at times.

I’m sorry I’m whinging. There are though, plus sides to the long dark winters. Christmas is around the corner (=over-indulgence in food and wine!), sipping piping hot Glühwein (Mulled wine) in freezing weather at the Christmas market with friends, standing tightly huddled around a small table, and a lot of use of the oven in the kitchen to keep the apartment warmer. Two of my favourite produce come in season as well. Pumpkin as I have mentioned, and kale are in abundance at the farmer’s market. I bought a medium sized, yellow-fleshed pumpkin at the market last week. I can’t remember what sort it was unfortunately. And although kale doesn’t come in season until November in Germany, I found fresh local spinach at the Demeter stand, and hence this pasta was born last weekend.

This pasta dish is super easy to make. The most time consuming part is cutting the pumpkin into cubes, but otherwise there isn’t much chopping involved. The timing can be kind of essential though, as is with most pasta dishes. I recommend butternut squash or other creamy variety. I do not recommend Hokkaido pumpkin, as I find it quite tasteless and the texture is somewhat mealy compared to the Butternut. I still don’t understand why the supermarkets here stock so many of these, and not Acorn, Delicata, or Kabocha.

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Anyways, back to the recipe. The cubed pumpkin is tossed in olive oil and roasted with garlic, thyme, and rosemary, which will make your kitchen smell divine. In meanwhile, wash the spinach and chop roughly (or just use the kitchen scissors while the spinach is still in the drainer like I did). The pasta should go in the boiling water right after the pumpkin is out of the oven. While the pasta is cooking, heat up the oil in a pan and toss around the roasted garlic for 30 seconds or so, then add the spinach, and then the pumpkin and plump sultanas to mingle the flavour. By then, your pasta should be cooked, and all you need to do is carefully toss the pasta with a bit of the pasta water as not to squash the pumpkin cubes into a pulp. Voilà! Dinner is ready! Happy cooking everyone!

Linguine with roasted pumpkin and spinach 

Serves 2, generously.

2 tbsp olive oil (or more to taste)

1/2 of a small pumpkin (ie Butternut), peeled and cubed

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (mine were short, but if you have a long sprig, use less, as rosemary can be very overpowering)

4 fat cloves of garlic, un-peeled

1 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1 tbsp sultanas/raisins.

200-230g Linguine, depending on how hungry you are.

3 big handfuls of roughly chopped spinach

Pumpkin seed oil (optional)

Parmagiano reggiano

salt&pepper

1. Turn the oven on to 200 degrees Celcius. Trim the pumpkin and cut into bite-sized cubes. Lay the pumpkin cubes, garlic, and the herbs on a baking paper and baking tin, and coat with a tablespoon of olive oil,. Season with salt and pepper. Depending on the size of your cubed pumpkin, it will take around 20-30 minutes. Mine took 20. Stir half way through.

2. Soak the sultanas in boiling water to plump up.

3. Depending on how fast your stove is, bring the pasta water to boil just before the pumpkin comes out of the oven. Set aside with the lid on.

4. When the pumpkin is cooked until tender but not mushy, take it out of the oven. Turn the pasta water back on immediately and cook the linguine according to the direction on the package. Make sure your pasta water is well salted. (very important!)

5. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan in a medium-high heat. Squeeze the garlic flesh out of the skin and add to the pan. Stir around for 30 seconds. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

6. Add the pumpkin and the drained sultanas. Toss around the pan to mingle the flavour. Sprinkle with chili flakes if you like.

7. At this point, your pasta should be cooked to al dante. Save half a cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta immediately into the frying pan and toss around with a tongs gently, adding the pasta water as necessary, if the dish seems dry.

8. Serve with a small drizzle of pumpkin seed oil or olive oil on top. Sprinkle with Parmagiano reggiano.