In the beginning, pesto turned me on to pine nuts.
Believe it or not, I'd never heard of pine nuts, didn't know what they look like, and didn't even know that they're not really nuts at all.
Every time I made a batch of pesto, I bought the smallest container of pine nuts I could find (turns out they're in the produce section of every market). I used the whole amount, a few ounces or so depending on how much basil came out of my herb garden, and I never gave pine nuts another thought until it was time to make pesto again.
In the spirit of The Perfect Pantry, where we learn more about the ingredients we have on hand with recipes (more than one recipe!) for how to use those ingredients, I decided it was time to do a bit more with pine nuts. And guess what? They're delicious in all sorts of savory and sweet dishes. And because they are seeds and not nuts, many people with nut allergies can enjoy recipes that contain pine nuts.
When I first opened the doors of The Perfect Pantry, I put Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese up on a pedestal (as well it should be), and lumped all of the other cheeses together as, well... assorted cheese.
I apologize for that.
I apologize to you, and to the cheese: to the salty bite of feta; to the nutty smoothness of Gruyere and Swiss; to the creaminess of brie and camembert; and to the tangy acidity of goat cheese.
Goat cheese does things few other cheeses can do -- it spreads and melts -- and for that it's earned its own place on my refrigerator shelf.
There was a perfect storm in my pantry a couple of weeks ago, a moment when the very best of the fridge, freezer, garden and cupboards presented themselves all at once.
I found the last of last summer's slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer along with a few large shrimp, and a bit of locally produced feta in the cheese bin. The basil in my garden was ready for its first pinch-back, and a box of pasta, the twisty kind I like best, sat on the shelf.
There's nothing better than going into the pantry and coming out with ingredients that make a meal.
Everything was perfect. Everything, except for the black blob that suddenly appeared deep inside my camera when I went to photograph this oh-so-perfect pasta salad for you.
I took photos with my point-and-shoot, drove my camera to the hospital, and set out to make this dish again.
No more perfect storm, though. For one thing, I'd used up the tomatoes. I made the recipe twice more, with sun-dried tomatoes from the market (good, but not as good as the original). By the second try, I'd run out of feta, too.
So, please do what I'm doing this weekend. Go to the farmers market, or to your garden, and buy five pounds of ripe tomatoes. Slow roast them (I'll tell you how), and pack them for the freezer. Then make another batch, because once you taste them, you'll never buy sun-dried tomatoes again.
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