Here are two mini-pizzas with some chopped Anaheim chilis and basil leaves from the garden, along with some chopped mushrooms from the fridge:
I decided to use a bunch of the pesto to try and recreate a veganized version of the pesto cavatippi dish I like to get from Noodles & Company. Every once in a while I get this dish without the cream or added Paremesan, and it is so good. I am sure that there is some more parmesan in their pesto, but I try not to think about it, because I do love me some pesto. But, I thought I could surely do better at home with my fresh pesto, and looking at the nutritional info on the Noodles site, I think mine has to be better on some of those categories as well (particularly because mine has no cholesterol or saturated fats!)
Anyway, here is the picture:
Olive oil, 1-2 TBSP
1 pound of tofu, cut into small-ish squares
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 Anaheim chilis, diced (frankly, I am not certain about this one, but I have been adding them to everything--Marsha gave me some extras, in addition to the ones I have still growing outside, so I probably added these)
1 pound of whole wheat pasta (rotini is what I had on hand)
About half a cup of pesto, maybe more (I didn’t really measure, sorry!)
3 - 4 cups baby spinach
Start boiling the water for the pasta. Fry the tofu in the olive oil until browned on at least one side. I did this slowly, over medium-high heat, while I chopped the other veggies and chatted with my mom. This is one of those things that just takes some time, and you don’t want to stir too much, which is one of the hardest tasks for me. Add the pasta to the water in the other pot as soon as it is boiling. Once the tofu is browned on at least one side, addethe onions, mushrooms, and chilis. Gently fry all the veggies with the tofu, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked al dente, ladle out a cup or so of the pasta water to add to the sauce, then drain the pasta.
What I did next, versus what I think will work better next time:
Actually did: Add the pasta to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, then add in the pesto and the reserved pasta water. Stir to mix, then add baby spinach in handfuls, covering to let the spinach wilt, then stirring and adding more until the spinach is all incorporated.
Next time I will: Add the pasta water and pesto to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, stirring to make a slightly thinned out pesto sauce, adding enough liquid to make it saucy, but not so much as to make it too thin. Add the pasta to the skillet, stir to combine, and then start adding the spinach a few handfuls at a time.
I also added a bit of Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning to this, because I add that to a lot of things these days. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, or you don’t want to use a seasoned salt, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings are a good substitute.
I meant to add some cherry tomatoes to the skillet right before the pasta was added, so that they would cook down some but not completely lose their shape, but I totally forgot. That would make it more like the restaurant dish, as would a bit of wine, but I forgot that, too. Next time, I will probably add a little bit of wine with the pesto, maybe half a cup of Pinot Grigio.
I still have just a little of the pesto left, but I am not sure what I am going to do with that yet.
The rest of the season in basil:
- Mostly, I just went out before cooking many, many things and got a small handful of fresh basil leaves to add to the dish.
- I did make the Sweet-Basil Tapenade from Veganomicon for my birthday open house, but I forgot to put it out, :-(. I ate some of it after the party, though, and it was a mixed success. I have been using the Grade B maple syrup lately for it’s richer maple taste, and that may have been a bit too much for the tapenade--I suspect it was supposed to be mostly pesto-y with some sweetness, but it was very sweet and maple-y, just a little too much. I may try again next year with some Grade A maple syrup, or less syrup or something.
- Like the mint, I should have been using more of this earlier. Although I did use basil a lot when it was growing strong (I don’t think there was a week that went by once it was coming in that I didn’t use it two or more times per week in recipes), I could have used a lot more when it was growing back in almost as fast as I picked it. I could probably have made a big batch of pesto every week and popped it in the freezer without noticing a decrease in the amount of basil I had available for other uses.
- Next year, I want to try basil lemonade, like the mint and lavender lemonades that I made this yea
Here is a mostly non-garden dish, with some pretty parsley sprinkled on top: