Our lives have become so hectic that we can get disconnected from the rhythmic cycles of life. Our calendars mark the autumnal equinox, but chores and work and the busyness of getting things done can turn our lives into routines. One day blurs into the next, and we just keep going, and going, and going.
So, I try to find joy every day by grounding myself in the here and now. We all lead lives filled with abundance, beauty, and love. We need only to train our eyes to notice our surroundings and turn our attention to nurturing ourselves and those we love in small, practical ways.
Find beauty in the commonplace. Feast on ripe juicy pears, crisp arugula salad, and roasted acorn squash which are currently in season (and chock full of more flavors and nutrients than the higher priced produce flown in from half a world away.) Decorate your table with a bouquet of sunflowers from the grocer’s. Enjoy the glorious colors of the trees. Watch the leaves glow as the sun shines through them on a drive through the country, a walk in a local park, or a stroll down a street in your neighborhood. Celebrate ordinary days. Revel in your life by finding ways to mark the end of summer and the arrival of autumn. Here’s my autumn ritual…
As summer’s warmth wanes, the days shorten… and the basil in my herb garden stops growing and starts to keel over. So, I mark the transition from summer into fall by cutting it all down, before a killer frost beats me to it. Instead of mourning the loss of an abundant supply of fresh basil to go with all the ripe tomatoes still available at Abma’s Farm Market, I turn this ritual into a celebration of the last scrumptious, luscious, taste of summer. Pesto pasta.
I don’t remember how I came to know that real pesto pasta includes not just the pasta and the pesto. In an authentic pesto pasta, green beans and new potatoes add earthiness, heartiness, and a nutty sweetness to the dish. Summer’s bounty in a bowl. Serve the pesto pasta with ripe tomatoes, lightly drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to bring out their sweetness and depth.
After making a batch of pesto sauce (or two depending on the amount of basil I have), I immediately freeze half of the sauce and save it for the dead of winter. Then on a cold evening when I am bundled in thick layers and sick of the grey, hard, barren winter, I can pull a taste of sunshine out of the freezer and feed not only my body but my soul.
Here’s my recipe (although you can find plenty online.) Buon Appetito!
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Put the garlic, basil, pine nuts, and cheese into a food processor, and pulse a few times until the ingredients are just barely incorporated together (and not finely ground.)
- Take the stopper out of the top of the chute, turn on the food processor, and add the olive oil in a fine, steady stream while the processor whirs away. Stop as soon as you have finished adding the oil. The sauce should have a gritty texture or still have some body. (If you let the machine go too long, your sauce will liquify and been thin and watery.)
- Half of the pesto sauce (from the recipe above)
- 1 pound of pasta (I like bowtie or spaghetti best)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 medium potatoes (or 4 to 5 small, new potatoes)
- 2 large handfuls of green beans
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- Fill a huge pot approximately three quarters full of water and a teaspoon of salt. Make sure you have enough water for the pasta to float around. (Add more water if you need to.) Bring to a roiling boil.
- While the water is heating (which will take forever), scrub the potatoes clean under running water. Then cut them into small cubes, about a generous half inch big.
- Rinse the green beans and snap off both ends. (Skip this step if you are using frozen beans). If you have long beans (like haricot verts), chop the beans in half in order to make them short enough to eat easily.
- Once the water is boiling, throw in the potatoes and boil them until they are tender (about 10 minutes). Fish one out and pierce it with a fork if you are unsure. Turn down the heat, and remove the potatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, but do not pour out the water. Set aside.
- Bring the pot back up to a boil, and throw the beans into the same pot of water. Let them cook for 2-4 minutes, until they reach the texture you desire. (I like mine tender, but some people prefer crisp beans). Lower the heat, fish the beans out of the water, and set them aside. (You can out them in the same bowl as the potatoes.)
- Now bring the water back to a boil one last time, then add the entire box of pasta. Let it cook for the time recommended on the box.
- Before you drain the pasta, take a ladle or spoon with a long handle, and put a spoonful or two of the hot water in a large serving bowl. Let the water sit in the bowl while you drain the pasta. Switch the hot water around a little to warm the bowl, then dump most of it out, leaving a generous tablespoon worth behind in the bowl. This water helps the sauce stick to the pasta and gives the sauce a smoother texture.
- Put the now drained pasta in the large serving bowl, dump in the potatoes and the green beans, and pour the pesto sauce over the lot of it. The toss it all together gently (or the potatoes will break) until everything in the bowl is coated in pesto sauce. Then, sprinkle with salt and grind over some fresh pepper. Finally, sprinkle the top of the whole dish with the grated cheese, then serve your masterpiece promptly.
Practical Notes: Even in winter you can find potatoes and green beans. Use frozen green beans if necessary. Just don’t attempt the tomato salad in winter unless you use extra dressing to mask the tasteless mushiness of winter tomatoes.
Wishing you every blessing,