On the cusp of a new season, I’m usually pushing ahead to the next one, eager to flip the page, like Avery zipping through her board books. Spring has its obvious lure out of winter, ushering in light and warmth and new growth and asparagus (!). But autumn normally has an equally compelling pull for me, all fresh, new, and crisp, not to mention its gourds and apples.
But this year, as Labor Day has come and gone, and as August has slid into September, I don’t feel that same pull. Maybe it’s that this was our first full summer with Avery. Maybe it’s that this summer has been so good. Maybe it’s that I’m fearful of the unknown—I haven’t lived an autumn or a rainy winter in Seattle yet, and I don’t know what to expect. Whatever it is, I’m just not ready to move on.
Last week did not comply with my feelings. Our wake-up calls were noticeably darker and the sun was setting while we cooked dinner, rather than when we ate it. The mornings were fogged over and most of the afternoons were gray and wet. Was this Seattle’s autumn, a not-as-pleasant version of the season as the midwestern ones that I know and love? And it was so awfully sudden: August was up, summer was over. It got me down, and I didn’t have much of an urge to cook. Summer produce seemed all wrong, but fall’s comfort fare felt too soon.
But! The weekend arrived and Seattle began to spoil us again with pitch-perfect sunshine-y days (or sunny afternoons and early evenings, at least). It’s lasted through to this week, and it’s felt like such a gift. I’m really trying to savor it all.
In the kitchen, that’s meant more summer produce, and—especially—more tomatoes (surprise, surprise). Here, they were scattered, along with bits of mozzarella, into a pasta salad dressed with a kale-basil pesto. We ate it on the porch, pesto smeared across Avery’s face. There might have been football on in the background, but it still felt like summer.
Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
1/4 cup walnuts
1 small bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette
1/2 cup loosely packed basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce container bocconcini, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast walnuts on a tray for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Submerge the chopped kale and cook for 1 minute, until the kale is bright green. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, lift the kale out of the water and into a colander; reserve the boiling water. Run the blanched kale under cold water until cool. Wring out the excess water from the kale and set aside. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water, and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the cooked kale, toasted walnuts, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice; pulse until a thick paste forms. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil until you reach desired consistency. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in parmesan. Season with salt, to taste.
When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the boiling water. Transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl. While the pasta is still hot, add the pesto, halved cherry tomatoes and drained bocconcini. Stir to combine. If necessary, add the reserved boiling water to loosen the sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or straight from the fridge.