Seeing old friends is something incredibly comforting for me. Like your favorite set of sheets. As soon as you slip in, you breath an immediate sigh of relief and relax. Being able to lounge about your candlelight kitchen with a dear friend (whom you don't get to see but a handful of times a year) hour after hour, drinking champagne cocktails, eating good food and listening ambient music* is a rare occurrence these days. Last night I had the pleasure to spend my entire night, from sundown to the wee hours, doing just that.
Bean (a nickname I gave her I can't even remember when, Elementary school? High school? I'm unsure still but nonetheless many years ago) is quite possibly the dearest of them all. Perhaps it's the fact that we always have plenty of catching up to do, lots to discuss. Or maybe it's the fact that she whole heartedly adores my little house and my little life. She's one of those people who is constantly complimentary, in a sincere way. She never fails to make me realize just how good I really have it, and that my efforts to create a slice of lovely in this world hasn't gone unnoticed. She swoons. That's the best way to put it. Always over one thing or another, but she positively swoons. It never fails to put a smile on my face and warm my heart. I think each of us needs someone (if not more than one) in our lives like Bean.
The night Bean came over I had decided it was time for me to experiment a little for dinner. Nothing wild mind you, just something I'd never tried (or seen a recipe for). Last Saturday for 'Around the Table's' Appetizer dinner I whipped together a batch of sweet pea crostini. Something I'd seen here and there before, something I was curious about, and something that was simple (a far cry from my original plan of homemade flatbread pizzas). While the crostini were only so-so (not the star of the evening that's for certain), as I munched away on them I thought to myself, 'hey, tossed with a pot of freshly boiled pasta, this pea puree could make one simple but delightful meal'. And it did. It was pretty much everything I hoped for. Incredibly springy and fresh. Quick, simple, inexpensive, and downright easy. A simple puree (or pesto as I've dubbed it) of ricotta, lightly boiled peas, basil, and garlic, tossed with a pound of hot penne. Paired with fried pancetta sprinkles, frizzled (caramelized in pancetta fat) shallots, and plenty of shaved Romano, this bowl of pasta was a little slice of heaven on a blustery May day. Serve alongside a pitcher of Sgroppino and you've got the trappings of a good night on your hands. Of course, don't forget to light up a surplus of tealights, turn on the radio, and open the kitchen windows wide so as to catch the sweet spring breeze (and listen to the bamboo and birch tree leaves ruffle against it). In my world it doesn't get much better than that, lovely surroundings, good food, dazzlings drinks, and most importantly hours on end spent with a fabulous friend.
Sweet Pea Pesto Pasta
2 cups frozen sweet petite peas, boiled just until warmed through
1 1/4 cup ricotta (whole milk or skim, whatever you prefer)
2 cloves of fresh garlic (or 3-4 roasted garlic, both are delish)
4 large basil leaves
4 Tablespoons parmesan/ramano/pecorino
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb. penne/rigatoni etc. boiled
4 discs of pancetta fried (reserve fat in pan to sautee shallots)
1 large shallot thinly sliced, sauteed until soft in pan with pancetta fat
Freshly shaved parmesan/ramano/pecornio
1. Place peas, ricotta, garlic, basil, and cheese of choice in the bowl of a food processor (I used my hand blender/smartstick 'chopper' attachement because it's less cumbersome) and puree until thoroughly mixed/blended.
2. Toss your pea pesto in the pot with your drained, hot, boiled pasta of choice. Season with salt and pepper. Plate, and sprinkle with your garnishes; pancetta, cheese, frizzled shallots, and perhaps a few leaves of fresh basil.
3. Sit & savor!
* Discovered that I love Mirah radio on Pandora (an amazing mix of Cat Power, Mirah, Feist, The Be Good Tanyas etc.). It was the perfect late night blend. Check it out!