Welcome spring produce with a batch of these Roasted Potatoes with Arugula Pistachio Pesto!
The cruelty of April weather is always one step forward and two steps back. We’re having one of those “two steps back” weeks right now. I received a bunch of gardening catalogs in the mail the other day, and I was so envious of all the people out there who are digging in the dirt and planting their summer gardens. I can’t wait to have fresh herbs right outside my patio door once again! But since that is still a ways off for us here in Minnesota, I’m resigned to enjoying the produce I do have access to and making the most of it. Spring greens will soon flood the markets, and these Roasted Potatoes with Arugula Pistachio Pesto are a perfect way to kick off pesto season everywhere.
Roasted asparagus is topped with a balsamic brown butter sauce for a delicious taste of spring.
Mother Nature is one sly fox. Last weekend we Minnesotans luxuriated in 60 degree weather. We slowly cracked our front doors and were dumbfounded to find we could go outside without Gore-Tex and down-filled jackets. We reintroduced ourselves to our neighbors. We walked around all day with stupid, smirky smiles on our faces and felt invincible. But tomorrow? We’re going to be hit with another winter storm and 6 inches of snow.
I’m SO over winter, but until Mother Nature agrees to release her grip, I can only dream of the spoils of spring. Fortunately the weather is more springlike in other parts of the country, and and they generously fill my grocery store with little hints of what’s to come, like freshly picked asparagus.
There is one item that is rarely on my grocery list anymore: vinaigrette. It is the easiest thing to whip up and takes just as long as shaking up a bottle of the pre-made stuff. Well, almost, but you get my point. I was reading my Cooking Light magazine a few weeks ago looking for new dinner inspiration and saw this Dijon Vinaigrette buried in the side bar. Once again I was reminded that sometimes the best recipes – the keepers, the ones you will make again and again – aren’t the cover photos. They are the little teeny tiny recipes that many people skip.
Truth be told, my experience with wild rice came in the form of a white and wild rice pilaf that occasionally graced our dinner table on holidays growing up. It usually came from a box, and I honestly never thought about it again until the next holiday rolled around. Fast forward to my life in Minnesota, and I quickly learned that wild rice holds a place of reverence in this state. No sharing the spotlight with white rice here. So here is my first official homage to this wonderfully native grain: Wild Rice with Pistachios and Cherries.
You know how there are some memories that are etched in your brain forever? I can still vividly remember my sixth grade teacher (yes, I know I’m dating myself here) walking into class with tears in her eyes telling us that President Reagan had been shot. And I’m pretty sure we can all remember exactly where we were on 9/11. Another memory that is quite clear for me is the very first Thanksgiving that I hosted. My mom wasn’t there to answer my questions or help me out with cooking. It was just me and Kevin (who was my boyfriend at the time), and we were hosting his whole family, some of whom I was meeting for the very first time. No pressure, right? Kevin’s attitude was, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a turkey!” Hmmm…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries…oh, and meeting people who were not yet my in-laws. Talk about a stressful day!
I know a lot of families out there who don’t mess with Thanksgiving dinner. You have the same things every year, and you love it. Sharing your tried and true favorite dishes with loved ones is part of what makes the holiday so endearing. Our family is not one of those traditionalists. My mom has always spearheaded our Thanksgiving meals. We always have turkey, but she likes to dabble in new dishes each year to keep the rotation interesting. (I think that’s where I inherited my love of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.) But even she kept some things the same when we were growing up. My brothers always insisted on that 1970’s staple, the jello mold (sometimes with fruit, sometimes without, but always with Cool Whip), and I couldn’t eat my turkey without a side of those Birds Eye frozen peas and onions. It’s funny the things we hold dear sometimes. Since I can no longer find that side dish from my youth, I went on a hunt to find a suitable substitute, and I hit the jackpot with these Peas with Pancetta and Shallots.