I love unplanned quick dinners with friends and kids. It makes a regular night, even a school night more fun, (even if it is more work). One challenge to living in a smaller city where more people have yards and cars is that you have to actually plan to see people, as opposed to a place like New York where everyone spends a lot of time outside in public places because their apartments are so small, so it is easier to connect with and visit people. I am still struggling to get used to this aspect of life outside of b'klyn, but as the weather warms up in New England, and the sun sets later it gets easier to wrangle some friends into our backyard and over to our picnic table for a meal on a school/work night.
This sort of unplanned meal usually means a quick scan of the fridge and a glance at the clock. I try and use up any ingredients that are starting to spoil or just need to get eaten. I also find the easiest way to pull together a whole bunch of random ingredients is with a delicious sauce or two. Earlier this week I had one such meal and made some marinated onions (a staple in my house) and added some Thai basil and hot sauce for extra flavor. I also had some left over "pesto" from the week before. This wasn't your standard pesto, since I rarely have large bunches of basil lying around, but I did have some spinach that was about to spoil, and a mob of mint growing in the back yard, some grated romano cheese and walnuts. You really can make pesto out of just about any thing: herbs, arugula, spinach, grated cheese or miso, walnuts, pine nuts (or no nuts), garlic or garlic scapes, lemon zest or juice (optional) and olive oil. Just get creative, puree all your ingeredients in a blender or food processor, and taste as you go along.
Spicy Thai Basil Pickled Onions
basic marinated or pickled onions:
1 onion (red or white) If you use red onions they will turn a beautiful pink color
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (or other sweetener)
3 tablespoons white vinegar or the juice and zest from 1 lime
spicy thai basil additions:
5 leaves thai basil very thinly sliced (Italian basil and tarragon together make a good substitution)
a squirt of sriracha hot sauce or red pepper flakes
Thinly slice or dice the onion.
Toss with the rest of the ingredients and let sit for at least 15 minutes until onions soften a bit.
To really pickle them, let them marinate in the refrigerator over night.
We ate these onions with some spinach mint pesto on top of a big bowl of lettuce, some slice boiled potatoes, fresh green beans, and a few wedges of a garlic scape fritatta (or eggy pie as we often call it). It was pretty quick to put together, spicy and tasty!
What have you been making with all the fresh spring and early summer produce?