Friday, June 18, 2010

A Spontaneous Spring Meal with Spicy Thai Basil Pickled Onions (and mint pesto)

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?


  1. silly question: in your mint pesto, how much of the green stuff is, in fact, mint (vs. spinach)? i've done a lot of non-basil pestos, but have never tried mint, which we also have in (over)abundance in the herb garden right now.

  2. Hey Noah, it's not a silly question. and, sorry I didn't put the recipe for that too, but didn't have much time and wanted to get the info up on the blog. It really is just to taste. I think I used about half a bag of baby spinach and two large handfulls of mint. you could use more though. the garlic is strong and balances out the mint nicely. also, please let me know if you get this response, as I can't quite figure out how I am supposed to respond directly to people. thanks -T

  3. I recently made an asparagus pesto out of the New York Times that was delicious. I remember the receipe because everything (oil, pin nuts and cheese) was 1/4 of a cup. It also included a pound of asparagus one garlic clove and some lemon. I doubled it and put it on top of grilled fish. Pesto can go in so many ways. I like the lightness of to much oil. Alida

  4. Yum! I'm going to make this soon! (And I wish I didn't live on the other side of town, so I was easily wrangle-able!)