I refuse to believe that it snowed several inches yesterday. It’s mid-April, and I most certainly didn’t spend 10 minutes scraping snow and ice from Cameron’s car on Sunday so that I could make a jalepeño run to the local grocery store. Nope, temperatures are definitely still cruising along in the mid-70s, and the snow and slush flicked up by traffic during my morning wait at the bus stop is actually the sugar-white sand from the beach near my Alabama hometown.
Spring is here. Time to slather on the sunblock and slip on the sunglasses. Time to move these little sprouts into seedling containers, and get to gardening.
And after I’ve gardened for hours in perfect spring weather conditions, I’ll head inside for a quick dinner that highlights the often-underrrated spring vegetable, good ol’ cruciferous cauliflower. Below you’ll find another twist on pasta with pesto. This pesto takes its texture and color from cauliflower rather than basil, though you’ll get sprinkles of green from the addition of cilantro. Also, instead of the always expensive pine nut, this recipe uses roasted almonds. Thanks, Smitten Kitchen, for the spring dinner inspiration.
Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto
(adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe)
– Kosher salt
– 6 to 8 oz dried linguine or fine (thinner) linguine
– 1 small (13-oz) head cauliflower
– 1/2 cup unsalted almonds
– 2 or 3 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
– 1-oz chunk Pecorino-Romano cheese
– 1 medium clove garlic
– 1 TBS drained capers
– About 8 flat-leaf parsley leaves (I used fresh cilantro.)
– Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed
– 3 TBS olive oil
– 2 to 2 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar, or more to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, then the linguine (allowing 2 oz per serving). Cook according to the package directions. Drain and keep warm, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into chunks, placing them in the food processor as you work. Pulse to form couscous-like crumbs; transfer to a mixing bowl.
3. Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking them as needed to avoid scorching. Cool, then place in the food processor. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes, and then transfer to the food processor.
4. Coarsely chop the cheese and add to the food processor, along with the garlic, capers, and parsley. Pulse to form a coarse bread-crumb consistency, then add the mixture to the cauliflower in the bowl, along with the crushed red pepper flakes.
5. Stir in the oil, 2 teaspoons of the vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to form a pestolike mixture. The yield is about 3 3/4 cups.
6. Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly, then add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create the desired consistency. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 tsp of vinegar as needed.
7. Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Serve immediately.