Toasts with Pesto, Zucchini Ribbons, and Goat Cheese
My grandparents had a dining table built with long, heavy wooden slabs that were so big the table filled the entire dining space and 10 of us comfortably. He has an affinity towards crafted, artisanal pieces, and so the house itself smelled like cedar and tobacco at any given point or season. The table was one of those pieces, and every Sunday we would gather around it for family dinner.
Today, when people ask me why I cook or how I got started cooking, I often attribute it to these very moments: Early summer nights picking tomatoes from the garden, washing them for salad that night, cutting stems upon stems of basil to throw together the freshest pesto you can find west of Genoa, and my favorite, picking from the rainbow of edible flowers to add a little more of summer to our dinner mix. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania wasn’t always something I appreciated, but the moments it offered me are. My family has always had a reverence for quality time, simple moments, and savoring things the Earth gives us. This weekend at the farmers market, I walked into a vendor stall and was immediately hit with the familiar smell of summer: fresh basil. In an instant I was home again. Early summer nights, flip flops and American Eagle tee shirts, the faint haze of the grill coming around from the back of the house, sweet and smokey with pepper and spices, and the kitchen wafting the smell of basil into the house like potpourri . I love how closely smell is tied to memory. It’s like you’re living the moment all over again. Those are the kinds of gifts life gives us I never want to tire of.
This pesto is more or less a standard recipe, but I actually left out the garlic. To be honest, it’s great without and I almost never say no to garlic. For the zucchini, I tossed them in a splash of sherry vinegar and a bit of olive oil. When I’m in a pinch, I tend to gravitate towards sherry vinegar because it has a more robust flavor and isn’t quite as pungent as red wine vinegar. The zucchini should still feel fairly dry and malleable, so you can form them how you like on the toast. That said, forks are highly encouraged with these toasts. They’re easier to eat that way, and keeps all the flavors together in one bite.
Toasts with Pesto, Zucchini Ribbons, Roasted Red Peppers & Goat Cheese
For the pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz aged parmesan (a few big chunks)
generous salt and pepper
For the Toasts
small zucchini (I used about 1/2)
1 tbs sherry vinegar
1 roasted red pepper
To make the pesto, blend everything together in a food processor or mortal and pestle. Make sure it’s salted and peppered generously.
To make the toasts, first start with preparing the zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into thin ribbons. Place the ribbons in a bowl add sherry vinegar and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Stir well. To make the toast, spread a generous tablespoon of goat cheese on each toasted slice. Top with zucchini, red peppers, pesto and top with pine nuts.
I made two separate toasts here, but you can easily mix the two veggies. They’ll pair nicely together. Happy pesto making!