This summer I found peace and healing down a winding country road. As pretty as they come, the road is lined with lush green horse farms on both sides and a canopy of trees above. In the late afternoon when the sun peeks through the trees, and you're the only one on the road, it is a spiritual experience. I swear it heals your soul.
It's almost sad when the road comes to an end. Almost. For a fairytale awaits. The Kentucky Castle.
There is an allure to this castle. You see, for years, no one was allowed inside the castle, or on the grounds of the castle, so everyone would drive by pointing and remarking how pretty it was. We wondered and we imagined. Then recently the castle opened up. Now it is a boutique hotel, a farm to table restaurant, and they host special events.
This summer one of the events at the castle is The Farmer's Market at The Castle. It is extremely popular and for good reason. Who would pass up the chance to walk around the grounds of a castle shopping for produce while sipping a cocktail, or an iced coffee, and listening to live music?
I have been living for Wednesday afternoons and The Farmer's Market at The Castle. It is my happy place! The drive, the castle, the goods at the market, and the farmers. The only thing that could make the experience any better would be if my mom could join me. I can't help but feel a little sad each time because I know that she would absolutely love The Farmer's Market at The Castle just as much as I do, maybe even more. Still I go faithfully, every Wednesday, and I'll tell you... I swear I feel the healing process at work when I'm riding there on that winding country road under the canopy of trees.
My mom's passing taught me many things. One of them is to be sure to do all the things you want while you can. One thing I've always wanted to do is sign up for a CSA box, or a Farmer's Box. The Salad Days Farm (pictured above) is my favorite, so a few weeks ago I signed up to receive a weekly Farmer's Box. The Salad Days Farm is certified organic and her box is only $20 for the week. It's the most beautiful produce and I always feel like I'm getting way more than I paid for.
I am always bursting at the seams to see what goodies I get for the week. This week I received beautiful heirloom tomatoes, green and purple basil, cilantro, beets, okra, cucumbers, garlic, summer squash, zucchini, and some beautiful red peppers. I knew right away that I wanted to use the basil and garlic to make pesto. I also decided to combine the pesto with some pasta, the heirloom tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella or burrata, and garnish it all with the purple basil.
The final dish turned out beautifully! Ripert's pesto is hands down the best pesto I've ever made. All of the ratios are just right. Some recipes have too much basil, or too much oil, while others skimp on the cheese. Not this one. Ripert's recipe is just the right amount of everything.
When I plated the dish and stepped back to take pictures I paused and thought about my mom. She would love this dish with all the beautiful colors and fresh ingredients. I could hear her say, "wow, look how fresh and beautiful that looks." Then we would sit down to eat and I know she would go on and on about how much she loved eating fresh food in the summer and how "special" this dish was. It was her tagline. Anytime she was really impressed, or a dish had a beautiful presentation, she would always say it was "so special."
So this one is for you, mom. You are always with me in the kitchen. You would love the sweet pop of the cherry tomatoes and the beautiful color they give the dish. We would fight over the creamy pieces of marinated mozzarella, or maybe we would've just added more. I can see you now ripping chunks of fresh mozzarella over your plate. You would go on and on about how special the purple basil looked on top. We would enjoy the dish together and laugh about how everyone else in the house was crazy for being so picky and not liking pesto, and tomatoes, and so many other things. We would make plans for the leftovers and talk about them the next day. All these moments play out in my mind as I enjoy this dish and I find myself so thankful to know, without a doubt, what would be.
Pesto with Fettuccine and Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes,
Marinated Fresh Mozzarella,
and Purple Basil
Adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert and a Stirring the Pot Original
For Eric Ripert's Basil
2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste *
Place the basil, garlic, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of olive oil and pine nuts in a food processor or blender; add salt and pepper to taste. Add crushed red pepper flakes if you like your pesto with a little kick. Process or blend until smooth adding more olive oil as necessary.
For The Pasta
1 pound fettuccine, or another pasta shape
a handful of heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella or burrata, cut or broken into pieces
a handful of basil or purple basil, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste*
Note: crushed red pepper flakes are optional*
Note: crushed red pepper flakes are optional*
Cook the pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, place the mozzarella or burrata in a medium bowl and cover with the oil, some of the chopped basil, salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Allow to marinate while the pasta cooks. Cut the heirloom cherry tomatoes in half, or quarters, if necessary.
When the pasta is done, toss all but 1/4 cup of the pesto with the pasta and place the tossed pasta in a large pasta serving bowl. Top the pasta with the remaining pesto, the marinated cheese, the cherry tomatoes, and the chopped basil. Serve immediately!