I’ve mentioned it before, but I truly do love libraries.
This love dates back to when I was young, but has followed me through most of my life. We had a beautiful library in the town where I grew up and I can still remember the joy of retrieving my paper library card from its protective manila envelope to take with me when I visited. When I went off to college, the library or “the libes” as we called it, was where I spent most of my study time. It was the best of all worlds – lots of resources, your own cube, some quiet and always a buddy to chat with when you needed to take a break.
One of my favorite volunteer jobs was being the parent helper during my kids library time at their elementary school. Our kids really loved our town’s library, another beautiful building for story time and to pick out books (and videos truth be told). I frequent this library and its network quite a bit to test out cookbooks and read titles for my book group when they are available. In fact, I have been waiting all summer for Joanne Chang’s latest book, Baking with Less Sugar!
I’ll even go so far as to tell you that when I had an opportunity to pick out cabinets for my kitchen a long time ago, I opted for a dark wood finish and lots of book shelves because I wanted the room to have the warmth of a library. Not sure I actually achieved that, but I had good intentions!
There is just something about the way a library makes me feel that is worth the visit every time. Always inviting, inclusive and most importantly, a wealth of knowledge and possibility.
The town where I vacation in the summer has a charming library where I have spent a lot of time over the years as well. When my kiddos were young, its children’s room was a salvation on a rainy day. Before I had a smart phone or a laptop, it was the only place I could check my email. And it doesn’t hurt that the building is air conditioned which to this day is a welcome relief from time to time!
I like to check out the cookbook section to see what titles are available and check out a few books to read and use while I am away. This past summer, I checked out just two titles.
The first was The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells who is one of my favorites. Her recipe for Pasta with Rosemary, Lemon and Parmesan Cheese caught my attention. Patricia says it is so good that she and her house guests (in Provence) ate it three nights in a row and would have made it four had they not opted to eat out. Quite an endorsement, right? I have a bunch of rosemary in my garden so I will make it soon and report back.
The second was The Farm by Ian Knauer. Ian spent ten years working for Gourmet, a magazine whose demise brings many foodies to tears, including yours truly. A couple of recipes caught my attention, one of which was Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn and Parmesan Pesto. These days, chefs are making “pestos” out of almost anything that can fit into a food processor and purees well (avocados, broccoli, butternut squash, you name it). The idea of using corn was really intriguing and it was readily available. I decided to give the recipe a try when my friend from home, Jo-Ann would be arriving late at night after a work event in the area, hungry for some dinner.
I made a batch of the pasta earlier in the day and asked my friends, Marte and Stacy to come by and give it a try. The three of us had fun sampling the dish and debating the results. We all felt we wanted to tweak the recipe. Marte suggested using walnuts rather than pine nuts in the pesto. Stacy suggested adding another vegetable to the dish and my thoughts were to add pancetta or bacon which makes everything tastier! Ironically, Jo-Ann loved the pasta as it was prepared!
When I came home from vacation, I went to work on the recipe, starting with a google search for some inspiration. I discovered something really interesting.
Turns out Knauer had originally written a version of this recipe for Epicurious.com and it called for bacon. Why he took the ingredient out of the version in his cookbook is unclear, but let’s just say adding it back in and making a few other changes made a big difference. The bacon added some crunch to the finished dish (the corn pesto is reminiscent of a carbonara sauce in texture) and balanced the flavors by adding some saltiness to the sweet pesto.
You can use either walnuts or pine nuts, but I have been using walnuts thanks to Marte’s suggestion and think they work well and add some visual interest to the pesto. I also doubled the quantity of pasta called for in the original recipe as the ratio of sauce to pasta seemed off. Comments in the online recipe suggested the same.
I have made it several times now and we really enjoy it! It can serve as a main course or as a side dish with some grilled chicken or fish. You can make it meat-free by simply preparing the corn with more olive oil in the first step of the recipe. If you do that, I would suggest adding in some extra toasted nuts for a little bit of crunch and texture in the finished dish.
I hope you find an opportunity to make it before the best of the corn is gone!
We are removing corn kernels from the cob like we did for Summer Squash, Corn & Tomato Gratin…
Takes a little patience, but it is worth it. The recipe starts with the browning of some bacon in a pan. Corn kernels, onion or shallots and some garlic are sauteed in the pan drippings and then a portion of them are processed into a luscious pesto with some walnuts or pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil…
I used easier to find fettuccine here, but if you can find tagliatelle pasta which is the flat, long pasta Knauer originally called for in his recipe, that would work too. Pestos are meant to be paired with long pastas, but if you prefer rigatoni or farfalle, go for it…
Anyone remember being told to drain and rinse your pasta? Forget it. Pasta goes directly from the cooking water into the pan with the pesto sauce and finishes cooking over a low heat. The reserved pasta water is a magical ingredient, slowly added both to thin out and enhance the flavor of the sauce…
The finishing elements are fresh basil leaves that are coarsely torn, the crispy bacon, extra Parmesan cheese and some optional lemon zest for a hint of brightness. Tearing the basil leaves prevents the edges from turning black, something that often happens when you cut them with a knife…
My recipe uses more basil than what was called for in the original recipe and you can add even more if you like. There are no rules. Add more bacon if you want!
I do suggest serving the pasta as soon as its prepared for best results.
Enjoy and see you next week!