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cherry tomatoes

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Field

If the thought of pesto, tossed with shaved asparagus and roasted tomatoes, seems far off from camping, I’m with you. But if that thought, along with the image of mint mojitos by the fire, sounds amazing, I’m undoubtedly with you, too. 

This year I learned you need to book a campsite well in advance if you want to tent it out over Memorial Day weekend. Because apparently everyone else wants to do that, too.

So much for spontaneity these days. Oh, and having the planning part covered by mom. Big kid problems.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

I was determined to go camping this Memorial Day, and a bunch of booked campsites wasn’t going to get me down.

Plan B – Camp out at my madre’s house, a haven 2 hours outside the city that might as well be taken from the pages of Henry Thoreau. See field photo above. Not a bad alternative. (Just don’t compare my writing to Thoreau. I prefer a caveman-like brevity to never-ending sentences.)

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Plan B turned into a bunch of Philly and hometown friends joining me for mojitos by the fire made from just picked mint via mom’s herb garden. It turned into watching hot air balloons sail, and then the sun fall, from the comfort of our front deck. It turned into setting up tents in a free backyard. And it turned into a conclusion of sleeping soundly inside.

Ah, yes. A mint-mojito-shaved-asparagus campout was never destined for sleeping outside, was it? To be fair, I will blame my friends for coercing me indoors. And also to be fair, we had one lone camper who roughed it out in his tent.

Asparagus

Now onto the food. While pesto might not seem like standard camping fare, for my vegetarian family, it was always a go-to. It keeps well in a cooler, and tastes fine both hot or cold. Plus, we always make it in large batches during the summer, when the garden basil’s at its peak, so it becomes an easy meal to pop out from the freezer.

It’s still too early to see basil thriving. But both my mom and I still have several pesto batches holding out from last season in our freezer.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

When you’ve got the pesto part already made, sprucing it up to make it a little richer and fancier becomes easy and fathomable. Although, the pesto itself is not hard to make — so even if you don’t get a chance to make it ahead of time, I still recommend taking the time to include the tomatoes and asparagus seen here, too.

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes

Asparagus has always been a springtime favorite, but it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered its utility in raw form. Slightly grassy and crisp, here it adds a refreshing and light crunch to what can feel like a full-bodied pasta dish. It pairs well with the tomatoes, whose flavor is drawn out and intensified via a little time in the oven. I love roasted tomatoes, so when I’m making this recipe, I’m roasting extra for me, and me only.

Grape Tomatoes

Maybe this isn’t your ideal grab-and-go camping dish, but it’s definitely an all-star bowl to include at your picnic or BBQ outing. It’s best hot, but still tastes great at room temp., and since it’s vegan, it’ll survive outside, too. Plate it up alongside a hotdog, and I challenge you to determine the winner. My bet’s on the pesto.

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Roasted Okra, Tomato and Garlic Pilaf

Okra

 

If there was ever a veggie I hated when I was a kid, it was okra. Okra and parsnips, the latter of which I could still go without. But that’s another story.

Okra is a strange character. A little seedy and a bit of slimeball, it’s the kind of veggie you don’t want to mess with on the wrong side of the stove. Treat it wrong, and likely it will treat you wrong back.

Handle it right, however, and I’ve learned it can actually become a new friend. One you may just fancy inviting onto your plate.

Roasted Okra, Tomato and Garlic Pilaf

Human friends and veggie friends alike, they say you get less narrow-minded as you get older. Perhaps that’s been the case with okra. I’m not entirely sure if my change in opinion is primarily a result of my little kid tastebuds growing up, or the new cooking methods I’ve been using. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll ever mess around with any steaming or stewing of okra again. My parents did this one too many times for me to conclude I’m not a fan, even in my old and tastebud-mature age of 23. (Right.)

Okra releases slime when it cooks. Makes it sound so appetizing, right? However, there are ways to reduce this, including cooking them whole and roasting them in the oven. Frying isn’t a bad option either, and as Ree Drummond reveals, you could even eat okra without cooking the pods at all. Who knew? I can’t wait to try a raw version the next time they’re in my kitchen.

Here, I threw the okra in the oven with some garlic to sweeten things up and tomatoes, since ’tis the season for those. It’s a simple preparation that makes a nice meal or side with the addition of bulgur wheat, a traditional tabbouleh staple.

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