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grape tomatoes

Pesto with Shaved Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes


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.


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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Whole Wheat Linguine with Roasted Veggies and Basil

With asparagus still growing full throttle in the garden, it was time to find some new ways other than a simple steam and light dressing of olive oil and vinegar to eat the vitamin E-packed, spring veggie.  That’s when I came across a pasta recipe lying around in one of my old Vegetarian Times magazines that called for roasted asparagus.  The vibrantly colored photo sold me, and thus led me into the kitchen to get working on an adapted version of the recipe.  I used whole wheat linguine for an extra punch of fiber, containing a nutty flavor that wasn’t too much for the bold tastes of the wonderfully combined featured ingredients— roasted asparagus, shitake mushrooms, garlic, and cherry tomatoes, and then topped off with garden fresh basil.  The result:  A colorful palette on my plate filled with a touch of sweetness from the garlic, a lightness from the oven-bursting tomatoes, freshness from the basil, and a sense of satisfaction from the hearty pasta and newfound way to utilize asparagus.  If you’ve got asparagus still growing in your garden or being sold at the local farmer’s market, this is a must try.

The following recipe was modified from a Vegetarian Times February 2010 recipe.

Whole Wheat Linguine with Roasted Veggies and Fresh Basil

  • -4 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • -1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
  • -1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • -4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • -1-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • -3 cups grape tomatoes
  • -3/4 cup white wine
  • -1-13.25 oz. whole-wheat linguine
  • -3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • -Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss together mushrooms, asparagus, onion, garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes in a large roasting pan.  Roast 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add tomatoes to pan and roast 7-10 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst open.  Transfer vegetables to a separate bowl, and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place roasting pan on burner over medium heat, and add wine, stirring to scrape off any stuck-on bits from pan.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until wine has evaporated by half.  Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package.  Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water.  Stir reserved cooking water into the wine in the roasting pan.  Return pasta to pot, and add wine and vegetables.  Toss over medium-low heat until heated thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Stir in torn fresh basil leave, and serve immediately.