When we made the move to DC, we made a pact to try to only buy things for the house that we intend to keep for the long haul. Everything that comes in needs to pass the ‘do we think we’ll still like this in 20 years’ test. As a result, our only major pieces of furniture at the moment are a couch and a dining room table with four chairs. We’re calling it the zen/minimalist approach. The one thing that escapes this high level of scrutiny is plants. I feel about house plants the way some people feel about stray kittens and puppies – I think they are all beautiful despite their quirks and instantly want to adopt them all. Our apartment would be a little jungle if Dennis didn’t hold me back. The one category I can consistently get him to cave on is herbs – if we can eat it, he’s usually ok with it. So far we’ve built up an arsenal that includes rosemary, green onions, basil, thai basil, and mint, and I have grand plans for expansion as soon as we have a few more horizontal surfaces. Thus far I’ve mostly been running my hands through the leaves of the plants and smelling them – we’ve been trying to use them sparingly until they get a bit bigger and more established. A few weeks ago though my brother and his girlfriend came over to hang out for the afternoon and, once dinnertime rolled around, my brother kept looking longingly at the basil plant. The time for the first harvest had come. We turned to a recipe I had earmarked ages ago – Ottolenghi’s pasta with a yogurt/pea sauce and fresh basil. The result was a lovely, summery bowl of comfort food. The dish has all the comfort factor of macaroni and cheese, but with a bright, herby lightness.
Pasta with Yogurt, Peas, and Chili, slightly modified from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem
- 2 1/2 c greek yogurt
- 2/3 c olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lb fresh of frozen (and thawed) peas
- kosher salt
- 1 lb pasta, whatever shape your heart desires – we chose little shells for all the sauce crannies
- 2 t red pepper flakes
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 2/3 c basil leaves, roughly torn
- 8 oz feta, crumbled
- juice of one lemon
In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, 6 T of the olive oil, the garlic, and 2/3 c of the peas. Pulse until the sauce is a uniform pale green.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously, and cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet. Add the chili flakes and paprika and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly (1-2 min). Add the remaining peas and cook briefly, until the peas are well coated in chili oil and warmed through.
Drain the cooked pasta and add to the yogurt sauce – consider adding the pasta in batches and stirring between each addition to prevent the pasta water from separating the yogurt sauce. Add the warm chili peas, basil, and feta, toss gently to combine. Season with kosher salt and lemon juice.
Notes: when we first made this, I believe we only used 4 oz of feta and found it to be more than enough. Crumble in gradually and use as much as you see fit! We also thought fresh mint might be a nice addition but did not test this theory. Let us know if you do!