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Happy Birthday Special

Happy Birthday Lori! Today is August 1 and that means it is Lori day all day at the Cafe. Lori loves her birthday as much as we do and that makes it extra fun for all of us.

Whenever one of our crew has a birthday he or she gets to pick out the specials of the day. Soup, salad, wrap, dessert, whatever the birthday heart desires are the picks of the day. We decorate festively and bring in a tiara to wear (not for Betuel or Sharon, they don’t like tiaras!)

One of Lori’s favorite dishes that I have made is a great summer pasta. She has asked me to come in and make it today and of course, her wish is my command. This will be the ‘salad’ of the day today. I will need some help, since crutches don’t work well in the kitchen, but she will be up to it. This is a fresh pasta sauce that is great any time, but especially now with tomato season coming up fast.

I ordered some heirloom cherry tomatoes from our favorite Local Heirloom Tomato Farmers: Smoke Tree Farms. This year Ann and John Pyles are mentoring a new couple to take over their operation. Jared and Sara of Hand Sown Homegrown are growing and selling the tomatoes to us, other chefs, and you can find them at farmer’s markets (try Poulsbo) in the area.

The heirloom tomatoes taste like my childhood. My grampa grew cherry tomatoes and I go instantly back to them when I pop one of these beauties in my mouth. All August we will be showcasing all the different varieties. We keep it simple: Sliced tomato salads with organic Italian olive oil, a little salt and pepper, maybe a touch of onion or cheese here and there. These tomatoes taste like tomatoes should taste! And they are gorgeous! So we showcase their flavors by leaving them generally unadorned. Our salads will highlight these tomatoes all month, since they are starting to really ripen up in the next week or so.

For this pasta sauce you should always use fresh tomatoes; the best quality you can find. This is a fresh sauce, not cooked, so the quality of every ingredient is very important. I use a food processor to put it all together, but a blender would work, just be careful to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Also you can use any pasta for this: We will use spaghetti or penne (up to Lori) and the more surface area for the sauce to cling to, the better. So here it is and remember, my recipes are general because that is how I cook. I look, smell, taste and feel for the consistencies that I want, I don’t measure or follow instructions well at all! So this is how I make the sauce; You can make it any way you like!

Boil up some pasta, following the package directions. While that is going make the sauce, which takes no more than 10 minutes, including cleanup.

I grate some pecorino romano cheese in the food processor, then pull it out. (Parmesan would work here, as would asiago or any other hard, aged cheese.)

Throw in a couple of handfuls of toasted almonds and grind them up until it is almost turning into a paste.
Add in lemon zest and juice
Salt and pepper
a touch of grated garlic (or put a clove in with the almonds)
a handful of Italian parsley
a handful of basil
blend it all in

Add in a couple of pints of cherry tomatoes and some fabulous olive oil (The really good stuff here!) along with a couple of handfuls of the pecorino.

This is a pesto-style sauce; you don’t want it too loose so if it is you can add more cheese to help tighten it. You don’t want it too tight so if it is add more olive oil or even tomatoes to loosen it up.

Drain the pasta, toss it to cool it just a bit, then dump the sauce all over it. The sauce will warm up a bit and become fragrant. This is really great at room temp so when you eat the leftovers don’t heat them up, eat them cold or let them stand out at room temp to warm up a bit.

This sauce tastes like summer… so yummy! Throw in some chicken if you want to meat it up; serve it with some bread and olive oil; have it as a side; a salad; a main coarse. However you eat it, you will want more and more!

What are your favorite summer flavors?