Summer Solstice & Creamy Basil Manicotti

22 Wed, 2011 § 4 Comments

Dave & I have grown fond of observing seasonal transitions, marked by particular days.  Following earth’s transitions — while it may seem “hippie” & quirky to some — is centering & meaningful to me.  We don’t chant or pray or sing; we simply embrace the moment for what it is, celebrate it in our own way & take the lessons nature willingly offers.

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the first day of summer & the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere.  Traditionally, this solstice celebrated a time of fertility, marked by outdoor festivities & gatherings.

Amidst the growing harvest season, it is easy to recognize the fertility & abundance of summer through experiencing the new foods the season brings.  We wanted to pause yesterday & take in all the sensory experiences accompanying summer — the sights, the smells — & appreciate the extra hours of sunlight.

Summer screams freshness & bounty which has the power to transcend us to our deepest childhood memories or cause a yearning to create new ones.

One of my favorite summer notes is the awakening aroma of fresh basil.

Stuffed with a sauteed clove of garlic, a small white onion, half a medium diced zucchini (remove seeds unless using young/baby zucchini) & pressed & crumbled tofu (about 10 ounces firm), I wanted our manicotti to sing basil.

Using Angela’s Creamy Avocado Sauce, I increased the fresh basil to about 1 cup, juiced a whole lemon & thinned the sauce with hemp milk to keep the creaminess of it but make it more sauce-like.  I stirred half the sauce into the sauteed vegetables, stuffed it into 6 prepared manicotti, lined them in a lightly oiled baking dish (which I had also smeared with a spoonful of extra sauce on the bottom) & poured the remaining sauce over the top.

Cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 350*F-oven.  Rotate pan midway if needed to ensure even baking.  Remove foil & bake another 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.  Watch closely & don’t let it dry out.

Garnish with fresh lemon zest & oven-roasted tomatoes.  A dollop of plain Greek yogurt was also a nice, cooling accompaniment.

*There was extra stuffing mixture, which we saved to combine with leftover quinoa-millet pilaf for lunches.

To further enjoy this extra light, we picked up a few items over the weekend.

A small table, a chair, a rug, a cushion & candles created a cozy, little nook outside our french doors.

Last night, we enjoyed dinner on our little patio, which will become a more common theme around here.

An after-dinner walk in the woods behind our home would have been a perfect way to connect with nature & celebrate the extended sunlight; but as the light faded to golden shimmers & we sipped our tinto de verano, the neighborhood kids kept us entertained harassing Eisley.  Once they learned she preferred chasing sticks to being mauled, everyone seemed giddy, Eisley most of all.

Sometimes, it’s best to just take what the moment offers.

~

Did you celebrate the summer solstice? 

Where do you enjoy your meals?

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§ 4 Responses to Summer Solstice & Creamy Basil Manicotti

  • Katie says:

    Happy Solstice!

    That recipe looks amazing! I crave pesto in the summer, because of the abundance of basil…

    Eisley is so petite! She looks like an awesome running partner!

    • Allie says:

      Thanks Katie. Pesto is one of our favorite summer flavors too; I think that’s why we loved this pasta.
      Eisley is a great little runner. We used to have someone bike with her while she ran alongside, because just running with her wasn’t quite enough. I’m home more now, so we just walk & run during the day. Lately, she’s not been my best partner though: she’s been lagging. Perhaps she is protesting the heat!

  • kristastes says:

    Your dish looks delish 😉 and I LOVE your little outdoor dining space. I wish I had outdoor space at my apartment – we just take over the park outside but not the same as a little patio area!

  • Natalie says:

    The food looks delicious and the setting amazing. A friend just gave me a huge bag of basil and I’m going to make pesto this weekend! I can’t wait.

    I have a good friend who celebrates all of the solstices. What a great way to get excited about the changes in seasons.

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