I love to cook, and yet even I get tired of it sometimes. You know what those days are like, I’m sure: The hour is late, your energy is low, the cupboard is practically bare. You’re out of time, out of ideas. In summertime, the cooking is supposed to be so effortless, and yet here you are, struggling to get a meal together.
When I get in one of those ruts, I try to shift perspective, and it usually works. Just as traveling to an unfamiliar destination can help you see your everyday struggles in a new light, flipping through a book you normally wouldn’t have paid attention to or reading a blog that you’ve never bookmarked before can give you new insight in the kitchen — or at least a new recipe.
I found both in Angela Liddon’s new “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” (Avery, 2014). Now, I’ll be honest: The name of Liddon’s book (derived from her blog) had previously caused me to assume that I couldn’t possibly find anything within that spoke to me. It turns out that we share plenty of interests: in fruits and vegetables and other whole foods, in farmers markets, in gardening. I’ve never struggled with eating disorders the way that Liddon did (before finding her way back to health through veganism), but I’m certainly no stranger to the transformative powers of a shift in dietary habits.
One of the most popular recipes on her blog, she writes, is for a pasta dish that uses one of my favorite ingredients, but one that I hadn’t thought to pair with spaghetti: avocado. It was an idea I could get behind, especially because that ingredient was the sole thing I needed to buy to make a dish that was otherwise covered by my pantry and garden. I don’t need or necessarily want my pasta dinners to be dairy-free, but when the avocado blends with a little lemon, basil, garlic and olive oil, it makes a nice, creamy sauce that doesn’t happen to include any cream, cheese or butter.
Best of all, the sauce came together in a fraction of the time it took to boil the pasta. Liddon gave me more than just a new idea to use in who knows how many other iterations down the road. She also helped bring a sense of effortlessness back to my summer kitchen on a night that I needed it.
This dairy-free meal comes together in a flash because the only thing that’s cooked is the pasta, making it perfect for summer evenings.
MAKE AHEAD: The sauce is best served immediately, but it can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
Adapted from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook,” by Angela Liddon (Avery, 2014).
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
8 ounces dried whole-wheat spaghetti (may substitute gluten-free pasta)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 4 to 6 teaspoons lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons; the zest is an optional garnish)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flesh of 1 medium ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon water, or more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a good pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the garlic and the 1/4 cup of basil in a food processor; pulse to mince. Add the lemon juice, oil, avocado, the tablespoon of water and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt; puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add up to another 1 tablespoon of water. Taste, and add salt as needed.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot (off the heat). Add the avocado sauce and toss until the pasta’s evenly coated. If it has cooled slightly, rewarm it gently, if desired, or serve at room temperature.
Divide among individual bowls. Top with a sprinkling of the pepper, the lemon zest, if using, and basil leaves.
Nutrition per serving: 300 calories, 9 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar