white bean-basil pesto pasta salad

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Labor Day still makes me think about the first day of school. A shiny Ariel the Little Mermaid backpack. Climbing into a car that never smelled like carpet cleaner, but often smelled like pretzels. I loved school. I loved pretzels. Dad drove to ’60s soul train tunes. The end.

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It’s not that I didn’t like summer in those days, it was just that I loved reading and stickers. That was what the start of September meant. I was just as eager for it as I had been for the smell of chlorine in that turquoise pool of summer some months before. It was the chance at beginning anew. Starting fresh. Out with the old, in with new crayons.

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I have no less love for new beginnings, but I’ve decided with age that things like sun-bathing and sun-eating have a season far too short for comfort. When the opportunity presents itself, I really ought to linger as long as possible on a deck somewhere at a last-minute barbecue, with sandals and a sundress on, and all the other accoutrements of summer.

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Like pasta salad. Let’s make a pasta salad that makes use of bright things like it’s the last time they’ll see a soft sandy beach. Because it just might be. Til next year. Let’s be greedy when slicing peppery radishes and tear up basil leaves with whatever it takes to cover the insides of your blender with a bed of soft green leaves, like the kind you’d only find in a park where you should absolutely be eating this salad, by the way (if you’re not at the beach, from above).

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 The only bit of summer I won’t indulge while out at the park or the beach or the deck, is the sunglasses, so as to see the light raw and unfiltered. Because it’s almost the end of an unbearably bright season, and we’d better savour it on this (hopefully) labourless Monday.

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  • 1 15 oz. can white beans, such as cannelini, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch radishes, chopped lengthwise
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh basil, packed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lb. rotelle or other pasta, cooked al dente, cooled
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, smashed
  • 1 cup black olives, halved
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine basil and toasted pine nuts in a food processor, begin slowly pouring in olive oil and pulse until a course mixture forms. Stir in salt and pepper and set aside. Combine white beans in a large bowl with celery and radishes, pour in white wine vinegar and then stir in basil pesto and capers. Stir in pasta.
Sprinkle scallions and black olives over pasta salad and Squeeze over with lemon juice. Season with more salt and pepper to taste if desired. Serve.
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