Some years I plant a garden..and some years, not so much.
There have been years I planted corn and squash and tomatoes and eggplant and peppers..you get the idea.
And some years my raised beds..I am a fan of the Square Foot Gardening method...have remained empty.
This year, I planted what I consider the bare minimum, Tomatoes and basil, the King and Queen of summer gardens. The tomatoes were late getting in and pretty much I have been just eating them as they come ripe but the basil, for some reason is doing great. Good enough that I have been reading some pesto recipes.
But in the meantime, just when I was considering my Weekend Cooking post this week, I open my newsletter from my friends at America's Test Kitchen and saw a recipe where my basil could shine, Pasta Caprese. Perfect!
It is a simple recipe that depends on top notch ingredients. Ripe, delicious tomatoes, the best mozzarella you can get your hands on, a good quality olive oil, fresh, tart lemon juice.
And one little trick! If you are using supermarket mozzarella, as opposed to the buffalo- or cow’s-milk kind you can buy packaged in water, you need to do something to counteract it turning into a taffy like, chewy consistency when you add it to the hot pasta. So they recommend cutting it up and then putting it in the freezer for 10 minutes before you add it in to the dish. Now, I trust what the ATK folks say, but I can't say from personal experience that it that works, because I found some nice homemade cheese at my supermarket. So I added mine into the marinade with the tomatoes, as they suggest. And it was delicious, the perfect dish for a warn summer night.
Basil, mozzarella and tomatoes...a marriage made in heaven.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 small shallot, minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
1. Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside for about 20 minutes Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.
2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.
3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.
I used campanelle, my new favorite pasta shape. I personally think it is perfect for this dish. I had some grape tomatoes from the garden but had to add some local ones from a farm market. I love those little grape tomatoes..And remember, if you can get the kind of cheese packed in water..I think it is more and more available these days...skip the freezing step. The hot pasta will just barely start to soften the cheese and the heat will bring out the fragrance of the basil...oh my, so nice.
Perfect alone, or with some simple grilled chicken, as in my photo...or use your imagination!
This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.