Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Vegetable Love, or, Pasta with Corn, Zucchini and Tomatoes

At some point later in the summer, about a month or so from now, I'll be cursing summer vegetables. Not because I'll be sick of them, really, but because I'll be inundated with them. My kitchen and dining room tables will be covered with bowls of tomatoes and stalks of basil in jars of water. My stove will be perpetually splattered with red. I will realize, once again, that my supply of quart containers has dwindled and needs replenishment. I will pat myself on the back, once again, for having bought a second freezer for my basement a couple of years ago. I will, for a few weeks from late August into the later part of September, be a slave to my garden produce, and thus I will complain. (Unless, of course, my garden doesn't produce as planned, and then I will complain about that.)

For now, though, there's not too much of anything. For one thing, the tomatoes on my plants all remain resolutely green, so the only tomatoes are what's at the farmer's market. For another, I was very restrained and only planted 3 zephyr squash plants, in the hopes of avoiding a glut of squash. And it's true that I can't drive past my favorite farm stand without stopping, so I often have more corn than I know what to do with on any given day, but that doesn't feel particularly oppressive, just bountiful. (One reason I love summer food (and living by myself) is that, if I want to, I can eat a couple of pieces of corn on the cob while standing around in my kitchen, and call it dinner. Yum.)

Tonight, I made one of my summer stand byes, taken from a 2004 Mark Bittman "Minimalist" column in the NY Times. What I love about it, besides that it's delicious, is that it requires bits of things rather than volumes of things. I used 3 ears of corn (of course from my favorite farm stand), 3 farmer's market tomatoes, 1 zephyr squash from my community garden, one onion of unknown origins, 1 clove of farmer's market garlic (though mine is just about ready to be picked) and a handful of basil from my garden at home--it felt like a very egalitarian dinner. It's not the prettiest dish (though the tomatoes give everything a faint pink tinge) nor the most elegant, but on a humid July evening, it's the perfect thing to eat. And even better, there are lots of leftovers, so I can eat it again tomorrow, and I won't even have to get the stove all dirty again.

Adapted from The New York Times

Time: 30 minutes

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter

1 cup corn kernels (from 2 or 3 ears)

1 cup diced zucchini or summer squash (from 2 or 3 small vegetables)

1 medium onion or 3 or 4 shallots, diced

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic, optional

1 or 2 sprigs tarragon (I used basil instead)

4 plum or 2 large tomatoes, diced

1 pound cut pasta, like penne. (I used something fancy and twirly.)

1. Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn begins to brown. Add zucchini and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini begins to brown.

2. Add onion or shallots and garlic if you are using it. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add tarragon and cook for 30 seconds, then tomatoes. Put pasta in boiling water and cook until tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. While pasta cooks continue to cook sauce, reducing heat when tomatoes begin to break down. If sauce dries out (with plum tomatoes, this is likely), add some pasta cooking water, about 1/2 cup at a time. When pasta is done, drain it, toss with sauce and remaining oil or butter, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.


Kitt said...

Yum! I call that "kitchen sink pasta." Start with sauteed onions and garlic, then toss in anything else. I usually add some chicken or vegetable stock, too.

Do you do "real" canning? I haven't braved that yet.

Lisa said...

Yay for summer vegetable pasta. I usually don't put corn in mine -- for some reason I think of corn with rice but never corn with pasta. I'll have to give that a shot.

I've canned -- corn relish, pickled beets, tomatoes with basil. It's messy and hot, but it's fun.