This week let's take a look at two very simple recipes that take advantage of fresh herbs from the summer garden. Quick and easy to prepare, these Italian-accented dishes are perfect for a light summer dinner that doesn't require much stove time.
The main course is a simple but elegant pasta dish with butter and sage that we discovered at a trattoria in Asti, Piemonte. The salad is another Italian favorite, caprese, a simple combination of juicy, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Let's take them one at a time:Pasta with butter and sage INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
4 ounces pasta of your choice (see note below)
1 - 2 tablespoons butter
Large clove garlic, smashed
Fresh sage, enough to make 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
1. Fill a large saucepan with water, put in plenty of salt (enough to make it taste like seawater, according to Italian tradition - I generally use a heaping tablespoon). Bring to a rolling boil, then put in the pasta. NOTE: You can use your choice of long or short pasta. The Asti original used spaghetti. We like it with fusilli bucati corti, a short pasta shaped like the business end of a corkscrew. If you don't care to weigh your pasta, simply measure out enough for two.
2. While the pasta is cooking, put the butter and smashed garlic clove in a skillet or saute pan and let it melt over low heat. The amount of butter is optional: Less gives you a lower-calorie, less fatty dish, but don't skimp; the good flavor of butter is part of the joy of this dish.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it and put it into the pan with the butter (discard the garlic). Toss and stir with the chopped sage and salt to taste. Serve, with Italian bread and caprese, or the salad of your choice.Caprese INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
2 large, fresh tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces mozzarella, fresh if possible
1 medium sprig basil, or to taste
1. Prepare a large plate by rubbing it with the smashed garlic clove and then coating with about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and cut them into thick slices. Arrange them on the plate. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. If your tomatoes are bland, you might add a drop of balsamic vinegar to each, but this shouldn't be necessary with fresh local tomatoes in season.
3. Slice the mozzarella into thin rounds and put one on each tomato slice.
4. Cut the basil into very thin strips (chefs call this a "chiffonade") and sprinkle it over the mozzarella and tomatoes.
MATCHING WINE: The herbal flavors of basil and sage make this meal a natural with a Sauvignon Blanc in the herbaceous style, although if you want to stay with the Italian theme, just about any crisp Italian white from Gavi to Soave to Greco di Tufo will make an amiable match.About last week's tomatoes
A number of you wrote me to point out that I neglected to provide a quantity for the tomatoes used in last week's tomato sauce. Oops!
As many of you discerned, this wasn't so much a recipe as a set of general guidelines, so the amount is hardly critical. I might have said "a pot full." But if you like precision in your recipes - and most of us do - then I would suggest using 24 to 30 plum tomatoes or about a dozen full-size tomatoes, enough to fill a large saucepan.Let us hear from you!
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