My husband is working late. I’m on my own for dinner. It’s hot outside and I’m weary from the heat. I’m hungry but not sure what I want to make … and then I see the half carton of grape tomatoes on the counter, looking rather shriveled and ignored. I am a child of the children of the Great Depression. One does not throw out shriveled tomatoes. One eats them … in some way … so thus the beginnings of a dinner dish.
Why are my tomatoes on the counter in the first place, rather than in the refrigerator, you might ask? My son Mitchell, the tomato aficionado, says that putting tomatoes in the fridge deadens their flavor. And it’s true, backed by scientific information that reports, “refrigerating tomatoes damages the membranes inside the fruit walls, causing the tomato to lose flavor and develop a mealy texture” while countertop ripening enhances their juiciness and deepens their flavor.
So, the moral of the story is: Don’t buy more tomatoes than you can eat fresh in a few days or plan to use them in a cooked dish. Which is what I did – booke style, of course – paired with a few other “remains” I found in my vegetable crisper.
Too, I was inspired to use some of the plethora of oregano, basil, parsley and chives in my little, potted garden. Clearly, I had all the makings of a lovely, summer pasta dish and here is what I created!
Summer Vegetables & Herb Pasta
1/3 package of brown rice spaghetti or other pasta (use a little more or less to suite your hunger)
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
½ pint container of grape tomatoes (about 12 – 15 tomatoes)
4-6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup sliced white or yellow onion
6 mushrooms (any kind) sliced
8-10 stalks of asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
Fresh basil, oregano, parsley and chives, chopped (any amount in any combination that suites your taste)
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
½ cup pasta water
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente. When done, drain pasta into a colander, reserving a cup of the cooking water.
In a saucepan, add olive oil and butter. Bring pan to medium heat to melt the butter. Add the tomatoes, lower heat to medium low and cook covered for about 5 minutes, so the tomatoes plump.
Carefully pierce each of the tomatoes with a knife to allow them to begin releasing their juices, add garlic, onion, mushrooms and asparagus, increase heat slightly and sauté for about 10 minutes, cooking the vegetables to the desired doneness.
Add the pasta, herbs and seasonings. Toss and heat for about 2 – 3 minutes, adding pasta liquid to form a bit of sauce.
Heap into a bowl, finish with a drizzle of olive oil (I used chili oil for a little kick) and top with grated Parmesan, if desired. This recipe can feed one super hungry person, or two people with a nice green salad or a piece of protein on the side.
Stovetop to table, it took me less than 20 minutes.
I happened to have asparagus and mushrooms in my fridge, but use what you have (think: frozen green peas, string beans, bell peppers, artichokes?) to help transform those shriveled tomatoes into a delicious dish!
Eat well. Be happy.