Monday, August 31, 2009

Pasta La Vista, Baby

Well, after all of my complaining, summer seems to have arrived in NYC (albeit towards what appears to be the end of the season). One of the first signs of summertime to a lot of us is tomatoes, especially the pucker-inducing green ones. I got them a few weeks in a row, so following my fried green tomato binge I needed to give some thought to my next move. It turns out that my fellow CSA-ers are quite vocal about how they use their CSA bounty, and had no shortage of ideas that I could use for inspiration. From simple sautés to intricate soufflés and quiche recipes, these people are passionate about ingredients and how to use them. After receiving a second batch of green tomatoes our CSA Google group was flooded with praise for Mario Batali's spaghetti with green tomatoes. It's a really fresh, no-cook sauce that comes together in the food processor the same way a tomatillo salsa would (and it looks really similar, too), which is great for those of us that have a phobia of doing dishes (well...not so much a phobia as an intense hatred).

While I've made sauce from raw mature tomatoes before (and will be posting about it soon!), this was my first experience with making a raw green tomato sauce. It came together just as easily, only the tomatoes had more bite so it was thicker than what you'd get if you put ripe red tomatoes into the food processor. And don't worry if you're without a food processor--the large holes of a cheese or box grater will do just fine. The recipe has great herbage, utilizing both basil and dill, not to mention mint. It also calls for arugula, which you could easily replace with any leafy green that's in your fridge. I threw in the last few leaves of all my leftover greens (baby arugula and swiss chard) and they worked beautifully. I found the ratio of ingredients to be a bit off in the original recipe, which left me with a slightly dryer sauce than was needed for the pasta. I added some of the pasta liquid to combat the texture issue and it worked out just fine.

While I loved the sauce with all it's flavor and how well it used up all those green tomatoes, I wanted a little...something to add some crunch and depth of flavor to the dish to make it more than just noodles and sauce. So I did something that I only learned about a year or two ago, and made pasta croutons. I know it sounds like a crazy carb-fest (and it sort of is). I mean, what's next, a sprinkling of rice and a dash of cornmeal for added texture? But trust me on this one, it's well worth the extra carbs for the added crunch and burst of flavor you get from these guys. Not to mention, you'll want to make them every time you need croutons--they're that good. I used smoky paprika and spicy cayenne for heat, which worked perfectly. It may sound odd, but trust me, you'll be tossing croutons into pasta all the time once you give these a try. Here's the final recipe.

Spaghetti with Green Tomato Sauce
adapted from The Food Network and Mario Batali

1/4 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup basil leaves

1/4 cup arugula

1/4 cup dill

5 green tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound spaghetti

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. In the bowl of a food processor combine the herbs, tomatoes, garlic and puree until well combined. Add the cheese and pulse for 30 seconds.

2. Cook pasta in the boiling water until tender yet al dente. 1 minute before the pasta is done, turn on the food processor and slowly drizzle the oil in to make a smooth sauce. Drain the pasta, discarding all but 1 cup of the water (reserve it in a separate container), and return pasta to the hot pot. Stir in the tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Add pasta water as needed if sauce needs thinning. Top with seasoned croutons (recipe below). Enjoy!

Spicy Seasoned Croutons

4-5 slices rustic style (or stale) bread, cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp granulated garlic

Combine butter, olive oil and all spices in a non-stick skillet over low heat. Add bread and toss until well coated in mixture. Raise heat to medium low and cook, tossing frequently, until bread is crispy and golden. Serve over pasta or in salads. Enjoy!


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