Monday, August 25, 2008

Cherry Cherry Tomatoes, Basil Pasta

Last Saturday I was feeling the need to get out of the house. After some triple digit heat the weekend before and then a deluge of rain, this weekend was gorgeous. My choice of outing was to a couple of very local farmer's markets...neither of which is much to shout about. However, I did score a few nice veggies. Next Saturday I am going to venture out to the huge farmer's market that's in the metro area about 15 miles from here. It is a great market with loads of produce, crafts and food booths. I'm hoping to load up on some great tomatoes and peppers, my goal being to make spaghetti sauce and freeze it for quick meals this fall.

Back to this past Saturday's treasures. One of the purchases I made was a basket of cherry tomatoes. They were about half the price as in the grocery store...big surprise. I decided to experiment with some ideas I had seen on cooking shows. What I created was like a pasta Marguerite. If you are familiar with a Marguerite Pizza you know that it is tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. I thought, "Hmmm...why not do the same thing with pasta." It's probably been done, but this is my take on it. Here we go.

The Ingredients

1 basket cherry tomatoes You could use grape, strawberry, or any small tomato

extra virgin olive oil

several cloves of garlic minced
kosher salt

fresh ground pepper
balsamic vinegar
fresh mozzarella cheese
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

I know, I know. There are olives in the picture of ingredients and no salt and no pepper, and not shallots. You have to understand that this was free wheelin' cooking. I was adding and subtracting as I went along. Olives subtracted, salts, pepper, shallots added. Call it new math. Also very obvious, there are no quantities listed. I did everything to taste. Someday, if requested and pretty please is added, I will figure out how much of everything I used. Until what suits you.

Here's what I did. After washing and stemming the tomatoes, I placed them on a cookie sheet that had olive oil drizzled on it. I then drizzled olive oil and minced garlic over the tomatoes. What worked well for me was to put the minced garlic in the oil and then spoon it over the tomatoes. After I had sprinkled them with kosher salt and fresh pepper, I placed them in a 425 degree oven until they burst...about 20 minutes or so. Just keep an eye on them so they don't burn. They should look kind of like this when they are done. I am telling you, these are so yummy!
While the tomatoes were roasting I fried 3 slices of chopped bacon. I drained all but about a tablespoon of the bacon grease and then sauteed 1 minced shallot in the drippings. During this time the spaghetti was also cooking. I cooked a 1 lb. box of the Dreamfields pasta, but probably used about 2/3 of it. When you drain it be sure to save a bit of the pasta water to add to the mixture later.

When the tomatoes and pasta were done, I dumped them into a large bowl. To this I added, oh, say, 6 oz. of fresh mozzarella. This stuff is heavenly. But, be aware, you cannot grate it. It is much softer that the stuff you get in the regular cheese section of the dairy case...where you get the standard cheddar, jack, and American processed stuff. You will find this in the fancy cheese section. Try it on pizza or lasagna. It is totally to die for. OK, now that I am done waxing eloquent about cheese, the rest of the story. I sliced it and tore the slices into bits. Then I finally added chiffonaded basil. At this point I added a little of the water from the cooked pasta, between maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I then mixed that all together and let it set while I made the dressing.

Here is what really made it yummy. I mixed together about 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/8 of a cup of balsamic vinegar (I'm guessing here...just make sure it's a 2 to 1 ratio of oil and vinegar), the chopped bacon and the sauteed shallot. I whisked them together, poured it over the pasta mixture, added sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and tossed.

I have to admit, it came out quite good! I was originally going to make it more like a pasta salad, thus the olives, but it took on a life of it's own and became a hot pasta dish. But you could obviously make this a cold dish also. I would add the black olives and trade out the fresh mozzarella for the traditional grated type stuff and maybe some Parmesan. This is one of those dishes that can be very versatile and subject to taste. The amount of basil and cheese and dressing is up to you. Play with it, and let me know what variations you come up with.

I served this with a roasted chicken from the supermarket, and it made a nice light meal that wasn't extremely labor intensive...well, maybe a little.

Now, stayed tune to see what I do to zucchini.

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