The Kitchen Scout turned six years old back in May. I forgot. Honestly, I can’t believe the blog has been chugging along for that long. Maybe not always at the same pace, but it’s hard to stay consistent for that long in this space. It does leave me asking, where has the time gone?
Here’s another question. Does anyone else feel as though they’ve been eating their feelings for the past several months? Maybe especially these past few weeks?
Last week, my husband requested his favorite Taco Salad for dinner. Although I’ve made some upgrades to the original recipe that make it a touch healthier including a delicious homemade Catalina dressing and swapping out ground turkey for the beef, there is one ingredient that has to be included. Doritos. Yes, I said it, Doritos, that snack of our youth that for some reason, still appeals the few times a year we “go there”. And since I’ve also cut back on the quantity of those in the salad, there’s a partially filled bag that serves as an occasional snack for me until just teeny orange crumbs remain. I really need to buy the snack sized bag going forward to address this issue.
Let me tell you how the Taco Salad first came to my attention. When my children were in elementary school and I got involved with the school’s Parent Teacher Group, my first job was helping with the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. It was such a fun, festive event and I don’t even know if it’s still held but all the parents would contribute salads, sandwiches, baked goods, flowers and all kinds of beautiful things to fete our amazing teachers who took such good care of educating our children. I’m sure the schools in your towns do/did the same.
A few of us would “chaperone” the event meaning we would remove any finished off platters from the buffet table, tidy up the drinks station and clean up after the luncheon was complete. One of the first salads to go, that also happened to look pretty inviting to me, was this Taco Salad so I asked another Mom what the heck it was! She proceeded to list the ingredients (not the quantities) and I thought, hmmm, I know someone who would like that! Never in my life had I purchased Catalina dressing which honestly frightened me by its red color, nor the packaged Taco seasoning, but they were on the list of ingredients and key to the taste of the salad so that’s how I made it until we got old and needed to mend most of our ways.
So, maybe 3 times a year I make this salad with upgrades – homemade Catalina dressing, ground turkey instead of beef that I saute with a homemade Taco seasoning based on this recipe, crunchy iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, a little monterey jack cheese and just a handful of the Doritos. Sometimes I add pickled jalapeños, sometimes some sliced black olives if I have them. It’s always tasty and you know who is very happy.
Now, I’m so glad it’s summer and despite having to wear a mask to do my shopping, the worst part of which is that my glasses cloud up, it is my favorite time to browse the farm stands and bask in the color of their offerings. Juicy, plump strawberries, shiny rhubarb, pencil thin asparagus, are just a few of the things I look forward to at this time. I envision getting back to some regularly scheduled programming with our meals including grilled vegetable platters, some delicious salads and colorful pastas.
Last weekend, I visited Codman Farm to purchase some of my favorite bread and buy some fish from their once weekly vendor. I got a gorgeous piece of locally caught cod that we put in a quick marinade before my husband put it on the grill (on foil). I decided to serve that with a light pasta that our vegetarian daughter could also enjoy, and is once again one of you know who’s favorite flavor combinations – tomato and basil. Jammy Tomato Pasta was improvised from a couple of different recipes but it was so tasty I thought I would write it up for you to enjoy too.
It’s not complicated – you probably have made many similar things in the past. The key is finding a short pasta that has some pizzazz. It needs to have some nooks and crannies to capture the rest of the ingredients and give the dish some texture. I used this very tasty Trumpet shaped pasta from a Brooklyn based manufacturer that I found at Whole Foods. You’ll also need a lovely finishing olive oil. This is the delicious extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany that I use (local friends, please contact me if you are interested).
Small tomatoes in the color of your choosing are sauteed in some olive oil until they break down and get jammy, and then showered with a healthy serving of minced garlic that is cooked just long enough to release its flavor. In the meanwhile, your pasta is cooking which you then transfer to the pan with the tomatoes along with just enough shredded cheese to give a salty bite, some reserved pasta water and some freshly minced basil. Oh, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss, toss, toss until creamy – maybe you need to add some more pasta water to get the right consistency. Taste for seasoning and drizzle with your finishing oil to keep it glistening and moist.
Jammy Tomato Pasta is a dish you can really whip up when you even don’t feel like cooking because it will take you under 30 minutes to put it all together, promise.
Until next time…
One Year Ago: Old Dominion Rolls
Two Years Ago: Southwest Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago: Scallops Au Poivre with Broccoli and Cauliflower Rice
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Gazpacho
Five Years Ago: Rhubarb Almond Crumb Cake
Six Years Ago: Jumbo Shrimp with Lemon and Garlic
Jammy Tomato Pasta is studded with fresh tomatoes, lots of fresh garlic,a a modest amount of cheese and fresh basil. You'll notice that I only call for 3/4 pound of pasta in this recipe because I like a almost a 50-50 ratio of pasta to the other ingredients in the dish. If you want to throw that extra 1/4 pound of pasta in the pot, I think it should be just fine. Use the best quality short pasta you can find. While not listed, reserved pasta water is a key ingredient to making your dish creamy so look for those instructions below. Finishing the pasta with a nice extra virgin olive oil will keep it glistening and moist. Enjoy.
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more to finish
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, red, yellow or multi-color, halved
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 3/4 pound short pasta such as Campanelle, Fusilli or Cavatappi
- 1/2 cup finely grated mix of Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Season well with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package for al dente. You are going to use some of the pasta water to make the sauce creamy in step 3.
- While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large flat bottomed pan. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook the tomatoes, stirring to prevent sticking, until they start to break down and get a little jammy in their consistency. Add the garlic and the pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste) and stir for another minute for the garlic to release its flavor.
- Using a spider or large slotted spoon, strain the pasta and put it directly into the pan with the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta and stir, adding up to 1/2 cup of the pasta water to loosen up and make a creamy like consistency to the pasta.
- Add the basil, any salt and pepper to taste and give it one more stir.
- Finish the pasta by drizzling it with best quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. It's even good cold the next day.
A few key tips, like saving the pasta water, that I sometimes forget. And the finishing oil! yes! Thank you!! Plus it is quinoa salad season again!!!
I signed up for CapeAnne Fresh Catch and pick up fresh fish every Wednesday at Codman Farm. They send a simple recipe Wednesday morning for the type of fish caught and let me know what boat it came off of. Haddock,flounder,hake, redfish, all super fresh. Like a CSA for fish. Highly recommend! Different towns have different pick up days.
Val, this looks yummy. I love sautéing little tomatoes….great way to use them in this recipe.