Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Eat Supper

Here we are in November, and though the mornings are chilly and dark (brrrr), there's still a chance to enjoy a final taste of summer with Summer Zucchini Pasta, one of my very favorite "go-to" recipes from "The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper" cookbook, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper* and Sally Swift.

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It all begins with a really good penne pasta, because in a dish like this it really is important to have a good pasta.  I usually use pasta from The Fresh Market, but you should be able to find something nice from your local better market.  And, if all else fails, use your favorite supermarket brand.

But here's the trick to cooking pasta.

Listen up.

Use a lot of water. Remember, it's the boiling WATER that cooks the pasta.

Don't be skimpy with the oil in the water. Remember, we don't want that pasta sticking together.

And, put in a lot of salt. Pour, don't sprinkle.
As a matter of fact, put in as much salt as you think it needs, then put in some more. (I measured when I made this tonight, and I used about 1/3 cup of salt.)

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While you're waiting on the water, cut about four medium sized nice firm zucchini into "sticks" about the same shape and size as the penne pasta.

You can snack on a few pieces of zucchini now. It's yummy raw.

Once the water is at a full boil, pour in the pasta. This is one of those times when you do want to look at the back of the package and see what the suggested cooking time is, because in the last three minutes of cooking, you're going to dump the cut up zucchini right into the pasta water and let it all cook together.

While you're waiting on that to happen, chop up four or five good sized garlic cloves and set aside in a little bowl or saucer.

Cut about two cups of cherry tomatoes in half and put them aside.

Chop up a third cup of fresh basil. Breathe deeply. Smells nice, huh?

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Want to hear a trick?

A good way to measure fresh herbs before you cut them -- pack them nice tight into the measuring cup while they are still whole. THEN cut them up. Easy peasy,right?

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This is the scary tool I used to chop that basil up. It's one of those curved knives that fits into its own little scooped out cutting board. This knife is razor SHARP, so I store it really carefully and never ever ever EVER dump it into a sink of soapy water, where it might hide.

Did I mention that I'm a little scared of this knife?

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When the pasta and zucchini are finished cooking, scoop out a cup or two of the pasta water and set aside, then dump the pasta and zucchini into a colander to drain.

Pour about four Tablespoons of tasty olive oil into the bottom of the pot, where you can then gently saute 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper along with your chopped up garlic for about thirty seconds, just until it smells nice -- take the pot off the heat now.

(The trick here is to only saute the garlic and red pepper for a few seconds. You DON'T want the garlic to brown!)

Get ready now, because we're almost done. The next bit is like magic.

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Put your pasta and zucchini back into the pot and gently stir it all around until you see that you've distributed the pepper and garlic evenly throughout.

Gently stir in the chopped up basil, the halved cherry tomatoes, and a cup to a cup and a half of feta cheese. Add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water if you need to -- I usually end up needing to add a little more than a half a cup. Stir it all together in the pot.

Step back and admire the beautiful colors.

Nice job.

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Look at that. Your family won't know what hit them.

Another nice thing about this recipe -- it is wonderful the next day at room temperature. I love to take the leftovers for lunch!

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And I love this cookbook -- it is absolutely one of my favorites. I have actually read it. Like a book. Well, of course like a book -- it IS a book. I mean, read it like you would read a novel.

Try this recipe. You won't be disappointed!



  1. Holy smokes. I'm going to have to up my game.

    I will definitely be trying this one...looks fantastic!

  2. This looks good to me even though I am a finicky eater (must be the great food photography?)!!

  3. I'm making this dish Saturday...along with the chocolate chip cookies and big yeast rolls. It looks delicious! I love the title of the book "How to Eat Supper"...I bought one of NPR's books entitled "Hidden Kitchens" by Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson at the booksale this past September. It's in my stack of winter reads...I think I may have to move it to the top!

  4. Oh my gosh, that looks so good my mouth is watering! I've got to try it.

  5. Ditto what steviewren said!! :)