Well, it was briefly. Yesterday a nasty front came through that had the cats hiding and the moveable mansion rocking. We came through unscathed but our neighbors to the west of us in Oklahoma were hit by a series of tornadoes. Good luck for us. We did get a taste of spring this past weekend and the Farmer's Market in Fayetteville was awash in blooms, early spring vegetables, organic free range eggs and local honey. It is still too early for summer vegetables and decent tomatoes are a few months away.
I am craving summer and good tomatoes. In the meantime imported cherry and grape tomatoes are the best option. I am guessing that because of their compact size they actually ripen and the sugars are more concentrated. Don't know for sure but is sounds like a reasonable assumption. At any rate, tonight a simple pasta dish with roasted garlic, sauteed cherry tomatoes and basil. It is from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. It reminds me of summer, is super easy and delicious and is another of those simple recipes that just happen to be vegan. There is no extra effort to make it vegan and if eating vegan is not important to you, some good imported parmesan is a lovely addition.
Penne with Pan Roasted Garlic, Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
2/3 cup garlic cloves, loose papery skins rubbed away but not peeled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound penne
10 ounces cherry tomatoes(about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
12 large fresh basil leaves, slivered
Place the garlic cloves in a small skillet, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and roast, shaking the pan occasionally until the skins are browned and the garlic has softened, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, slip off the skins and trim the woody ends. Place in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mash with a fork into a coarse pure.
Bring water to a boil, add salt and pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic puree and pepper flakes and cook until just heated through, about 1 minute.
Toss the drained pasta with the garlic and tomato sauce and basil adding the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to moisten the pasta. Serve immediately. Serve leftovers next day with a drizzling of balsamic vinegar.