Last week, I turned thirty-nine. The day before my birthday, I finished uploading the last of the photographs for the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook to my publisher, Andrews McMeel‘s ftp, and on my birthday, JR and I made our 2009 maiden voyage to the beach, a disturbing and previously unknown late start – and, I suppose, end – to our beach days this year. Regardless of the tardiness of our travels, the beach was at its most stunning; the Rhode Island water pristine, so clear that the bottom was readily visible (a rarity, as those of you who swim the Atlantic know all too well), the white caps surreal in their contrast against the robin’s egg blue sky and evening sky blue sea, cotton balls of white clouds complementing the waves and sand below.
JR and I swam at four o’clock on my birthday, a rallying cry of, “hell, you only turn thirty-nine once,” compelling us on, though in the high heat of August, we’re unlikely to bother with a four p.m. dip. On our exit from the beach – a damp and slightly chilly hour later, I collected rose hips obsessively, JR stopping occasionally – 100 yards ahead – just to be polite. It was my birthday, after all.
Over the weekend, we celebrated with my brother and sister-in-law, a festival of corn transformed into chowder and bread, and piles of native steamers (clams, for those of you not in the know) with Fall River linguica. A fitting late-summer dinner, unencumbered by the pesky appetite suppression that those humid days earlier in the season are subject to.
Before affixing our clam feed bags, we had an appetizer of rescued-from-late-blight tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, accompanied by basil pesto that I had made the day after my birthday. We’re down to five brown paper lunch bags of ripening tomatoes from the salvage efforts I made back in July, and it saddens me so to see the tomato season – trying, challenging, and unusual as it was – come to an end, though I am thankful to those brown bags of rescued tomatoes for this dish that JR and I have been able to enjoy with great frequency, yet no weariness, for the last month or so. It will undoubtedly come to the point in the next few weeks where I have to purchase tomatoes to get this dish done, and I will gladly incur that extra cost, so addicted have I become to it in both its simplicity and its substance.
- 1 pound gemelli pasta (or similar short yet thick pasta with grooves for catching tomato bits and pesto)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped and seeded
- 1/2 cup basil pesto (approximately 2/3rds of a 6 ounce jar)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions until al dente, or firm to the bite, but cooked through. No gnawing on undercooked pasta do we want here.
- Once the pasta has been added to the water, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is just becoming fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to let it burn (stirring frequently will help this cause). Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until softened and, yep, a sauce-like substance is beginning to form. If your pasta isn't quite done at this point, remove the saute pan from the heat until the pasta is ready to be added. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the tomato-garlic mixture. Stir in the pesto, being sure to distribute it as evenly as possible. Salt and pepper to taste, place one-quarter of the pasta on each of four plates, sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Pecorino Romano cheese over top of each if you so desire, and serve it forth. So quick and easy, yet satisfying a meal, it's sure to gain a spot on your summer dinner short list.
Estimated cost for four: $8.13. The gemelli is a Barilla product that is frequently on sale for $1.00 per box, which happens to be what I paid, but if you were to purchase it at regular price, it would run you $1.39, and so we’ll use that number in our math. The olive oil costs 48-cents and the garlic approximately 10-cents. Purchased field tomatoes should cost no more than $3.25/pound, and purchased pesto will run around $3.99 for a 6 ounce jar of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value store brand, so $2.66 for this use, though homemade, or even a splurge purchase of Sauces n’ Love‘s basil pesto is highly recommended if you have the time, or the extra $1.83 to spare. The Pecorino Romano costs 25-cents, and that’s that. Homemade pesto would run you around $3.72 if you were to purchase the basil, and a mere $1.73 if you have shrub-like basil plants growing at your house, so $9.19 with homemade using purchased basil, or $7.20 with garden basil. Sauces n’ Love basil pesto costs $4.49 for 4.5 ounces, so we’ll roll that whole amount into the total, which gets us to $9.96 – hey, still under ten bucks, people, still under ten bucks.
Dinner tonight: Exactly as described above, only for two people, with rescued garden tomatoes, and with homemade pesto with from-the-garden basil. Estimated cost for two: $3.60 (though if I subtracted the cost of the purchased tomatoes, and factored in the sale-price pasta, it would run us $1.59 for 2. Gardens are good.). JR and I will each enjoy the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and probably into the next day, for a quarter pound of pasta is hefty enough at dinner time, never mind bogging yourself down with that quantity of noodles at lunch.