Wooo-weee it’s been a rough few weeks in these parts. It seems like every time I sign myself up for one more thing than I can actually reasonably handle, the universe punishes me by walloping me with the unforeseen: broken door knobs, sick doggies, dinners for 65, and the like. Is that Murphy’s law? When it rains, it pours, and I seem to be caught without my umbrella every time. (Literally last Thursday when my class and I got stuck in the rain on a farm field trip. Nothing like a pleasant afternoon spent with 10 soaking wet 12 year olds.)
Downpours aside, we are finally fully moved into our new place. (Well ok, fully may be an overstatement.) It feels so good to finally live outside the box, so to speak. We’ve gotten off to a slow start in our new kitchen – somewhere between trips to Ikea, endless unpacking, hanging pictures, hanging shower curtains, untangling stereo wires, and whatnot, cooking sorta bit the dust. Our first meal in our new place: ramen noodles. Our second: frozen pizza. Yeah, as I was saying: Bit. The. Dust.
So this week finally, I’m getting back into the cooking groove. It’s pretty hilarious cooking in a new space. I lived in my last apartment for 4 years, and with one counter and two cupboards, you never had to go far to reach what you needed. But now, with more cupboards than we can fill (you get use to having no space: I cook mostly with a sharp knife, a cutting board, and a couple of pans), and a walk-in pantry complete with its own little work station separate from the two (hurrah!) counters in the actual kitchen, I find myself getting a little lost. I wander. I reach for things in places they are not. I open random drawers. I stare into space. I trip over the table and the dog.
And once I finally find whatever I’m looking for, I make simple little no-fuss meals. This is one such meal – more of an idea than an actual formula for dinner. Cook some pasta, sauté a shallot and some garlic, toss together with fresh summer vegetables of your choice and hearty scoop of good ricotta, which melts deliciously and holds the whole thing together. Simple and satisfying, this dish is all about the ingredients: buy the best tomatoes you can (or better yet, grow your own), use a good whole milk ricotta, and you can’t go wrong. Warm or room temperature, this is pasta salad, elevated. Serves 4 as a light meal or side dish.
For the Pasta Salad
½ lb dried pasta such as penne
2 tbsp good olive oil plus an extra drizzle to finish
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 medium farm tomato, diced
A few spears broccolini, roughly chopped, stems included
1 ear of corn, shucked and kernels cut off the cob
¼ cup good ricotta cheese, or more to your taste
A small handful of basil leaves, washed and roughly chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Boil a medium pot of water with a little salt. When boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccolini to the pot to blanche briefly. Drain the pasta and the broccolini to a serving dish and set aside.
Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium-low heat and add the 2 tbsp olive oil. Wait 2 minutes and then add the shallot and the garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant but not browned (keep the heat low), about 5 minutes.
Add the shallots and garlic to the pasta and then add the tomatoes, the corn, and the ricotta. Toss together gently, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss again and sprinkle over the basil. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed, adding a little more salt, ricotta, olive oil, or lemon juice. Serve at once or let cool to room temperature.