Tuesday, June 10, 2008

spice is nice

So, I didn't think I'd have a recipe to post this week. I thought instead, that I'd write about all the little 'experiments' I made the past week. Like the four berry jam that is delicious, but a bit sweet for my tastes. Or the pasta with green garlic and ricotta which was also very good, but did not have quite the right texture. Then there was Thai peanut tofu with a crunchy Thai salad and sweet chili dipping sauce that just didn't live up to its potential for that 'wow' flavor factor. I could also mention the chocolate mousse I made from another Rose Carrarini recipe. Now that was fantastic. But. I made it line for line from the recipe with no adaptations. And. I had to whisk the egg whites twice because the first batch, rather irritatingly, came just to the point before soft peaks would form and then fell dramatically back into liquid state. Frustrating for sure, but on the second take all went well. So, I had been busy, but with nothing really outstanding to brag about. Then, this happened:

On a Monday, for goodness sake. Perhaps the one day I have little to no motivation whatsoever for anything more strenuous than reclining on the sofa with cool beverage in hand. Especially when the heat index has been well over 100 degrees for several consecutive days. Lazy? Yup. Guilty? Nope.

Out of hunger came the need to make dinner of some sort and when feeling uninspired and not entirely up for being in the kitchen, I often turn to pasta. Good, simple Italian fare is almost effortless and always satisfying. And, it just so happens that this dish benefits from my new favorite pantry staple:
(which I am now looking to add to just about everything, including the aforementioned Thai dishes...)

So here's this week's winner:

Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Swiss Chard

(A note on choosing pasta: this dish would be fine with any type of shaped pasta, however I tend to choose my pasta shape by the shape of the other items in the dish; for this dish I chose a long (about 3-inch) tubular pasta to mimic the Swiss chard ribbons)


6 oz. dried pasta

For the sauce:

1 Tb. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 Tb. ground red cherry peppers (such as 'Sun of Italy' brand), more or less to suit your tastes
1 Tb. garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 pasta water
1/4 Lb. Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves sliced into 1/2-inch ribbons
salt and freshly ground pepper

freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the top

While pasta is cooking in a large pot of salted water, make the sauce:

In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When oil glides nicely across the pan, add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until quite soft, but not brown. Add the ground red cherry peppers and stir for only about 10 seconds. Add the minced garlic and dried oregano and stir until garlic is fragrant (again only about 10 seconds). Add the canned tomatoes and stir to break up the whole tomatoes. Just before pasta is done, add the Swiss chard ribbons and stems to the sauce and stir until just softened. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the sauce and stir to thicken, slightly. Season with salt and pepper and add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pan. Toss to coat and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

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