By Helen Klein
Bringing the flavors and fragrances of spring into the kitchen while it’s still winter proper takes a bit of culinary magic. Even out-of-season vegetables can taste delicious, though, if they are cooked with care and a degree of calculation.
In this pasta dish, for instance, the pepper and onion are cooked over moderate heat for long enough to caramelize their sugars, adding sweetness to slowly cooked tomatoes that, otherwise, would be unremarkable.
A generous handful of chopped fresh basil and parsley provides additional grace notes, as does the sliced garlic, evoking the warm breezes of the Mediterranean, even in February.
This dish is quick to make, and easy to alter to suit your tastes or what is in your pantry. Switch the herbs around if you like, substituting fresh oregano or dill for the basil. Vegetables can also bow in and out, with zucchini standing in for the yellow squash. Or, try asparagus or fresh green beans. Just make sure there’s an array of colors, which makes the finished dish look as good as it tastes.
1 tbl. olive oil
1/4 purple onion, coarsely diced
1 colored pepper, cored and coarsely diced
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half moons
2-3 plum tomatoes, coarsely diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2-3 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. wagon wheel pasta, cooked till al dente and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in large non-stick frying pan.
Add onion and a little salt and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, till limp. Add colored pepper and continue cooking until pepper has softened. Add garlic, and continue sautéing another two to three minutes. Add squash, and continue sautéing until it has started to soften and turn translucent.
Add tomatoes, and cook until they are softened and their juices have rendered (about five to 10 minutes). Add basil and continue cooking another two to three minutes, stirring as needed.
Toss pasta with vegetable mixture in frying pan and cook to heat through. Remove from heat, and toss again with parsley and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.