Friday, September 14, 2007


Every week, a farmer's market comes to Harvard Square, and last week, one of the stands had a bunch of great looking heirloom tomatoes on sale. Here are two salads I made. The first is a caprese with basil, parsley, and chives from the herb garden on our back porch.

For the second salad, I combined a variety of different colored tomatoes with shallots, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Its a pretty simple salad that is only as good as the ingredients that you put into it.
This salad was part of a larger meal that I made when Gustavo was visiting our place for a couple of days. Below is penne with peppers and sausage. For this dish, start by making a simple tomato sauce with San Marzano tomatoes if they are available. While the tomato sauce is cooking, begin prepping the peppers. The finished product will look a lot better if you use a variety of different colored peppers. The key to making this dish good is to peel the outer membrane off of the peppers. Its a bit of a pain, but it really makes a big difference in the texture of the dish. I usually cut the peppers into quarters and then take the skin off with a vegetable peeler. Once the peppers are peeled, cut them into squares (about 2cm) and throw them in with the tomato sauce. Next, slice up a couple sweet Italian sausages and cook them separately with a bit of olive oil. It is easier to get nice thin slices if you partially freeze the sausages. If you put them in the freezer when you begin to make the tomato sauce them enough time to firm up. Add the sausages to the sauce when they are cooked and season the sauce with a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, and balsamic vinegar. Add the vinegar a little bit at a time and stop once you can just begin to taste the vinegar in the sauce. Peppers, sausage, and vinegar is a classic combination, and the goal is to try to get a nice balance between all of those elements in this sauce. Be judicious with the vinegar, though, since too much will over power all of the other flavors. Let the sauce simmer for a little while to let the flavors mix, and then to finish the dish, spoon some of the sauce into a pan with some almost cooked penne (any shaped paste will work well) and cook the sauce and pasta for a minute or so. This last step helps the flavors of the sauce penetrate the pasta and is something that you should do with any pasta dish.

As a first course, I made a bunch of mussels. These are good, easy, and cheap. You can prepare mussels a million different ways. For this dish, I cooked up a lot of garlic with shallots, pancetta, and a generous portion of butter. After a few minutes, add a cup or so of white wine, bring that to a boil, throw in the mussels and cover. After a couple of minutes, the mussels are done. Season with some salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. Serve with bread to soak up all of the broth. That's all there is to it. It takes about 15 minutes to make and all the ingredients cost about $8.

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