Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pasta Luglio

Pasta Luglio

It feels like summer. Yesterday we spent the entire morning at the park and pool, and most of the afternoon in the front yard. Last night after Anne was in bed, I scooped a bowl of homemade strawberry ice cream and sat on the front stoop watching the fireflies come out. This morning, we spent a solid hour sidewalk chalking the front walkway (a beach scene!), blowing bubbles, and watching the planes fly overhead. This afternoon we walked to the park and the farmers' market. We stopped at the market for a while and listened to a woman play the accordion. Anne danced, and drank tiny sips of water out of the top of my Klean Kanteen bottle.

I tend to read mostly non-fiction: memoirs, parenting, self-help, religion. I've decided that July is the Month of the Novel, and I am doing what I can to get through as much fiction as possible this month. On the list: The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and The Godwulf Manuscript, by Robert B. Parker. I've bitten off more than I can chew, but that's not terribly surprising. The bigger your stack of books, the more books you read in the end, even if you never finish the whole thing (How could you ever finish? Have you seen a library?). What are you reading this summer? Have you seen the selections for the Well-Read Mom for this year? I am excited for that.

I'm running a half marathon next week (!), and I've run something like 170 (!!) miles in training since March. I don't particularly love the running, especially the amount of time it takes each week. I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line and getting back to more reasonable, balanced workouts. What has been amazing about this process for me has been seeing myself uncompromisingly committed to reaching my goal. I signed up for the half marathon and paid the ridiculous entry fee, I downloaded a training plan, and I have done basically every single thing on the training plan, rain or shine, in spite of other plans, fatigue, soreness, or just plain whiny laziness. I have gotten out and run my miles 3-4 times a week without fail for 4 months. I feel shocked! I guess it just goes to show you that you never stop learning things about yourself. I, apparently, am very goal-oriented, and benefit greatly from a specific schedule that I can follow. I'm excited to test this knowledge in other areas of my life.

I let Anne run around and pick things at the market for dinner tonight (her contributions: yellow squash and mushrooms), and as usual, the simplest seasonal ingredients worked their magic to form the most amazing pasta dish I've eaten in a long time. Buon appetito!

Licking her lips

Pasta Luglio
(serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a first course)

This is a weeknight dinner, and I have a busy toddler who likes to "help," so I go as quickly as I can. This means that I do not chop everything before I start cooking. Chop one thing, toss it in. Chop another, add. Chop more, add more, etc. Cooking times between additions would honestly be something like "as long as it takes to chop half and onion." It's a very forgiving recipe, just wing it.

1/2 pound penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
splash of white wine
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
5-6 large leaves fresh basil, shredded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water for the pasta. Salt generously (it should taste like seawater), and cook the pasta about a minute shy of al dente (for penne, 9-10 minutes). Reserve about 2 cups of the starchy pasta water for the sauce (or splash it in the sauce as you're cooking the pasta, as I did - see below).

Place the olive oil in a wide, shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add the squash, season with salt and pepper, and let sit for a minute. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softening and pan starts to look dry. Splash with white wine and cook another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir together, splashing in enough pasta water to thin the paste into a sauce that coats the vegetables. Stir in the pasta and cook for a minute or two. Remove from heat and add grated cheese, basil, and butter. Stir until the butter and cheese are melted. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.