Monday, August 15, 2011

Farfalle with Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Capers & Olives

There are three or four growers at my farmers' market that grow such beautiful things that no matter what the season, I always stop to see what they have. I almost always buy something from each of them. One of them--Nature's Choice Biodynamic Farm—grows the most spectacular array of heirloom tomatoes imaginable. I have to be very careful not to buy too many. They are so beautiful. And they taste amazing. I eat most of them raw...but I occasionally cook with them too (particularly the red ones). Recently, inspired by a pasta on the August cover of Martha Stewart Living and a Green Zebra and Yellow Tomato Pasta in the August issue of Food & Wine, I made an "uncooked" pasta sauce with some of the multicolored heirlooms.

I actually started planning my dinner that night around some beautiful red and yellow sweet peppers that I had purchased at the farmers' market. I love roasted peppers dressed with olive oil that has been infused with thinly sliced garlic and capers. This simple concoction is wonderful on top of a crostini smeared with ricotta or goat cheese. And with the addition of a squeeze of lemon it makes a marvelous sauce for Halibut. I thought it would also make a fine sauce for pasta.

When I walked into the kitchen to start preparing the peppers, my eyes fell on the big bowl of multicolored tomatoes sitting on the counter. One of my favorite quick summer pastas is made by tossing hot pasta with chopped vine ripened tomatoes that have been allowed to marinate briefly in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil. As I looked at the bowl of tomatoes on the counter, it occurred to me to combine the two sauces—using the roasted pepper-garlic-caper mixture as the marinade for the tomatoes.

And this is pretty much what I ended up doing. In addition to the capers and garlic, I threw in some olives, too.  Once you begin to think about all of the things that go well with peppers and tomatoes, the possible variations begin to multiply. Anchovies...added with the capers to the sizzling garlic...would add some interesting depth to the sauce. Hot pepper flakes always add a nice bit of heat and could be added to the sizzling garlic and capers—or for a more subtle heat they could be added when the pepper mixture has cooled to room temperature. Herbs are another obvious addition. Rosemary, marjoram (or oregano), basil or parsley would all be appropriate. I would be inclined to add the rosemary with the capers (to allow it to sizzle a bit in the hot oil) whereas the other, softer herbs would be better added once the oil has cooled. The aforementioned balsamic or lemon can be used to balance the acidity of the sauce....but red wine vinegar would be fine too.

The idea is to produce a sauce filled with lively, but not overpowering, flavors. Maybe just choose one herb...and perhaps only one or two of the three salty ingredients (capers, anchovy or olives) mentioned above. It's almost always better to opt for fewer, rather than more, ingredients—in this case remembering that all of the additions are supporting players to the sweet roasted peppers and ripe heirloom tomatoes. They are so good that it would be a shame to drown them out with too many other competing flavors.

I loved the way this sauce turned out. Since sweetness and acidity levels vary from one variety of tomato to another, opting for a mixture of heirlooms gave a much greater range and depth of tomato flavor than the pasta sauce would have had if only one variety of tomato had been used.  Beyond that, when you use a multicolored variety of tomatoes, the marinated peppers and tomatoes are astonishingly beautiful to look at. Besides dressing pasta beautifully, they would make a pretty fine topping for bruschetta—where their juices would be absorbed by the toasted bread and their colors would be on display.

As much as I would love for people to sample this dish of marinated heirloom tomatoes and roasted peppers, I am really much more interested in encouraging people who have never tasted an heirloom tomato to rush out and get some before the summer is over.  They are not too hard to find.  Any local farmers' market should have them in abundance.  In the past few years even grocery stores have begun to stock them from local sources.   If you love tomatoes, once you have tasted an heirloom, you will begin to seek them out.  And when you discover that you are waiting with eager anticipation for your personal favorite (mine is Green Zebra) to appear at the market each year, you will know you are hooked. 

Farfalle with Heirloom Tomatoes & Roasted Peppers

2 bell (or other sweet) peppers—red, yellow or orange
2 1/2 to 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and sliced
1 T. capers
8 oz. multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, cored and diced
pinch hot pepper flakes—to taste
10 to 12 Kalamata olives, halved
Salt & Pepper
juice of half a lemon
2 T. chopped Italian parsley
8 oz. farfalle (any noodle with a wide flat surface will work well for this dish)
Finely grated Parmesan (optional)

Rub the peppers with olive oil and roast over an open flame, on a grill or under the broiler until the skin is charred and blistered. Allow the peppers to cool. Remove the skins, cores and seeds (do this over a sieve placed over a bowl to capture the juice from the peppers). Cut the peppers into ½-inch squares; place in the bowl with their juice. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan placed over medium heat, sauté the garlic in 2 to 3 T. of olive oil until it is fragrant and just beginning to turn a pale golden color.

Add the capers, followed by the peppers, and toss to coat with the oil. Cook just until hot through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pan.

Core the tomatoes and cut into a rough half inch dice. Place in a large bowl with the hot pepper flakes and olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cooled pepper mixture. Add the parsley. Add lemon juice to taste. If time allows, let the mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, until al dente. Drain and add to the bowl of marinated tomatoes and peppers; toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to a large serving platter or divide among individual plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired. Serves 2 to 3.

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1 comment:

Katrina said...

Looks perfect to me. I miss your food (I know, I could prepare it, and often I do, but it's just not the same as coming and enjoying your class, then being fed.) I really miss the Lawrence Farmers' Market, too!