Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Craving for Pasta

Today, as I sat working at my computer, I started craving pasta. I haven't had pasta for a while. I had nothing in mind, except something quick and easy. Well, I did have something in mind, but since I knew I did not have the key ingredient - fresh basil - that wasn't going to happen; not today. 

Creamy Penne with Sundried Tomatoes & Olives
So I popped downstairs and started rooting through what I had on hand. I had penne pasta; check. I went to the fridge and deliberated. What sounds good, hmmm? Cheese, of course. I had a chunk of Pepperjack so I got that out. I wanted olives and maybe capers; check. Cream would be needed to melt the cheese into. Ah, and sundried tomatoes. I had a batch of tomatoes I had dried in my dehydrator in the summer when the tomatoes were coming in left and right. I had stored them in a zip top baggie in the vegetable drawer, so I got those out. One lonely lemon left, so I got that out. I switched from capers last minute to using green peppercorns in brine. These are much more available than they once were. They are whole green peppercorns, in a salty brine liquid, usually found in a little jar, similar to the tall, thin caper jars. Sometimes they are found in little tins. The peppercorns are firm, but not crunchy and add a nice piquant note and a little burst of heat. I love these things, but my husband does not tolerate them, so I have to be judicious in their use. Since I knew he would not be eating this dish, as he also hates olives, I felt free to add the little peppercorns.

Okay, so what to do, specifically? I set water to boil, while I thought. I heated a skillet and put in olive oil. I sliced a smallish onion into wedges and put that in the skillet to saute. When I saute large chunks of onion like this, as also for a stir-fry, I like to add in an acidic ingredient, to help both with steaming the onion a bit, but the acid (lemon juice or vinegar) also contributes to the flavor. On medium high heat, the liquid from one lemon doesn't take long to completely evaporate. This leaves behind a great concentrated flavor to combine with the flavors that follow. I knew I was adding cream, so it was important for the lemon juice to boil out. I just added things as I thought of them, and what came out was really delicious.  I didn't need any salt; with the lemon juice and zest, and all the cheese and the olives, there was more than enough saltiness already. Here is what I did:

Creamy Penne with Sundried Tomatoes & Olives

Creamy Penne
8 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, in wedges
1 lemon, zest set aside
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, julienned (not oil-packed)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces Pepperjack cheese, grated
12 green olives, rough chopped, 2 reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons green peppercorns in brine, optional, OR fresh-cracked black pepper
2 scallions, chopped

Cook the pasta in a large pot of water with a tablespoon of salt. When it is al dente, drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion wedges. I like narrow wedges; cut them as you prefer. Allow the onions to saute, tossing occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add in the lemon juice and continue to stir. Add the garlic and sundried tomato chiffonade to soften while the lemon juice is still in the pan. Once the lemon juice has cooked out, add in the lemon zest and the grated cheese. Once the cheese is nearly melted, add in the olives and green peppercorns with one of the scallions. When heated through it is ready to serve. Garnish with the reserved olives and scallion. This will serve four.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.