Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Basil Pasta With Chicken and Veggies
May 31, 2012

I will have to go into this in another post, but one of the reasons why I named my blog "In-House Cook" is because my friends and I have what has been generally called the "Standing Wednesday Night Dinner".  Wednesday is good night for most of us, who are in education, to get home at a decent time and get together to cook, enjoy conversation, sometimes a glass of wine, and dine together, much like a family.  No "SWND" this week, but I was invited to cook at a friend's house last night.  The idea for my "In-House Cook" blog came about because I go to various friends' houses to cook.  (But yes, also cook at my own place). While I do most of the cooking, usually, I do delegate sous chef responsibilities, which helps spur on the conversation and get dinner on the table a bit faster.  

Last evening's dinner was a light, bright summer pasta.  I used basil pasta for this, whereas I would normally use angel hair pasta.  Here is my recipe:

1 pound pasta  (Your favorite). 
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 red and 1 orange or yellow sweet bell peppers (roasted and slivered)
3 shallots (or one large white onion), slivered
1 cup cleaned sugar snap peas
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper  (If you become a loyal reader, and I hope you do, I often say "s and p" for salt and pepper) *I only use salt for the pasta water;  the pancetta is salt enough for dish itself).
2 tablespoons of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
1 cup curled and chopped basil leaves
Parmigiano Cheese (or your favorite), about a grated cup
4-6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, chopped (optional, but I added it)

What to do
Using a chopping block and sharp culinary knife, sliver the shallots or the onion.  Over a burner (if you have gas), char the two peppers.  Once they have blackened, remove them and place them in a large plastic zip-lock type of bag and let steam for about fifteen minutes, or more.  Mince or grate the garlic and the lemon.  Wash and halve the tomatoes.  Chop the oregano and add that to the tomatoes, along with the lemon juice. Wash and clean the sugar snap peas and set them aside in a bowl. Wash and roll the basil leaves and slice in to ribbons. Set aside. 

After about twenty or so minutes have passed, and the above is done, remove the steaming, resting peppers. Using a paper towel or a cloth towel, remove the char from the peppers.  Remove the tops, the seeds, and slice the body of the peppers into slivers.  Set aside in a bowl, or with the slivered shallots. 

In a small skillet, add the two teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the pancetta, a pinch of black pepper, a pinch of the cumin seeds and pinch of left over oregano, (Dry or fresh, it doesn't matter). Brown the pancetta.  Meanwhile, boil the pasta water.  The recipe from here is like an amusement park roller coaster!

When the pasta water boils, salt  it liberally and add the pasta, spreading it around the pot. Cook the pasta just before al dente, about eight to ten minutes (read the package; remove the pasta about three minutes before it says the pasta should be done) and save a half cup of the pasta water. 

Busy enough?  Just getting started!  In a large sauce pan or high-sided skillet, add the remaining olive oil over high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the onions and the pancetta, and cook for three minutes before adding the garlic.  When the shallots/onions begin to soften, add the sugar snap peas and peppers.  Add part of the basil and the tomatoes.  

After a few minutes, the pasta should be ready.  Drain the pasta (but remember to reserve half a cup of the cooking water!) and add the pasta and the half cup pasta water to the sauce pan.  Using tongs or two wooden spoons, gently toss the pasta with all of the remaining ingredients.  The pasta will absorb the flavors and more of the flavorful water and reduce.  

Serve family in style in a large bowl, topped with fresh basil ribbons and freshly grated parmigiano cheese.  You can also serve it by the plate.  Now, time to enjoy your light, flavorful meal!  I hope you try this recipe.  Let me know what you think!  Graci!