Oh, late summer. That special time of year when all of the good summer holidays are over, the novelty of swimsuit attire has faded, and the heat takes on a desperate, end-of-days feel. Honestly, the only redeeming things that happen in late summer are A) I’ve become relatively tan and B) my garden has started flaunting its virility and diversity in a way that makes me ALMOST want to go outside and do battle with Colorado’s freak wasp/yellowjacket population over divine bits of brightly-colored produce. Almost.
Our garden has been weird this year. Our peppers? KILLING IT. They’ve lost their minds, and even the twilight pepper, chosen solely for its likely ability to bring Taylor Lautner to my yard (my milkshakes failed miserably at this task), is sprouting forth in pale, yellow fruit. We are *rolling* in peppers. Fiesta. Forevah. They’re ballsy with the spice, too. I tricked Chris into eating a bite of the raw jalapeno and he definitely got kind of emotional in a man-tears way. You know, the kind where you end up crying salty weakness water and pretending you got something in your eye?
Our tomatoes, however, look like they grew up in the fertile soil outside a power plant. Their leaves have curled and gnarled so tightly into themselves that they don’t even look like tomato plants. They look more like Hilary Clinton’s penis, to be honest. At least, what I imagine it looks like underneath it’s shroud of political mystery. I finally took a sample of their mutated tendrils to the local plant center and they basically said, “oh, yeah, you’re fuuuuuuucked.” Somewhere, some of my neighbors have elected to spray broadleaf weed herbicide, and it drifted over into my garden in a fog of destruction. Where the hell is Erin Brockovich when I need her? They have FINALLY started bearing fruit, though, which is one of those “against all odds” stories, like when a hooker gives birth to a scientist.
And our squash…is spreading rampant all over the place, aggressively shooting tendrils onto anything that will yield to sneaky penetration. Our spaghetti squash plant is literally 7 feet long. ONE PLANT. And each leaf is large enough that it could provide adequate shelter to a family of four standard Americans.
So every time I go into the yard, my garden enthusiastically presents me with lush bounties of plump tomatoes and gourd-related chlorophalli. One of our cucumbers was pointing straight into the air today, and to be honest I was a little intimidated. Splash some cold water on that thing and STOP POINTING IT AT MY FACE.
So, when faced with this afternoon’s harvest, I felt like the only rational solution was to try to use as much of it could while the gourds were still hard…er…fresh.
Actually, first I spent a while looking at Indian food takeout online. But THEN I tried to come up with a solution.
Aside: WTF am I supposed to do with FOUR green beans? Thanks for that, garden. You just left me the vegetative equivalent of a single, shiny penny as a tip for a waitress.
So, I had a bunch of bolting basil, two small cukes, four green beans, a handful of basket of fire peppers, three jalapenos, a bunch of tomatoes (varieties include green zebra, yellow pear, sungold cherry, red robin cherry, amish paste, and fourth of july), and a big-ass crookneck squash.
That’s always the answer, when salad won’t quite do the trick. And today, salad wouldn’t do the trick. I was festive last night, and I have a cold, and I wanted junk food. I’m also currently eating perlesukker (big, crunchy, Swedish sugar crystals…stop judging) out of a box. Some days are just like that, you know?
This recipe, I anticipated, would be fresh and simple. But what it ended up being was forking PHENOMENAL. So good. I’m actually excited for the leftovers tomorrow, although I know that it won’t be anywhere near as good as it was fresh. All the oils are going to separate, and it’s going to piss me off. I’m just Miss Cleo-ing this for a second and being honest about its leftover potential.
Fortunately for you, this recipe is just about perfect for 2-3 people, or 2 gluttons, or 1 breakup eat-my-feelings meal. So you probably won’t have to cope with leftovers at all.
- ½ C diced prosciutto*
- 3 T olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ C diced onion
- 1 jalapeno, partially seeded and finely chopped
- 1.5 C various tomatoes, large tomatoes diced and small tomatoes halved
- 1 large (or 2 small) yellow summer squashes, diced into ½” pieces
- 2 T good balsamic vinegar**
- ¾ package of spaghetti
- ½ ball of fresh mozzarella, diced into 1″ pieces
- 1 small handful fresh basil
- Saute prosciutto and olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat until starting to crisp
- Toss in onions, garlic, and jalapeno and continue to saute until fragrant and soft
- Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil
- Cook spaghetti according to instructions, to achieve al dente goodness
- When the spaghetti is about 2 minutes from being done, turn up the heat under your veggies and toss in the squash, cooking until it starts to get crisp tender.
- Preheat oven to broil
- Add tomatoes and toss to combine. Heat should be high enough that this is a very quick, sizzly process.
- Add balsamic and toss again to combine. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn off heat
- Using tongs, transfer pasta from cooking pot directly to veggie mixture. Any water sticking to the pasta just adds a little liquid and starch to make a great sauce
- Use the tongs to thoroughly, gently combine the pasta with the veggies and sauce in the veggie pan.
- Evenly disperse cubes of mozzarella over top of pasta, and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes to melt the cheese
- Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve, family style, in the pan with tongs
I can’t even believe these colors. It really looks best (like the pic to the left) right before adding the balsamic and pasta. I want to wear this as an outfit, no joke. So vibrant and lively and summery that I kept the windows closed while preparing it, lest the wasps/yellowjackets become visibly aroused by the splendor and hurl their impassioned, evil little bodies toward my person in a frenzy of lust and stinging desire (HA! It’d be funnier if the little bastards didn’t *actually* desire stinging, huh?)
The balsamic does dull the colors a bit, but SO WORTH IT for the almost creamy sauce it manages to create out of starchy water, vinegar, tomato juices, olive oil, and that smattering of salty pork fat.
Best thing about this is that if you have oven-safe skillets, you can just take combine the pasta with the “sauce” and vegetables in the same pan you used to cook the veggies, then throw it under the broiler to melt the cheese. All of it in one skillet? Yes please. If you own one piece of decent pot/pan-related cooking equipment, let it be a large, stainless steel skillet that doesn’t have a nonstick coating, and is safe under the broiler (meaning the handle has to be stainless still, too!). If you don’t have any of those, try looking at a discount store like HomeGoods or TJMaxx. They almost always have All-Clad or Calphalon skillets available that are perfect for this type of application.
Okay, money shot time!
This is just so good. And if any of the haters are all like “OMG YOU CAN’T PUT JALAPENOS IN AN ITALIAN PASTA DISH” you can just say “Italians use red pepper flakes all the time, so shut your face.” Pasta Arrabiata is chock full of red pepper spice (Arrabiata meaning “angry” in Italian). Well, this is fresher, and uses jalapenos, but same sort of idea. Pasta Arriba, perhaps? It sure is fast…