Cool & quick summer dishes
Even in the South Island of New Zealand, temperatures have frequently been reaching 30C and for most kiwis, that’ll be sweltering. Today was so hot, that in the car it was the first time I’d sweated so much from the forehead I dripped. Not to put you off or anything :P
Anyway, preferably you want to spend little time cooking and bending over ahot stove on days such as these, and so I thought I’d post about a super-simple salad that doesn’t lose out on the flavour and a highly versatile, cheap and super quick pasta dish that would be perfect as a combo for lunch. Everything in them is cheap and plentiful and in season at the moment (for the Southern Hemisphere), and they’re easily adaptable.
Now, first a quick word about marrow (in particular, “old” courgettes/zuchinni). Sometimes you’ll find a big bin of them at the green grocers or even supermarket. These are just courgettes left to grow to full size – courgettes are sort of like baby marrows, with thinner skins, and more tightly packed flesh. Marrows contain a lot more water, and are therefore prone to go a bit soggy, so if you’re not keen on soft-style courgette then don’t use them in the pasta below.
Easy peasy pasta
approx 125g dry pasta (1/4 of a 500g bag)
a large handful of your favourite vegetable, chopped, julienned (cut into matchsticks), sliced or crushed (I used julienned marrow) into bite size pieces. Recommended veges: fresh cherry tomatoes, flat green beans, courgettes, sun dried tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant…the list goes on!
as much parmesan as your heart desires, finely grated (about 2-4 Tbs is good)
1 tsp dry oregano or basil or both
optional: 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped roughly
salt & pepper
Set pasta to cook in salted, rapidly boiling water. Donna Hay says that you don’t usually need oil (which helps when cleaning up), just stir a bit to unstick the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a wok or frypan with relatively high sides, heat oil on a high heat with salt and pepper, and throw in vegetables. Cook until done to your liking, and add garlic in the last minute of cooking. Taste and season further if necessary, and set aside.
Once pasta is done, drain and toss together with vegetables. Plate, top with parmesan, stir through a little, and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve.
Now the great thing about this salad is that you can make it ahead if for a dinner party and throw on the not-really-dressing and leave it without everything in it wilting. You can mix it about all you like and nothing will get crinkled, or saggy, or funky-looking (I use normal cubed cheese rather than feta, which is not just cheaper, but less offensive to some and also keeps its shape much better). It’s easy to serve, and easy to eat (without lettuce whiskers). Best of all, it’s packed with flavour.
For one small-medium salad bowl
1-2 tomatoes (use the best you can find, make sure they’re not too soft), cut into 4-8 wedges
approx 10cm off a cucumber, sliced
1-2 centimetre-thick slices of cheese (edam, mild cheddar, whatever), cubed
fresh torn basil leaves (or another fresh herb if you like), approx 1 packed Tbspn
dash of white wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
salad or olive oil (about 1-2 Tbs)
pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional: very thin slices of raw red onion, or even caramelised onions if you have them
Toss everything together, adding oil and mixing before adding salt and vinegar (this prevents lots of vege juices leaking out), and serve!