The past few days, I have felt like my palate has been receiving very predictable flavors. Whilst everything has been well made and full of flavor, it just hasn’t been fulfilling. I felt like I needed to trade cumin for perhaps basil or parsley. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Then I started thinking of summer and all of a sudden, my mind felt like a school blackboard with a spider diagram sprouting all kinds of summery words…‘bikini’, ‘sunscreen’, ‘chilled lemonade’… NO NO NO.. not even close.. and then I had my aha moment.. ‘TOMATOES’!!!.. YES!! TOMATOES!!! I didn’t want something rich and heavy but then I am not exactly a candidate for gazpacho either. I felt like a light and fresh tasting summer’s pasta was on the cards.
If you haven’t noticed already, the use of the word ‘summer’ has been gratuitously thrown around by me, but just one last comment on summer. Summer is the time when tomatoes take the center stage. They are sweet and juicy and some people even eat them as a fruit. So what’s the bottom line? It is a crime to overcook your tomatoes and bad karma (a little dramatic perhaps). Getting back to our dish, this light summer’s pasta has a real flavor of the Mediterranean. Crushed pepperoncino (dried chili flakes) and plenty of garlic sizzling away in hot olive oil was only the beginning. The tomatoes also exceeded expectations and added tang, sweetness and bursts of juiciness. I wanted to add something else to the dish but didn’t want it to dominate the natural flavor of the tomatoes and garlic. I felt rocket and watercress would do the trick without being omnipresent in every bite. These leaves added another dimension of flavor given their peppery and sharp taste. The tomatoes were removed from the heat when they barely began to soften and the greens were added after the dish had been removed from the heat, wilting very slightly. Having talked about the sauce so much, I must tell you that pasta was not left neglected…I couldn’t afford to do that since it was after all a ‘pasta-al-fresco’ dish. This al-dente pasta tossed in the tomatoes and greens looked like summer on a plate.
This pasta-al-fresco dish can be served warm, but given that most of us are trying desperately to eradicate our inner heat from this heat wave, I prefer it at room temperature. If some of you read the pearls of wisdom section after you have cooked this dish, this one is for you: please have all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking as this dish cooks within 10 minutes and you don’t want to have to scramble to keep up.