This winter thing, yeah- it’s really getting old. It has been relatively mild for New England this year, so I can’t complain too much, but I’m pretty certain that restless spirit of mine rears her little head around this time every year whether it’s 40 degrees or 14. Maybe it’s the greyness, the lack of vegetation, the calm after the holidays, or a delightful cocktail of the above, but I’m finding myself daydreaming about all things spring related. I’m mapping out plans for my tiny raised bed garden (that I generally neglect and destroy). I’m growing all kinds of (legal) windowsill herbs. I’ve also been finding myself creating wildly unseasonable meals. I do love eating in season, but com’ on, son, you can only eat cabbage and onions for so long and still keep your friends.
So I present to you this: a crazy fresh zingy springtime recipe from the depths of winter. Perfect eaten steaming out of the pan, at room temperature, or if you’re really getting nostalgic, chilled as a pasta salad of sorts. You could use any type of pasta for this, but I prefer penne here. I like to be surprised by the bites of caper that get trapped inside and the lovely herbs that adhere to the groved exterior.
Measurements are approximate for this one, so tweak as you see fit to your taste. It was another 2am-I’m-not-writing-anything-down creation…which means it’s a really quick dish to put together as well.
Just don’t skimp on the fresh basil please.
Herbed Penne with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers
HERBED PENNE WITH LEMON, GARLIC, AND CAPERS
serves 2 (or 1 if you’re seriously carb loading that day)
takes about 30 minutes
1/3 box penne pasta
1T+1T earth balance (that means separate it)
2T olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (not through a garlic press)
1/2-1 t crushed red pepper flakes
2T lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon if you’re feeling fancy)
2T dry white wine (optional. NB: using the wine and lemon juice together makes this kind of acidic. If that bothers you, just use lemon & pasta water)
1T drained capers
1t dried oregano (1T if you have fresh)
1T dried parsley (1/4c chopped if you have fresh)
1/2c fresh basil, chopped (dried won’t cut it)
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 4 mill twists of sea salt and 8 twists of black pepper)
1c baby arugula
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 c sliced almonds
2T french fried onions (optional, but delicious. I use fried red onion strings from my Asian grocer. I’m sure french’s would be fine…or a little shake of onion powder instead)
boil your pasta according to the package directions, taking it out when it is just about 1 minute under the al dente cook time. Save about 3/4c or so of the pasta water.
heat up oil and 1T earth balance in a good sized cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the hot pepper flakes and garlic and saute for about 3-4 minutes until garlic gets soft but not browned. Add tomatoes, dried herbs, and lemon juice and let this simmer down for about 5 minutes. You can add some of your reserved pasta water if you need to.
Keeping your pan on medium heat, add the pasta and toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for about another 5 minutes. Again, if it’s not liquidy enough add a few tablespoons of pasta water. Throw in your capers and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the yummy tomato bits that stuck to the bottom. Now is the time for you to salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if you want some extra tang, pasta water if you need more liquid.
Remove from heat. Add your last 1T of earth balance. Mix in fresh basil and arugula. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and french fried onions immediately if eating hot or just before serving so they keep their crunch if eating at either room temperature (my preference) or chilled.
Eat and pretend it’s not winter. <——– that’s my favorite part!