Last-Minute Primavera

Dinner: June 4, 2007

We’ve all had those days. You get stuck at the office to get a project out the door. You leave work, get on the train, and when you go to make a transfer, you find that the second train you take to get home isn’t running. You walk upstairs to catch the bus, but turn right back around when you see at least a hundred other people waiting. You call your husband to let him know you’re going to be even later than you had planned, head back into the station and take a longer, alternate route home. Whatever the particulars, we all get tied up or delayed sometimes, and we all know what it’s like when you need to come up with a plan B for dinner, and fast.

This was another night I was happy to have a fully stocked fridge and cupboards. Mike had picked up some local asparagus and greenhouse-grown red bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash over the weekend, so I chopped up about a cup of each of those while I got a big pot of water boiling for pasta. I softened about six dried tomato halves in some hot water, diced up a shallot, and added both of those to a hot sauté pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. When the tomatoes and shallot were soft, I added about 1/4 cup of white vermouth, some dried basil and oregano, and a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves. I added the soaking water from the tomatoes to the pan, let that cook for a moment, then added the chopped peppers and squash with another sprinkle of salt and stirred everything well.

I added a good amount of salt to the boiling pasta water, dumped in a box of farfalle, and let it cook for about 7 or 8 minutes. I added the asparagus to the sauté pan and stirred it through, then transferred the farfalle from the pot to the sauté pan using a spider, allowing a bit of the water to cling to the pasta. I stirred everything through and let the pasta finish cooking with the veggies, adding a bit more of the pasta water to make a sauce, then added some chopped flat-leaf parsley and about 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano off the heat.

This was certainly nothing fancy, but it was a fresh, light meal that came together incredibly fast with items we had on hand. Besides, who wants to wait for delivery after such a crazy day?

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5 thoughts on “Last-Minute Primavera

  1. Jennifer, so much of my weeknight cooking comes together not unlike this. And even though it’s quick [and often far more perfunctory than yours], I almost always find it relaxing and the results satisfying.

  2. Jennifer Hess says:

    Terry, I agree. We don’t have a huge number of dining options in our neighborhood, and the ones that are are not generally to my taste. Even going out requires a 15-20 minute or more bus or train ride. So even if I’m bone-tired, I’d much rather have a home-cooked (or assembled) meal than takeout.

  3. I know where you’re coming from, Jennifer. You’ve just described what the last month has been like for me! Thank goodness I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. Can’t wait to get back in the kitchen next week so we can eat something other than crackers with almond butter or a few slices of salami for dinner!

  4. you guys hit on the head for me, most of my cooking of late has been perfunctory compared to the amazing stuff Jen is coming up with here on a daily basis, but i find i ‘have’ to cook something just to sort of prove to myself i’m on my own time finally. i’m finding that even if i’m tired i get antsy if i don’t start dinner after a certain point.

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Amy – I feel for you, I really do! I think I would go nuts if I had a whole month of that sort of craziness. I mean, I’m as big a fan of the “indoor picnic” as anyone, but not for such an extended period!

    Jimmy – I definitely relate. Though I certainly don’t mind having a night off here and there, I do also get antsy if I’m not in the kitchen. I think it’s therapeutic. 🙂

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