The thermometer’s risen into the 100s every day for almost two months. The grass is brown or dead, replaced by stretches of dust that swirls up in puffs and coats your legs and shoes. The plants are wilted, the children cranky. Summer in San Antonio is hot, and summer when south Texas is under severe drought conditions is both stifling and parched.
I never used to understand my mother’s classification of “summer food”, and I still don’t understand why she finds standing over a fiery grill in sweltering heat a better alternative to standing over the stove in shady air-conditioned comfort. That aside, the weather here leaves you hankering for juicy, fresh foods that don’t rest heavy in your stomach after dinner. It turns out the perfect answer to summer food was sitting on my shelf.
Everyone likes a good pasta, though I’ve never liked red pasta sauce (I know, it’s un-American of me, and certainly un-Italian). While flipping through the fantastic Silver Palate CookbookI ran across my new favorite food. It’s a summer pasta that leaves all tasters, from my husband, to a visiting trainee from Fort Sam Houston, to coworkers and their significant others and guests raving and begging for more. The trainee may not be an unbiased source since he’d been in Officer Basic Training eating MREs for the last three weeks, but the others are pretty reliable. It’s cool, fresh, rich, but light, filling, delicious, easy to make, and requires minimal cooking…just try it (and buy a copy of The Silver Palate while you’re at it).
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound Brie, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into strips
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
- 3/4 cup olive oil (the recipe calls for 1 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil, but the testers and I found it overwhelming)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 Lbs pasta (I like farfalle, but pick your favorite)
- Grated Parmigian cheese, for garnish (optional)
At least 2 hours before serving, combine the tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Fresh basil really is necessary here – don’t use dried. I found starting this before church and having it ready once we’re home works well for an easy Sunday lunch.
Bring 6 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the pasta, and boil until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the tomato sauce. Serve at once, serving with additional pepper and the grated Parmigian cheese if you like. 6 portions.
Notes: I added thinly sliced pancetta as well, and found it delicious. You could also use thin-sliced ham, substitute fresh mozzarella for Brie, or try serving with chicken on the side.