Monday, August 24, 2009

The Volunteers: Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes

No, this is not a post about my in-laws from the state of Tennessee. The volunteers I’m talking about are the cherry tomato plants that came up on their own initiative in one of my pots and amongst the grass near our back patio.

Last year, I had two cherry tomato plants sharing space with my herbs. One was a yellow pear tomato plant (delicious) and the other was a Sweet 100, so named for its tendency to produce a lot of little tomatoes. The Sweet 100s were indeed sweet and appropriately prolific. They had a tendency to split open and mold before they were completely ripe, however, and many of them ended their lives on the ground or in the dirt of their home container rather than in a tasty dish. It is the seeds of these sacrificial fruits that have so boldly sprouted in hope of volunteering their services this year.

One of these plants is a little larger and pretty strong, but it is only just blossoming now. At this rate, we will probably have snow on our patio before we have ripe cherry tomatoes. Until then, I’ll have to make do with the beautiful, sweet, succulent Sun Gold cherry tomatoes we’ve been getting in our CSA boxes. How will I ever bear it?

When I have good cherry tomatoes available, I like to make this simple dish. It is bursting with strong flavors: raw garlic, capers, olives, fresh basil, and hot pepper. It’s a lot of punch for a little effort. Measuring ingredients accurately for this dish is of almost no importance. The amounts in the recipe are more like guidelines. Use what you have. I’ve even found that it doesn’t really matter what kind of olives I use, though I usually like to use Kalamatas.

Fresh basil really is essential, but this time of year, you really should be able to get some at farmers markets. Or from a friend who always plants too much basil…like me.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil
adapted from Cooking Light magazine
If your olives and capers are especially salty, you might want to cut back on the added salt.
½ pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped pitted olives, such as kalamata olives
2 Tbs capers, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Cook past in boiling, salted water until al dente (mostly tender, but with a little firmness left to the bite). Drain and pour into a large bowl.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the hot pasta and toss well.
Makes 4 servings

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