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TOMATO LUST #2

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Tomato Lust #1 really should have been the title of the Gazpacho entry. I wasn’t thinking. Now that real tomatoes are in season,  Tomato Lust is upon us – an appetite built over the long miserable months when puny Xeroxes of tomatoes were all that was available. There are a lot of good ways to satisfy Tomato Lust, and I hope to cover some of the better ones.

Years ago I read an article written by someone who wrote that when he was going through a divorce, this was a dish he made a lot because he could come home after work and assemble it without much thought, and it sustained him. I don’t think he had a name for it.

I didn’t know this dish already had a name when I started making it, and I’d already started thinking of this as That Pasta Dish I Make In The Summer. In “Heartburn,” Nora Ephron called it linguine alla cecca. I’ve seen similar versions as pasta al sugo crudo.  Whatever you call it, don’t call it pasta salad. As Mark Bittman said in 101 Picnic Dishes to Make  (this is #91), “Do not call this pasta salad, because pasta salad is no good, and this is.”

I don’t really like the name Summer Pasta – it sounds too food magazine-ish, a name Giada DeLaurentis would come up with.  I don’t dislike Giada, but she’s getting less and less interesting all the time as she focuses on recipes that everyone will like, thereby dumbing-down food.  But I submitted this recipe to one of those fund-raising cookbooks and had to come up with a name, and so I’m afraid Summer Pasta is what it is.

Caveat: do not attempt this unless you have the very best homegrown tomatoes.

This is less a formal recipe than a photographic description of what I made yesterday.

I chopped up four large organic tomatoes, then added some good things to the bowl. Clockwise from top: a lot of coarsely ground black pepper, large crystal sea salt (about 1 teaspoon – some of the other ingredients are salty), about 1/4 cup chopped oil-cured olives, 6 sliced large cloves garlic, a very small finely minced hot red pepper (those red bits on top of the garlic), and a generous tablespoon of capers.

Then I poured in a generous amount of very good extra-virgin olive oil. This one was made from olives grown down the road from me. You want a nice fruity green oil here.

I stirred it all together, covered the bowl with a cloth, and left it on the counter for a couple of hours.

After a couple of hours the tomatoes gave up a lot of their juice. It smelled like an tomato truck had crashed into a Gilroy garlic field.

I boiled one pound of pasta – here, corn linguine – drained it, tossed with the uncooked sauce, and added some torn bits of fresh basil.

I like this at room temperature, though it’s great hot or cold too. We had this for dinner with a mixed green salad. You’ll eat more of this than you think you will, so this might only serve 2 or 3.

Variations:

The olives, capers, and hot pepper are optional.

Add some pesto in addition to or instead of the fresh basil.

Add some fresh oregano leaves.

A sprinkling of hot pepper flakes (the pizza parlor variety) is good, as is a pinch of cayenne.

Stir in some sliced, sauteed Italian sausage.

Anchovies would be a great addition, depending on how you feel about anchovies. So would Italian oil-packed tuna.

Adding sliced fresh mozzarella would make this Pasta Caprese.

Spread this out on a platter and top with baked or sauteed chicken, or sauteed salmon steaks.

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