Tangled up in noodles? Not a bad way to spend the summer.
Refrigerated, at room temperature, or hot, pasta meals in a bowl can play a big part in hot-weather dishes. If you wish, a green salad can complete the meal. But let’s focus on the fragrant pasta in a large bowl, large dish or yes, straight out of a pot.
Asian-inspired noodle concoctions work well with chilled noodles. A Southeast Asian pesto is a summer staple at home. The coarse, fragrant dough is extremely versatile, delicious mixed into noodles, but also mouth-watering in rice or spread over grilled fish. I mix it with the chicken broth for a quick, Asian-flavored soup. Or, toss it with cooked green beans, zucchini or Baby Dutch yellow potatoes.
The base of the pesto is ground peanuts, but fresh chili peppers, ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs play a major supporting role. One of these herbs is Thai basil (húng quế in Vietnamese), a purple-stemmed herb with pink-purple flowers and sharp green leaves. The herb has a lovely floral scent that pairs with a flavor profile that resembles licorice splashed with a peppery hint. Thai basil is sold in the produce sections of local Asian markets. Some nurseries sell seedlings, small plants that usually grow well in Southern California.
Italy offers endless variations of summer-themed pasta dishes, served hot or hot. Some authentic, others of Italian inspiration. Pastes provide a neutral canvas for endless variations.
Enjoy the pleasures of pasta.
Southeast Asian Pesto
Yield: 3 cups
2 tbsp plus 1 cup peanut oil, divided use
2/3 cup roasted salted peanuts
2 fresh Serrano green peppers or jalapeño peppers or Fresno red peppers, seeded and thinly sliced; see the cook’s notes
1 generous tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
2 cups of fresh Thai basil leaves; see the cook’s notes
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup cilantro
2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Cook’s Notes: If you prefer a spicier sauce, use Serrano peppers; use jalapeños or Fresno red peppers for a milder sauce. I like to use half the amount of chili listed, then taste and add more if the sauce needs a boost. Thai basil is sold in the produce sections of Asian markets. This recipe makes 3 cups of the sauce; if you prefer, cut all ingredient measures in half to make 1 1/2 cups. Mix 1 cup of this pesto with 1 pound of cooked Asian noodles and serve hot or at room temperature. Taste before serving; add salt if needed. Store leftover pesto tightly in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This mixture can be used to flavor broths, dressings, rice and grilled chicken or fish.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium-small pan over medium-high heat. Add the peanuts and cook for 10 seconds. Remove from the heat, stir and let stand 3 to 5 minutes. You want the peanuts to be golden brown but not overcooked so that they taste burnt (place them on a plate if the nuts are starting to get too brown). Place nuts and oil in food processor; mix until the peanuts are a coarse paste.
2. Add the peppers, ginger and garlic to the food processor and mix until coarsely chopped. Add the herbs, salt, sugar and lime juice; process until chopped, adding a little more oil, if necessary, through the feed tube with the engine running. Add the rest of the oil and pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate.
Summer linguine with tomatoes, brie and basil
Many years ago, Julee Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins, the authors of “The Silver Palate Cookbook” joined me in my kitchen to prepare a favorite dish from their book. They chose this delicious linguine dish, a concoction they had savored in a private house in Sardinia. It was featured in the book in a chapter titled “Summer Pasta”.
Yield: 6 servings
4 large unpeeled ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, see cook’s notes
3/4 pound Brie cheese, chilled, rind removed, torn into irregular pieces, see cook’s notes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin cross strips
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp, divided use
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound of dried linguine; see the cook’s notes
Optional garnish: Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Cook’s Notes: You can use either large tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or 2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes, or a combination of the two. It is easier to cut the crust of Brie if it is cold; place it in the freezer for 10 minutes to make it easier to cut the crust. I like to use Trader Joe’s Spinach Chive Linguine.
1. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, brie, basil, garlic, 3/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Reserve at room temperature for about 1 to 1 hour.
2. Bring a large pot of water with the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil to a boil. Add linguine and boil until al dente, according to package directions. Drain well. Add to the tomato mixture while it is still very hot. Stir immediately, stirring enough to allow most of the brie to melt and coat the pasta. Serve with the pepper mill and grated Parmesan cheese for optional garnish.
Source: Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman)
Cold sesame noodles
Udon noodles can be topped with sesame, dressed in a quick-cooked sauce made with roasted (Asian) sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanut butter, soy, dried red pepper flakes, and brown sugar. The rich sauce clings to a jumble of Japanese udon noodles, a wheat-based flat pasta shaped like linguine. Sliced green onions and blanched snow peas come to the party, accompanied by a garnish of toasted sesame seeds.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar or granulated sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil (Asian)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 pound of udon (flat Japanese wheat noodles)
Garnish: 4 green onions, including dark green stems, thinly sliced
Salt, if needed
Garnish: Thin slices of cucumber
Garnish: 8-10 snow peas, blanched briefly in boiling water until tender and crisp, drained
Garnish: 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
1. In a saucepan, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, peanut butter, oil, ginger and broth; simmer mixture, stirring with a whisk, until thickened and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes; cool slightly. Bring a large saucepan 2/3 full of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Drain in a colander; refresh with cold water. Shake the colander to remove excess water; transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss with the sauce and green onions. Taste and add salt if needed.
3. Serve the noodles at room temperature and garnish with sliced cucumber, snow peas and toasted sesame seeds.
Linguine With White Clam Sauce
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound of dried linguine or spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cans (10 ounces each) whole clams with their juice, see cook’s notes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of minced or finely grated lemon zest (colored part only)
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, use divided
Optional garnish: lemon wedges, cherry tomatoes, whole steamed clams, see cook’s notes
Cook’s Notes: If you are serving this dish at a party, consider steaming clams to place on the pasta. After steaming, discard the clams that do not open.
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for up to 2 minutes cooking time for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and cook until the garlic is tender and begins to turn pale golden, about 1 minute. Add wine; simmer until reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the clams with their juice; cook until just hot, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed, remembering that canned clams can be quite salty.
3. Add the cooked and drained pasta, butter and lemon zest; to throw. Add half of the reserved cooking water and half of the parsley; to throw. Once the butter is melted, it should appear crispy. If necessary, add a little more pasta cooking water (rarely a necessity) and stir. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.
A question about the kitchen? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]