Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tomato Day

I hadn't intended yesterday to be tomato day. It just sort of happened that way. On Sunday I bought two local greenhouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes, because thus far they are the only ones my local produce-centric grocery store has that are local at all, despite the fact that I am pretty darned sure it's now full-on tomato season here in Easter Ontario. Harrumph.

In any event, I purchased two lovely red ripe tomatoes, as well as a container of fresh bocconcini mozzarella cheese (because it was on sale, and also because I adore it). I had one sad, straggly little bush basil plant still barely surviving in the backyard. (I apparently have a chronic inability to grow basil. Bah.) So when it came to lunchtime, I immediately thought of a caprese-style salad. I washed the last of a heart of romaine, threw together a quick olive oil and balsamic dressing, and sliced up the tomato and adorned it with cheese. The result was both pretty and tasty, though the whole thing could have used a more generous hand with the dressing.

Here is what it looked like before I ate it:

Mmmm, lunch. Virtuous, healthy and colourful. The frozen yogurt and caramel sauce I had for dessert did nothing to diminish my feeling of moral superiority.

Dinner turned out to be another tomato-centric affair. You see, my newly-wedded friend P gets Chris and I each a magazine subscription every Christmas, and this year I selected a Canadian mag called Wish, which combines beauty, fashion, home decor and food all in one handy package. It's a bit like Chatelaine for twenty- and thirty-somethings, but without the heavy articles about cancer survivors and women in war-torn countries. Not that those are bad things.

The magazine is very light reading, so I usually read through it once for an enjoyable distraction, then recycle it. But this month's issue had a fantastic food section called the 20-minute supper club. I earmarked no fewer than four recipes that I simply have to try out. One of them, "linguine a la casa", turned into last night's dinner.

Since I had more than 20 minutes to devote to the creation of dinner, I added a couple of ingredients (garlic and wine), and also halved the recipe since I wasn't planning on feeding six people (or more like 8, judging by how much half the recipe made) and didn't want leftovers for a frillion years. The result was a rich-tasting, filling and delicious dish that's also fresh and quite good for you. It's an excellent way to get non-spinach enthusiasts to eat spinach too. See, you can hardly see it:

Remember that pasta with the rosé sauce that sort of failed a month ago? This is a much, much better method, and I'll be trying it out on my sister and D when they get back from New Brunswick. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. It comes together quickly and contains no hard-to-find ingredients. It's also vegetarian, but you could add chicken or shrimp to satisfy carnivores. A glass of wine goes down nicely with this.

Linguine a la Casa (adapted from Wish Magazine, August/September 2007)

half of a 450-gram box whole wheat linguine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 block (4 oz.) light cream cheese
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped, or 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
splash of white wine
fresh ground pepper

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic until slightly softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil. Add the cream cheese, cut into chunks, and lower heat to a high simmer. Stir to melt and incorporate the cream cheese.

While that simmers, cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water, 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Add the spinach to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Season with pepper to taste. When the spinach is wilted, remove the sauce from heat and pour over hot pasta. Stir well to combine. Serve immediately in large deep bowls with optional grated parmesan to sprinkle on top. Serves 4 generously.


Celia said...

I got around to trying this yesterday. I was trying to make it for one, and I think I may have screwed up the proportions some. It still tasted good, but the sauce wasn't as visually lovely as yours.

A few questions:
"bunch of spinach"--how much is this? I get 8 oz. bags of the stuff usually.

"Half a block of cream cheese"--is this about 4 oz., half a Philadelphia brand size?

If I use fresh tomatoes, chopped, should I be adding some liquid, since if canned are used, one uses the liquid?

Between swapping out forms of veg and trying to make a small amount...well. I guess I'd say it was mostly a sticky sauce. Any thoughts on specific measurements would be great. Thanks!

Alison said...

OK - let me see if I can help clarify for you. I get the fresh bunched spinach from the store,but if you're trying to make just one or two servings, then probably one or two big handfuls will do you fine.

Yes, half a block of Philly type cream cheese is what I use. I've been using the light, and it works well, but you really have to smoosh it around a lot with a spatula while it incorporates into the sauce. Regular has more fat and will melt more easily. For 1-2 servings, use 2 oz.

If you use fresh tomatoes you will need some liquid, yes - water is fine, or tomato juice might be better. I drain my canned tomatoes and add back liquid as necessary to thin the sauce - I never use all the liquid, but it does need some thinning.

Sorry for the confusion - I really am sort of a "cook it by feel" girl and I know it doesn't always translate well!

Lara said...

I'm trying this this week. I'm allowed dairy again - woohoo!

Celia said...

Thanks, ali!