Lemony Summer Pasta Salad: HotM 27

While others around the country are just now beginning to see the bounty of summer’s first produce at their farmer’s markets – stone fruits, fava beans, baby lettuces, we’re on a little bit of a different schedule here. June in Hawaii means that mangoes, tomatoes, arugula, lychee and Kahuku sweet corn are back in force.

Yep, I said tomatoes. And I don’t mean the little cherry tomatoes that grow year-round here. I mean the big beauties that most of the rest of the US doesn’t see until late in the summer. And these aren’t Early Girls or Uglies either. They’re our own variety: Big Wave. But we also begin to get other heirloom varieties too, thanks to Jeanne Vana, our resident Island heirloom tomato grower. For a self-proclaimed tomato addict such as myself, this is heaven.

The theme for Heart of the Matter this month is the Best of June’s Produce, so I couldn’t resist a dish that had a few of the tomatoes I picked out at Jeanne’s farm out in the North Shore last weekend. And I had to add in a few of the other vegetables that are plentiful these days too: peppery arugula, crisp cucumbers, sweet sugar snap peas, and local asparagus (available year round here). Summer also means we’re back to hot days and muggy nights, which means that I don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen because anything simmering on the stove or roasting in the oven also means we’re roasting in our skin it’s so hot inside the house.

Here’s the dish I came up with – it’s a pasta salad that’s great for a light, summer evening meal or a hearty lunch – it's healthy, packed with veggies, lightly scented with lemon zest, and it would be perfectly complimented by a slice of grilled bread and a glass of refreshing Riesling on the side. Play around with it! Use your favorite early summer produce or what you have on hand. If you prefer a non-vegetarian salad, this would also be delicious with a can of good-quality tuna in olive oil and some capers added. We’ve also been making our own cheese, which I would add next time to replace the feta – stay tuned for that recipe sometime next month when I’m back to blogging regularly (teaching ends after today!!).

Lemony Summer Pasta Salad
, serves 6

6 oz. shaped pasta
1 bunch asparagus, the woody ends snapped off
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped or ~15 small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 large handful of sugar-snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup feta cheese
2 tbsp. thinly sliced basil (chiffonade)
1 bunch of baby arugula

Bring a large pot of boiling, salted water to boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. When the water begins to boil, add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, then remove the asparagus using tongs and transfer it to the ice water bath. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it until it is al dente, then drain. Rinse the pasta with cold water, drain and return to the pan.

While the pasta is cooking, remove the asparagus and put it on a towel to dry. When dry, you can chop it into 1 – 2 inch lengths. Pour the ice bath out and add the cut asparagus back to the bowl, along with the chopped tomatoes.

Add the cucumber, sugar snap peas, and scallions to the cooled pasta. Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon zest and salt and pepper in a small bowl until it emulsifies, then mix this with the pasta and vegetables. Add the feta cheese and basil. Add the asparagus and tomatoes and mix very gently with a large spoon or better yet, your hands.

Just before serving, mix in the arugula. If you plan to eat this as leftovers, only add the arugula to what you will be eating at one time – it tends to wilt too fast for my taste if it’s added early.


Heart of the Matter 26: The Locavore (Round-Up)

The theme for Heart of the Matter 26 was "The Locavore" or using local foods - using an ingredient, or several ingredients, from near your home. I hope it encouraged at least some people out there to seek out some kind of local food or be inspired to start growing something of your own! I'm sad to say though that only two of you out there were able to join us for this round-up and I hope it's only because May and June, that transition from Spring into Summer is always a busy one. I know I was crazy busy and waited until the last minute to make my dish and try and take pictures, only to find out my camera wouldn't work! So my actual post is in this round-up because I have just now gotten my camera back to working. I know my co-host Ilva also ran into some computer issues and was unable to participate this time as well.

Hopefully we'll see some of our regulars - and maybe a few new bloggers? - back here for June's theme next month!

But without further adieu, here are our three entries - the two ladies who stuck it out and sent in their entry, and myself!

Our first entry came from Soma, at eCurry. She used some beautiful little greens that were right outside in her backyard to make her Stir Fried "Pui" with Poppy Seeds - which is, as she describes it "a very simple recipe that my mom & my grandmom would make. It is a stir fry with a lot of flavor of garlic, almost caramelized onions and a sprinkle of poppy seeds." Sounds lovely, doesn't it? And it's so inspiring to me that she grew it herself!

Our second entry came from Zabeena, who writes the blog, A Lot On My Plate. It has a very simple name, Pink Green, but you'll see while its name is simple, there are some incredible and interesting flavor combinations going on in this single dish - consisting of asparagus with three pink dipping sauces (and thus, the name!). She's also got a lot of interesting info about the food, the place she lives and how this dish came about - go check it out!

Lastly, my own dish is super simple, but made with all local ingredients...a Sweet Corn, Mint and Feta Salad. Well, that's not exactly true. It is all local except for one ingredient...which could well have been local too but when I sent my husband to the grocery store for me he came home with the non-local version of the feta. Oh well! Kahuku sweet corn is available for most of the year here and is in full swing right now, so I simply paired it with feta, fresh mint, a bit of lime juice and some olive oil, salt and pepper. It turned out a wonderful, simple dish that I'm sure we'll be eating again this summer with various types of grilled fish and maybe even bring to a potluck or two!

A big thanks to Soma and Zabeena for participating! Hope to see you next month too!