Saturday, August 05, 2006

Garden Pasta

My first personal (known) encounter with Swiss chard was the other year. While I am sure I have dined on it in restaurants, I had never sought to purchase the funky colored vegetable before. While at the grocery, the vegetable caught my eye and I scooped it into my basket. As D often does when he notices I am plucking items for their unique beauty rather than possible utility he queried what we could make with it. “I don’t know, but we’ll think of something.”

We turned “something” into Braised Swiss Chard wrapped in Sole. Swiss chard’s bitter sweetness won us over and D rarely questioned my random fruit and vegetable acquisitions again.

Over the months the rainbow vegetable remained on my mind and I eventually bought seeds for planting them when the bucket garden was a mere dream. They would soon sprout into their glory and remain a site as the stalks matured.

One day, impatient for my own chard to mature, I hit up the vegetable market for a bunch. They became a perfect accent to a delicious cold summer soup.

Finally the glory of my rainbow swiss chard in the buckets was breathtaking. Glowing yellows, radiant reds and electric pinks made the calling to me. I plucked them from their buckets and presented them to D. What to make when the temperature is too hot to handle the kitchen? Some quick and easy pasta, requiring minimal cooking.

As residents of Queens suffered through blackouts in the high temperatures D and I considered ourselves fortunate with our minimized power—at least we still had the refrigerator (and if that failed a few buckets of bounty outside). We ran to the grocery to pick up fresh pasta. Requiring a mere 2 minute boiling time, it would serve as an ideal backdrop to a cold dish.

Whipping up a large batch of pasta, D and I had a fresh meal to last us through the week; no stovetops required.

Serving Size= 6-8 persons. Active time= 10 minutes.
* 2 pounds fresh spinach pasta
* 1 bunch rainbow swiss chard, loosely chopped
* 1- 15 ounce can garbanzo beans (chick peas), washed and drained
* 1 red bell pepper, sliced into ¼-inch strips
* 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
* 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
* ½ cup fresh firm ricotta cheese, crumbled
* ½ cup kalamata olives
* 2 Tbl olive oil

1) In a sauce pot on medium-high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, wash and drain. Set aside in a large bowl.
2) In a large skillet on medium heat, warm 2 Tbl olive oil. Add pepper, onion, garlic and cook until aroma is loosened (about 3 minutes). Add swiss chard, cover and cook until leaves wilt (4-6 minutes).
3) Add swiss chard, peppers, onions, garlic, garbanzo beans, ricotta and olives to pasta. Serve warm or cold.

Below is Kitty and her beloved squirrel toy. We train her to search and destroy these little critters that attack my garden—if only she were allowed outside to put her training work. The glazed look in her eye? We get her good and high so she can forget her killer instinct (the squirrel is full of catnip). Check out this weekend’s cat antic WCB over at Eat Stuff.

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