Monday, August 22, 2011

Meatless Monday (almost) - Pasta Carbonara with Corn and Squash

Like most of the rest of the US, weather affects everything.  Making the choice to base your grocery shopping on what's available at the moment from local farms means that weather affects what you serve your family for dinner each night.

I have a great appreciation for farmers now since we've made this choice.  When I expected to go to our local blue farmhouse and buy peaches from Jean, the spunky grandma who sits outside under a white tent, instead I saw a handwritten "CLOSED" sign over the handpainted (peach-colored paint) weathered plyboard sign.  I was distraught and called the phone number I saw listed in Slow Food Solano for Brazelton Ranch.  What I learned is stone fruit trees do not appreciate late Spring rains and wind.  The apparently show their disappointment by producing in their own time and holding back what they did produce.  So, peaches didn't come until mid-August and are only around for a week or two when they will run out. 

I've bought four flats in 5 days.  THEY ARE THAT GOOD!!  Harry and I had not even made it out of the short circular drive in front of the farmhouse when we bit into the first ones.  Juice dripping everywhere we passed one of the farmhands who was smiling very big as we drove past him and he glanced over at us (and I secretly think he was enjoying us enjoying his work.)  We will be eating peaches non-stop until I call Jean and find out that there are no more.  We will miss them when they are gone and lament about  them until we finally see the handpainted sign up next year.

So you're probably wondering how the Pasta Carbonara factors into this.... Like the peaches, corn is late this year, too.  We're still getting four ears in each veggie box and we had bought five more at a farmstand the day before.  So when I realized it was already dinner time and I hadn't thawed any meat, I knew what I had to do.

La Cucina Povera (peasant cooking) at it's finest, with some pasta, eggs, a little parm and bacon, you have dinner.  I always throw in whatever vegetables I have to round it out and that usually includes onions.  Today we had the corn which I had husked and cut off the cob.  There was a variety of small baby squash in our veggie box so those got thrown in the mix as well.

By the way, many recipes call for wine and cream.  I go the really Povera route and use the pasta cooking water.  It lightens it up and since I don't always have cream on hand, don't have to worry about it. And you can use any seasonal vegetables you have on hand--asparagus and fresh peas in the spring, broccoli or cauliflower in early summer, squash or green beans in deep summer and eggplant, mushrooms or peppers in the early fall.  If you don't have anything fresh at the moment, use 1/2 the amount of frozen peas.  And worst case scenario, leave out the veggies and serve a salad or fruit.  This goes great with chardonnay or a light red wine, by the way.  Even in Cocina Povera there is always wine!

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box Items - corn, squash, red onions, sage (not in box but in herb garden)

CWYG List Items - olive oil, bacon, pasta, eggs, parmesan cheese
Pasta Carbonara with Corn and Summer Squash
1 pound pasta, I use brown rice penne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
1/4 pound bacon, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped (I used red, but any type of onion is fine)
2 cups seasonal vegetables, cut to the same size as the pasta you are using (or 1 cup frozen peas)
2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage (don't use dry just use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand or leave out)
4 large egg yolks
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Freshly grated pepper.

1. Put a large saucepot of water on to boil. Add a liberal amount (I mean it...2 tbsp or more) of salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Reserve at least 2 cups of cooking water before draining.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bacon. Brown
bacon 2 minutes. Add onion and stir until all the brown bits come off the bottom of the pan.  Add vegetables (not peas) and saute until lightly brown and tender.  Add half of the sage and cook for a minute

3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks, a large grating of pepper and a handful of grated cheese. Add
1 large ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water while constantly whisking. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.

4. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with bacon and veggie mixture. Pour the egg mixture
over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg. Add more pasta water as needed to keep it from being gloppy. Add peas now if you are using them.  Remove pan from heat and continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add a big handful of cheese, a little more pasta water.  Stir again then taste.  Add pepper and salt if needed. Stir one more time then sprinkle with extra grated cheese and reserved sage.

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

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