What is it about summer holiday? I had visions of lazy, sultry, unscheduled down-time where the days would stretch out, tantalizing us with infinite possibilities. Our only responsibilities would be remembering the sunblock and planning our dinner, while we read books, relaxed in the sun, and watched the hummingbirds hover in our garden. Apparently, we are not on holiday yet. Since the children were let out of school last month the days seem to have accelerated in a blur. There is little time to laze, attempt sultriness or admire hummingbirds. Sunscreen is haphazardly remembered and wisely applied immediately after breakfast otherwise risking delinquency. The days evolve into a series of carpooling forays and playdate arrangements, punctuated by uncomfortably frequent stops at the gas station. Dinnertime arrives unexpectedly in a whiplash fashion, and I realize I never made it to the market, let alone had a moment to serenely mull over a creation to present at the kitchen table. Is this the summer holiday? What was I thinking?
This afternoon I returned home from a long day as described above. I did not shop, and we were all hungry. In fact, the only full family member was our recently filled car’s gas tank (which seems to be eating more these days) and we opted to eat in tonight. So, I will prepare an easy pasta salad dish that makes use of the vegetables, cheese, and olives I have stashed in my refrigerator. This recipe is forgiving in its ingredients and it encourages fiddling and adjusting depending on what you have available.* Because of its versatility, its name is rather generic: I simply call it Summer Pasta Provençal, because its ingredients reflect the season, and the ease of preparation reflects our crazy summer schedule.
Summer Pasta Provençal
1 lb. (500 grams) farfalle
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, ribs removed, sliced in julienne
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted, halved
2 fresh mozzarellas
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch, about 1/2 cup, fresh basil leaves, shredded
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese as garnish
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
Pour pasta into a large serving bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine well. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve warm or at room temperature with grated cheese on the side.
*Experiment with ingredients you have in your refrigerator. Try substituting grilled eggplant or zucchini, roasted sweet peppers, olivada, parsley, or arugula.