Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Garden Tomatoes and Caprese Pasta with Sausage

Today I picked tomatoes from my parents' garden, as well as a few raspberries that the birds hadn't gotten to yet.  Is there anything better than a candy-sweet, fresh garden tomato warm from the sun?  There was a little brown bird perched on one of the tomato plants; I got about 6 inches from him before I noticed him, so he startled me as much as I'm sure I startled him.  He actually sat there for a few seconds, looking perturbed and none too happy that I had disturbed him, before he dropped his prize worm onto a leaf, squawked and flew away to watch me warily from the top of the fence, making sure I didn't steal his worm.  No worries, little bird, I only wanted the tomatoes, and I left the worm for you!



I took a few photos earlier today while there was sun on the balcony, but since then the sun has gone and the rain has come, so I don't have any sunny and perfectly styled pictures of cut tomatoes.  Most of our cooking is done at night after it gets dark, so it's rare that I have any natural light available for my photos.  Through some recommendations by my sister and a few other bloggers, I've discovered some stunning photography on La Tartine Gourmande, Gourmande in the Kitchen (who is currently posting an inspiring series on food styling and photography), Tartelette and Cannelle et Vanille, and too many others to name. They inspire me and give me something to which I can aspire.


I so wish I had a space for a garden, but our balcony hasn't been very conducive to growing vegetables or herbs.  Last year, we had some sad little tomato and bell pepper plants that never produced anything, and my sweet basil plants were just as disappointing, so this year I didn't try to grow anything.  In a previous apartment, I had some crazy successful basil plants, and I miss having all that fresh basil for the picking.


Tomatoes and basil are such a summery combination that I love adding them to dishes whenever I can.  I first tasted caprese salad about 4 or 5 years ago at a restaurant in Boston, while on a work trip with my boss.  I actually asked for some blue cheese dressing on the side and I remember that the server looked at me with something like horror that I would add blue cheese to a caprese salad.  But hey, whatever floats your boat, right?  Since then, when I make this salad at home, I've never added anything to the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella other than salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and it's absolutely perfect with those simple ingredients.


Last night, I made a Caprese Pasta dish with all these ingredients, including some of the Homemade Sweet Cream Lemon Basil Butter that I made last weekend, but you can substitute regular butter or olive oil, whichever you prefer.  Also, we had some amazing pork garlic sausage in our freezer that Jamie's dad gave us, which I thought would go wonderfully with the pasta.  A great alternative would be Kielbasa sausage (I usually buy the lean turkey kielbasa).


For weeknight dinners, we try to make 4 servings, enough for dinner and lunch the next day.  This recipe made more like 6 servings, so just cut it in half if you don't want too much leftover.  It was fantastic leftover for lunch today, though!



Caprese Pasta with Sausage
(makes 6 servings)
  • 1 pound Farfalle or bow-tie pasta (I prefer Barilla protein plus pasta)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (I used on-the-vine), cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 3-4 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • balsamic vinegar for drizzling
  • 1 pound kielbasa-style sausage
  • 1 cup chicken broth
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Place the sausage in the skillet and add the chicken broth.  The broth will come to a boil; simmer in the broth over medium high heat, until the sausage is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  When it is cooked through, slice diagonally into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box and prepare the remainder of the ingredients.

Drain the pasta, then toss with the melted butter or olive oil - you only need enough to add a little flavor and to prevent the pasta from sticking.  Add the cheese, tomatoes, basil and sausage; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, if desired.