In the spirit of Julia Child’s birthday week, here’s one of my favorite quotes from America’s “Lady of the Ladle” on approaching the stove (and the recipe book, and the kitchen table) with an open heart and soul: “Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” Amen! (For more fun quotes, check out this post from HuffPost Food. Delightful.) Here’s a fun pair of summertime recipes in the name of that grande dame, slightly inspired by the Mediterranean region of her beloved Provençal home, La Pitchoune.
Sometimes, when it’s steamy and sticky outside — as ALWAYS in lovely, humid DC — and the allure of a hot stove is virtually nonexistent, you don’t want to cook a thing when dinnertime comes around. But peanut butter, cereal, or other “instant” meals (ramen, anyone?) can and do seem less than appealing. What’s a budding chef to do? How about summer spaghetti?
“As in, spaghetti squash? Uhhh….” you might ask. Nope, nothing of the kind. (Even though spaghetti squash is delicious; check out this lovely entry on Psych in the Kitchen about the wonders of spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute.) Instead, this is a delicious summertime supper that requires very little cooking at all; only the pasta and yellow squash see the heat of a stovetop. Based in part on a recipe from my ingenious and ever-experimental-in-the-kitchen maternal grandmother, summer spaghetti is a simple and downright tasty warm weather entree that’s sure to please, whether you cook up a plate for one or serve it to ten of your hungriest friends.
Summer Spaghetti with Sauteed Yellow Squash — Serves 4, but easily reduced by half (or a serving for one!)
For the Spaghetti, you’ll need:
- 1 lb spaghetti (you can also use bucatini or linquini; either would be delicious!)
- 4 large tomatoes, diced (keep seeds and skins). (Heirloom tomatoes are WONDERFUL here, but use whatever looks good to you.)
- 1/4 cup green olives, chopped (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried), chopped or cut into a chiffonade (see directions below)
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tsp red wine vinegar
- A dash of lemon juice
- 1/4 cup pasta water
- Grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, plus fresh herbs for garnishing
For the squash, you’ll need:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 Yellow Squash (or 2 Zucchini; they’re interchangeable in this recipe, but both are delicious!)
- 1/2 white onion, cut into thing slices (think caramelized onions; not rings or chunks)
- salt & pepper to taste
- chopped fresh parsley and basil for serving
Here’s what you do:
- Heat a pot of water on the stove, covered, until boiling. Salt the water lightly for added flavor. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add your pasta and cook according to package directions.
- While the water’s heating, dice your tomatoes and add them to whatever serving bowl you’ll use for your pasta. Add green olives, basil, garlic salt, black pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice to taste, tasting the mixture as you add each ingredient. (See what you like, and adjust seasonings accordingly.)
- Note: To chiffonade your basil, stack the leaves. Roll your stack into a tight bundle. Then, use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to “slice” the bundle, creating little ribbons of basil. (Here’s a helpful Youtube clip if you’re confused.) So easy, and it creates a really pretty effect in your food.
- While the pasta water’s heating and your pasta’s cooking, refrigerate the no-cook sauce you’ve created. Once the pasta’s finished, drain but DO NOT rinse, saving about 1/4 cup pasta water. Add the pasta to your serving bowl, along with the extra pasta water you’ve saved, mixing thoroughly. The warm pasta will instantly “cook” your sauce — Mmm! Add cheeses and extra herbs for garnishing as desired. Nom nom nom.
- For the squash, slice the squash into 1/4 inch thick rounds. If the squash is wider at one end, simply cut those squash rounds in half, creating half-moons. Sprinkle with seasoning (salt and pepper) on the cutting board.
- Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. The onions should brown slightly, rather that “sweat” (i.e. get soft without browning.). Add the seasoned squash rounds and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring every minute or so with a wooden spoon or spatula, until squash rounds are soft and golden brown. Top with fresh herbs & a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.
Enjoy! I’ll close with one more Julia quote, because she’s just that wonderful: “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.” Happy Birthday week, Julia. You were the best, ever.