Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Holy buckets - the strawberries are here!

So, we've been anticipating the first pick... we went out this afternoon to survey our plots and guess what we ended up with?

Whoa baby - just over 9 pounds of fresh, juicy and devilishly red strawberries, with many, many more to come. Yeah!

I always end up over buying on pasta just because I like to have a variety of shapes and kinds (whole-wheat, multi-grain or good 'ol regular) handy in the pantry. This works in my favor with recipes like we made for dinner tonight, Shells with Two Tomatoes and Mozzarella, as even if I don't have the exact shape called for, I always have some sort of backup that works just as well, if not better.

While I was waiting for the roomy pot, filled with salty water, to bring itself up to a boil, I stashed the cubes of fresh mozzarella I needed into the freezer. Fresh mozzarella can be quite squishy and delicate to the heat, but letting it hang out in the freezer makes a world of difference in the end result, which I'll explain in a bit!

After the pasta splashed around in the water and softened, I scooped out some of the cooking liquid, then drained away the rest. To keep the dishes down to the minimum, I let the pasta hang out in a colander while I prepared the sauce in the same pot (woo - go one-pot meals!) for this dish. Starting with a couple glugs from our bottle of olive oil, we tossed juicy grape tomatoes into the pot, along with sliced sun-dried tomatoes, an ample amount of thinly sliced fresh garlic and the reserved cooking liquid. This isn't a sauce that takes a long time to cook so its freshness can shine - all you need to do is heat the tomatoes until they begin to pop, soften and break down, which happens to be just enough time to rub the harsh razor edge off the garlic.

The pasta is tossed into the mix, along with those chilled cubes of mozzarella and a dose of mild chives snipped right off the plant in our backyard garden. Back to the cheese - if you tossed in the cheese that either came right from the refrigerator or had warmed up from being on the counter, as soon as you toss them in, the residual heat would have began the melting process, leaving you with a stringy mess. Which, in all honestly, isn't that big of a deal and wouldn't bother me, but if you want them to stay in their tidy cube shapes for those cheese pockets, this freezer business does the job quite well. The cheese won't stay cold or cool down the dish too much as the warm pot quickly brings their temperature back up.

The original recipe called for penne rigate as its ridges would work well to catch the bits in the sauce, but when I noticed I didn't have near enough on hand (used most of it in last week's pasta dish!), I grabbed for the shells. I figured their little pockets would make a perfect catch-all for the tomato, garlic and chives in this dish. Don't have either? Rigatoni would be another shape that would be a good match here. Plenty of pasta, a decidedly easy sauce and enough cheese to please... how could one go wrong?!


  1. Yum!! Looks delicious - I love simple dishes that let the ingredients to their magic :-)

  2. WOW!!! Look at all of those strawberries!!! Lucky guys, you are!!

    My Mom and I went strawberry picking this past Monday and honestly? I'm kinda disappointed in the berries we got. They were soft and mushy and starting to rot after ONE NIGHT in the frig. ONE NIGHT!! Glad I froze 3 large Ziploc bags full that same day.

    Guess I'll be buying whatever strawberries I can get (short season boo hoo!) to eat on the day of, from now on!

  3. Those strawberries are beautiful! I do envy you. I have to drive 40 minutes to find fresh picked strawberries, and I was very glad when I found that source. I used to live in a fresh produce paradise, and I've been in sad withdrawal ever since I moved. Enjoy those berries, and think of me when you have your first pie!

  4. OMG--can I tell you how jealous I am of your berries?! I don't think words can express the jealousy...

    I am VERY impressed that you are boiling up pasta in this humid disgusting heat wave we are having! The pasta recipe looks great (I love garlic and chives!), but it will have to wait til it cools down a bit before I try it... :o)


  5. Wow - you've got great looking berries! No slug bites, no rot-spots - perfect!! Do you guys treat for pests at all?

  6. Caageson - Me too!

    Rina - Sorry to hear about the berries! Better luck next time?

    Sobaka - I'm not sure we'll even get to a pie... hee hee!

    Courtney - Better than heating up the oven ;-)

    Jeph - Nope, we didn't add or spray anything as I try to be as organic as I can. Frankly I'm quite surprised we didn't have more issues!

  7. I have been wanting to bake treats for Bo to take to work, but they arent allowed to bring in food unless it is a company sponsored "food day"....his work makes me sad!