This dish came about in such a delightfully simple way, and I'm so excited to share it with you! Stopping by my favorite produce store on the way home from errands one weekend morning, I found a ton of great veggies that had only moments before been placed on the bargain shelf. Organic swiss chard, ears of fresh sweet corn, bulbs of fragrant fennel. Seeing this lovely variety of colors and shapes there on the shelf like that, I was inspired to keep them together and make them into a warm pasta salad for lunch. Adding chunks of golden-sauteed zucchini and shavings of good Parmigiano, this was a fresh and healthy meal with fantastic flavor.
I loved digging into a big bowl mounded high with this warm pasta salad. I made it with orecchiette, which are little thimble-shaped pastas (or hat-shaped, or ear-shaped, choose your favorite description) that are so much fun to eat when they get nested inside each other for thick chewy bites, or when chunks of sauteed veggies get scooped up in the cup of each pasta piece. My mom remembers watching her grandmothers make this kind of pasta by hand, even getting in on the fun herself sometimes, using her thumbs to create the little ears, or orecchiettelli, as they called them. Though I imagine a homemade pasta would be heavenly here, fortunately the store-bought kind has its own charms as well. And if orecchiette aren't available at your store, small pasta shells or farfalle (bowties) would be a good alternative. This dish would be perfect for a light lunch or supper, or as a side to something like a nice grilled steak.
This random collection of veggies really turned into something beautiful. Thank you, bargain shelf, for your inspiration! I am going to be so sad not to have you in my life!
Because yes, it is official. I am moving out of Santa Barbara by the end of this week and am heading up to San Francisco to start my new job. My dream job. Working Stateside and in East Asia to support clinical research and bring hope and help to people. It's been a whirlwind of change, and I'm not sure how things will look when the dust settles, but this I know: I am so excited. In so many dimensions of life, this feels like the right step to make. And to top it off, this job means I will be going back to Taiwan and Korea soon! You know, I can't help but look forward to the food, the people, the sights, the smells, and the sounds!
Orecchiette with swiss chard, zucchini, fennel, and corn
Makes 2 main-dish servings
1 cup (uncooked) orecchiette pasta
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into half-moons
1 bunch swiss chard, roughly chopped
1 ear corn
salt and pepper to taste
shavings of Parmigiano-reggiano
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Sautee the diced fennel until soft and caramelized, adding the garlic near the end of cooking time to soften the garlic without browning it. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Add the zucchini and sautee until deep golden brown, transfer to the fennel. Add the swiss chard to the pan and cook, covered, until wilted, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Return cooked vegetables to the pan to heat through.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and cook the orecchiette according to package instructions. During the last 4 minutes of cooking, add the ear of corn. Shave the cooked corn kernels into the pan of vegetables, then add the cooked, drained orecchiette. Toss pasta and vegetables together and season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste. Mound into serving bowls and sprinkle generously with shavings of Parmigiano-reggiano.