Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer Sunshine Pasta

I went foraging in the gardens of my generous family members (ours was a wash this year with the whole kitchen project thing - we had no idea how much the house construction would tear up the yard), and found dozens of sweet, ripe, delicious orange and red cherry tomatoes.  The wheels in my brain immediately started turning as I plotted what to do with them.  Lots of possibilities.  I settled on a pasta dish that can be served warm or cold, and it was delicious.
While I prepared the other ingredients, I drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the bowl full of tomatoes along with chunks of soft fresh mozzarella.  The perlini size balls would have been perfect - I just couldn't find them when I went looking.  If you're not a fan of fresh mozzarella, freshly shredded parmesan would be great too.
I like to make a nice balance of flavors and textures.  Something salty, something sweet, something crunchy.  All really good stuff.  I've recently discovered grilling bacon, an idea born of sheer laziness a few weeks ago when I wanted to cook a few strips, already had the grill fired up, and wasn't in the mood to pan fry it.  I learned the hard way that it's not advisable to put it on the lower rack next to the flame because the first couple of strips turned out rather carbonacious and the resulting blazing inferno was quite impressive.  It does, however, work nicely on the top rack.  Just don't go too far - it cooks up quickly.  For this recipe, I put the chicken on the bottom rack and the bacon right above it so that the drippings would help flavor the chicken.  Absolutely delicious!
Tomatoes and basil pretty much have to go together.  I think there's a law about it somewhere.
The finished product.  A symphony of flavors, and nice and light for a summer evening.  My older daughter tried cherry tomatoes for the first time in her life while I was making this, discovered that she liked them, and tried to eat all of them before they made it into the bowl.  My theory that you just have to keep offering kids the same thing over and over and over again before deciding that they'll really never eat it holds true yet again.

Summer Sunshine Pasta

1/2 a box of farfalle pasta (I prefer Barilla Plus)
3 chicken breasts, thawed and butterflied
6 strips bacon
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
20 leaves fresh basil, sliced into thin strips
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Cook pasta according to al dente, then drain well.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the cheese and tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil, and stir gently to coat.  Then drizzle about 3 T. balsamic vinegar, and again stir gently to coat.  Preheat a BBQ grill, season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place them on the lower rack of the grill.  Place the bacon strips directly over the chicken on the upper rack.  Check the bacon after 5 minutes and turn if necessary.  Flip the chicken over at about 7 minutes, or when the bottom shows nice grill marks and the top is opaque.  Remove the bacon when it's cooked to your desired crispness.  Grill the chicken an additional 5 or so minutes or until the juices run clear when poked.  Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into thin strips.

In a large bowl, pour the drained pasta noodles in and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss lightly to coat.  Dump in the tomatoes and cheese, along with the oil and vinegar in the bottom of the bowl, the chicken strips, basil and crumble the bacon over the top.  Stir everything gently to coat and correct seasoning as desired with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

This amount will serve about 6 people.

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