Tuesday, March 18, 2008

sweet and savory spaghetti

going on vacation for two weeks can really increase your urge to stand over a hot stove for hours on end and create luscious home-cooked meals for the ones you love. or maybe it's just me. the food in vegas and tucson was amazing, of course, but nothing compares with making something yourself...and you just can't do that on vacation, you know?

when i got back i felt like i'd never seen my cookbooks before! i had a mini love affair with all of them and resolved to try something new from one in particular; nigella lawson's nigella express. this book has countless ideas in it for fast and weeknight-friendly meals, as well as little suggestions for special items. one of the latter spoke to me: the moon-blush tomatoes.

sun-dried tomatoes (or sun-blush tomatoes as the brits will have it) are something we use quite a lot of in our house, as vj is partial and i adore their thick sticky sweetness. however, nigella has a suggestion for making them yourself at home to save money and keep things a little more natural. if you have the book you can use the recipe there, it's truly genius and requires almost no work on the part of the cook. if you don't have the book you can follow my suggestions for quick roasting tomatoes at home, or you can simply soak some store-bought sun-dried tomatoes in warm water to soften them up for a while and use those. regardless of which option you choose, the tart sweetness is what you are really looking for here.

sweet and savory spaghetti


1 batch moonblush tomatos (or one batch for the quick roasted tomatoes below)
5 ounces of goat cheese (we used the garlic and herb)
one large bunch of basil, sliced into ribbons or torn
one pound of spaghetti (or other thick pasta, angel hair would be too delicate here)

cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water per the package directions. once it's cooked, drain it reserving a small amount of the cooking liquid (about a cup) and set aside. warm up your tomatoes in the same pot that you used to cook the pasta, and then add the pasta back in and crumble in the cheese and basil. mix to combine and serve immediately. you can top with basil and little knobs of goat cheese if you have any left over.

quick roasted tomatoes:


two bunches cherry tomatoes on the vine, or two cartons cherry tomatoes
about a tbsp. of your favorite herb mix (i used herbes de provence)
olive oil
about a tsp. of sugar

heat your oven to about 425 degrees. cut the tomatoes in half and place them on a rimmed baking sheet with the cut sides up. sprinkle over a small amount of olive oil and then evenly top with the herbs and sugar. then salt and pepper (to taste) and bake for about 30 minutes. keep an eye on them, it's hard to determine the amount of time they'll need since the size of the tomatoes and the heat of each oven will vary.

nigella makes several suggestions for alternate ways to use the moon-blush tomatoes, and they would apply to the quick roasted tomatoes as well. spreading them on toast would be lovely, though mixing them into a salad would also work. play around with the flavors and see how you can make them work for you.

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