First it was spinach, now tomatoes. What's a salad-lover to do? Buy local!
While there is some confusion about which tomatoes are affected by salmonella, the fewer miles they've traveled and the less processing they've undergone the safer they are. So those of us who have been growing our own and enjoying farmers market tomatoes can carry on. Those of us who are buying from chain grocery stores and restaurants need to beware - be aware. Local food advocates/activists have long suggested we ask at restaurants when we order where the vegetables came from. Even if we're pretty sure no one will have any idea, it's a good way to raise awareness of the issue and to even start a conversation about why it matters. Now more people will probably already know why it matters.
On the homefront, we had a bumper crop of salmonella-free cherry tomatoes as did the farmers in our area. We've been making one of our favorite summer dishes - Pasta Fresca - pretty regularly. It's easy, quick, uncooked for the most part (so almost kitchen heat-free) and uses that wonderful combination of summer garden bounty - basil and tomatoes.
PASTA FRESCA - from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
- 4 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
- 6-8 large fresh basil leaves
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound butterfly (bow-tie) or fusilli pasta
- ½ pound mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil.
Set aside 1 cup of the chopped tomatoes and 2 of the basil leaves. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining tomatoes and basil with the garlic and olive oil until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, stir in the pasta, re-cover the pot, and return to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Cut the reserved basil leaves into thin strips (with scissors).
Drain the cooked pasta and toss it immediately with the mozzarella cubes. Add the sauce and mix well. Top with the reserved tomatoes and basil, and grated cheese if desired. Serve immediately.