I’m a little peeved at my frenemy, Gwyneth.
She highly recommended a restaurant (on the list of her top 10 favorite restaurants in the WORLD), and my dear husband and I decided to go there last night in honor of our 24th wedding anniversary. It was a mediocre meal, at best.
You’re not making our relationship any easier, Gwyneth. ;-D
But on the other hand, I’ve found a couple of very simple recipes in her cookbook that I really, really like, very much. So, Gwyneth, maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe the chef where we ate had an off night. No doubt, he pulled out all the stops for YOU. For me? Eh. Not so much.
As you may remember, in April, we began our ARDUOUSLY SLOW BATAAN DEATH MARCH OF A JOURNEY ACROSS THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES with the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. Anne started us off with Sole Grenobloise, (which was delicious; point for Paltrow) and she kept it a loooooong time. Until June. Until I came to her house and shoved it in my suitcase while she wasn’t looking. So, I’m following in her fine footsteps, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to keep it till I see Chloe in October, when we go to Bloggy Boot Camp. I’m really happy about that, because I really like this cookbook. (Another point for Paltrow. Dang it.)
Anyway, I really liked Gwyneth’s super easy Balsamic Lime vinaigrette. I don’t normally eat sweet salad dressings, and the sweetness of this one took me off guard, but then, I decided that I really do like it. It’s extremely flavorful: not at ALL boring. You’d just need to take that into account as you plan your menu.
I also really liked the forward to her cookbook: despite the fact that she has snagged a friendship with many of the celebrities that I’d most adore meeting (Mario Batali, Vince Gill, Mark Bittman, Ina Garten, just to name a few of my most favorite), and totally unselfconsciously name drops. But what are you going to do, when those really ARE your friends??? (Life is soooo unfair. Look at me: I have food to eat, a roof over my head AND air conditioning in the summer, none of which I deserve.)
Back to the cookbook: I really loved Gwyneth’s roasted cherry tomatoes. even though she only intended them as a side dish to her Chicken Milanese recipe. I had no chicken breasts thawed, one night, but I did have a pint of cherry tomatoes that I really needed to do something with. And these were so intensely flavorful, I decided after I tasted them that the flavor almost needed to be spread out, a bit, by some pasta. But what to do, to add some more levels of flavor to my pasta dish that I was about to create?
Vinegars add a nice flavor, as do shallots and garlic. And, of course, it’s summer, and I love basil! So, here’s what I came up with.
First I roasted the cherry tomatoes, per Gwyneth’s instructions, in her recipe for Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Arugala. (I just left out the Arugala). Roasting vegetables of any type brings out the natural sugars in the vegetable, so these tomatoes turn out candy sweet: no lie. But be aware: they make a bit of a mess. Since we like this recipe I created so much (I’ve made it 3 times over the last month), I’ve tried a couple of different ways of roasting them: in a pyrex dish, and on a jelly roll pan, lined with foil. I think I like the jelly roll pan method more, since lining the pan with foil cuts down on some of the mess. But do a better job of lining your pan than I did with mine, because the juices have a way of insidiously creeping underneath the foil, and burning on the pan. You have been warned.
I used sherry vinegar, which can be hard to find. I have found a fairly inexpensive and delicious Spanish sherry vinegar at Williams-Sonoma. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere else, although it’s possible you could find it on the internet. It’s called De Soto, and I think the last bottle cost me around $12.00. Worth it. Can you substitute another vinegar? Absolutely. If it were me, I’d try a red wine vinegar. The tomatoes are already so sweet, balsamic would add too much additional sweetness. What you want here is a bit of a whang.
The first part of the recipe (roasting the tomatoes) is the only part you should do a bit in advance. It takes a few minutes. The rest goes FAST.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pasta à la Fun Girls
1 pint cherry tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 big handful of basil leaves, chopped, and added in at the end
Slow Roasting the Tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the tomatoes in a small baking pan and drizzle with 1 T. olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until they’re split and blistered and super sweet.
Put your pasta water on to come to the boil, salt it, and cook pasta per the package directions. I used spaghetti.
Sauté shallots in 3 T. of olive oil for two or three minutes, then throw in minced garlic, for one minute more (don’t let garlic burn). Pour in about 2 T. of sherry vinegar, and stir it for a minute. Get ready to have your nasal passages blasted if you inhale while the vinegar is cooking off. Add in the roasted tomatoes, and stir them around. Turn off the heat, and stir in the chopped basil.
Drain pasta, (reserving a cup of pasta water, just in case you need a bit more liquid to help loosen the sauce) and pour the roasted tomato mixture over the pasta.
This would be good topped with bread crumbs toasted in olive oil and butter, with a bit more minced garlic thrown in, and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
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