I didn’t really get to eat out at restaurants when I was young. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, the kind of nostalgic, field of dreams kind of place that didn’t have fancy restaurants. There were 2 pizza places and a fast food restaurant called Starbucks. Bear in mind OUR Starbucks was there long before YOUR Starbucks. But this is not about Starbucks.
This is about Potluck suppers. Church potlucks and school potlucks were chances to socialize and “eat out” and try all of the foods everyone else’s mom was making.
When I moved to New York over 25 years ago, I found a new home seriously lacking in the art of the potluck. In fact, many moms here didn’t even COOK. Talk about culture shock. But thanks to my dear friends Jane and Gregg, potlucks have made their return to my life with their annual July 4th potluck party on the beach in Fire Island.
Without fail, Jane makes her famous lemon merengue pie and Gregg a massive entree that always impresses. This year my friends Paula and Peter joined us for their first Fire Island potluck party, and brought a yummy pasta dish.
Surprisingly, I was invited to a second potluck party this July….on the roof of my building. Racking my brain to think of a memorable dish that would also be EASY, I remembered a recipe that I had cut out of the NY Times several years ago, Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula. It also reminded me of a dish that my friends Paula and Peter brought to the Fire Island potluck this year.
The sauce is not cooked….a welcome change on a hot July afternoon. You dump the hot pasta over the tomatoes and arugula, cooking the sauce ever so slightly with the heat of the pasta. It is equally delicious served right away or after sitting on a buffet for an hour or two.
I upped the amount of tomatoes, because I always like extra sauce with my pasta, and I love tomatoes. Oh, what the hell, I upped the amounts of everything, because I always want more of everything.
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula (adapted from Martha Shulman, NYTimes, July 2008)
Makes 4-6 servings as an entree, or 12-16 as part of a potluck table
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved if small/quartered if on the larger side
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 teaspoons (10 ml) balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups arugula, torn to make the pieces a bit more manageable
1 lb good quality pasta, I prefer a shorter length pasta that is easier to serve and eat (use gluten-free pasta and this recipe is gluten-free!)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnishing/passing
Place cut tomatoes in a large salad or pasta bowl. Add garlic, oil, vinegar and salt/pepper and mix. Top with arugula, cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and let marinate 1-4 hours.
When ready to serve boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente (slightly firm). Before draining pasta into a colander, save 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta and immediately dump onto tomato mixture.
Toss with 1/2 or more of grated parmesan and add more salt and pepper if needed.
If pasta seems dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water.