In August, I would never go to Italy. It is too hot. Instead, I spend the summer eating as if I was there. After all, Italian cooks understand how to tempt the palate when the sun blares and appetites wilt.
A lunch of ripe tomatoes and mozzarella, sliced with fresh basil and drops of fruity, glistening olive oil and accompanied by a slab of grilled whole-grain bread turns servings of vegetables, a portion of protein, whole grains and unsaturated fat into irresistible, edible poetry whether your weather is desert dry or dripping with humidity.
At dinnertime, no matter what, a bowl of pasta always works. In true Italian style, I like it topped with a combination of vegetables that intrigue the appetite and let you feel like you are eating from the garden, which some of you actually may do. A favorite combination includes fennel, baby peas (fresh or frozen) and arugula, brightened with a touch of lemon. Sautéeing the veggies just enough to keep the fennel crisp-tender, then spooning them over whole-wheat or farro pasta makes a perfect sunset supper. And you can work at a leisurely pace, since this rustic dish is equally good piping hot or, very Italian-style, served lukewarm. Either way, the perfect finish is shavings of sharp pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk, grated directly onto the pasta, plus a sprinkling of fresh basil.
Follow this pasta with a basket of sun-ripe peaches, plums and figs for dessert, and you will feel like Italy has come to your table or patio.
Whole-Wheat Pasta with Fennel, Peas and Arugula – Makes 4 servings.
1 fennel bulb, about 1¼ lbs.
8 ounces whole-wheat or farro spaghetti
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ large red onion, cut into ½ -inch crescents
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup fresh or frozen baby green peas
1½ cups arugula, cut crosswise in ¾-inch strips
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
8 tsp. grated pecorino cheese
4 large basil leaves
Cut top off fennel, eliminating fronds and stalks, and slice off bottom. Remove toughest one or two outer layers. Cut remaining bulb crosswise into thin slices. Remove hard, round core from each slice, then cut slice crosswise to make long strips. Set fennel aside.
In large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions and drain in colander.
While pasta cooks, heat oil in medium skillet with cover, over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook until onions are just translucent, about 2 minutes. Mix in fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Pour in broth, cover, and cook vegetables for 2 minutes to start tenderizing them. Uncover, add green peas, and cook until fennel is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Mix in arugula until it is bright green and wilted, about 1 minute. Mix in lemon juice. Off heat, season vegetables to taste with salt and generous amount of pepper.
Divide pasta among 4 wide, shallow bowls or deep plates. Spoon one-fourth of topping over each serving, including liquid from pan. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cheese over each serving. Stack basil leaves, roll them lengthwise into a thin cigar, then cut roll crosswise, using a sharp knife to make thin strips. Sprinkle basil over pasta and serve immediately.
Per serving: 350 calories, 10 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 58 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein, 13 g dietary fiber, 290 mg sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Article Posted: August 2, 2010