Summer marches on at a breakneck pace. Not only is the time going by far too quickly, but the school year will be starting in just over two weeks. Summer has been wonderful even if I’ve only made a small dent in the plans I had for this time. Here in the Midwest, the weather has been on the hot and humid side. Yes, I know that’s what summer in the Midwest is like, but the hot and humid seems to cling to the days like static cling to polyester.
Grilling is still the cooking style of choice, but Mama and Papa can’t live by the grill alone. Once in a while we want pasta. I do not intend to put pasta to the “Can You Grill It?” challenge, at least not in its uncooked state. There is certainly the possibility of grilling the sauce ingredients and that’s what I did not long ago.
It really started because I had some tomato bruschetta ( click here for more aboutbruschetta) left over. It met all the pasta sauce requirements. Tomatoes in a highly flavorful liquid complimented with red onions, basil and garlic. I also had some Chicken Italian Sausage and zucchini (it isn’t summer without it). I had just enough whole grain penne left to make it a meal.
So the main characters were assembled and the sausage and zucchini begged to be cooked on the grill. Well, I may have had something to do with their decision. The whole grilling process was pretty quick since the sausage was already cooked and the zucchini (combined with some onions and dressed with some olive oil and Italian seasoning) doesn’t take long to char lightly.
While everything was cooking I pondered what else might make this dish even better. A little fresh mozzarella and a hearty handful of basil seemed like the perfect additions. These were already on hand so it was one of those “no brainer” choices.
When the pasta was cooked to my liking, I saved several ladles of the pasta water to give the sauce a little more “umph” Everything came together in rapid fashion and a simple yet delicious supper was on the table.
Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
Combine the Zucchini, Onion, Italian Seasoning, and Olive Oil in a bowl. Toss to mix and set it aside.
Heat a large pot of water to boiling and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook to your favorite level of "al dente"
Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, heat your grill to medium high. Place the sausage on the top rack. Heat a grill basket and add the zucchini onion mixture.
Grill until the sausage is browned and the zucchini is lightly charred.
Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch thick coins.
Combine the drained pasta, sausage, zucchini and the reserved pasta water in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss to mix everything together. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss once more to combine.
This is a wonderful way to use the bounty from the garden or the farmer’s market. Use whatever sounds or looks perfect to you. There is never a right or wrong when it comes to a supper filled with freshness and love.
Bruschetta is a wonderful dish. Born in Italy it has taken over this country like wildfire or should I say grill-fire since the bread is traditionally toasted over a flame. The original recipe is the essence of delicious simplicity. Hearty, maybe slightly stale bread rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil and lightly charred over a fire. Simply topped with tomato it is the epitome of deliciousness. As with any wonderfully straightforward dish the ideas for variations come quickly and without reservation.
The charred bread base is the perfect canvas for culinary creativity. I dined at a restaurant on my visit to Northern California that has made a successful business of serving Bruschetta as their main attraction. B Street and Vineis a small restaurant in downtown San Mateo. The menu is simple, some soups, salads and paninis, but the star(s) of the show are 14 kinds of Bruschetta that also grace the menu. It’s what most people come for and it is worth the visit. That’s why we came and we ordered all 14 of them. A good time was had by all.I’ve been playing with Bruschetta recipes for quite some time. I have to say I’m a tomato based fan, but I’ve dabbled in other toppings and have served a Bruschetta Bar on many occasions. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A big basket of beautifully charred bread and an array of toppings. Homemade ricotta, olive tapinade, and roasted pepper salsa are just a few items that can shine on a slice of bread. Better yet add sweet or savory toppings of your choice and combine them to create an infinite variety.
I have two favorite recipes for Bruschetta, one fairly traditional and one not so much. They both however feature tomatoes.
Mini Gourmet tomatoes are popping up everywhere. You can get them at almost any grocery store, and Trader Joe’s often has containers of mini Heirloom tomatoes. These seem to have a sweet flavor and subtle crunch year around. The colors vary from bright yellow to deep brown.
Many Bruschetta use garlic and balsamic vinegar to make their dressing. This uses Sherry Vinegar, Shallots, Rosemary and Thyme. Agave syrup or a touch of sugar gives a rounded flavor.
I mention Crostini as the platform for this recipe and that is what the picture shows. The difference between this and Bruschetta is a little like hair-splitting. While Bruschetta is generally grilled and remains a little tender in the center and often names the topping as well, Crostini is usually sliced thinner and is toasted to delicate crispness. I don’t think anyone would take offence if you interchanged the names. They are both marvelous bases for whatever you choose to top them with.
The next Bruschetta recipe uses more traditional ingredients and can be served as an appetizer or salad as you wish. It uses fresh mozzarella so you could even make it a main dish with some crusty rustic bread. My mozzarella of choice for this recipe is Ciliegine (the name means cherry in Italian) a bite size ball of mozzarella.
Place the olive oil and garlic in a small pan. Heat over very low heat until the garlic just begins to sizzle. This takes less than 5 minutes and needs to be watched carefully. DO NOT LET THE GARLIC BROWN.
Remove the oil and garlic mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour over the tomatoes.
Add the ciliegine to the tomato mixture and toss gently to combine.
Add the balsamic using the amount that tastes right to you.
Gently stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Chill for at least 4 hours.
This is great as a bruschetta on toasted bread. It also makes a wonderful salad
In the vast possibilities bruschetta offers there’s something for everyone. On a healthy note, servings of any bruschetta tend to be small and your topping choices can reflect your desire to be naughty or nice. I plan on serving Mini Gourmet Tomato Bruschetta with Multi-grain Bread for Easter “appies”. It should be a nice balance to the naughty Au Gratin Potatoes at dinner. Happy Spring. Love, Mama D
When I set out to create this blog, I wanted to chronicle my food adventures in and out of the kitchen. Mama D loves to cook, but all cooking adventures and no out and about adventures make for a boring Mama D. I began to remedy that this week. I just returned from my first field trip. Always liking to support local merchants I went to check out the Market at GraciousHall.
Gracious Hall is a catering company owned by Rebecca Colburn in Geneva, Illinois. Rebecca has been catering large and small events for several years and has just expanded to a retail gourmet market. The small space in front of her kitchen features foods and cheeses, many from local purveyors. The market also features “Grab and Go” items that Rebecca creates.
Rebecca trained at the French Baking School in Chicago and bakes all of the breads and rolls sold at Gracious Hall along with preparing all the carry out lunch items not to mention the exquisite food she creates for her clients. When I arrived she was on the phone arranging a catering job. Catering is the backbone of Gracious Hall but the addition of a gourmet market will give her more flexibility in running her business.
I was there on their first official business day. Still very much a catering company, the retail space was furnished with the usual coolers for perishable food but the space was warmed by wonderful eclectic furniture pieces for display. Even though there were limited items available, everything was artfully displayed…I can envision the wonders the future will hold and look forward to the product expansion to come. Gracious Hall carries an impressive selection of cheeses.
This is possible through a partnership withCurds and Wheya local Fox Valley merchant. Along with domestic and imported cheeses, there are sausages, salami, and lox. It was hard to choose, but the beautiful fresh mozzarella bocconcini sang to come home with me. These bite sized bits of heaven paired beautifully with what is officially the last of my garden tomatoes ( the cold night and my husband put an end to it) and basil to create an Autumn Kissed Bruschetta.
So my field trip was informative and enjoyable. I have to do this more often. The change of scenery was much-needed, and being able to talk to someone who is passionate about food and living their dream was inspiring. Hmm…where to next?