Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Catching Up

What’s cooking? Orecchiette with Corn and Zucchini, Jalapeño, Feta, and Basil

Back when our sons were still in high school, the family had a protracted dinnertime debate, lasting many evenings, as to when – if ever – we’d be supplying our two teenagers with their own cell phones. Of course, it seems like a no-brainer these days, when even middle schoolers have them; but those were the dark ages, and we could barely rely on the boys to hang onto their winter jackets. Why would we entrust them with fancy pieces of technology?

Finally, one night, with frustration practically steaming out his ears, our younger son looked across the table at me and said in his most earnest voice, “Mom – you don’t understand – we’re falling behind.”

We did eventually cave to this desperate plea for relevance, with no dire consequences. But the phrase, “We’re falling behind” has stuck with us as a family meme as my husband and I lurch our way forward technologically.

It came up again this week in the final flourish to get our taxes in on time. For whatever reason – I’ll say it’s him and he’ll say it’s me – we seem incapable of getting each year’s documentation together until the very last minute. Unlike the President and his family, we actually send the government what appears to be the right amount of money in April; we just don’t have all the records in order, and that process of gathering and spreadsheeting and packaging it up takes the next six months.

So the accounting firm we use sent the final forms in an email on Tuesday. Grumpy dutifully printed them out and we signed them.

“Will you please fax these back?” he said.

“I would,” I said, “but the router connecting my printer to the internet died over the summer and I haven’t replaced it.”

That was already too much tech for him, but he understood that we had a problem. “I’ll call around and find a friend who’ll do it for us,” I said.

An hour later, I had to admit defeat. “I haven’t faxed in years,” was the common reply from our friends. The CPA firm suggested scanning the signed forms and sending the scanned file, but the printer that also scans was the one that wasn’t communicating with us, and in any case, neither of us understood how to scan. “It turns out,” I said to my mate, “that once again, we’re falling behind.”

Eventually, we found another dinosaur friend with a fax machine, so the government got its pound of flesh in time. And I now have one more technology to conquer: scanning.

* * *

In the less complicated world of food, I can still get corn on the cob in the grocery stores around here, so I’m hoping that means you can get some, too. If not, I’m sure today’s recipe will be wonderful with frozen corn, because it’s really wonderful regardless. And while the original recipe (from The New York Times) featured only corn, the Kitchen Goddess really wanted a more nutritionally complete dish, so she added zucchini squash. You might want to experiment with green beans (cut into ½-inch pieces) or spinach or broccoli florets. Go wild.

Even with the extra chopping for the zucchini, this is a great dish for those nights when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen – and even the KG has lots of them, so pay attention. Once you get your mise en place, the whole process will take 30 minutes.

Mise en place!

The pasta in this recipe is orecchiette, which means “little ears.” Its tiny bowl shape is really fun, and perfect for nestling the corn with a little bit of sauce in each bite, but the dish works equally well with fusilli (corkscrew shaped) or farfalle (bowtie) pasta. Flavorwise, I loved the way the salty feta balances the sweetness of the corn, and the tiny kick from the jalapeño adds a nice, perky finish. As the feta melts, it also brings a rich creaminess to the dish. And don’t forget the basil leaves – fresh basil is still readily available in stores, and the fresh aroma will remind you of the best of summer.

Orecchiette with Corn and Zucchini, Jalapeño, Feta, and Basil

Adapted from Colu Henry in The New York Times, August 2018

Serves 4.


1 pound orecchiette pasta (farfalle or fusilli will also do)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
4 ears corn, shucked and kernels sliced off (about 3 cups kernels)
2 cups zucchini, cut in ½-inch dice
Kosher salt
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
½ cup chiffonade* of basil, plus more whole leaves for serving
Flaky salt, for serving (optional)

*Kitchen Goddess note on chiffonade: Easier than it looks, the term “chiffonade” comes from the French word “chiffon,” meaning “ribbon.” As a culinary term, “chiffonade” is a knife technique for cutting leaves into long, very thin ribbons. Start by stacking 8-10 leaves on top of each other.  I like to put the bigger leaves at the bottom and layer the smaller ones on top. Gently roll the stack lengthwise into a cigar shape and slice it thinly across the roll, using a very sharp knife so as not to bruise or tear the leaves. Continue slicing all the way down the roll to the stems, 
then gently toss the ribbons to
separate them. The oils in the 
leaves are delicate so try to 
make the chiffonade as near in 
time as you can to the serving.


Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until it is not quite al dente, which will take about 10 minutes (note the directions on your pasta box). Reserve 1-2 cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Start by melting 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large (10-12-inch) skillet over medium heat. When the butter is hot, add the jalapeño and cook it 2 minutes, until it’s soft.

Add the corn and cook about 4 minutes, stirring only occasionally in order to get the kernels to brown slightly. Move the corn to the edges of the skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the zucchini to the center, cooking another 3-4 minutes. Again, stir only occasionally in order to get the zucchini pieces to brown slightly. Season with salt to taste.

Add ½ cup of pasta water to the skillet, raise the heat to bring the vegetables to a simmer, and cook until the water has reduced enough to become sauce-like, which will take about 2 minutes .

Stir the pasta into the vegetables and toss to mix well with the sauce. Sprinkle the feta cheese around the dish and pour on an additional ½ cup of the pasta water, tossing until the cheese is melted and the pasta is thoroughly covered with the sauce. If necessary, you can add in another ¼ cup pasta water.

Make the basil chiffonade and stir it into the dish. Serve immediately, garnished with the whole basil leaves. Season with flaky salt, if desired.

This recipe makes a great light meal with nothing more than a green salad and maybe some fruit for dessert. Serve with a nice dry white wine, or my favorite, a dry French rosé. Ms. Henry in the Times wrote that the pasta also works great as a side dish for grilled beef, like a flank steak or a skirt steak, but I haven't tried that. Sounds good, though.