The planting season is picking up at Restoration Farm, the C.S.A. that we belong to at the historic Old Bethpage Restoration Village here on Long Island. I say that as if I were right in there, pruning the apple trees and preparing the beds and raising those heritage birds, getting dirty and sweaty in honest, sacred labor on the land.
Uh, well, not exactly.
Farming has always been more theoretical than hands-on in my life. Sure I have come out to volunteer at the farms we have belonged to, but in all honesty, since I’ve had Leandro, it’s been more about picking a couple of pea pods, then taking him to see the pigs or the chickens or to the bathroom, rush, rush, than it has been about actually doing anything useful in an agricultural sense.
This year will be different, in two ways:
1) We have a little more sun in our yard these days, thanks to some trees that had to come down. Last year we did some experimental container gardening to gauge where we could actually grow vegetables. Now that we’ve established that, we will be putting in some raised beds this year and trying to grow more stuff for ourselves.
2) Leandro is more self-sufficient and mature and I have hopes that our volunteering days at the farm will be less like outings to the zoo and more like real contributions.Call me crazy, but a girl’s gotta dream…..
In the meantime, we attended the season-opening potluck at the farm last Sunday and — while I listened with longing, yearning, and almost dismay as the real farm folks told me with great enthusiasm about everything they’ve been doing in the last few weeks — I tried to keep positive about what is to come for me in the world of growing things! (and we have started peas, tomatoes, peppers and culantro from seed this week).
This was my contribution to the potluck…it seemed to go well for everyone (except my own traitorous offspring who decided he didn’t like the look of it and proceeded to stuff his face with the stuffed shells and the two different baked macaroni and cheese, and the Hardscrabble chicken — anything but my dish, the one I had made thinking he’d love it; thanks for the support, little dude) and I had enough to bring in for my esteemed colleagues. At least one has decided that she doesn’t have to cook this week thanks to this abundant, rich, very easy and super-tasty, creamy dish.
You’ll be able to use this recipe next time you have to feed a bunch of people with stuff you already have on hand!
Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Black Olives
1.5 lbs penne or other short pasta
6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy)
28 oz canned of diced tomatoes (or two Cups fresh)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 oz – 16 oz frozen spinach
20-30 pitted black olives, sliced
½ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or pecorino
6 oz fresh goat cheese (chévre)
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, drain and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook at medium low until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste (if using fresh tomatoes, cook until they begin to soften) and then add spinach, cooking at medium low until the spinach is heated through and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add olives.
Add the pasta and the grated cheese (and tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick) and stir until the pasta is fully coated. Add the goat cheese, mix well (but gently) and serve, with additional grated cheese if desired.