Abstract: What happens when you start to cook a great Italian penne dish and find out you are missing a key ingredient? If you are an engineer, you will mix something you have with the pasta you just cooked and pass it off as a gourmet dish. I had just finished cutting up the stuff for a traditional Greek salad when I discovered I was out of tomato sauce.
Serves: 4 today and 4 the next day
Lead time: About 45 minutes if you are not designing Boolean logic devices on the side.
Tools: Whisk, chopping knife and block, sauce pan (at least 8 quart), colander, mortar and pestle, mixing bowl and serving bowl.
Bill of Materials:
Penne rigate pasta 2 cups
Red wine vinegar 1/4 cup
Fresh lemon 1 small
Garlic 2 cloves
Oregano (dried & ground) 2 teaspoons
Salt & pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil 2/3 cup
Cherry tomatoes 10 large
Red onion 1 small
Green bell pepper 1 large
Red bell pepper 1 large
Cucumber 1 small or 1/2 large
Black olives (pitted and slices) 1/2 cup
Feta cheese (crumbled) 1/2 cup
Fill the sauce pan 3/4 full with water, add a large pinch of salt and put on high heat. Peel the garlic cloves and chop them as tiny as you can. Put the pieces in the mortar and use the pestle to crush them to the consistency of sand. By now the water should be boiling. Stir the penne into the water and let it return to a boil. It is going to take about 10-12 minutes to cook and should be stirred about every 2 minutes. While it is cooking, put the vinegar into the mixing bowl. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze out a tablespoon of juice (no seeds). Stir the pasta. Put the lemon juice, crushed garlic, and oregano into the mixing bowl and whisk until uniform. Stir the pasta. Add three or four good shakes of salt and pepper, whisk and taste. Add more until you get it how you like it. (I add some Cayenne pepper for a little extra zest) Stir the pasta. Whisk in the olive oil and set the mixing bowl aside.
The pasta should cook until it done all the way through but still firm. Sneak a piece out to taste and it should seem to be just a teeny-weeny bit chewy. Dump the pan into a colander and rinse well with cold water. Let it drain while you chop the veggies.
Slice the tomatoes in half. Chop the red onion up into very small pieces. Dice the bell peppers into 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares. Slice the unpeeled cucumber into very thin (1/16 inch) slices. Put the penne, veggies and olives into the serving bowl and toss thoroughly. Add dressing that you set aside earlier. Dump the feta cheese on top and lightly toss with two large serving forks. Serve as is or put it in the fridge and eat it the next day.