I recently told Eric I would like to see us do meatless dinners at home three days a week.
You should have seen his face fall. The look he gave me can only be described as crushed. The same look, I imagine, he would give me if I scratched my name into the pretty orange paint on his precious 1969 Chevelle SS just because I thought it needed a little something extra. A look of complete devastation.
I married a meat and potatoes man, no doubt about that. But I find that pairing kinda boring night after night. There is so much more out there. So many other ways to challenge yourself and enjoy food. Plus, I shop and I cook. So….basically, what I say goes. The kitchen is not a democracy.
Sorry. Tough love and all that stuff.
Now, I love my husband very much and what I want more than anything is for him to be happy. He would not be happy if I just yanked the meat out of our dinners and told him tough noogies, you’re eating this instead. That wouldn’t be very nice.
I haven’t given up on the idea of meatless three nights a week, but until he gets a bit more used to the idea, I’ve taken a more subtle approach to ease us into this new territory – I just make meat the garnish of the meal, not the star. I find the most flavor-packed and effective way to do this is to add a small amount of bacon. Keyword here is SMALL. Small as in no more than one slice per serving. When cooked crisp, crumbled small and scattered over or mixed into a dish, bacon adds just the right amount of a salty, satisfying bite that my husband doesn’t even realize he doesn’t have much meat on his plate. The fresh bounty of local summer favorites are the star of the meal. The meat is an afterthought.
See, win-win. We’re getting there!
Let me tell you how much I loved this pasta dish bursting with summer goodies. Zucchini, fresh corn cut from the cob, and earthy basil pesto are tossed with whole wheat pasta and topped with a smattering of bacon and just a touch of Parmesan cheese. It’s ready in minutes and feels fresh and comforting at the same time.
This dish embodies everything I love about this time of year. From the vibrant colors and flavors of pop-up roadside produce stands to the breaks in the heat that whisper autumn, this meal is like summer’s last hoorah. Make it quick. The good stuff’s about to disappear into shorter days and a shower of amber leaves.
ZUCCHINI, CORN AND BASIL PENNE WITH BACON (Recipe source: Gourmet, July 2008 via Epicurious)
- 6 bacon slices
- 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
- 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped (1/2-inch pieces)
- 6 oz. basil pesto (store bought or homemade)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Cook bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towel lined plate; discard drippings or save for another use.
- Meanwhile, cook penne in boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then add vegetables to pasta in pot and cook, partially covered, until just tender, about 2 minutes (water will stop boiling). Drain.
- Add pasta with vegetables, pesto, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and add additional cooking water until sauce evenly coats the pasta, if necessary.
- Top each serving with one slice of crumbled bacon, shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Serves 6.