In the summer the much vaunted Spy Test Kitchen cooks are just like everyone else – who really enjoys cooking when it is hot? We are just fine with snacks, thank you. Toss a cheese sandwich our way, please. But if you insist on perpetrating the three-square-meal myth, could we cut down on the number of dishes we have to wash?
I don’t watch many YouTube or TikTok videos because they send me down rabbit holes where I lose all sense of time, and I find the amateur camera work distracting. There are reasons why people go to film school. Please give me something shot with a Steadicam, a beginning, middle and end, throw in a plot, some English accents, and roll a stylish credit crawl. But, I have lived through COVID. So, of course, I watch the occasional viral TikTok. This recipe has gone spectacularly viral, and deservedly so. It is super easy, tasty, colorful and is perfect for the summer avoidance of extra time spent in the kitchen.
I am still waiting for the tomatoes in our back yard garden to ripen, but luckily there are many colors and flavors of cherry tomatoes available. I am eager to try Twilights, which are a dark, rich grape tomato – almost black, as suggested by David Plotz in a recent Slate Political Gabfest endorsement. I am haunting the produce department of our grocery store, hoping for a delivery. But there are others: https://www.gardeningchores.com/types-of-cherry-tomatoes/
Except for the tomatoes and the feta, this is practically a pantry staples recipe: a shallot, garlic, olive oil, salt, red pepper, pasta, lemon and fresh basil. You don’t need to go to the fancy grocery store, which is always a relief. This recipe can serve more than two people. It cooks quickly, and in one pan, so if you hustle, you won’t be in the kitchen long at all.
Baked Feta and Tomatoes
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 shallot, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
A pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 (8-ounce) block feta
10 ounces cooked pasta
Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh basil, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large ovenproof skillet or medium baking dish, combine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and all but 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and red pepper flakes and toss to combine.
Place feta into center of tomato mixture and drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until tomatoes are bursting and feta is golden on top.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet of tomatoes and feta, add the reserved pasta water, and lemon zest and stir until combined. Garnish with basil.
We skipped the pasta and went directly to schmearing the mixture on pieces of crusty garlic bread – a perfect summer meal. Bread, hot cheese, tomatoes, basil and the obligatory glass of cheap red wine. Take off your glasses and squint at the world around you. In the setting sun, it could almost be Tuscany.
Baked feta and tomatoes with pasta can be the perfect light summer meal, or when you serve it on garlic bread, is a nice cocktail nosh, when all you really want to do is barely more than to tear open a bag of Doritos. You will be almost as cool as a TikTok influencer. Enjoy.
“Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.”
― Ray Bradbury