Pasta Primavera, inspired by the Box of Produce that Wasn’t

Last fall, we started buying produce from a local veggie co-op. Every other Thursday, we call a number that was sent to us in an email with no text other than 10 digits — and an answering machine picks up, and we hear the unintelligible voice of a child, and can only assume he’s telling us to leave a message. We tell the machine that we want one box of produce. The following Monday, at around 5pm, we drive to a church on the east side of town, pay by cash or check a sum of money that varies by the week, but averages around $43, and bring home an overloaded banana box full of organic produce. (Yes, I am thoroughly convinced that, someday, an Athens-Clarke law enforcement sting operation is going to bring the whole thing crashing down.) It’s not all local goods, but it contains a somewhat predictable supply of staples (apples, some citrus, greens, potatoes) and usually a surprise seasonal item or two (berries, avocados, leeks). It’s more produce than we could consume, as a family of four, before it starts to get slimy, so we split the goods with our friends and neighbors, the Sigalises (a.k.a., Party-Throwers-Extraordinare). It’s been a good setup. Well, that is, until the past two produce cycles, when we (ahem… this particular usage of “we” starting with a capital “T” and ending with “im”) forgot to place or pickup the order. (Sorry again, George and Kristin!)

Anyhoo, tonight’s dinner was going to rely heavily on this mystery box. I was quite excited about its arrival, since we missed the last drop-off. I usually rearrange my grocery shopping around the box, so as not to have two 3# bags of onions lying around. Today was delivery day, and I was assuming that since summer is in full bloom, we’d end up with a few plum tomatoes and some zucchini. I also thought green beans would make their ’07 debut, but was fraught with enough uncertainty to buy about a quarter pound today at the store. I had everything prepped — my asparagus and green beans were chopped, my garlic was minced, my stockpot of water was boiling. I was just waiting for my beloved to walk in the door with tomatoes and zucchini, and dinner would be ready in 20 minutes.

Now, Tim had a busy day. We are in the process of buying a house, and will be remodeling the kitchen. Since we will be unloading this investment to a willing buyer in about two years, we want the kitchen to be as high-end as is reasonable within our budget. The kitchen is also quite small. To save space, we decided to go with a counter-depth refrigerator. Tim found a lovely Jenn-Air stainless counter-depth frig today, on Craigslist, and managed to find a truck, a dolly, tie-downs, and manpower to drive to Atlanta this evening and pick up our new appliance. So, when he walked in the door at 5:20, plum-tomato-less, I really couldn’t say a thing. Plus, silence works quite effectively as a tool of passive-aggression.

So, out of the cabinet came a can of diced tomatoes — the zucchini would just have to be AWOL. Flustered from the lack-of-a-box news, I started adding veggies to sauce in a discombobulated order. As if that weren’t enough, the Georgia drought has left my basil looking like an sickly weed, so I was grossly lacking in the fresh herb category, only able to pick about five puny leaves when the recipe requested a quarter cup.

But you know what? When it was all said and done, and on the table, it tasted good. Now THAT is a good recipe.

Last week, when I downloaded the recipe, it was free on the homepage of Cook’s. Of course, now that I look for it to send you to the link, it has moved behind the Iron Curtain of Good Food, into the “members-only” section of the site. Honestly, if you like Pasta Primavera, it’s worth the 14-day free membership to get access. The recipe is here, I think. If not, just search on Cook’s for Pasta Primavera, and choose the first listing.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Asheville for a quick overnight trip. We won’t have time to hit any of our favorite eateries, such as Early Girl, Tupelo Honey, or Heiwa, but we will hear good music and see good friends, and that will be food for our souls.

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