Autumn's bounty, warmed by cinnamon
By Joe Yonan - The Washington Post
When it comes to food seasons, summer and spring get all the glory. You know, the first asparagus of May, the tomatoes-eggplant-corn surplus of August. But fall is when I get most energized in the kitchen. The eggplant and peppers are still around, but the heartier winter squash starts coming into farmers markets, too.
In other words, this is the true bounty, when I have more options than ever. Just as fall brings jackets and light sweaters and breathable scarves, it's also when I'm compelled to layer lighter and heavier ingredients in my cooking.
Take cinnamon. Perhaps it's my Middle Eastern heritage, but although I shy away from sweets that depend on the spice too heavily, I adore using it in savory cooking, and now's when that strategy seems to fit the calendar best.
So when I recently started making an off-the-cuff pasta dish the way I usually do (sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil), I also sprinkled in some cinnamon (along with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes) for warmth. I let the spices bloom, then cooked thinly sliced red peppers and cubed acorn squash with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes just until the vegetables softened, and tossed it all with a pound of bow-tie pasta. Somehow cheese didn't seem to belong, but walnuts did.
Besides that deep cinnamon, which ingredients were the light ones and which the heavy? Honestly, it's hard to say. The lines blurred, the way they do every fall.
Farfalle With Squash and Red Peppers
1 pound dried farfalle pasta (may use whole-wheat farfalle)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 pound acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
15 ounces canned, no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, such as Muir Glen brand, plus their juices
1 cup toasted walnut pieces, for garnish (see NOTE)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, leaving the farfalle slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, crushed pepper flakes and cinnamon, stirring to coat. Cover and cook until the vegetables have softened, 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium; add the bell peppers, squash, tomatoes and their juices. Cover and cook until the peppers and squash are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Turn off the heat; cover the saucepan to keep the vegetables warm.
Toss the drained pasta into the vegetables, along with as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a sauce. Stir to coat.
Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Top each portion with the walnuts.
NOTE: Toast the walnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as needed to prevent scorching. Cool before using.
NUTRITION Per serving: 370 calories, 11 g protein, 72 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar