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Squash With Grace and Harmony

April 01, 1993|MARIE SIMMONS

When zucchini is cooked plain, it's a very dull vegetable. But when you add a dash of olive oil, a sprinkling of fresh mint and basil and a dusting of grated lemon zest, you transform a boring vegetable into one of good taste. Toss this revitalized zucchini with the butterfly-shaped pasta called farfalle and you have a dish of grace and harmony.

Matching the sauce with the pasta shape is very important. In this case, delicate slices of barely tender zucchini are a perfect match for the dainty butterfly wings of the cooked pasta. And thin slices of yellow zucchini or straight-neck yellow summer squash add a sunny glow to an otherwise monochromatic dish.

Because zucchini and yellow squash are very moist when raw, they require very little cooking. When tossed with the hot pasta, the slightly undercooked vegetables will finish cooking and still remain bright and pretty. Add a light dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for a blast of flavor with a minimum of fat and calories.

Precede the pasta with a platter of prosciutto wrapped around one end of grissini, the long, thin Italian bread sticks. If you have time, serve freshly baked walnut bar cookies for dessert. Or else buy a couple of baskets of giant strawberries. Serve them whole, with the stems still attached, on a bed of sieved light-brown sugar.

FARFALLE WITH ZUCCHINI, BASIL AND MINT

1 (1-pound) package farfalle pasta (also called bow ties)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1/2 clove garlic, minced

3 small zucchini, thinly sliced

2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese

Cook pasta in large pot boiling salted water until al dente. Before draining, ladle out 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid and reserve.

Meanwhile, heat oil in very large skillet and add green onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat, just until tender, about 3 minutes. Add lemon zest.

Toss cooked pasta with zucchini mixture, basil, mint, reserved pasta cooking liquid and 1 tablespoon cheese. Spoon onto plates and serve with sprinkling of cheese to taste over each serving. Makes 4 servings.

WALNUT BAR COOKIES

1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup light-brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Combine walnuts, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of food processor. Process until nuts are finely ground. Add melted butter through feed tube and process until mixture is finely crumbled.

Spread evenly in lightly buttered and floured 13x9-inch baking pan and press down with finger tips. Cut dough into about 24 bars or squares with dinner knife. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. While still warm, re-cut and separate bars. Cool on wire rack. Carefully remove from pan. Makes about 24 cookies.

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