Ease of making pasta makes it welcome in summer

Associated Press Penne all'Orientale is a low-fat dish that can effectively spark the taste buds with its evocation of Thai cuisine.

Associated Press Penne all'Orientale is a low-fat dish that can effectively spark the taste buds with its evocation of Thai cuisine.

Pasta is always popular, and in the steamy days of summer its ease of preparation and affinity for light, spicy flavoring make it especially welcome to both cooks and diners.

This nutritious low-fat penne recipe can effectively spark the taste buds as either a refreshing first course, or a carefree lunch dish. Its evocation of Thai cuisine is easily achieved with mint, peanuts, Thai pepper and hearts of palm, given tangy top notes with soy sauce and lemon.

Penne all'Orientale

16 ounces penne rigate

3 T. peanut oil

2 T. chopped fresh mint leaves

2 small Thai peppers, minced

1 T. fresh cilantro leaves plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1Ú2 cup diced cucumber (1Ú3-inch dice)

1Ú2 cup hearts of palm in brine, drained

2 T. unsalted chopped peanuts

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3 T. water

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. lemon juice

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook mint, peppers and cilantro 3 minutes, stirring often. Add cucumber, hearts of palm, 1 tablespoon chopped peanuts and lemon zest. Pour in water, soy sauce and lemon juice. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Drain pasta and add to pan. Toss well and cook 3 minutes longer over high heat. Top with garnish of cilantro and peanuts. Makes 6 servings.

(Recipe by Antonio Cecconi for Dreamfields, maker of low-carb pasta)

Of four varieties available fresh in the United States, the purple-black skinned Black Mission fig is the most popular because it ships easily and is so flavorful. Other varieties, in order of production, are the purple-brown skinned Brown Turkey; the yellow skinned and slightly flattened Calimyrna, popular as a dried fruit; and the pale green Kadota fig, excellent for canning and preserving. (Brown Turkey is the only variety that is not also dried.)

Fettuccine With Lemon,

Rosemary and Fresh Figs

Two to three 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread, crusts trimmed, torn into pieces

6 T. extra-virgin olive oil

2 T. pignoli (pine nuts)

1Ú2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 pound fresh green figs (Calimyrna, Kadota or Desert King), stems trimmed, cut into 1Ú2-inch-thick wedges

1 T. grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh fettuccine

1Ú4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 T. butter, cut into small pieces

Freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water is heating, pulse the bread in the bowl of a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs; there should be about 1 cup.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the crumbs and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until they are toasted and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl.

Add the pignoli to the skillet and heat, stirring constantly, over low heat until evenly golden, about 3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the toasted bread crumbs.

Combine the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic in the skillet and heat over low heat just until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the figs and cook gently over low heat, turning carefully to coat them with the oil, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over very low heat.

Cook the fettuccine in the boiling water until al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle out 1Ú4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and reserve it. Drain the pasta.

Return the pasta to the pot, and add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and the lemon juice; toss to coat. Pour the fig mixture on top. Add the butter, and toss gently just to blend. Transfer half of the pasta to a serving platter. Sprinkle with half of the toasted crumbs and pignoli. Top with the remaining pasta, arranging some of the figs on top. Top with the remaining crumb and pignoli mixture. Cover the top generously with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve. Makes 4 servings.


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