— Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Way Out Pasta
As in, “this stuff in the fridge is on the way out”.
When I was little my parents used to make something they referred to as “hooba gotchy goo” for dinner. Which loosely translates to “more mouths than money”. I loved it. It was ground beef and whatever was in the fridge. But my parents used to make it exciting, my father and I yelling “Hooba gotchy goo!” into fits of laughter.
The lesson here is you don’t need a lot of money, as long as you have a little creativity and a lot of love.
As an adult I’ve adapted this philosophy into a lot of my cooking. But its most frequent use is when making pasta. Because as long as you cook the pasta right (always al dente when using whole grain, never a minute more) you can put anything on pasta. When I lived in France they often served it plain with a little gruyere over top. It was delicious.
Here’s the light lunch I made today with whatever needed to go…
Put on a large pot of water to boil with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Throw your sun-dried tomato olive oil goodness in a frying pan on medium-low, add in the diced zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, basil & marjoram.
If you’ve never heard of marjoram I recommend you try it right away. Use it in anything Italian you’re cooking instead of just over doing it on the oregano and basil. It will make a world of difference.
When the water boils add in your pasta & cook according to package directions. Turn the frying pan up to medium for the time the pasta takes to cook. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the liquid, and add to the frying pan. Toss and add in a touch of the liquid. The pasta will soak up extra liquid while it sits so don’t be afraid of it looking slightly loose in the pan.
Serves: 1 hungry person, 400ish calories
— George Orwell, the Road to Wigan Pier
— Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
— Mark Twain
Salads are a really misunderstood dish. I think it might be because so many salads are tossed together without much thought. People think of a salad as something you have before a meal. Or as a diet food that you eat as a punishment. They almost make up their minds that salads can’t be enjoyable.
I’ve eaten salad my whole life. Growing up my mother always made an excellent iceberg salad that I would look forward to throughout the summer months. When I was an exchange student in France I discovered that salads don’t necessarily have to include lettuce. They would make marvelous salad dishes from just cucumbers & shallot that tasted so complex.
Caprese salad is Italian. It achieves the magic of sounding & tasting quite fancy but only having a few ingredients.
Already you can tell from the ingredient list that it’s a pretty basic salad. Granted, you might not know what bocconcini is, but head to your local deli counter and they should be able to help you out. It’s a type of mozzarella, but don’t substitute in the mozzarella you’d put on a pizza, it’s not the same thing. Bocconcini is a really soft and delicately flavoured cheese.
Now keep in mind with so few ingredients if you prepare them nicely it will look better in the dish. You eat with your eyes as much as your mouth, so it’s definitely something to take into consideration.
Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice them (if larger) or quarter them (if small) and place them in your bowl. You should have just enough to cover the bottom of a pasta dish. Next take your bocconcini and gently rip it up over the tomatoes. If you know how to chiffonade your basil, please do, if not rip your basil leaves up over the rest of the salad. Drizzle with a small amount of good extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar & some fresh ground pepper. Toss gently & serve.
Seriously, it’s that easy. It works great as a light meal, or on the side of soup or a sandwich.
Music recommendation: I always listen to music while I’m cooking, it puts you in the mood for whatever cuisine you’re cooking. One of my favorites for cooking Italian is a little Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano, Botch-a-Me, Come on-a My House)
(originally published September 30, 2009 on fatgirlskinny.com my other site)
— Samuel Butler
— Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.