While Craig was gone these past nine days, I found myself watching a lot of True Blood on HBO Go. I’m still finishing up Season One, so no spoilers please, but I found myself quite choked up at a moment that was a subtle one, as far as the series goes. Sookie, the protagonist, is mourning the loss of a relative (see, I’m not spoiling it either) who–before dying–made a pecan pie, half of which remains in the refrigerator. At the wake, Sookie freaks out when someone tries to remove it; at the end of the episode, she eats the pecan pie and cries. What got me was this notion that through our food we live on even after our death. The ingredients that we use are merely objects, but how we combine those objects–with our touch, our sense of taste–is a manifestation of our spirit. It’s also true of the recipes we leave behind. And so, in the real world, we mourned the loss of Italian cooking legend Marcella Hazan this weekend and last night I could think of no greater tribute than to make her celebrated tomato sauce with butter–a sauce that every home cook should know.
For those of you who aspire to make pasta at home but don’t have the time or the will or the resources (like, a pasta machine), here’s a recipe for you. It’s called Pici and it’s one of the more satisfying things I’ve made for dinner in recent memory. You may be thinking: “Adam, didn’t you just post a pasta recipe two days ago?” It’s true; and on this particular week when I made the pici, I’d only had that other pasta dinner three days earlier. But watching David Chang’s Mind Of A Chef on PBS (a pretty excellent show), I started to get a hankering for noodles. In Japan, people eat noodles all the time; why couldn’t I have noodles for dinner a second time in one week? Damn it, I deserve it! Only these noodles–ah, pasta (Michael White yelled at me for calling pasta “noodles” once)–would be handmade and would only take me 15 minutes. Don’t believe me?
What you are looking at, in the above picture, is the best thing I can imagine eating right now. Mario Batali once said on one of his shows that the best time to eat corn and tomatoes isn’t August, it’s September. My trips, recently, to the farmer’s market confirm this: the tomatoes couldn’t look plumper or more colorful. And so it was, last week, that I bought a few red ones, a few yellow heirlooms, some zucchini and a bunch of herbs–basil and dill–and came home to make a pasta dinner that had my eyes rolling back in my head, it was so terrific: an edible “last hurrah” for summer.
We all need a good baked ziti recipe, don’t we? Well here it is. I was looking for something like this to serve up for Episode #3 of The Clean Plate Club. Pasta being my favorite food, I wanted to serve pasta without having to be in the kitchen the whole time, boiling, straining, stirring, etc. Baked ziti is the perfect solution. You make your pasta earlier in the day, cook it al dente, toss it with a flavorful sauce (more on that in a sec) then layer it in a baking dish with lots and lots of cheese. Boom: you’re done. All you have to do is pop it in the oven.
We did a very smart thing this weekend: we invited friends over for dinner on Sunday night which forced us to finish unpacking and get our new place in order. Worked like a charm. By early Sunday evening, all of our boxes were unpacked, our furniture was properly placed and all of the lights were plugged in. We have our master list of things to get (extra towel hook for the bathroom, drain stopper for the sink) but all in all, we’re pretty remarkably set up for having only moved in a week ago. Only one question remained: what to make for dinner?
Growing up, when mom and dad would get dressed up on a Friday night, they’d leave us behind with a babysitter, a box of fusilli and a jar of Prego. I couldn’t have been happier because, as most of you know by now, pasta is my favorite food (next to dessert). Chicken or the egg-wise, it is possible that it is my favorite food because I grew up eating it; if mom had left us behind with a can of Spam and a pair of pliers, maybe I’d be gorging on canned meat to pep myself up. As it stands, though, when I’m down in the dumps, nothing puts a smile on my face like a big bowl of fusilli with a meaty tomato sauce. Here’s one I whipped up this weekend using some smoky bacon I had leftover.
Our landlords recently told us that they’re selling our apartment and so, despite how much we like it here, we’re going to have to pack up and move on July 1st. I’m already spending way too much time on Westsiderentals.com (the big rental site out here) and a site called Padmapper (which puts Craigslist listings on a map) trying to find our next place. One thing I’ll miss about our current place, besides its proximity to a grocery store (Gelson’s) and a gourmet market (The Oaks) is Counterpoint, the used book store on our street. I’ve found many cookbook gems there, like The Mandy Patinkin Family Cookbook (which I didn’t buy) and The Cooking of Southwest France (which I did).
When you’re an old fogey food blogger like me, dinner comes in one of two categories: 1. something you’ve already blogged about and 2. something you’ve never blogged about.
The sad truth is that more often than not, lately, I feel like cooking things that I’ve already blogged about because I love making them. It’s harder and harder to come up with something that I really feel like making that’s new enough for the blog. How to overcome that? The best way is to go to the farmer’s market to find a new ingredient or to wander into a great meat and seafood store, like McCall’s in Los Feliz, to get inspired. I did the latter yesterday when I found beautiful looking clams for $8 a pound. One dish popped into my head that I’d never blogged before: Linguine with Clams. I bought a pound of clams, a box of linguine and got ready to rock n’ roll.