Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dinner - where the whole is so often greater than the sum of the parts

You didn't really eat lunch, even though you took a lunch break, so you make sure to leave work on time and hurry home to prepare a real meal, even though you aren't really sure what might be sufficiently edible in the house.

Open the fridge and take out a zucchini, a summer squash and a red bell pepper.  That's a good start.  Next take some homemade pesto out of the freezer.  You keep it in ice cube trays for easy portioning.  One tray is still about half full.  Set it on the counter to thaw.  If it is too much, you will have leftovers.  Open the cabinet to decide on pasta and discover a jar of marinated artichoke hearts and a can of salmon.  You decide on thin spaghetti and put a pot of water on to boil.  Toss in a bit of sea salt, but no olive oil.

After you chop up the squash and red pepper, combine it in a bowl.  Put half a stick of butter in your favorite little copper sauce pan to melt and press three cloves of garlic into it.

When the water boils, drop in the pasta.  Thaw the pesto the rest of the way in the microwave and stir in some magic cheese.

Open the can of salmon, drain and place in a bowl.  Chop up some artichoke hearts.

When the garlic butter is ready, spread it on two slices of asiago bread and top with local baby Swiss cheese made from raw milk.  Then toast.

Mix cooked pasta with pesto, adding a bit of the artichoke marinade.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the still hot pasta saucepan and throw in a few handfuls of the squash pepper mix and saute for just a few minutes, grinding in a bit of sea salted dried garlic.

You assemble the meal -- pesto pasta first, then sauteed vegetables, then chopped artichoke hearts, then chunks of salmon, then crumbled Moody Blue cheese for a bit of bite.  Take the garlic toast out of the toaster.  Finally, you pour a glass of chilled white wine --Riesling perhaps, but Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio if you must -- sit down, and enjoy.

Bon appetit!


  1. Where did you learn to be so creative?

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  3. I have these nerdy, creative parents. You know, a father who builds a compost bin out of my old playhouse, runs a giant attic fan on an old clothes dryer motor, and builds a food dehydrator out of spare parts, and a mother who makes gorgeous but still somehow non-toxic and kid friendly wooden toys. And since like attracts like, I have been surrounded by unique, nerdy, creative people my whole life, and evidently I continue to attract them and be drawn to them. It keeps life interesting.

  4. Did your parents cook?

  5. My parents definitely cooked. Despite being an urban family, there were sizable gardens in the back yard, which met with varying degrees of success from year to year. The rampant raspberry bushes were dependable, as was the apple tree. There were weekly visits to a local farmers' market. Bread was almost always homemade rather than store bought. Cheese came from a small Italian market, in single chunks wrapped in white butcher paper, rather than uniform squares, individually wrapped in cellophane. About the only thing missing was livestock. Sometimes veggies were from the freezer, but never out of a can. Processed, packaged foods were the exception rather than the rule, and my junk food habits didn't come about until I was in high school and college.

    My father was in charge of breakfast -- which was usually toast and grapefruit in the summer and oatmeal (cooked on a stove) in the winter -- and Sunday meals. Sometimes he was in charge of weeknight dinner when my mother taught a night class, and I was always amazed at what appeared on the dinner table when I had come home from school only an hour or so before and judged the kitchen empty of anything edible. I am pretty sure that my alchemical tendencies come from him. My love of pasta comes from my mother, who makes fabulous marinara sauce. I should probably broaden that to my love of comfort food -- pasta, stew, meat loaf, lasagna -- comes from my mother. And seafood, of course. Mom ran (and still runs) the grill in the house where I grew up. Steaming and grilling were much more popular than frying.

    I have wonderful food memories of my grandmothers as well.

  6. Hope you share the memories of your grandmothers' cooking.

  7. Oh where was I when your mother was cooking? Pasta and fish and meatloaf. Did your parents make the pasta?

  8. Pasta was sometimes homemade. (I think that unless it got lost or given away in the move to the "new" house -- which happened about ten years ago, there is still a pasta maker in my parents' house. I have inquired because I would like it to move to my house at some point.) I have memories of making dough and sending it through the machine over and over to roll it thinner and thinner and then finally through one of the slots to cut the sheets into noodles. The thinner spaghetti type noodles always seemed to get stuck in the machine and not come out that well, but the wider fettucine type noodles usually turned out well. Someone -- probably mom -- built drying racks, and when we ran out of space on those, I think we strung clothes line through the kitchen and dining room.

    My grandmother took a less ... labor intensive approach to the noodles she made for chicken noodle soup. She mixed up the dough, rolled it out on her cutting board, chopped it up into pieces with her knife and tossed it into the pot shortly before the soup was ready. I remember being very impressed with the speed of the process.