Tuesday, October 30, 2007

L.A. Woman to the Bone

sunday night's dinner was a brandon recommended variation on one of the recipes we had already done -- the seafood pie. instead of multiple types of cheese, we used a light grating of leftover VERY good gruyere on the top and we added, per mr. brandon, curry. yes, that's right. curry powder was added to the seafood pie for sunday night -- i had promised nicholas i would make it again this past weekend. i do believe i have mentioned previously brandon's love of the indian spices without fully REALIZING how much he loves indian food. he adores it, worships it, loves when i add garam masala, cumin, turmeric, saffron, coriander, curry and coconut milk to ANYTHING i'm making. he adores naan -- we make it a lot -- and since he really loves lamb, he likes whatever i make from my indian cookbooks (madhur jaffrey RULES!). talk about a kid after my own heart. i also made bread. i have gotten into the habit of baking our own bread to cut down on expenses and because i have discovered i have a TON of unspent frustrations that i have to let loose somehow. needless to say, i haven't had a chance to really let those frustrations fly, because (how 90s of me?) i have a bread maker. yes, i do. i have a breadmaker FROM THE 90S, still. yep. everytime i have a garage sale, i THINK about putting it out and i actually DO put it out, but my intent is so strong for someone to PLEASE DON'T BUY IT, that they never do. so, i still have it. and, by whatever, i will use it (i've made 3 loaves of bread so far... and lots more to come as well as the regular way). sunday night was fairly uneventful, foodwise, because of our reworking of what is becoming an old favorite.

monday night was a WHOLE OTHER THANG, boys and girls. and it was an homage to my Los Angeles roots and a favor to my son, nicholas. i asked nicholas to pick me a cookbook that WAS NOT asian (brandon needs a break from that sometimes) and wasn't specifically pasta -- i'm CERTAIN i have told you that nicholas thinks pasta is the only food worth fighting for (did anyone besides my family and our friends call pasta macaroni when we were growing up in the 60s and 70s)? noodles, of any kind, make him weak at the knees. i often wish -- and did while i was partaking -- that he was with me on my last trip to japan when i indulged in a marvelous noodle house in the heart of tokyo and succumbed to the sublime wonder of cold handmade soba noodles accompanied by a delicate dipping sauce at the base of mount fuji after a day of climbing its snowy wonder. ah, man... he would have been in heaven.

nicholas came back with a favorite from my l.a. days, a cookbook put together by the owner/chef of a restaurant i frequented and miss and it brought a misty tear to my eye. the cookbook (whose title completely mesmerized nicholas for what you will see is the obvious reason) is ANGELI CAFFE PIZZA PASTA PANINI by Evan Kleinman. angeli is a restaurant on melrose avenue in Los Angeles (yes, THAT melrose avenue), close to one of my all time favorite places CHIANTI CUCINA (their prawns are to die for). angeli's suppli has often made me swoon (risotto balls deep fried with a small cube of fresh mozzarella inside -- yum), their panini are delightful and their margarita pizza is refreshing because of the freshness of the tomatoes and basil. angeli was once THE PLACE to go on melrose (even though, quite frankly, chianti cucina, and others could kick its culinary patootie, in my opinion) and i had often seen folks being treated as inessentials by the wait staff. whether they do that anymore or not, i couldn't tell you. but i never had a problem, always had great service and wonderful experiences. so i recommend it highly.

but, as i have done so often, i digress...

the recipe i chose, because of the food in my fridge and the time i had, was FARFALLE CON GAMBERI ALLA PRIMAVERA, which, translated, means a Farfalle pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus, Cream, Peas and Basil. true, i had to go and get some asparagus for it, but that was all i had to get and we'll discuss that in a moment. here are the ingredients:


4 tbs unsalted butter
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1 pound fresh peas, shelled, or one 10-ounce package frozen baby peas
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only. half chopped, half kept whole
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound imported italian farfalle
small handful of grated italian parmesan cheese (optional) and more for the table

what to do:
1. melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the shrimp and garlic until the shrimp turn pink. add the asparagus and continue cooking for another minute or so. add the cream and bring to a gentle simmer. add the peas, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. simmer the sauce until the veggies are just tender and the cream is slightly thickened.
2. meanwhile, cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water until al dente.
3. quickly drain the pasta and place it in the pan with the sauce. add the handful of parmesan cheese, if desired. gently toss the pasta with the sauce over low heat until the pasta has absorbed a bit of sauce. place the pasta in a serving bowl. dust with grated parmesan cheese and serve.

here's what we did:
rich. this was rich and i knew it. we had already been using shrimp and some other stuff for other things and, quite frankly, couldn't do it. just couldn't keep up this rich "laissez faire" thing which, if we lived in france, would be no problem. i am not, by any means, as concerned with all of that, because the way we eat is lots of little bites of marvelous without kicking our butts with transfats in large doses, as possible. one glass of wine a night, dining throughout the day, making sure we sit, chat and enjoy our meal. very important. no, i have not always done that. i have had my share of eat on the run. oh, yeah. i'm a single mom, remember. i am no one's saint. TRUST ME. however, i do believe in true dining. i believe in appreciating meals in a sensuous, all encompassing way from earliest childhood. and, lately, we have indulged that as much as possible. my sons like it TONS. i adore them, even if i suck at showing it sometimes, and it's not the QUANTITY of the food that reinforces that for them, it's the QUALITY of it. when they walk in the door and see that i've made a couple of homemade loaves of bread to put in the freezer for when we need them, they smile at me, knowing it's for them, us, our family, that i make it. i'm glad to be able to do it. you have NO FREAKIN' IDEA how happy i am that i'm able to help us, show them, give them such love in such an essential way.

whoa, did i wax quixotic or what? ANYwho, we changed it up a bit -- yes, i used shrimp -- about 8 oz. the rest was cod. and more cod. i cut the cream down by half and used lowfat chicken broth for the rest -- 1 cup cream, 1 cup chix broth (with some pasta water for good measure -- because it's true, using pasta water really helps your sauce adhere to the pasta, as well as not RINSING your pasta. that smattering of starch is like a magnet). i also ended up using 2 tbs unsalted butter and 2 tbs (probably less, though) olive oil. i also used this high protein, low fat spaghetti instead of farfalle, added several leaves of spinach and created something, i hoped, would still delight my sons. oh, i also didn't use ANY PARMESAN. shocking, i know, since i am a HUGE believer in it, but we needed to chill. the sauce was thinner, but still lovely, it tasted great and it adhered to the pasta wonderfully.

but would the boys like it?

they both had two bowls. full of veggies, lower in fat, no cheese, and loaded with fish. they BOTH ATE TWO BOWLS. not huge bowls. i mean, both nicholas and brandon had SERIOUS workouts that day -- nicholas in a two hour football session and brandon on the treadmill my friend lisa, who is wonderful, let me drag to my house at no extra charge. if you hadn't noticed, i truly appreciate my friends. they are marvelous people and i have not one bad thing to say about any of them. however, (back to the two bowls thing) i wanted to make sure both boys were sated, not full. very importante.

anywho, they freaked out for it. really loved it. and now for my asparagus primer:

asparagus has tough stalks. it's just how it is. i am a great lover of asparagus. asparagus isn't cheap, no matter where you live (unless it's the asparagus capital of the world, i guess) and, because of that, you want to make your asparagus experience as wonderful as possible (also, it makes your pee smell like total yikes). peel those stalks. i will repeat this again. PEEL THE STALKS OF YOUR ASPARAGUS. take the time to do that. i know, how irritatingly cordon bleu of me, but it's true. peel them and if you've never liked asparagus before or had success with it, you will see how this will change your life. just take a good carrot/potato peeler and gently peel asparagus until you get the tough green outer skin off and reveal the tender, light green inner stalk. trust me on this. really. it's a total pain in the ass. oh, man. but, believe me, it changes the dish completely and enhances it. and if food isn't the essence of sensual artistic expression, then i have found the wrong area for indulgence.

maybe i should do drugs...


Sarah said...

Did I ever tell you my grandma has an asparagus patch right by her house? So I did live in the asparagus capital of the world! Or at least it felt like it for a few months out of the year. The Magill family recipe -- if you can call it a recipe -- was an open-faced sandwich with ham, asparagus, and a simple flour/butter/milk sauce on the top. Oh, and maybe an egg, too, if you were my Papa. And the bread was my grandma's homemade. Yum. I will definitely try the peeling thing next time!

PalateScriber said...

what you just described is a classic asparagus deal. so yum, i agree. if you ever get too much asparagus from grandma, let me know. i will SOOO put it to good use :o)