What a lovely weekend! I had brunch this morning with a friend at a local gem, where you can find delicious blueberry pancakes, scones and lemon curd (no, I didn’t eat all three! At least not any individual dish in its entirety! =P) and then we walked to the local farmer’s market, where I found the ingredients for my next recipe “victim.” Yep, to a certain extent, you could say I’m living the suburban housewife’s dream. And it’s really kind of true. After all, when I last left you, I was both freezing and basically living in a castle. 🙂 Not much has changed since then.
Well, that’s not entirely true; at least three things have changed: 1) I’ve had several visitors and have had amazing, blog-worthy meals with each of them (more on that shortly), 2) I discovered that it took only 25 minutes to walk to civilization (i.e. cafes, restaurants, bookstores, grocery stores, banks! In short, all of the workings/conveniences of modern society), and 3) most importantly, I discovered that the dog doesn’t like to be left alone. Oh no, no, she doesn’t.
To explain, I bravely went out into the fog on Wednesday to pay a long overdue visit to campus and the Slavic library, for which the final budget report will soon be due. Then, I decided to try a new yoga studio since, during my house-sitting stint, my usual haunt is much too far away, and that I would grab some groceries afterwards since a good friend was going to venture uphill with me to cook dinner on Thursday night. It was a lovely day; North Berkeley was my first neighborhood and I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic. It was fun to return to my first grad-school supermarket, where I used to stand and debate the merits of McIntosh and Pink Lady Apples (it’s still a toss-up) and find the perfect cheese and cracker combination for our Monday departmental colloquia (thankfully, as much as I love grocery shopping, especially on somebody else’s dime, I have since passed on that torch…). I managed to find everything I needed in a timely fashion, from the broccoli to the anchovies (NB: in six anchovy slices, there is 1,050 mg of sodium; I’m not going to lie, this was shocking to me! However, it’s ultimately a small price to pay to the food gods) since I had a bus to catch.
After getting off at the wrong bus stop, nearly colliding into a cute young man who scared the bejesus out of me as he came around the corner of a fenced-in house (to be fair, we scared each other) and walking an extra half and unnecessary mile with two bags of groceries, I finally made it home. But what did I come home to? Shredded plastic, clothes pulled out of my suitcase and strewn about the room, toiletries scattered off of the cedar chest and, last but not least, the wagging tail of the dog. *Big sigh*, but lesson learned: all personal belongings should be in the closet. After all, logic leads one to believe that dogs can’t open closet doors…but we’re not dealing with just any dog here.
Having “safeguarded” my belongings, I again left on Thursday, had a semi-productive day of processing library books and beginning to draft the prospectus (*gasp* 4 chapters, from the 1890s to the 1930s with accompanying “windows” into the Japanese side of things), managed to escape to Sur la Table to buy a cherry pitter and tart pan (I warned you about the suburban housewife thing) and then met one of my friends and dining companion–my sous chef for the evening :)–on the bus and we returned to the house together. I hate to be overly redundant, but nevertheless I will repeat the question: what did I return to? A panic-inducing note from the housekeeper (“Call me. I need to talk to you, ok?”), a suitcase that had been pulled out of the closet (don’t ask) and a dog that had been left outside on the fenced in downstairs porch, which, apparently, is exactly where she belongs when people aren’t home. Why? Because she once chewed a door off in her rage/grief/boredom. Abandonment issues, anyone?
Needless to say, after all this, I was in need of not only a good meal, but a glass of wine and good conversation. Fortunately, the evening delivered on all three counts; cooking is, if nothing else, incredibly therapeutic. We put the cherry pitter to good use by making a Cherry Macaroon Tart that I found over at 101 Cookbooks; I’m offering you only the link because I basically found this recipe to be perfect: who doesn’t love cherries, coconut and a buttery crust? My point exactly. In fact, my only personal touch to this recipe was the dark chocolate shavings I sprinkled on top because, frankly, a macaroon wouldn’t be a macaroon without a little chocolate. And, from the chocolate to the cherries, this recipe was the perfect dessert companion for the salty and spicy main course of Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower.
Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower
(adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook)
Yields 5-6 servings
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8-12 ounces broccoli, trimmed and sliced lengthwise (about 1/8 inch thick)
12 ounces cauliflower, leaves removed, trimmed and sliced lengthwise (about 1/8 inch thick)
1-2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and slightly chopped
1 lb. gemelli pasta
1 Tbsp. chopped salt-packed anchovies (6 fillets)
6 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped or put the through the garlic press
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly pounded
4-8 pinches of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4-5 Tbsp. pitted, rinsed and chopped green olives
-Warm about 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced broccoli and cauliflower, leaving the smallest bits behind on the cutting board (this final step is to prevent burning).
-The oil should be sizzling and, at this point, swirl the pan, leaving the vegetables to cook until you see the edges browning, about 3 minutes.
-Salt very lightly and toss.
-Add a few more spoonfuls of oil and scrape the remaining bits of broccoli and cauliflower into the pan.
-Add the capers and swirl. Continue cooking over medium heat for another few minutes until the edges brown, then give the pan another stir or toss. The point is for the vegetables to turn out both crispy and chewy, rather than steamy and soft.
-In the meantime, drop the pasta into rapidly boiling and lightly salted water. Cook until al dente, about 12-14 minutes.
-Once the broccoli and cauliflower has shrunken by about 1/3 and is tender, reduce the heat, add a few more spoonfuls of oil and mix in the chopped anchovies, garlic, fennel and red pepper flakes.
-Toss vegetables to distribute evenly.
-Cook for another few minutes and then add the parsley and olives.
-Toss with the well-drained pasta and mix the cheese in.
As Judy Rodgers explains about this recipe: “every flavor should be clamoring for dominance” and I’m happy to report that, with every bite, this was pleasantly true.