You know, I'm not really much of a pasta girl. I don't feel that I've ever fully understood it, or appreciated its value. I never order it at restaurants because the mountain of pasta that arrives seems ridiculous (and in fact according to a former co-worker, the serving size at the Italian restaurant he once cooked at was ONE POUND of pasta per person). I tend to enjoy it as a wrapper of things--like ravioli, or sandwiched in lasagne--but that's about it.
But I have always had this nagging feeling that I'm missing something, and I have a fantasy about going to Italy and eating pasta in small towns and saying OHhhhhhh--THIS is what you're talking about!
I doesn't help that the new book (Gourmet Today if you're slow on the uptake) has Ruth rhapsodizing about pasta in the intro to the pasta chapter. I mean, really showing some love, as in if she could eat one food only for the rest of her life it would be pasta.
That's serious appreciation. And it made me feel bad about neglecting the Pasta, Noodles and Dumplings chapter, which has (according to the labels on my sidebar) been cooked out of only 7 times during this grand and luscious cook-through experience of mine.
I chose Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Lacinato Kale because my farm share has lots-o-kale every single week. A read-through of this recipe is interesting, and since it's not on epicurious I'll just tell you basically what caught my eye.
One, it's based on a country dish that, although meatless, uses anchovies in the sauce. Two, it's Italian by way of Australia, where Thai influence led the chef (Karen Martini) to use fresh serranos instead of the more typical red pepper flakes. Since the dish is now by way of me, I used the jalapenos that were also in my farm share. Three, it calls for fresh coarse bread crumbs. A lot of them. Which made me wonder, but I pressed on anyway.
And just fyi, the recipe says that it takes 1 1/4 hrs to make, but it only took me about 40 minutes, mostly because I combined some steps.
So here's how it goes--you toast the bread crumbs in the oven until they're golden brown. Check.
Cook both the cauliflower and kale in boiling salted water for 8 mins til done. This is where I saved some minutes--instead of cooking them one after another for the exact same amount of time, I cooked them together. Der. Don't bother with the directions of pressing to remove water and the next paragraph will explain why.
Saute anchovies, garlic and chilies for about a minute, then put in the veggies, 1/2 cup parsley, and 2/3 cup reserved vegetable cooking water. Bring to a boil, season w/ s&p and take off heat.
At the same time presumably you're cooking your pasta (in salted water, please). Marry the pasta and the sauce in whichever pot is largest and stir in 3 oz grated parm and another 1/2 cup chopped parsley.
You may have been wondering where the bread crumbs come in, and it's now! You serve the pasta drizzed with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Really? Yes. Bread on top of pasta! And you know what? That was probably one of my favorite features about this dish--the contrast of the crunchy bread crumbs with the soft pasta, and that olive-y perfume from the oil.
As for the rest of it, it was good! It made a nice meal, and I've been eating it in small amounts as a side dish all week.
And Ruth, we'll have to get together and eat pasta someday. I still feel as if I need educating and I suspect you're the gal to do it.