1. I like to imagine myself being a person who works late at night or who has been out late (I'm the opposite) and comes home at 2 or 3 in the morning, possibly with a friend, and fixes food at that hour. I picture myself having to make due with whatever I have on hand and prepare something with pasta or rice, possibly a can of tomatoes, an onion and some garlic, possibly a tortilla, you know, make whatever I have on hand work. I like to imagine having a half-finished bottle of wine on hand or a few sessionable bottles or cans of beer. My fantasy ends with me whipping up something tasty in about fifteen minutes and enjoying it by myself or with a work pal or someone I've been having a few beers with.
I don't remember either episode clearly, but this kind of cooking was the focus once on the podcast, Burnt Toast and I remember once, when I was home with Mom, Chef Michael Symon did a segment on The Chew that featured him whipping up a "what to make when you get home from work early in the morning and don't feel like cooking but are hungry and want something good" meal. I think it involved pasta.
Debbie ordered a cookbook a couple of months ago and had it sent to our home that encourages just this kind of cooking.
It's from the New York Times food department, authored by Sam Sifton, and is entitled, No-Recipe Recipes.
For family dinner tonight, Carol assigned all three of us a pasta dish to make from this book.
2. All day today, I was antsy to get going on making the no-recipe recipe Carol assigned me.
It's called simply Pasta with Garbanzos.
To put myself in the right frame of mind to prepare this dish and to give myself the illusion that I was cooking it at 2 or 3 in the morning, I poured myself the first of two Session American Lager beers from Full Sail.
(By the way, I love beers with a thickish mouth feel. Both of the Full Sail Session lagers I've drunk the last two days, the American and the Cerveza have, to me, great texture, a fullness that I might not expect from a lager. By the way, so does Daft Badger's Mexican Lager when it's on. I drank one of the Session Hazy IPAs in the variety pack I bought the other day and it felt thin in my mouth and so I didn't enjoy it as much as the lagers. I still have three Full Sail Hefeweizens in the fridge and I'm eager to find out if the Hefe's mouthfeel will be as satisfying as the lagers. Mouthfeel is one of the qualities I enjoy when drinking a Hefeweizen from Widmer Brothers.)
Okay. Back to meal preparation. One of our family members has an adverse reaction to onions. Usually, if the onions are cooked, no reaction happens, but I've decided that I'm simply going to find ways to get around sautéing onions when I fix family dinner.
So, I clicked around a little bit on the World Wide Web and found an idea that intrigued me: subbing fried cumin seeds for onions.
I wondered, would the earthy flavor of cumin work in this pasta with garbanzo dish?
You bet it would.
In fact, I thought, it might even be better than onions.
So, I got out the smaller Dutch oven, heated up a glug or two of olive oil and added about four minced garlic cloves, some cumin seeds, and broadcast some salt and pepper in the mix.
Once the garlic was just beginning to turn brown, I added a few shakes of cinnamon, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and two regular sized cans of fire roasted tomatoes.
Then I remembered the huevo rancheros a cook named Bruce used to make at the Keystone Cafe on 5th and Lawrence in Eugene back in about 1985-6-7.
He added fennel seed to the dish's tomato sauce and I've never forgotten how delicious that was.
So, I took another swig of Session American Lager and added fennel seed to the pasta sauce, unsure if others in the family like fennel, hoping it would be acceptable.
I simmered this cumin, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, and tomato sauce for about twenty minutes or so and then added what I consider this sauce's magic ingredient: heavy cream. I slowly added small amounts of heavy cream until the red tomato sauce turned pink and I kept the lowest possible heat under it to keep the sauce warm.
I packed up to go to Carol and Paul's by putting the sauce in a bowl with a lid, getting out another container and putting a can of garbanzo beans in it, and packing up a bag of Rotini. I had asked Carol to boil me a pot of water at her place.
I arrived at the Roberts', mixed Molly, Christy, Carol, Paul, and I each a Negrini (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari with an orange peel garnish), and then cooked the bag of Rotini, kept out a little bit of pasta water which I added to the sauce, and combined the sauce, garbanzo beans, and pasta in a bowl, garnished it with parsley from Carol's garden and it was ready to eat.
3. We had quite a feast (once again) for family dinner.
Christy made a fresh, crispy Italian Giardiniera salad. She asked me to taste the vinaigrette she made for it, wondering what I thought of its vinegar content. I said I would have used a bit more vinegar, but, when I said that, I didn't realize that the salad included pickled (is that the right word?) vegetables. These vegetables perfectly added the more vinegar-y taste I was looking for. Wisely, Christy didn't add more vinegar to her dressing and it was a perfect salad.
Using "recipes" from the No-Recipe Recipes cookbook, Carol made Pasta Puttanesca, a heavenly combination of anchovies, garlic, canned tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes served over pasta with Parmesan cheese added.
Christy made Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. It, too, was divine and divinely simple. Once she boiled the pasta and put it in a warmed bowl, she added butter, blue cheese, and walnuts and combined it.
Molly added loaves of crusty bread to our dinner and we had red and white wine available.
We ended our meal with a small scoop of gelato accompanied by milano cookies.
At some point, I'll prepare each of these dishes on my own, alone, so that I can enjoy the Pasta Puttanesca and the Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts all by themselves.
Talk about winners!
Talk about keepers!
Talk about a superb family dinner!