Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back to the Kitchen

Sometimes real life is scary. Sometimes you get fired from your job, with no warning. Poof – GOODBYE JOB! Sometimes you want to crawl under the bed and hide until some lovely person comes to offer you lots and lots of money to do nothing all day but sit in your pajamas and smoke cigarettes. But then you remember you just quit smoking the cigarettes and there is nothing happy left in the whole wide world without the cigarettes, especially here under the bed with the dust monsters and old college memorabilia. But there is that one special thing, really the only thing, that can lure you out from under the bed. That thing is dinner.

It is time to get back into the kitchen. Summer is officially over (according to me) and the sweltering heat has abated. I need the comfort of rolling dough and dicing many many onions. My freezer is full of nasty microwave meals that I need to replace with extra strong Ziploc baggies of marinara sauce, home made meatballs, chicken carcasses for stock, and little empanadas in case of surprise guests. Just knowing I've stored away all those goodies, like nuts for winter, makes me a little less frightened of the chaos ahead of me.

Fresh Direct arrived three days ago with my first order in three months. They forgot my pita bread, which was a near disaster but for a last minute change of dinner plans, but they added in some absolutely adorable organic baby bok choy.

Over the weekend I made two old favorites and one new treat. First, some Sicilian Meatballs with linguini and marinara sauce. The recipe is quite unusual, and the resulting meatballs come out both sweeter and spicier than a traditional meatball. At first I balked at the use of currants. Nothing disgusts me more than a raisin, and the currant is clearly the raisin's whiny younger brother, but for the sake of science I prepared the recipe as written and was not one bit sorry. Somehow the raisiny-ness disappears and the currants leave a tangy sweetness that balances out the spicy sausage.

The marinara sauce included with the recipe looked quite ordinary to me, so I substituted our family favorite, my dad's standard recipe.

Dad's Marinara

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 T olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Drizzle oil into a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, approximately 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, stir and cook for 15 more minutes (still stirring occasionally) or until sauce has reached desired consistency. Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

I find that this recipe works best with linguini, fettucini, or similar long flat pastas. You can add pretty much anything to the sauce immediately before serving, including meatballs, sautéed veggies, sautéed shrimp, or leftovers like fish, scallops, or lobster. Especially lobster.


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