Tag Archives: pasta

Cuttlefish pasta

Mmm, cuttlefish

There’s something sinister about opening a can of tar-black something or other and throwing it into a pot. Unless, of course, you happen to be carrying a can of cuttlefish in ink. I discovered the stuff perhaps a year or so ago, in a local grocery store, and was intrigued by the box:

Cuttlefish!

This could either be a very good purchase, or a seriously painful mistake. Undeterred, I made the ugliest risotto I’ve ever seen. I’ve been a cuttlefish convert ever since. In case you haven’t had them, cuttlefish are basically squid. In this form, they’re cut into relatively small chunks and bathed in a swathe of squid ink, which serves as a rich but subtle reminder of your meal’s origins. It also happens to have a somewhat creamy consistency, which makes it excellent for making a pasta sauce that’s both creamy and dairy free.

Cuttlefish pasta

It pairs nicely (and quite simply) with sweet corn, garlic, and red bell peppers. This happened to be a pre-night shift lunch a few weeks ago, and took a whole 10 minutes to cook? The pasta was the limiting factor.

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Such sweet things

Our first strawberry

Our garden’s reveling in the summer sun, throwing up signs of contentment in little shoots and buds. Sprouts of questionable heritage yielded spindly little seedlings, which eventually transformed into our little patch of controlled chaos in the backyard. Along with it, creatures emerged — little slugs and aphids, butterflies and ladybugs. Signs that soon (well, now, actually), we’d be competing for the very produce we made possible.

Tomatoes!

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, which makes the transition to the “wilderness” of the national parks we just visited back to civilization an interesting one. It’s a comfortable book, meandering through the seasons — and his garden, in each — with a thoughtful ease. And while it’s preachy at times, I think his point about America’s view of nature is dead on. Yes, we invented the concept of national preservation areas, where wilderness could be preserved for all to see. And yes, as the ranger in Prairie Creek State Park pointed out, we have cleared virtually every single old growth forest outside of those preservation areas since we decided to settle here. Pollan’s explanation of this is that we have an “all or nothing” view of nature, and how we manage it;

Once a landscape is no longer ‘virgin’ it is typically written off as fallen, lost to nature, irredeemable. We hand it over to the jurisdiction of that other sacrosanct American ethic: laissez-faire economics.

Yes — big developers. Because who wouldn’t want more condos? It’s already ruined, right? This is despite the fact that, as Pollan points out, man has had a profound effect on nature as we see it. We’re part of it, and we influence it, in our introduction of foreign species, our management policies, and our understanding of our role in its history. Most of the time, we’ve had a more profound effect than we know. His point? We have, in essence, become “gardeners” of our landscape, responsible for its care and general health.

We’ve done a good job, in some cases (the State and National Park systems, an example of which is shown above, are a case in point). But in a lot of instances, I think this all-or-nothing concept (which seems to pervade our thinking, really — politically, environmentally, economically, and socially) is dangerous. It gives us license to write off our responsibility, to ignore our role in the planet’s future. Yes, it’s easier to manage; the lines are black and white, easily placed into the law books for all to see. But just as industrial ag is easier on a large scale, it’s not necessarily better.

I guess that’s why we started this garden. And why I’ll keep it up. I didn’t think I’d like it… I thought it’d be just another chore. I mean, this is me — I barely water the house plants; I used to kill them before James came along and started watching over them all. But I find myself going out to visit it every morning, to keep tabs on the soil condition, the new buds, and the creatures I find myself learning more about, in order to defend our plants’ tender leaves. It’s all the more interesting when you can’t just spray a few chemicals about to take care of whatever your problems are. So far, everything is doing pretty well. We’ve had to share our strawberries with the birds, and had some hungry leaf miners eat through the first leaves of chard. Other than that? We have strong, healthy tomato plants, and some amazing squash and cucumber coming along. Our carrots seem happy, and the potato we planted from the Union Square greenmarket is finally pushing a few buds up out of the soil. And we have more lettuce than we can eat — a few plants are going to seed, and I’m just going to let them, just to see what happens. Oh — and I can’t wait for the tomatoes.

So, with that, I’ll leave you with a recipe. Well — this isn’t really a recipe. I just threw a few veggies, some pasta, and a sauce together and called it lunch. But it’s really tasty (with sort of a satay flavor), and makes use of the garlic scapes that seem to be the only new and interesting thing at the Wooster Square farmer’s market at the moment. It’ll be perfect with our yellow pears, carrots, and spring onions later in the season. I only hope I’m still in New Haven when things start to get really exciting.

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Filed under books, carrots, environment, gardening, garlic scapes, ginger, main, pasta, side, vegan, vegetarian

Prickly pasta, take two

Prickles galore

I had to continue on this prickly pasta theme, because I’m still a little bit shocked that this dish worked. I didn’t even take prep pictures, thinking that this could just be my little secret. Not that I should have been surprised — I’m not exactly the first one to roast an eggplant whole, skin and all, only to scoop the flesh out, doctor it with a bit of olive oil, and discover exactly what I had been missing for all these years. I think my faith in eggplant was lacking a bit, after the million spongy and, frankly, kind of gross eggplant dishes I’ve managed to assemble in recent years. And yet, I kept on buying them. Good thing, don’t you think?

Nettles

This dish is my last recipe’s less virtuous cousin. It’s inexact and utterly malleable, depending on your tastes. But I do think you should try it, with or without the nettles. Again, a bit of arugula, thrown in at the last minute, provides the green counterpoint the silky eggplant flesh needs.

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Prickly pasta

Nettle pasta

The local farmer’s market is always full of pleasant surprises, but I think early Springtime, when everyone wants something — anything — fresh and local to eat, is when I find the most unusual ingredients offered up. It’s funny, because sometimes those running the stands are almost apologetic about their wares. I always try and make a point to go and find something new on these occasions, searching for signs advertising strange, exotic (but somehow local?) ingredients. This week, I came across a bag of incredibly fresh nettles, picked just that morning. See how pretty they are?

Nettles

Nettles don’t exactly sound appetizing. When they get older, they remind you not to go near them if you happen to brush their skin. As I found, the little ones still manage to do the same; pulling them out of their careful wrapping sent little tingles of pain across my fingers, like a thousand tiny splinters. I suppose I’ve done worse when cooking before (and after the aloe vera leaf we brought back with us from the store today, these little prickles were child’s play). I had no idea what to do with them. The girl at the stand just said they tasted incredibly green, like springtime, and so I figured I’d just do something simple. A little lemon, and crushed coriander would make for a subtle and delicious flavor, coupled with paprika, garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Add a bit of pasta, and you have the kind of meal you should be eating after cracking open an amazing triple creme brie in the afternoon, after planting still more vegetables in the garden.

Spices

The pairing was quite good, in fact, and as for the nettles? They cook down into fresh, slightly firm, soft greens, which go nicely with the tang and slightly spicy aftertaste of the lemon and coriander pairing. The girl who sold them to me? She was right on. They taste of spring, just around the corner. And for the skeptics out there, James says they’re better than Brussels sprouts.

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Filed under firsts, flax seeds, lemon, local, main, olive oil, pasta, quick meals, vegan, vegetarian

Pasta for a long night

Pasta!

James always works late on days when I have overnight shifts. I hear him come in quietly, grab some food — something simple, usually involving cheese on toast — and slip out into the twilight, back to work, just as I’m settling into bed for a nap. When I wake up, the house is quiet, and sunlight no longer peeps around the curtains, taunting me with its brightness. On nights like these, I wake up in time to make something light but filling — something to get me through until morning.

Spinach
Usually, this breakfast / dinner / midnight snack involves pasta. It’s funny, because it kind of feels like I’m reverting to when I lived by myself. I think I ate pasta almost every day, tossed with a few vegetables and a bit of spice. Since James and I moved in together, pasta’s taken a backseat to protein; typically, there’s some sort of meat involved. Yah, me, the ex-vegetarian for who knows how many years. I’ve become a serious omnivore.

Not that I’m complaining, of course.

prep

But on nights like these, pasta’s all I want. Especially when I have gorgeous farmer’s market spinach and eggs on hand.

This recipe is really simple, and can be prepared in the same amount of time it takes to boil the pasta. I didn’t want to mess with the spinach much, since it tasted lovely and fresh as is, and I wanted creaminess without the cream. That’s where the eggs came in. Beyond that, I did the usual — tried a little of this and that, until I had a dish worth blogging about.

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Filed under anchovies, eggs, lemon, local farms, main, pasta, quick meals, raisins, spinach