Thursday, October 11, 2007

What to eat when lightning strikes

My run today was shorter than usual. It involved a three minute dash across campus as I raced the elements. I am now safe and (mostly) dry as I curl up on the corner of my couch and face the coming storm through our large window. Lightning is beginning to flash in jagged bolts, and the thunder has been building up for half an hour. I love these moments.

Storms and friends, these are the reasons I came back to Texas. Mostly the friends, actually, and this week has been a wonderful, exhausting, rewarding, stressful juggling act of those I love, school work, and health (e.g. the semi-essentials like sleep, good food, etc.).

Thank goodness it’s Thursday. Especially as I sit here in the semi-darkness and catch my breath with each spidery flash of light. I don’t want this place of rest and wonder to disappear.

I’m going to have to set this blog aside for a little while, though, and get some things done. A research paper and collage await. And lunch.

Speaking of which, I am still working on a delicious pasta dish I cooked up a couple nights ago, and since the pictures of it are idly sitting on my desktop, I think it’s time to share.

Tuesday evening I was envisioning my glorious bed as I crawled walked home. But knowing I couldn’t afford to sleep yet nor neglect my empty stomach, I set about making something a little more elaborate than my standard spinach salad. Actually, my spinach seemed to be taunting me each time I pulled it out of the drawer in the past few days saying, “My days are numbered!” So I decided to do something with those persistent leaves.

On I found the perfect inspiration, only making a few modifications and substitutions.

Pasta with White Beans, Spinach, and Olives
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
20 oz. spinach
¾ c. vegetable broth
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ c. pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
13 ¼ oz. pasta (original recipe recommends spaghetti — I had angel hair)
2 oz. (1 cup) parmesan cheese, finely grated
Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in pan on medium-high heat until fragrant. Add onion to pan and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add half of spinach to pan; toss until it starts to wilt, and then remaining spinach, broth, tomatoes, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cover. Increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until spinach is completely wilted. Stir in beans and olives.

3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is almost al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of Parmesan and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

I feel kind of silly messing with a Cook's Illustrated recipe in an area outside my "expertise," such as pasta that follows a recipe. So I will humbly say that in this case my version is probably not the best. And yet the beauty of this dish was that it felt both fancy and homey. The ingredients weren't exotic but they blended wonderfully and filled the kitchen with a garlicky fragrance.


Anna Jordan said...

Love the blog Lael - it is 9:42 and I have yet to eat breakfast...therefore your tantalizing entries have further increased my hunger!

Grant said...

I love to just listen to you write about food. Skip the food, maybe for a later time. I eat up your words. Dad

Jared said...

That makes me hungry. But lightning just brings back bad memories!