Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afternoon delight

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lots o' cookbook authors and bloggers often wax poetic about the wonders of cooking for one. I hardly ever cook for just myself, mostly because there are usually leftovers available, or it's just easier to scramble a few eggs and lay them on a crispy piece of buttered toast or mix a tin of green chiles into rice. It's a rare occasion when those options aren't available to me, so I've never really dwelled on the pleasures of cooking for oneself. Today, however, was a refreshing new change for me. For my late lunch (I've taken to eating lunch at 2 or so-another identifying characteristic of an unemployed person), I whipped up one of my favorite RR pasta recipes. It's an oldie but a goodie, rigatoni, rapini, and ricotta salata pasta. Rapini, more commonly known as broccoli rabe, is remarkably hard to find out in California, which is crazy because practically every vegetable and fruit known to man flourishes here. I was able to find it regularly at the Korean deli down the street from our New York apartment (Someday I'm going to write a post just about that deli-it's one of the things I miss the most about NYC), but now it's so scarce that anytime I see a bright green bunch peeking out amongst the mountains of other fresh California produce I am unable to resist throwing it right into my basket. It is an absoutely deliciously, dark green, much more like chard or kale than broccoli, even a bit bitter. Sauteed with toasted flecks of golden brown garlic, then tossed with pasta and a generous amount of crumbling, slightly salty ricotta salata, it makes for a wonderful meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly, taking a short break from my heavy reading for the beginning of spring quarter tomorrow. Montaigne, Descartes...no light reading this time around!

The Three R's: Rigatoni, Rapini, and Ricotta Salata Pasta, from 30 Minute Meals

1 pound rigatoni (I used penne)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (twice around the pan)
2 bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) roughly cut into 2-inch pieces, bottom 2-inches discarded
1 can (14 ounces) fat-free chicken broth
A couple shakes nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems and chopped (3 to 4 tablespoons) (I didn't have fresh thyme on hand, so I eliminated it)
1/2 pound ricotta salata, crumbled (See Note)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Start a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, and drain.

In a large skillet, saute garlic in oil over medium heat until garlic speaks (this was one of the earlier catch-phrases of Rachael's that didn't take-you can see why). Add rapini and cook 3 or 4 minutes. Add broth and nutmeg. Cover pan loosely with foil and cook another 10 minutes or so, until rapini becomes tender. Add drained, rinsed pasta to rapini and broth. Toss with thyme, crumbled ricotta salata, and salt and pepper, to taste. Dump out onto a serving platter. Feeds up to 6 with bread and a salad of chunked tomatoes and sliced onions drizzled with oil.

Note: Ricotta salata is an Italian cheese that tastes like a mild feta and is widely available in specialty cheese cases at many supermarkets.

As it turns out, cooking for one is indeed a satisfying, enjoyable thing. I felt quite industrious and productive, and it was nice to bang around a bit in the kitchen midday. Therapeutic, in a way. I'll have to try it again soon.

Yes, that IS my laptop open to MY blog, but I just couldn't help it-I was so happy to see my heading again that I left the screen up. It was a real damper to check my blog roll this morning and discover that my heading had disappeared. Thankfully, my SH took time out of his extremely busy day to fix it for me. Just wanted you to know that I wasn't shamelessly promoting my blog!

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