Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Broccoli Pasta (for inept single men)

Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
I’ve had a request and am very excited. Someone has asked me for a recipe! It seems that finally I might have found my niche in life, and that’s to provide recipes for inept single men. I would request, however, that if any inept single men have any “success” with my recipes, you post a testimonial on the site.

I need to know if this stuff works.

It all came about when this chap shared his recipe for “pasta with vegetables” with me. It was more a jumble of misconceptions than a delicious meal. It was something along the lines of capsicum, tomatoes, zucchini and…yes, you’ve guessed it, pesto. The single man’s lubricant of choice.

I’ll never understand a. what possesses people to purchase store bought pesto and b.to add it to whatever pasta dish they’re planning. Pesto has its place, ideally when you’ve got a beautiful bunch of fresh basil, a pestle and mortar and a really great chunk of pecorino.

Anyway, I digress. Here are the rules of healthy(ish) pasta and vegetable dishes.

1. Pick one vegetable. Perhaps two. Certainly no more.
2. Plan your flavour accents. Garlic, olives, anchovy, onion, herbs, dried chili, perhaps some cheese. Not all of them.
3. Find a texture contrast. Pine nuts, hazelnuts, toasted flaked almonds, sesame seeds, perhaps some cheese.
4. Have some sort of sauce. Might just be oil, might be a splash of cream, could be some melted anchovy.
5. Keep it simple. This is easy cooking for a Tuesday night, not Iron Chef.

So, for this dish, our vegetable is going to be broccoli. The flavour accents are chili, onion and garlic. The texture is going to be pine nuts. I’d recommend using penne because the onions and pine nuts get stuck in the ridges but the smooth penne has worked for me because of the smooth pasta with broccoli floret contrast. Works for me.

Ingredients (to serve two)
A handful of pinenuts
A red onion, sliced into elegant, thin strips
A clove of garlic, mashed or sliced, up to you (I don’t wish to be proscriptive)
About ten anchovies in oil
A teeny tiny dried red chili, crumbled
A very large head of broccoli, perhaps two
Enough pasta to feed you both

Begin by toasting your pine nuts. Pop them into a cold frying pan with no oil, and watch them constantly. Pine nuts are slippery buggers and will burn in a pico-second if you leave them unattended. Set aside.

Add some of the oil from the jar of anchovies and a little extra EVOO, warm and add the onion. We’re aiming to wilt the onion so it’s slippery, not crisp it. Add the garlic, chili and the anchovies. The anchovies will melt into the onion and garlic.Yum. Keep warm.

Find your largest pan and fill it with boiling water. Wait until it’s at a rolling boil and then add lots of salt. Most people don’t salt their pasta water enough. It needs to be as salty as sea water, although don’t use sea water for convenience and don’t ever try tasting your boiling water to see if it’s salty enough. You’ll burn your tongue. Just throw in a really good handful of (preferably Maldon) salt. Bigger than you think you should. Live a little. The reason restaurant food tastes better is because they use more salt and butter than we do at home. I cook the broccoli and pasta in the same water (to save on washing up) and I steam the broccoli over the top of the pasta. You could just mix them, but the broccoli will cook first, so you’ll need to fish it out.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of water. Mix all the ingredients together, adding some of the cooking water for lubrication (not pesto). The cooking water contains a lot of starch, so it will, curiously, help to thicken your sauce. Don’t use too much though. Sprinkle on pine nuts. Or toasted sesame seeds. Or some nice hazelnuts now I come to think of it. Chow down.


Blogger DCam said...

I <3 your blog Suzi.

I admit one of my stand-by recipes in uni was a bit like this: Pass entire produce shop through mandolin in to saucepan. Cook vegetables together so soft vegetables are overdone and hard vegetables under. Add far too much parmesan, and not enough fusili. Tumble. Enjoy reheated from the microwave for several days.

Lately though, I've been eating very el dente fusili tossed with good olive oil, and maybe parmesan. It's been delicious. Maybe I'll add in a vegetable next time.

10:52 PM  

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