Hello Friends. I am BACK. I am back, and I’m not going to be throwing excuses at you all the time anymore. You see, the past 6 months have been uprooting. I don’t want to go into the details, because just thinking about them still exhausts me. Suffice it to say, I was trying to do too much. I do that occasionally, and it never works out in my favor (see: the only C i got in college WHICH I AM STILL ANGRY ABOUT). So I stopped doing so much, and in that vein, managed to cook myself a long and complicated dinner for the first time in FOREVER.
To celebrate, I bought myself that there pot. LOOK AT IT! IT IS SO YELLOW!!!!!!!!!! Do I need a Le Creuset stock pot? No. I don’t. A regular silver one would’ve done just fine. But I was tired of boiling water in my wok (the only other stovetop implement I owned before miss daisy up there), and you know what? I wanted it. I wanted it, and I’m going to love it forever, and it was 25% off, and LOOK AT THAT COLOR. So I bought it, because I am celebrating my return to the kitchen!
Do you know what else I bought myself? A legit chef’s knife. Thanks to a gift certificate from my amazing friends, and a fortuitous knife sale at Sur La Table, I got away with a beautiful $140 knife for $25. I practically SKIPPED home with that thing in my bag. It came with its own CASE!! It is so special. And–oh my god–have you ever cut an onion with a brand new chef’s knife?? HAVE YOU??? It’s fucking lovely, is what it is. This is how it’s supposed to feel??? It’s the difference between slicing your hand through water, and slicing your hand through a pile of dirt. It’s a revelation. I can’t stop thinking about it. I love my knife!!
I celebrated my RETURN with my POT and my KNIFE by making a Chez Panisse Vegetables recipe. I haven’t cooked myself an italian meal in probably 2 years. I’ve been all quinoa and couscous and vegetables and whatever. God, you know? Sometimes I just want some PASTA. Warm pasta and tomato-ey sauce and fresh ricotta cheese on top.
This recipe is perfect. I made my own tomato sauce, thus complicating it greatly, but in the process reaffirmed my own ability to make tomato sauce (it had been so long!). Everyone has their favorite from their nana or gammy or nona or whatever they call grandmother in italian. I have rice pies and dumplings in spades from my grandmothers, but neither of them will touch italian food. Luckily I grew up with an adventurous cook of a mother, and also the internet exists.
I kinda wung the sauce, and I’ll post about it next, but let’s just say it was my favorite tomato sauce I’ve ever made.
And this dish was the tits. I enjoyed it after a lovely sunny day in San Francisco, after running 10 miles, enjoying a cold coffee and the crossword, and buying myself a bunch of colorful kitchenware that I can’t afford. Life is allllllllllllllright.
Penne (or Fusili) with Eggplant and Tomato
from Chez Panisse Vegetables
2 globe eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
One medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Handful fresh basil, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 cups tomato sauce
hot pepper (fresh or dried to taste)
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut eggplant into 3/4” cubes. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread in a single layer on a sheet tray. Roast in oven for 25 minutes or until eggplant is brown and tender.
Boil water for pasta. Peel and thinly slice onion. Peel and finely chop garlic and herbs keeping them separate. Put pasta on to cook, al dente.
Heat a large sauté pan and cook onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until just caramelized. Add garlic, cook for a moment or two more, and deglaze pan with sherry vinegar. Add the eggplant, tomato sauce, a little hot pepper, and the chopped basil. Heat sauce to simmering. Drain pasta, add it to pan, toss gently. Serve with a generous garnish of parsley and ricotta crumbled over the top.