Thomas Keller, the phenomenal chef behind Per Se and the French Laundry, famously tells his chefs that the starting point for good cooking is having the best ingredients possible. He will travel the world to find the best ginger, apples, and parsley.
Living in the Palisades we don’t have to travel very far to find high quality, affordable ingredients.
Walking through the Sunday farmers market, looking at all the amazing fresh vegetables and fruit is exciting but can be a bit daunting.
What to do with all those wonderful looking lettuces, potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots, tomatoes, celery, spinach and so much more?
Salads are an easy way to take advantage of all that bounty. Pastas are almost as easy.
Pasta is one of the most versatile ingredients in our cupboards. Almost everyone knows how to make dried pasta.
The directions are simple. Put a tablespoon of Kosher salt into a gallon of water. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta. Stir well to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Put a strainer in the sink. After five minutes for smaller pastas and ten for spaghetti and cannelloni, taste a piece and if it is firm but chewy (al dente), the pasta is ready to eat. Don’t let it get soggy; pour the pasta and water through the strainer. In a serving or mixing bowl, toss the cooked pasta with olive oil, season with sea salt (avoid iodized salt because of the metallic taste), pepper and grated cheese and you have dinner on the table in fifteen minutes.
That’s the most basic pasta and it’s delicious.
Pasta is very easy. Don’t overcomplicate it.
You don’t need to make elaborate sauces with cream or rich meat sauces that have cooked for hours. Those are good but not something for everyday eating.
Keep it simple. Just about anything you enjoy can be tossed in pasta to make a delicious meal.
For instance, grilled seafood with pasta is terrific. Prawns, scallops or a firm fish like salmon tossed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, cooked on the grill to get those delicious caramelizing grill marks, cut into bite sized pieces and tossed with angel hair pasta with a sprinkling of olive oil and finely chopped Italian parsley. Delicious.
Making a sauce can be as easy as sautéing a handful of onions with a chopped up garlic clove and a bit of Italian parsley, seasoned with a bit of freshly ground black pepper.
When the onions and garlic are lightly browned, they’ve caramelized. Add a pat of butter to bring out even more of that subtle, satisfying sweetness.
When you pour the pasta through the sieve, save a cup of the pasta water. As the pasta cooks, it throws off starch. Adding the water to the sauce, a tablespoon at a time, adds saltiness and a natural thickener.
Toss the cooked pasta in the onion-garlic sauté, add the grilled seafood, maybe some corn and spinach, and a sprinkling of freshly grated cheese--does everyone have a Microplane grater? If not, you should, because it makes grating cheese as easy as pie—and you’re done.
More suggestions next time.