Hello! Again. I may have mentioned, we were out in Tofino, where construction on a new bike path disconnected our internet cable. Which meant a lot of hanging out in coffee shops and restaurants and rainy parking lots, trolling for wireless connections. When we had already eaten dinner and had far too much coffee, it became habit each evening for me to go park out behind the Shelter to do what needed doing – even streamlined, the wireless requirements piled up. Which is all to say that when I did have a connection, it was used to send files or book things or answer emails or resize photos or get stories researched or submitted, and keep up with my posts over at Babble (as I’m contractually obligated to) – and you guys wound up getting the shaft. Sorry.
And I’ve so badly wanted to tell you about this pasta. In other (related) news, I read a book this week. By halfway through I wanted to start again at the beginning. In An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, Tamar Adler had me riveted with the idea of boiling vegetables! Letting them pale! And not just utilizing leftovers, but intentionally creating them! Riveting stuff for those of us who would choose how to poach an egg for our bedtime reading. It’s a must read for anyone who eats, and particularly for those who don’t have someone in their employ to cook for them.
Tamar approaches food from a standpoint not of what recipe do I want to make and do I have the ingredients to assemble said recipe, but what do I have, what’s available or in season, and how do I prepare it so that it tastes good? And further, how do I use those bits that might otherwise be tossed? Because stale bread and cilantro stems are food too. Every page has a snippet or two or three that I want to highlight or post-it or quote or tweet. You should probably just read it yourself – it would be much easier.
This wasn’t dinner tonight (by dinnertime we were still digesting porchetta sandwiches from Meat & Bread), but was a few days ago. Luckily I had a head of kale (brought in the car from Calgary – waste not) and distracting thoughts of what it might be like to cook pasta in seawater. And a chunk of cornbread from SoBo that my totally out-there mind thought would work as breadcrumbs. (They did – but without an oven they had to be toasted in a bit of butter and oil in a skillet on the stovetop. Which was just fine.) It’s often said that enough salt must be added to a pot of water destined to cook pasta to make it taste like seawater. Here I was cooking down seawater to make salt – it seemed a bit ridiculous to add a small handful of it back to the water on my stove. So I poured a jar of seawater through my coffee filter into the cooking pot – and nervously added about as much tap water, considering I was getting almost a quarter cup of salt per litre or so. Still, all the salt you add to pasta water doesn’t actually make it into the pasta, but it does effectively season it. I think this is why restaurant food tends to taste so much better – they just know how to properly season. Most often its not the fancy bouquet garni or exotic herbs and spices, but just enough salt.
So I cooked down the kale with olive oil and garlic, and tossed it with pasta and more oil, some saved starchy pasta water, the grated heel of a chunk of grizzly Gouda (also toted from home), and topped each bowl with cornbread crumbs and a marigold-yolked egg from Nanoose Bay. (Here, a good egg makes all the difference in the world.)
The whole point is to cook, to create and taste and make ingredients into something better and more edible than they were when you brought them home from the market or store. But. Every time I do a post where I say I did this and this and this, and got this! I get comments and emails saying that’s all well and good, but WHERE’S THE RECIPE? You don’t always need one, laid out in cups and teaspoons and point-form directions. I often say that although I write recipes for a living, I think having a recipe often stifles those delicious creative juices and can prevent people from actually cooking. Who follows a recipe every night of the week? It’s not always about having a half teaspoon of oregano or cooking an onion for 5-6 minutes, it’s ideas and techniques that help get a good meal on the table. It’s trying this and that and seeing how it goes for you.
So if you’re confident in your pasta-making abilities – and even (especially) if you’re not – go, do. Here’s a semblance of a recipe if you need one. (No hard feelings.)
Pasta with Poached Eggs and Garlicky Kale for Two
enough pasta – spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine – for two
olive and/or canola oil, for cooking
kale, roughly chopped (pull out the stems first)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 good eggs
a handful of grated aged Gouda (such as Grizzly Gouda) or Parmesan
toasted breadcrumbs (I used crumbled cornbread) – optional
freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot of heavily salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Remove a cup of its cooking liquid before draining.
Meanwhile, heat a generous drizzle of oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the kale and cook for a few minutes, until it begins to wilt. Add the garlic and a splash of water (a couple tablespoonfuls), cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and cook until the excess liquid has cooked off and the kale is tender.
Push the kale aside in the pan and add another skiff of oil to the empty side. Crack two eggs into it and cook them sunny-side-up or over easy, leaving the yolks runny enough to help dress the pasta when they break.
When the pasta has drained, transfer it to a shallow bowl (or two) and drizzle with oil, and add the grated cheese. Toss with tongs, adding a splash of hot pasta water until the mixture is saucy and well coated. Add the kale and quickly toss it in, then divide between bowls and top with an egg, crispy breadcrumbs and a good grinding of black pepper. Serve immediately.
April 05 2012 11:27 pm | pasta