4.08.2017

Random Acts of Cooking

We'd been home from our recent travels for what seemed like 15 minutes - but it was, in reality, 12 hours.

We were hungry, we were off schedule, and we just didn’t want to leave home to shop for food. We needed a full day in our pajamas.

The trip home had been endless. Delays. Canceled flights. Rebooked flights. More delays. Arrival in Tucson sometime around 2:00am. A long wait for luggage, which was pointless, as it had apparently never made the flight. Home. Sleep came at about 3:00am.

This is the perfect situation to assess the larder and see what you can do.

As my friend Mikey says, I am the kind of person who can open a fridge, see a jar of mustard and a half-can of flat Tab, and somehow pull off a three-course meal.

Okay, he is prone to exaggeration, but I do pride myself on my ability to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - or a decent meal out of what's on hand. Mark is also really good at this. Sometimes I think it is moments like this that we are at our best together.

Mark often wonders how we can have a refrigerator that is practically overflowing, yet there never seems to be any food there. Dozens of condiments, partial containers of this or that, forgotten sauces, tubes of concentrated pastes, bits and pieces of leftovers.

But it's all that "stuff" that makes cookery interesting and miracles possible.

We use the term "pasta impromptu" for this kind of meal. About 20 years ago, we wrote down the recipe for Mark’s mother and realized that, in doing so, it was no longer impromptu. Not that we ever prepare it the same twice.

Now, all these years later, we have a nice stack of impromptu recipes. If they were good, they were worth writing down and remembering.

In the end, they are just a series of random acts of cooking, unplanned successes worth passing on. This is one of them.

~ David

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Sausage, Olives, Capers, and Lemon
A.K.A. - Pasta Impromptu

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1/2 cup wine, divided - red, white, rosé... sweet or dry
6 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 ounces hard-cured sausage/salami, sliced and cut into batons
1/2 cup green olives (with or without pimento), pitted and cut in half
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 of a preserved lemon, pith only, rinsed, dried, and diced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Place the tomato slices in a microwave-safe bowl and add 1/4 cup wine. If wine doesn't cover tomatoes, add a little water until it just covers them. Microwave for 30 seconds and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Do not overcook.

While the pasta is cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the shallot and cook until softened. Add the sausage/salami and sauté a minute or two more. Drain the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the olives, capers, and oregano, and sauté another minute. Add remaining wine and cook until reduced. Finally add the preserved lemon, stir, and turn off the heat.

When the pasta is al dente, remove from the pot and add to the skillet, reserving the cooking water. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and toss the pasta with the sauce ingredients to mix well. Add a little cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to ensure the sauce is dressing the pasta well.

Divide among two large pasta plates and sprinkle with pine nuts and grated cheese.

Serves 2, and can be doubled or tripled.



40 comments:

  1. Oh please , don't remind me! I am leaving on an international flight in two days. Your impromptu pasta looks wonderful.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde - have a great flight and I hope all goes well!

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  2. Your refrigerator sounds like mine. While perhaps not holding the ingredients for a well thought out meal all the time, it does provide us with meals like your "impromptu pasta" dish which sounds great. Oh and what would we do without a pantry that always has several varieties of pasta?

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    1. That is a good point, Karen - e didn't even get to the dry pantry! You should see what is in there!

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  3. You return to Tucson sounds like a small nightmare. And lost luggage? Well, that's simply unacceptable. At least you had all of these wonderful ingredients on hand, and what a marvellous creation you knocked together. I love everything you've thrown in there!

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    1. Thanks, John - I hope your travels have all been smooth!

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  4. How can you possibly make everything look so good? I don't even like salami and I want to eat this!

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    1. You are so sweet, Carolyne - good to know you don't like salami (for the future!).

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  5. Delicious and so comforting, especially after a tiring journey. I call this "shaking the fridge."

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    1. What a great way of saying it, Liz - "Shaking the fridge!"

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  6. You random acts of cooking results in random acts of kindness to your readers! GREG

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  7. This is my favorite kind of cooking. Maybe because it's what I did for so long while raising my daughters. Not one carrot ever went to waste! But it's also fun being creative with what's in the fridge. I think you become a better cook that way, besides not being wasteful. And what would we do without those wonderful jars of paste and pesto and salsas?!!!

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    1. ... and olives, and capers, and nuts... They all come together on a regular basis in our kitchen!

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  8. This sounds very close to an Italian dish. Gorgeous!

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    1. Anna e Giovanna - much of what I do is inspired by the food of Italy!

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  9. I get to Windsor, Ontario every 2 months for wine making in their Little Italy, then hit one of the fabulous restaurants there. This looks like it came from there and I will enjoy preparing it! THANK YOU!
    Bruce Baer

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    1. I didn't know about the winemaking in Windsor - how fun, Bruce!

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  10. beautiful pasta dish, love that you added green olives to the mix, I bet this is delicious. we have alot of condiments sitting around in our refrigerator too, I throw most everything out when we leave for Oregon each year. Hope the rest of your trip was wonderful.

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    1. Cheri - I cannot imagine tossing out all my condiments before leaving for the season. It had never occurred to me before! Do you empty your freezer, too?

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  11. Looks like you landed on your feet!

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    1. Well, Kirsten, let's just say that no one has ever starved here...

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  12. when we had the restaurant, one of our most successful dishes ever was a pasta very similar to this one (minus the sausage and the cheese at the end + we would sprinkle the pasta with toasted breadcrumbs)(sort of tomato-less. puttanesca): customers just loved it and we kept it on the menu all the time: we used to prepare big batches of this condiment, dressed with olive oil and kept in the fridge for days (there was nothing that could spoil): I was always amused how popular it was. I guess dishes like this really hit all the right spots and they are hugely rewarding, for the eater and the cook: nothing subtle, big loud flavors/very little cooking and prep from the cook point of view.
    stefano - www.italianhomecooking.co.uk

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    1. I never thought of it that way, Stefano - "big loud flavors" is a great way of describing all this - little subtlety, but somehow it all works! I didn't know you had a restaurant, which tells me that I need to head to your blog and read more. Also, in case you come back to read this, you sent me a link to your Italian blog and there was nothing there. Can we try again? What is the name of the blog. Grazie ed a presto.

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    2. yes, my patner Paul and I had a restaurant for three or four years... it was one of those things: "we have this phantasy-let's do it"...+ we did it, we enjoyed it, we made a decent living but then... we thought: " you know what... thanks but no thanks... :) " and we sold it. hugely stressful and enjoyable experience, but ... no-more, at least at that level of "small restaurant" enterprise, which I think, it very, very difficult. my italian blog is:

      https://qbbq.wordpress.com

      there are two categories dedicated to the restaurant years: The Mill cafe and Lyme Regis (Lyme regis is where we had the business, it is a wonderful small seaside village in dorset, famous for The French Lieutenant Woman (book and film) )

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    3. People often ask me if I want to have a restaurant and, thanks to intel from experiences like yours and Paul's, I know better! I think I would enjoy it for a short while - perhaps it is better to open a small café...

      Thanks for the blog link - it was missing one letter when I tried it before. I am happy to report that I can read what you write, and will eventually work at responding without the aid of Google Translate. I do fairly well, especially after a visit to Italy, but it is mostly verbal and non-written. I look forward to reading more! A presto, d

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  13. This looks delicious and comforting! An explosion of flavours. My partner and I enjoy concocting interesting fridge find dishes and sometimes they turn out good.

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    1. It is really a lot of fun for us to cook like this - I should start counting how many times a week it happens! How often is it for you two, Ngeun?

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    2. About once a week. We often make creative/experimental yet delicious dishes after a trip away. Good/fun way to cook for sure! :)

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    3. It is becoming more common for us - after a long day when you get home and realize you forgot to shop... Then, it is time for a little kitchen magic!

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  14. Impromptu pasta indeed, this sounds so good! My perfect kind of cooking.

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  15. This is beautiful--even more impressive for ad-libbing--and I love everything in it. If you hadn't fessed up, I'd have thought you planned it!

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    1. Oh, you can only plan on a mess like this once you've made it the first time - and then it never seems the same the second time! :)

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  16. Tell me, does Mark ever wonder how you've just spent a hundred and something dollars at the grocery store and still have nothing for dinner! :D This looks fabulous! Of course, after an air travel ordeal, I need *days* not hours "in pajamas" so cooking at that point needs to be done by someone else! I always write my "impromptu" concoctions down as I go so I can duplicate them if especially good.

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    1. Jean, that is a question I get form him almost daily!! But he never starves, and he will admit it!

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  17. This sounds like a delicious random act of cooking, David! So many amazing flavors with these ingredients! And it's so pretty too!! :)

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    1. Thanks, Marcelle - that is why we write down the best ones! Your Easter Bunny cake was so cute reminded me of my mother's cake form the 60s, when I was a kid.

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  18. So résilient! So clever! How you could put together such a pretty and tasty meal after that experience amazes me...but you often amaze me!

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    1. You are so sweet, Susan! No matter how tired I am, my expectation of good food persists!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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