We haven’t felt much like cooking recently. Actually, my mom may have felt like cooking. She’s been busy. I haven’t been busy, but I also haven’t been cooking a lot. There were some failures–cookies that made me rage, kedgeree that wasn’t totally satisfying, a soup that was a little too heavy. But mostly there were a number of lazy, satisfying meals out. So we haven’t had much to share with you.

Prepare for a flurry of activity. Kid and Nancy are reunited under one roof for the next week, despite apocalyptic weather conditions in my areas of departure and arrival, and Nancy has ordered both a goose and a mail-order ham from northern Wisconsin. Tonight, I re-did a pasta I tried last week–the one recipe I’ve made in the last three weeks that didn’t disappoint me. It’s from Gourmet, oh lost source, from a volume that includes one of our favorite fancy dishes (pretty perfect as is, just thin the sauce a little with extra milk so it’s pourable). I hauled down a few copies last week when I was in the doldrums, in hopes of getting inspired by something. I didn’t really get inspired, but I was intrigued enough to throw this together one night when I was bored and hungry, and that was good enough.

[yes, that’s a refrigerated truck in the background.]

As my dad and I drove in the snow to buy a tree this evening, I remembered that we didn’t have any parsley at home, which, in a recipe this simple, is a bit of a bummer. When I got home and told my mom, she said there was some in the garden. At this moment there are at least six inches of snow hiding the garden (and it’s still snowing) but she gamely trudged out and returned with a fistful of parsley, root attached, miraculously protected from freezing by the snow. A quick wash and we have parsley for the week. Remind me to grow stuff better in the future.

The recipe is dead simple and very tangy–lots of brine and spice. Like a puttanesca, but without the hassle of cooking a sauce. Add a salad, or a sauteed veggie, and you’re ready. Or just carb it out.

Pasta Pseudo Puttanesca
adapted from Gourmet
serves 5-6 as main dish (unless you are really really hungry)

The original recipe calls for about twice the olive oil you need to coat the pasta. If you want the extra, you can drizzle some on top when you serve. Any sort of long pasta works–I tried bucatini the first time and thought it was perfect–chewy and substantial. This time we had what looked like a narrow lasagna noodle–maybe half a centimeter wide with a ruffle all the way down the side. Also pretty great, because that ruffle adds surface area for catching bits of salty stuff.

The red chile flakes make this dish relatively spicy. If you like a milder pasta, use 1/2 t instead of 1 t.

3/4 C olives (3 oz.), pitted (I just get a mix rather than worrying about any particular variety)
1/4 C capers
1/4 C parsley, loosely packed
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted at 350 for 4-5 minutes
1 t red chile flakes
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. dried pasta of some long variety
parmesan for serving

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Pulse the first three ingredients in a food processor until they’re finely chopped (some chunks are fine, but you want the mix to be pretty fine otherwise). Add the pine nuts and pulse three or four more times, until the pine nuts are coarsely chopped.

Obviously you can do all this by hand, but if you have a food processor this becomes the easiest thing you’ve made all week.

Dump the mix into a really big bowl and add the olive oil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, reserve a cup of the pasta water, and drain. Add the pasta to the big bowl along with some of the pasta water–in the end I needed about 1/3 cup. Toss the sauce with the pasta until coated (I like tongs for this task), adding more pasta water if necessary. Serve immediately with parmesan (until this point the whole thing was vegan and it still could be!).

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