Tag Archives: food

Midnight Pasta

Happy to have a recipe published in the new local paper, The Provincetown independent.

For a time in the early to mid nineties, I lived in San Diego—in the Windnsea neighborhood in La Jolla, to be precise.  I knew nothing about San Diego, but took a chance and moved to there to teach fiction writing at the university.  I landed in a remarkably open, multicultural community (my main motivation to go) and found a bevy of smart, fun, and generous friends.  They were a mix of hardcore intellectuals, writers, and surfers.  I went to many parties and gave a few myself.   At one, as the music cooled and the crowd of twenty or so got their second wind, my friend Pasquale Verdicchio, a poet from Naples, told us it was time for midnight pasta.  Off we trooped into the kitchen, where I got a big pot of spaghetti going. Pasquale sliced up garlic, which he threw onto a warming pan of oil, searing them to a golden crispy almost-brown.  He skillfully, theatrically, mixed the garlicky oil into the al dente spaghetti.  A little parsley, some salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and there we had it: midnight pasta.

I have returned to the dish many times, sometimes using angel hair pasta, sometimes linguini, if that is all I find in the house. These days, though, I mostly eat alone, accompanied by two sleepy cats and Netflix.  The dish is easy to adjust to single portions.  Just measure out the amount of pasta you’ll eat and reduce the ingredients accordingly. You will have enough for a bowl, though you might want to cut a slice of bread to run around the dish to sop up lingering sauce.

Although I think few things go together so well as  garlic, olive oil, and red pepper, you can be endlessly creative with this dish. Go ahead, zest some lemon into the bowl, add add baby spinach or arugula, with maybe a touch of nutmeg.  Or, add chunks of goat cheese and chopped toasted walnuts, swap out the garlic for torn wedges of mandarin orange, dribble a touch of balsamic vinegar, and grind black peppercorn over the dish for bite. Grated parmesan is an easy addition.  Another option is to sauté some chopped tomato, red bell pepper, and broccoli rabe with the garlic and red pepper flakes, topping the dish off with a scattering of toasted pine nuts. But at midnight, you just might want to keep it simple.

 

Midnight Pasta Recipe

(serves 6-8)

I pound spaghetti

Several cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, or minced

Olive oil, about a ½  cup

¼ cup of pasta water

Red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

Fresh Parsley, (or basil if in season)

¼ cup grated parmesan (optional)

 

 

Boil the water for the pasta.  Salt it like Ina Garten tells us, with a good amount, to mimic the sea.

Add the spaghetti. A pasta maker once told me that no pasta needs more than eight minutes in the pot.  I still test the noodles by biting them, looking for the white raw interior to vanish.

Remember to save a quarter cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.

 

While the pasta is getting ready, heat the oil in a large saucepan, and saute the garlic, being careful not to burn it.  It should take just a few seconds to turn a beautiful golden bronze.

Add some of the saved pasta water.

Add the red pepper to the oil, as much as you and your guests prefer.

Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pan, mixing gently.

If using, add the Parmesan.

Add salt to taste.

Tear parsley into small pieces and sprinkle if you like.

 

Originally published in The Provincetown Independent, February 27, 2020

Recovery, Reverie

The day was going to be different. Isn’t that always the case? I was going to go in to Boston for my weekly class, but because a guest writer was giving a reading, we were going to use the time after to write. News of a nor’easter came, and I woke to find the power gone. I wrote to my class to enjoy the reading without me,waxing poetic about the rain and wind, and how this was the kind of weather to birth pages of words.

But instead of clearing my desk, I noticed that the radio station where I volunteer at needed someone to cover a shift. Well I could do that, I thought, driving over. Somehow I managed to cram three hours of business donor ads into an hour, play some music, overturn a loose leaf folder which emptied its pages onto the floor. A listener called to gently correct my prunciation of an artist’s name. I managed to continue to miss cues, knock my headphones apart, suffer three coughing fits, and finally gather my raincoat to exit.

One reason I thought I’d cover a shift was because I woke in acute pain from the shingles vaccination I’d had the day before. As I write this, with mild fever , a fuzzy head, and achy body, already in bed at a quarter past seven, I wonder what fresh hell is this? Let’s roll out all those cliches. Being sick on your own is no fun. Who can you call for comfort? These days it is all texting. So you take some Advil, a teaspoon of honey because a friend of yours makes it with her bees, and wait for the morning.

How many nights do I just wait for morning? Tonight, I made a dinner out of a can of vegetable soup a friend recommended, adding some rasam powder, garlic, and mustard seed I fried in a small amount of olive oil, and several pieces of corn tortillas. I watched an episode of Doc Martin, wishing it was The British Baking Show, and finally made my way to bed.

It seems to me that I should host a dinner-making party, where every one gathers to make food for the week. Of course, it would have to be vegetarian in my kitchen, and there will be two curious cats around. And I’d have to scrub everything down to keep the dander away, and already the thought has exhausted me.

Somewhere in this essay is a cry, muted, but hovering: vaccines hurt; the immunities lower, the eyes get weepy, the body aches. I am grateful for a full belly, a warm bed. I want more, but this enough. Yesterday was different,as I listened some truly amazing music on the radio throughout the day and night in the car, went to a play, and came home to stay up until past midnight googling the play I had just seen. Tomorrow will be different. Outside, it not raining, but only the sound of wind filling the air.

A Single Woman and the Farmer’s market

 

Indira Ganesan, Bounty from a friend and the market, 2019

The problem is that everything looks so good.  And maybe if I lived in my concept of France, I could be one of those women who chooses one tomato, one cucumber, a small head of lectuce, garlic, one zucchini, and go home to make a lovely and delicious lunch for one.  I would pour a hand-made kombucha, and salute the validity of humanity, life, and food.  Instead I go and reach with my hand to grab several eggplant, add beans, add tomatoes, add kale, add and add until my bag bulges with dinner for four for a week.  And coming home, exhausted, hot and sweaty, cursing the already sky high sun, and eat a cookie, as the vegetables, packed away in the fridge, photographed in their lovely wooden bowl, languish.  Of course, France has nothing to do with it.  It is this self-care I learn again and again to make a meal for one, a meal not to show off culinary prowess borrowed from a score of cookbooks, but simply to feed and fuel myself for the day.

Over the summer, a student taught me to blend chickpeas with kale and broccoli, and make a soup that sits thick on the spoon. I ate some now, and am full.

It is lunch that undoes me, for the easiest thing is to grab two slices aof bread, dill pickle, cheese, a tomato, and call it a meal.I have written about this before, about the deliciousness of cheese sandwiches, cold or grilled. But it all that bread and cheese.   My mother used to make us sandwiches that were really salads in diguise, and sometimes I follow suit. But give me buttered toast, and I am happy.  Give me a sweetened bread and coffee and I am inspired.  Sadly, though I love the beauty of vegetables, I am not in love with them.

How do these words help anyone but me?  Maybe by writing, I can make nutrition happen, care for my body, live better.  Athletics were never interesting to me, but being exhausted is wearisome.  Murakami runs before he writes.  A number of women in New York walk in the park before gathering for coffee, and departing individually to write.  Me, I get in my car and drive, often to buy food or find a place to eat.  The work gets done, but there is so much else to be written, and read.  Here I am embarking on my nineth fall in one apartment, the longest I have ever stayed in one place.  It has taken me years to like where I live, and not miss where I am not.  Of course, the minute one starts to appreciate something, the more one is aware of how quickly it can be taken away.  To practice non-attachment, to place, food, people, to even my work, or the idea of work, that is ,writing books, might take another decade.  I write this to record.  Maybe to read without cringing a year from now.  To make a measure of this lived life.