Monday, June 7, 2010


So my plan was to talk about my meal last night. And have pictures. There should be pictures. But the battery died. So sad.
So last night the meal morphed from polenta with a poached egg on top (it looked great in the picture) to a last minute pasta sauce of pancetta, harlic, tomato and courgette - with a little Buitenverwachting pinotage and pasta water for sauciness. This was served with penne. The method was the same way I cooked through university (wothout onion - sometimes you have to let the onion go - sorry Mom). I cooked some diced pancetta in my beloved cast iron pan that I have lugged from Wales, through England, via Maryland and into North Carolina. The plan was to render, and as I have learnt to my detriment - this means patience. You have to allow the fat to melt before the meat/pork browns. I was so so very very good because I got myself chopping onion and salt, tomato and courgette whilst waiting for this painfully slow process. The garlic was my typical preserved garlic - peel tons of the stuff and throw it in a container and cover with olive oil and then store in the fridge. Lasts forever although the garlic flavour becomes very mild. But to make up for that the oil becomes lovely and garlicky. I schmear the garlic with the salt and squasha dn crush it until it is a chunky paste. The tomato was a vine-ripened tomato that was coarsely chopped, not peeled, but seeds discarded. Once the pancetts was well on its way, I added the garlic and tomato and allowed this to saute down to a more pasty consistency.
I find courgettes in the US very bitter, so I tried the same trick that people use with aubergine. I sliced and salted and let them rest. Once the pancetta and the tomato and the garlic had become pancetta and mush I added about a 1/4 cup of Buitenverwachting pinotage (which I was drinking) to the pan and let it cook down. Then I washed off the courgettes, added them and then a 1/4 cup of pasta water. This cooked until the courgette was soft. Then I added some fresh sage, italian parsley, thyme and marjoram - just handfuls that I grabbed and chopped. I tossed the penne into the sauce pan and let it sit for a wee while, and then served with parmesan cheese. The cheese was unnecessary. I love parmesan cheese but find it not always that helpful as a condiment. I think it adds fabulous flavour when cooked as part of a dish - like adding to a bechamel sauce, or a non-seafood risotto (yes I know the rules) - but this need to scatter it on food? More often than not I think it's a disappointment. And I do use the fresh stuff.
My mom always keeps a container of the dry stuff and breads chicken with it or adds it into things - rather like one would add salt or herbs to a dish. She uses it as seasoning I suppose one would say. This is not the way of the food snob but as with all things that my mother cooks - she is right.

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