Let’s Make Dinner

I thought we’d throw dinner together, um, together tonight, dear readers.  Grab some of your essentials, and let’s get cooking.  I promise it won’t take long, and it will be more than worth it.  We’re making fancy spaghetti for two (plus some leftovers), and it requires no measurement.  It’s a cook by feel kind of thing.

Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove.

Then grab a couple of these.  They’re garlic cloves.  But you knew that.  They’re what you find when you peel back all the papery layers on a bulb of garlic.  If you need to know how to get the papery layer off each clove, click here.  Yep, you have to smash the side of a big knife with your fist.  The first time I did it, I was scared.  Now it’s fun!  I smashed three.  Had I not been eating with other human beings, I would have smashed more.

Set a skillet on low heat and start to warm up some olive oil.  You can see that I didn’t coat the pan all the way, but almost. You want the pan to get good and hot, so the second the garlic hits it, you’re infusing flavor into the oil.

While you’re waiting for that to happen, chop your garlic.

And add it to the hot oil.  Stir things around for a second.  Then, when the mood strikes, or you hear a faint sizzle, pick up a wooden spoon and stir it again.

Is your water boiling?  Good.

Add some kosher salt to it (truth be told, any salt will work).  A lot.  Enough to make it taste like the ocean.  We’re talking palmfuls, here.  Sounds crazy, right?  It’s not.  This step makes such a difference in the taste of pasta because boiling it this way is the only chance you have to impart flavor into the noodles.  If you’re ever bored, cook some in salted water, and some in regular water and see for yourself.

Add pasta,

and schnerch it around a little.  If you’re not familiar, schnerch is a Wooden Nickels term.  It means something between wiggle and fidget.  This is so the noodles don’t stick together.

My garlic was sizzling away, so I moved it to the side of the pan.  There’s less heat there.  Don’t worry, that gorgeous flavor is still asserting itself in that oil.  Now it’s time to julienne basil.  This is fun.

Grab some basil leaves and stack them on top of one another.  This is about 5 leaves.

Roll them up super tight, like a burrito.

Then, use a sharp knife to slice the burrito into rounds. Which become this lovely little spirals.  Julienned (aka chiffonade) basil!  I did this process twice.

Throw half the basil onto the skillet, stir things around,

and remove from heat.  You want the basil just to give a little oomph to what you’ve already done here.  If you’re feeling daring, throw some red pepper flakes in there.  Just a pinch.

Now your spaghetti is probably done.  Especially if you used angel hair, which I did.  Use the same tongs you used for schnerching to take it out.

And start adding the pasta to a large serving bowl.  Do not worry about shaking off all the excess water.  You’re actually looking for some of that water in there.  It adds starchy flavor, and will thin out the oil to ensure you coat each spaghetti strand.

Now, striking while the pasta is still hot, pour the oil mixture all over this sucker, and grate a ton of Parmesan cheese on top.  I added the zest and juice of a lemon, too.  Totally optional.  But you know how I feel about lemons.  Get it all mixed together.

Then, I sprinkled the rest of the basil on top of the whole mess,

and “plated” my dinner in a cute little bowl.

Then I threw some more pasta in that bowl, put a ton more cheese on top, and ate it in front of Dawson’s.  Oh look, Joey’s pouting!  Something new and different for her.

There are about a million ways you could interpret this dish, and a million more to serve it.  Toss in some greens while it’s still hot and let them wilt a little.  If there’s someone in your life who insists a meal isn’t a meal without meat, throw in some sausage.  Or, try and teach that person that protein comes in other forms as well, and toast some walnuts or pine nuts to toss in at the end.

Serve this when you’re alone and want to feel like a grown up.  This is a major step up from Easy Mac.  Serve it when you’re with someone and you need a delicate first course (don’t go the six-cloves route then).  Or, scale the “recipe” up and serve it, family style, to the ones you love.

Check back soon if you want to know what to do with the leftovers.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Make Dinner

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