Saturday, July 15, 2006

Left to my own devices

What does a culinarian-in-training do for dinner when The Man is out of town? Why, she eats junk, of course! Or, she eats things with peanut butter, because The Man is slightly allergic to peanuts (no anaphylactic reactions, thank goodness!) an entire half order of Super Suppers Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce on Thursday. In my own defense, I had not had lunch, and the chicken breasts were like 4 ounces (at least I hope they were 4 ounces!).

The chicken is marinated in a combination of coconut milk, a littl soy sauce, a little lemon juice, some brown sugar, chopped fresh ginger, some cilantro and a little curry powder. You can either grill or saute the chicken as you like. The peanut sauce is off the chain, which is why I ate all of it. It's peanut butter with coconut milk, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, curry powder, and chopped fresh ginger, and you can serve it either hot or cold or just lick it right out of the Ziploc bag.

I made some rice and cooked up the chicken and put it over the rice. I had put the peanut sauce in a bowl to preserve some semblance of civility, but I gave it up after the first bite and just poured it over all the chicken and rice on my plate. It was very Thai-like and very tasty.

I did start off my solo dining career on Wednesday by having a nice little steak salad with bleu cheese and grape tomatoes over spring mix. I think I should get some brownie points for my effort to eat somewhat sensibly.

Last night, as I was fighting my way through traffic, heading home from work, I thought about the lovely Italian sausage in the fridge. I really love the mild Italian sausage that Publix makes. It has a nice flavor and is usually fairly lean. If I'm making a dish that calls for adding hot red pepper flakes, I just grab the "hot" Italian instead. I know it's not really "authentic," but my options for authentic Italian sausage are kinda slim in this neck of the woods.

Back to the sausages...I have this recipe from one of Mario Batali's books, called "Weeds and Sausage" (the recipe, not the book!). It's basically browned Italian sausage with some onions, then you add some tomato paste and pincage the hell out of it until it turns an extremely rusty color. Then, you add some whole milk and then toss with some cooked gemeli pasta...the little twists. It's a dish with a minimal sauce, which I like. I've always been a more "noodles than sauce" kinda gal. This sauce just coats the pasta and really doesn't pool up in the plate.

Alas, I had no tomato paste. I could have sworn I had tomato paste, but the only can I had looke extremely it had a little bump on the side of it...which is probably a very bad, potentially botulistically fatal thing, so I tossed it. Why I only had 1 can, I have no idea, because I always by doubles and triples of tomato products. Anyway, I opted to make spaghetti instead, with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Of course, this means I'll be eating spaghetti for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next couple of days. Which is fine, because I really, really like spaghetti. My spaghetti.

Not that my spaghetti is going to win any awards at any Italian festivals, but it's the spaghetti that I like. I have this theory about spaghetti...that it's as individual as fingerprints (I never said it was a *good* or an earth-shattering theory), and that no family makes spaghetti like any other family, even if you were to put them in a cook-off kitchen with the exact same ingredients to work with. Be honest with yourselves--do you ever like anyone else's spaghetti better or as much as your own? Or the spaghetti that your mom/grandmom made? Or, maybe you feel the opposite...that you like anyone else's spaghetti better than your mom's? It's actually a wonder I make spaghetti at all, since I didn't really grow up with spaghetti. Remember, my mother is the woman who made spaghetti sauce with ketchup and garlic salt, and then graduated to Ragu. And, we won't even go down the Spaghetti-Os route. At some point in my childhood, I must have had spaghetti at someone's house and discovered that it really was a good thing, as Martha would say, and then I embarked on tweaking up my own version. And, not that my version necessarily tastes exactly the same way twice, but it's close enough for me. : )


Linna said...

Spaghetti! My mother makes the best spaghetti sauce. When my folks were first married, Mom couldn't cook at all. So Dad sent her to a cooking school in Chicago. The only cooking schools in those days were fancy French ones. She went to one taught by Antoinette Pope (if you can find her cookbook, buy it!). Mom learned a lot of useful things like spaghetti sauce and lasagna and white sauce. And a lot of useless but fun things like cake decorating.

Personally, I think Paul Newman makes perfectly wonderful spaghetti sauces. But I do like to go home once in a while for Mom's lasagna.

GarniGal said...

I make far better spagetti than my mother. In fact, we have this no-boil lasagne recipe that is basically watered-down spagetti sauce, noodles and cottage cheese/cheddar & eggs, and she won't make it unless I come up to make the sauce. It's a good thing we make anywhere from 5 to 10 9x13" pans when we do make it, since it's an hour and a quarter drive to her place.

Erin said...

Mmm, I always end up going to the store and buying myself some of those horrible cupcakes when I'm alone - sort of a comfort food, I guess. I also eat a lot of mac'n'cheese if it's just me, because for some reason it seems like WAY too much work to cook a real meal for only one person.

You can imagine how healthful I was while my husband lived and worked out of town (almost two years out of the last five). Umm, yeah. Let's just say I'm heavier now. *grin* In light of that, spaghetti's not so bad, is it?

Belinda said...

I know it's not the wisdom we grew up with, but as I understand it, today's dented cans are NO PROBLEMO. No botulism scares any more. Has something to do with the material the cans are made of.

jessie said...

My current favorite spaghetti sauce is a bolognaise that I got out of Saveur a couple of years ago. It was my first introduction to *not* browning the meat before you put it in the sauce, and it has milk in it. It has a very even consistency (because the meat isn't browned) and a very even flavor (courtesy of the milk).

My husband likes to make chunky tomato sauce (lots of big hunks of veggies), which is OK, but not the comfort food I desire.

I have a friend who makes his mother's spaghetti. I've had his mother's cooking, and it ain't great, despite the fact that she's from Germany. Anyway, the weird thing about it is that they burn sliced onions to go on top. And I mean burn as in black. Ugh. I think they serve them with mashed potatoes, too.