It’s a very exciting birthday this year, waking to fluffy white flakes through the window beside the coolest man I know (who proposed three years ago today). Yep, life is good, and I hope it finds you the same in the new year.
Twenty-five years of life does not mean twenty-five years of cooking and great food (though I’m optimistic for the next quarter-century). It’s really been six years of serious food love, and merely three of dedicated home cooking (cookbooks on the nightstand, sautéing in my slumber). When I met my Andrew, I had never seen, or tasted, a bell pepper—definitely clueless on chopping one. I had never held a knife other than a petite paring. And I really wasn’t clued into non-powdered garlic. Clearly, life has been more delicious since I began it with Andrew, and God bless him for putting up with my nightly vegetarian experimentations.
My point is that I am relatively new to beautiful food, and A Pear to Remember is the place to be if you are, too. When we are blessed enough to have food on the table each day, it ought to be filled with love (and maybe even roasted garlic). Delicious food is possible every day, and crucial for celebrations. So happy birthday to me and to Mom, Jesus and all the rest of you replicating this memorable dish in your own kitchen.
Lindsey’s Tuscan Spaghetti
inspired by Pierluigi Giachi from the Torciano Vineyard
1 lb. spaghetti (the best stuff you can find)
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried chili flakes
2-3 springs fresh oregano
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
6 tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, finely shredded
While boiling your biggest pot of well-salted water, heat the oil over a low flame. Once hot (heat at least 3 minutes), add the crushed garlic, chili flakes, and oregano to the oil in your largest skillet. (If you want the dish very mild, add only 1/4 tsp. chili flakes). Let the aromatics infuse their vibrant flavor into the oil while the pasta boils, or until the garlic turns golden brown.
Pour the infused oil into a measuring cup with a fine strainer catching the garlic and herbs. Add the flavorful oil back into the skillet.
With tongs, transfer the spaghetti directly into the skillet (still over low heat). Toss gently until all the pasta is coated with oil, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water if necessary. Toss with the parsley, a few leaves of fresh oregano, parmesan and serve hot. You will not believe how this rustic dish glistens with flavor.
But wait! The garlic bread! An absolute must.
Lindsey’s Not-too Garlicky Garlic Bread
This bread was a dee-licious Linvention.
1 loaf Italian bread, halved lengthwise
7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
7 cloves garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. flat leaf parsley
2 tsp. finely shredded parmesan
Roast four cloves of garlic within their papery skin (olive oil drizzled over cloves, all wrapped in foil. roasted at 400 F for about 25 minutes until brown). Once cooled, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their paper into the softened butter. Mince the remaining garlic cloves on a microplane and add to the butter with the parsley, parmesan, and a pinch of coarse salt. Mash with a fork until well combined.
Slice crosswise and serve warm with tomato sauce.
Where’s the tomato sauce in this feast? I realize we’re working backwards in terms of preparation, but Andrew’s Original Chicken Parmesan is a perfect meat-eater’s way to round out the meal—besides, of course, the salad. Mom and the rest of the family loved this recipe.
Andrew’s Chicken Parmesan
1 lb. organic chicken tenderloins
1 jar tomato sauce (our favorite: Emeril’s Kicked-Up Tomato)
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thick
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp. finely shredded parmesan-reggiano
With kitchen scissors, cut the tenderloin into 2-inch pieces. Dip each into beaten egg, then breadcrumbs combined with oregano and parmesan. Add each piece directly into the baking dish. Drizzle the breaded chicken lightly with olive oil. With all the pieces in a single layer of an 8-inch casserole, bake in a 400 F oven until the chicken is just cooked through. Into the casserole, pour sauce to completely cover the chicken and top with mozzarella slices in a single layer. Bake again until the sauce bubbles and the cheese browns.
Serve with chianti and a simple salad of crunchy romaine and small, sweet tomatoes—lemon and olive oil to moisten.
Such a feast that is easily all on the table in 45 minutes.
P.S. My very special birthday gift from Mom & Pops was a stunning 12″ Staub grill pan. Prepare for endless indoor grilling recipes in 2011!