Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall is for Smoky Bacon

I’m certainly slacking on the writing, but not the cooking. Lately, it’s been pasta variants with one key ingredient: bacon. Of course, not just any bacon--I’ve been the lucky recipient of a calculated 8 slices of my dad’s smoky, homegrown bacon. The thick slabs are a heavenly union of juicy, flavorful fat, and rich cured meatiness. On Friday, I decided it was time to put this delicacy to good use. It was the eve of Foxy Fall Century, and I figured that carbonara pasta would provide the fuel I needed to bike 100 miles the next day.
I first cut and fried the bacon--using only 4 slices, this stuff is precious--and after the pieces began to sizzle and a tantalizing aroma filled the kitchen, we added garlic to fry in the rendered fat, another tempting scent layering into the melee. Meanwhile, Andrew created the decadent egg-cheese mixture--a cup or so of dry parmesan, and 3 eggs beaten together to form a bright, thick paste. After draining the pasta--and naturally, retaining some starchy water--and adding it to the fragrant bacon and garlic pan, the cook must strike a delicate balance: ensuring that the pasta is hot enough to meld with the egg-cheese mixture and absorb the pasta water, but not so hot that the egg fries upon contact with the smoldering strings. Creamy, smoky, and sinfully rich, this dish provided a satisfying close to the week--and a start to an active weekend.
I must admit, I’d been planning tonight’s dinner all day. Andrew and I exchanged a couple of anticipatory emails throughout the day, and yesterday’s farmer’s market kale purchase made kale bacon pasta the logical choice. I’d roasted a butternut squash--my favorite fall food--as well, and it seemed like a natural addition. Again, the dish began by frying the bacon slices and removing them from the pot, next browning the garlic in the rendered fat, adding half the kale nearly simultaneously so as to coat the curly leaves with smoky grease. Two cups of chicken stock accompanied the rest of the kale and the sliced roasted squash, the mixture simmering as the pasta cooked. We drained the pasta, and added it to the vibrant, bubbling pot, the chicken stock and vegetable juices infusing the pasta upon its addition. By now, the squash had softened, becoming delicious creamy and coating the pasta as well. We added the crispy bacon bits, stirring and grating parmesan cheese into the pot, its ingredients still melding together over the heat. I don’t give this title lightly, but I think Andrew and I can agree that this was one of the best yet. We certainly have my dad to thank.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Golden Hour

Alas, I fear that I am a repetitive person. As I exuberantly documented my sunset bike ride yesterday evening, I recognized that I’d surely taken renditions of the same beautiful, “golden hour” scenes before. When I arrived home, exhilarated and (of course) ravenous, a familiar craving set in as I opened the fridge to discover pungent bundles of rosemary and a plethora of bright meyer lemons. My craving for lemon-rosemary-parmesan pasta had been long in the making--it’s one of my favorite dishes, but when the ingredients come from the supermarket rather than my parents’ backyard I find them to be expensive and not as delectable. However, an angel (i.e, parental) delivery on Friday afternoon left us well-stocked for the coming weeks, and the backyard bounty enabled last night’s familiar creation.
My favorite part about this dish is how the pasta absorbs the lemon-olive oil mixture. The fine pasta is only cooked for a few minutes in its own salted water, while fresh-squeezed meyer lemon juice and olive oil warms simultaneously. After a scant two minutes, I drain the pasta (retaining some starchy water, of course) and add the beyond al dente strands to the fragrant juice, periodically pouring pasta water as the pasta eagerly absorbs the liquid melee. Rosemary, then parmesan bring up the rear--the former uniquely aromatic (I am continually aware of the distinctness of the herb’s scent) and the latter a creamy binding agent. Freshly ground pepper and a side of sweet and fresh green beans complete the meal--it was wholly satisfying and literally mouthwatering with the tart lemon juice infusion. I’m already counting down the minutes until lunch. But that’s nothing new--I prefer to view my repetitive nature as an appreciation and anticipation of life’s small pleasures.
One of the day's small pleasures, for example...