October 19th, 2003

caillebotte_man at his window


Since Sluggo decided to mess with me, I spent much of the night with the (more reliable) CD player. Debussy's Sonata for Violin and Piano has caught my fancy. I have discovered that it makes excellent recovery music between bouts with a recalcitrant machine. It suits the season, too, with both soft, elegiac passages, and parts as lively as leaves swirling through a sudden breeze. It's too bad Debussy wrote so few chamber works. He was very good at it.

Deer came to inspect the yard next door a few hours ago, but left without bothering to visit me. They are probably annoyed by the fact that I've let the flower bed die out. The pansies they so enjoy munching simply weren't able to survive the torrid days of summer. I'll make it up to them next year.

Now, before Sluggo decides to crash again, I think I'll return to the CD player, and let Claude play me to sleep.
caillebotte_the orangerie

Artichoke Spaghetti

Another balmy autumn afternoon, and the windows are all open to catch the breezes now scented with dry grass, and listen to the birds chirping. Since the windows are open, I can cook something garlicky, without having the house smell of it all night. I think I'll make artichoke spaghetti.

I don't use actual recipes when I cook, and never bothered to make careful measurements, just eyeballing everything as I put it in, but here are the instructions for making what the old Italian woman who introduced me to it called Whit Spaghetti -- presumably because it is served without a sauce:

Cook a package (8oz) of artichoke spaghetti al dente. (This product is made with Jerusalem artichoke, not with the popular thistle. You'll probably have to buy it from a health food store, since it is not widely available in supermarkets.)

When the spaghetti is done, toss it into a (preferably non-stick) pan and coat it lightly with olive oil. Do this over medium heat. You can saute a bit of garlic in the oil first, if you like. I usually just use a bit of garlic powder. Salt very lightly, as you'll be adding rather salty cheese later. I prefer to use onion salt in this dish. It adds a bit more flavor.

Once the spaghetti is lightly covered with oil, add bread crumbs. I use Progresso Italian Style bread crumbs, as I'm too lazy to make my own. Sprinkle a good half cup over the spaghetti, and add more if needed, but don't let the crumbs pile up in the bottom of the pan. The idea here is to bread the spaghetti, so you'll have to keep tossing it in the pan to get an even distribution. Too much oil, and you'll get lumps of oily crumbs. Too little oil, and the crumbs won't stick to the spaghetti. I had to make the stuff two or three times before I got the knack of it. Oh, you will need two utensils for lifting and tossing the spaghetti throughout the cooking.

Next, you add a cup of chopped fresh parsley. Italian flat-leafed parsley is best, but the crinkly stuff will do. Mix it well into the breaded spaghetti. At this point, it is wise to lower the heat a bit, since you will be adding in the cheese next, and you don't want it to melt too fast.

You'll want to start with about half a cup of grated parmesan cheese. Remember, you can always add a bit more, but you can't take any out. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the spaghetti and then toss to mix it in well. This can be tricky, since the whole mass will want to clump up. Don't let it! I call this the Wonder Bra stage of the process -- lift and separate, lift and separate. A few little lumps of cheese and bread crumbs accumulating in the bottom of the pan is not a problem. In fact, they are good. But most of the cheese, like the bread crumbs, should be coating the spaghetti.

Once the cheese is well mixed in, raise the heat. Make it very hot. If the pan has become too dry, add a bit more olive oil at this point. The idea is to get some of the spaghetti crisp and crunchy. If there isn't enough oil, it will scorch. Slide the spaghetti to one side and pour a small amount of oil into the pan, then push the spaghetti back over it. Repeat as necessary. Keep lifting and separating, too. You won't be able to separate every strand of spaghetti, but try to keep the clumps that do form as small as possible.

Incidentally, some people like to toss in a handful of pine nuts (near the end of the cooking, I think,) but I've never tried it that way.

8oz. of spaghetti will make two large servings as a main dish, and 4-6 servings as a side dish. Because it is served without a sauce, and can be a bit dry, I like to accompany it with a wet vegetable, such as a medley of steamed squash.

The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, which means I ought to get started.