Friday, July 11, 2008

Mealtime memories....... and a heckuva plate of pasta


When I was a youngen…. I had a bestus buddy named Guido.

The first time I ate dinner with his family, I unknowingly did something pretty bright, if only I had done it on purpose.

A cutting board with a fresh loaf of bread was passed, and I was first in line. I sliced off the nose, going after the softer piece one more slice into the loaf, then I handed the board to Guido’s father. He took the nose…. giving me an appraising glance, and passed the rest on.

Later, Guido told me I had made major points, as his father loved the nose of the loaf and thought I had left it on purpose, out of respect.

Over the years I learned many things at Guido’s table, not the least was an appreciation of fine Italian food. I’m under no illusion that I can cook to his mother’s level, but it’s a favorite cuisine to this day and I enjoy trying.

This afternoon I developed a taste for such a meal as might be served at Guido’s family table. Bread, pasta, fresh vegetables, good sausage….. and all with good honest flavor.

Follows are the details……

As I walked into the grocery store, a clerk was laying out fresh Italian loaves still hot from the oven. It took a fair amount of will power to not rip one open on the spot. Instead, one went in the basket. Also, some quality Fettuccine and store brand Italian sausage links made that day.

The loaf became toasted garlic bread, with a brushed on coating of butter, chopped garlic, kosher salt, fresh pepper, and a pinch of dried Italian herbs. It was toasted under the broiler till just crispy on top, while still soft and chewy. The smell from the oven was breathtaking.

The pasta was cooked in heavily salted gently simmering water till just al dente. While it was doing so, major happiness was occurring on the grill.

The sausage, set on a top rack to begin cooking slow, was soon joined by something else….Fresh vegetables, most picked from our own garden less than an hour before dinner. Spanish spice peppers, yellow sweet pepper, various tomatoes, and white onions.

Also fresh sweet basil and spicy oregano from the herb garden on the deck. Add a few cloves of garlic, and all coated liberally with olive oil. Place in a large flat dish and set on the grill to sauté, adding a big pat of herb butter left over from the bread.

The veggies cook down in the olive oil, mingling with the herbs and making a sauce beyond belief. Don’t cook them to oblivion, just enough to soften and begin to break down. The garlic cloves will be just nicely roasted at the same time. Smash the roasted cloves and stir them into the mix.

When ready, set the cooked sausage on top of the sautéed fresh vegetables, sprinkle with several large pinches of reserved chopped fresh basil and oregano, and place on the table.

The residual heat will cook the herbs and release their scent.

The pasta, well drained, is tossed with a dollop of virgin olive oil and some fresh ground pepper. Put a small pile of the fettuccini on each plate, and allow the diners to heap on their own sausage and sautéed vegetables. Put out a dish of Chiffinaded basil and oregano so people can add it fresh to their plate as they wish.

Yes….. it may not be up to Guido’s mother’s level of culinary skill, but I think I honor them with this attempt.

I know one thing…… such is not available anyplace else but at a home table, not far from the garden, and cooked by someone who cares

1 comment:

immagikman said...

Art, between you and Brigid and your food pics, I am definitely going to put on pounds!

There is a special place reserved for you who blog about tasty food with delicious pictures for us night owls to see in the middle of the night. You almost never find anyone willing to cook at 2:30am. :)