Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the best souvenirs are edible

We've come to the point in the semester when the notes that have to be written up have started to overwhelm the amount of reading that notes have to be taken upon. All the good law students have settled in and started to outline for all they're worth.

Which is, of course, why I went to Vermont this weekend. Bella offered me a chance to get out of Boston, plus an invitation to her family's pseudo-Thanksgiving fall supper, and I couldn't resist.

Not only did we eat enough turkey and trimmings and pie to leave us full for the next two days, I also visited a maple sugarworks and bought lovely, smoky Grade B syrup.

And Bella's mother, who happens to be a skilled baker and enthusiastic gardener, sent me home with a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of dried homegrown Roma tomatoes.

The bread is soft and nutty and makes fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches, but it's the dried tomatoes that I'm really excited about.* They're sweet and chewy and wonderfully tangy, and they're wonderful to cook with once you get beyond the urge to eat them straight out of the jar like potato chips.

The following is another in my long line of fishy, garlicky, your-breath-will-knock-out-vampires-at-fifty-paces pasta dishes. The breadcrumbs, odd as though they might sound, are not a mad experiment. They're lifted from Sicilian-style pasta dishes that use cheap breadcrumbs as a supposed substitute for pricey cheese. I'm not quite sure I buy the explanation, but the resulting dish is a little like eating pasta with toasted garlic bread - crunchy, salty, and just a little oily.

Just try not to eat all the dried tomatoes before they make it into the sauce.

Spaghetti with Dried Tomatoes, Anchovies and Toasted Breadcrumbs

You can use storebought breadcrumbs, but they won't taste as good as breadcrumbs you make yourself.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

Set a big pot of salted water on to boil.

Heat a small quantity of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add a generous splash of cheap white wine (the kind you really wouldn't drink) and bring to a simmer.

Cut a big handful of sundried tomatoes - the plain kind, not the ones in oil - into thin strips. (This is easier to do with kitchen shears than a knife.)

When the salted water has reached a rolling boil, add half a pound of spaghetti.

Drop the sundried tomatoes into the pan. Simmer until the tomatoes soften and the wine has reduced by half. Open a can of anchovies in olive oil and add them to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break them up. Cook until the mixture turns thick and saucy. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another pan. Add half a cup of breadcrumbs and three thinly sliced cloves of garlic. Toast until the breadcrumbs turn golden. Set aside.

When the spaghetti is al dente, drain and add it to the pan with the sundried tomatoes. Squeeze over the juice from half a lemon. Add the breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

*I had a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich made with Vermont cheddar and lots of butter on Friday. I finally understand what all the fuss is about.


Foodichka said...

Hong Kong, Australia, New York...and now the Basil Queen has co-opted Sicily. Soon no island will remain unexplored.

I recognized the breadcrumbs as a Sicilian element. I'll be making panelles soon- not the thin, crispy wafers, but little sandwiches made from thick slabs of fried chick pea dough with cheese in between. It's a heart attack on a plate, but you'll have the energy to plow a rocky hillside and vigorously stomp on some grapes.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

I love it. Anchovies get the shaft, but they make just about everything taste better.

adele said...

Foodichka - My sister might be visiting Iceland soon. I'm thinking of getting her to smuggle back some rotten shark.

I look forward to the panelles.

Virgin in the Volcano - They definitely do.

Say, aren't we still supposed to do dinner/bake cake? How's your weekend looking?

Vanessa said...

Is there a way to make this without the anchovies? I'd like to make it for someone who will not even consider eating any kind of fish. (Due to my own quirky but similarly intractable tastes, I'd prefer a solution that does not involve olives.)

adele said...

Sure. Leave out the anchovies and add a little grated Parmesan and maybe some finely chopped parsley. It'll have a different character, but it'll still be good.

Does that work?

Kim said...

I have never been a fan of anchioves, and think I might be missing out. Time to try them again. How is life and school going for you?

Cakelaw said...

Good luck with the study. Your spaghetti looks appetizing - perfect brain food.

Karyn said...

Ooh. I am a maple *fiend.* Right now, I have grades A and B maple syrup, maple extract, maple sugar chunks, maple sugar candy and maple stroopwaffles in my pantry. I am thinking maple cream pie ... but I will probably just end up eating everything (except perhaps the extract) straight-up. :-)

~~louise~~ said...

Indeed the best souvenirs are edible especially when used in a creation like Spaghetti with Dried Tomatoes, Anchovies & Toasted Breadcrumbs! Yummy! Glad I dropped in. Thanks for sharing...

adele said...

Kim - Oh, do try them. If you put them in a dish with plenty of other ingredients, they just add depth, and they won't taste too strong.

Life's going pretty well.

Cakelaw - Thank you!

adele said...

Karyn - Sounds good to me. I'm thinking maple-soaked fresh ginger cake, myself. :)

Louise - Thanks for dropping in!

Adam James Nall said...

That all sounds quite marvellous! I whole-heartedly agree that the best souvenirs are edible (or drinkable as the case may be!). What a very enjoyable blog.



adele said...

Adam - Actually, we did stop at the New Hampshire state liquor store on the way to Vermont, so I came back with drinkable souvenirs, too. Thank you for stopping by!

Julie said...

I love this sort of thing although we don't usually do it with breadcrumbs and dried tomatoes -- our house standard is anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes, and parsley. I need to try it your way!

And for all those commenters who think they don't like anchovy, I am not an anchovy fan in the sense that I'd never think of eating an anchovy straight. The very idea of a big fishy bite of anchovy sort of repulses me.

But...used like this where they melt into the background they're a completely different sort of thing. No big fishy bites, just an interesting depth of flavor. You should at least try this with a smaller amount -- maybe two or three anchovies -- and see if they don't surprise you (in a good way).