Lately I’ve been like an addict on a bender. Appearances are fine. To the outside world it looks like things go according to plan. The reality is that I have been like a ravenous maw consuming all in my many paths and nothing on the path I should tread.
There sits my kitchen. For the past couple of weeks I have been letting myself be lured by the siren sounds of other kitchens. Any excuse to eat at a restaurant and I’d jump out the door purse in hand. A shopping trip to get groceries revealed that putting those wholesome items away was a challenging obstacle course of takeout containers and plastic bags. I need it to stop.
I know how to cook. I really do. A cabinet in my pantry is full of cookbooks for guidance and inspiration. I read food magazines and cooking blogs like they are novels and short stories. I have a kitchen of drawers and cabinets full of pots, pans, utensils, gadgets and knick knacks. So why don’t I feed myself? I really don’t know.
Force myself to go in there. Into that room of food laid to waste. Odds and ends. Bits and pieces. Force myself to page through the books, see what is on the page, see what is in the drawers, on the shelves, on my mind.
A trip to the yard for herbs. A grab in a drawer for a gadget. The cool feel of stainless steel in my hand. Oh so many questions: why is there always a bag of pasta with just an ounce or two of pasta missing? Why are there five mushrooms rolling around in the bottom of the crisper like orphans in a crowd? Is the sour cream off? What… is… that…
I am not a drinker, yet I have bottles and bottles of alcohol. I try so hard to eat a healthy diet, yet there is always butter and cheese. Always, there are piles of vegetables and fruits neglected and sometimes scary lurking in the darker recesses. Sometimes there are treats such as black forest ham or cured olives reserved for tasting but living in that hazy place between snack and alchemy. Such a wealth. So ignored. For what? The new pasta place that served us mediocre food? The brewpub with the cabbage we suspect of making us ill? The breakfast place with the food that tastes of greasy meals past. It’s criminal. It needs to stop.
It stops here.
Penne with Black forest ham and vegetables primavera
12 oz penne
Broccoli florets trimmed from two stalks
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
5-6 mushrooms sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 lemon, zested and halved to be squeezed for juice
1 medium zucchini, chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
6 oz black forest ham, chopped
½ cup dry vermouth
1 cup low fat milk
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 -2 tbsp freshly grated parmesano reggiano, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper for garnish
In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add penne and cook approx. 8 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, return the pasta to the pot and set aside.
Steam broccoli for three minutes until just softened. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Heat until butter melts and foaming subsides. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add rosemary, lemon zest, zucchini and red peppers. Continue cooking until the veggies begin to soften. Add ham and broccoli. Cook for a minute or two until the ham begins to shrink a bit. Add vermouth. Continue to cook for a minute or two until the liquid begins to evaporate. Add milk and sour cream. Stir until the sour cream becomes smooth and incorporates itself into the sauce. Be careful with the heat at this point because you don’t want the dairy to curdle. If your stove is running hot, lower the heat a bit so that it is just at a simmer. Squeeze about a teaspoon of juice into the sauce from a lemon half. Toss in the parmesan.
Remove the sprig of rosemary from the sauce and pour the sauce over the pasta. Return the pot to the heat. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes until the sauce coats the pasta and thickens a bit. Serve with extra parmesan and a little fresh ground pepper.