Bill St. John, special for Up News Info
A small plate of aglio e olio pasta. (Bill St. John, special for Up News Info)
I’m told that the tone of voice doesn’t look good in text messages, or in writing on social media, or even in day-to-day emails (except, of course, for ALL. CAPS. PEEVED.)
Given these days of kidnapping cooking, I wrote a column last week titled “How to Get the Most Out of a Stretched and Thin Pantry.” In response, someone wrote to me on Facebook, “What can I do with artichoke hearts, oatmeal, and tomato sauce?”
I’m pretty sure the feeling of exasperation that springs from those words was less with his pantry and more with me.
But this is what it does: drain the artichoke hearts, chop them into large pieces, add them to a pot with 1 cup of oatmeal and 2 cups of water (chicken broth, if you have it) and 1 teaspoon of tomato sauce (More dashes of hot sauce to taste, if you have it), and a pinch of healthy salt, and let it all soak up on the counter overnight. In the morning, cook the oatmeal as you would regularly and eat.
If you feel more comfortable eating that type of food at noon, eat it for lunch.
If the artichoke hearts had been packed or canned in vinegar and olive oil, an advantage would be to save the liquid from the initial drainage and make a kind of agrodolce syrup with which to cover the finished oats. Reduce the saved liquid in half, slowly boiling it in a saucepan and add a teaspoon of sugar (honey, if you have it, or even some chopped golden raisins or dried apricots) to form a light syrup.
If that’s too much oatmeal for that day, keep the leftovers in the refrigerator. The next day, or whenever you want to eat something else within a week, give them sticks and fry them in a mixture of oil and butter (or whatever fat you have in your stores). Now you will have small cakes crusted with brown delicacies, covered with dots of that agrodolce sauce you made.
You may not have my experience cooking or teaching, but you do have Chef Google. (There is a delicious-sounding online recipe for “Oatmeal Risotto with Artichokes and Lemon,” using steel-cut oatmeal.)
Please write to me, if you wish (email address below), with a short list of what you may have on hand for a meal but have little or no idea how to work. But first, promise me to enter the same list in a search engine to see if any recipe that you like appears.
Aglio and olio pasta
The simplest, perhaps most popular, pasta recipe of all time. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. In a skillet, over medium heat, pour 1/2 cup of olive oil as good as you get, 3 cloves of sliced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes. The second the garlic sizzles, say the Pledge of Allegiance, then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside on the stove. Cook 1 pound pasta long (bucatini, spaghetti, linguini, but any shape will do in a pinch) until al dente; Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the large pot.
Meanwhile, just before the pasta is done, reheat the garlic-oil mixture and, just as the oil shines, add it to the pot with the drained pasta, combining everything well (a couple of tongs works best here). If it looks dry, use tablespoons of paste water to loosen it to your liking.
Pasta cacio e pepe
The great preparation of Roman pasta, and a noble way of being in contact with so many suffering Italians. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil (at least 4 quarts / liter). In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of finely grated Roman pecorino and 1 cup of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano with 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper; mash with enough cold water to make a thick paste. Spread the pasta evenly across the bottom of the bowl.
If you don’t have any of these cheeses on hand and can’t buy them, use whatever firm or grated cheese you have.
Once the water is boiling, add 1 pound of pasta long (bucatini, spaghetti, linguini, but any shape will do in a pinch). The second before it’s perfectly cooked (try it often once it starts to soften), use tongs to quickly transfer it to the bowl, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to cover the pasta, add a teaspoon or two of good quality olive oil and a little water to cook the pasta to dilute the sauce if necessary. The sauce should adhere to the pasta and be creamy but not watery.
Mix and reserve 1 14-ounce can of any type of beans, rinsed; 1 14-ounce can of any type of vegetable, rinsed; and 2 cups of cooked rice of any kind. In a large skillet over medium-high heat and in 2 tablespoons of neutral oil, cook until smooth (7-8 minutes) 1 medium onion, finely chopped, adding 2 garlic cloves, minced in half.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder (or a mixture of 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, and red chili powder). Stir until aromatic, 30-45 seconds, then add beans, vegetables, and rice, stirring to mix well.
Add 1 cup canned coconut milk or cream, slightly diluted if cream (or any kind of half and half or cream), a pinch of dried red chili flakes and 1 cup (or more, to your liking) of frozen vegetables or diced you have. Heat until frozen vegetables are cooked through and cream is hot.
Serve the curry as desired, as-is, on top of couscous or a baked potato, or as a side dish or small plate.
Over the weekend, I checked out two places where I do a lot of my regular grocery shopping, but are also out of network for most people. As a result, they appear not to be experiencing a common shortage today.
The Aurora H Mart (2751 S. Parker Road, Aurora) was their usual way, brimming with vegetables (especially onions; man, do they have onions?), Lots of meat, and waves of seafood. The canned items appeared in good condition and they did not care about the large bags of rice. Without toilet paper.
Shamrock Foodservice Warehouse (460 S. Lipan St., Denver) primarily serves the restaurant business (which is now much-needed) but also retails everything it stores. Cheeses, vegetables, canned goods, flavorings, dry foods, everything. And raquelitas, corn or flour tortillas, the best. Without toilet paper