Monday, July 27, 2009

tasty presents

I don't know quite how to take this, but every time I have been given a gift recently, it has been a food gift. Are people trying to fatten me up? Do they realize just how important my tastebuds have become in the past few years? Regardless, I will happily accept my gifts.

Tonight's dinner was Pasta Puttanesca. I have another recipe for this, in One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson, but I think I like Nava's better - it was extremely flavorful without being over-the-top rich. I've noticed that chefs seem to have "go to ingredients" that tend to end up in more than half their recipes. Nava's is sun-dried tomatoes, whereas Robin's is definitely fake ground beef. I didn't actually like ground beef when I DID eat meat, so I'm not one of those people who runs around trying to find meat-like things now that I don't eat meat. I figure, I'm a vegetarian, so I eat....vegetables. Sorry if you were hoping for a more exciting answer. In Robin's defense, though, there are some terrific recipes in One-Dish, such as a delightful Pastitsio for my sweet Greek husband.

Anyway, I don't really have any fun cooking stories - Pasta Puttanesca has been translated as "Streetwalker pasta" because legend has it that the Ladies of the Night/Working Girls created the recipe by throwing together pantry ingredients after a long night's work. I don't know if that's true, but I think it may be the best recipe legend I've ever heard! Much better than family heirloom cookie recipes...but maybe that's because my family doesn't have any.

Back to my gifts. After dinner had settled in our stomachs a little tonight, my beloved went to the freezer and produced a dessert present - a thoroughly frozen DQ Blizzard. That was a sweet way to end a hot, humid Philadelphia day (despite my day spent languishing in a sub-arctic office...I cannot begin to imagine the energy bills for the A/C). Yesterday, my father-in-law came into the city with his wife and met up with my husband for lunch in the Italian Market, home to DiBruno Brothers, a gourmet Italian grocer/butcher/cheese seller. So, when I returned from work (which prevented me from joining my family for this fun day), I was presented with gifts from my father-in-law from DiBruno Bros: Rosemary Foccacia, very fine Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for dipping), and a hunk of sheep's milk cheese. I could drool just thinking of this fine Mediterranean feast. Finally, at work today, a colleague offered me big bunches of mint from his home garden - I did not know it existed, but he has a strain of chocolate mint (yes, it's really an herb - he said they use it to make peppermint patties) as well as spearmint, and he's bringing me both.

So, now my mind is completely focused on constructing a recipe that will allow me to use up the mint before it wilts and dies. The spearmint will have no trouble finding its way into a moroccan-inspired dish, but the chocolate mint will definitely have to be used in a dessert. I don't think I've reached the level of creativity or skill yet where I can figure out how to integrate that flavor into a dinner. Stay tuned - I can smell an adventure looming!

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