Have you ever noticed the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) kind of rivalry that exists between neighboring states? Our schools are better, their cities have more crime, and have you ever seen those people drive?? I suppose it could be some instinctual and subconscious home pride that causes us to look down on our neighbors. It could be that we are so accustomed to the way we drive that someone who drives differently is seen as a bad driver. It could be that in our deepest heart, we know there's nothing more special about the place we call home (especially if living there wasn't an active choice) and have to specifically focus on why we're so lucky to live here instead of there.
That said, there are two things I know:
- "Northern" magazines don't harp on living north of the Mason-Dixon line. Don't get me wrong - I love my southern kin and indeed, the South itself, but something you cannot miss if you read Southern Living (and I do) is the insertion of that identifying adjective whenever remotely possible.
- People from New Jersey cannot drive. There. I said it. Like a good little Philadelphian pedestrian. Deny it all you want, point back to my opening paragraph, but none of that changes the fact that every time I nearly get hit by a car while crossing in a crosswalk with the right of way, it is a car with a front-facing NJ license plate that tries to be my undoing.
I wasn't actually exposed to the "rivalry" between Pennsylvania and New Jersey until I reached college and met a bunch of people who were inordinately proud of coming from New Jersey. When people are that "yeah, I'm from Jersey, it's the best thing ever, what're you gonna do about it?" it's easy to see why the people who are on their home turf (I went to school in Pennsy) feel the need to defend how awesome our state is and how lucky they are we let them cross the bridge (after all, you need to pay $3 just to escape from that state.... but not a penny to enter it).
Imagine my surprise that one of my domestic goddesses, someone who guided almost every step of my wedding preparation, and someone I love to hate (because I really love) and taught me a great deal about color combinations as well as complementary flavors, hails from New Jersey. Martha dear, say it ain't so!
Years ago, when I was still figuring out how to turn on my stove and hadn't quite perfected the art of dicing a zucchini, I came across a recipe destined to become a favorite. The first time I made Martha's Mediterranean Pasta was also the first time it ever occurred to me to eat artichoke hearts a) on purpose and b) on pasta. I remember being pleasantly shocked by the way the cherry tomatoes and basil brought out a sweetness I had never noticed before, while the briny kalamata olives were the contrasting color (literally and metaphorically).
So, thank you, Martha, for inspiring tonight's dinner. I can forgive you for being born in New Jersey. After all, you did not choose where to be born any more than Mister had a choice in where his family lived throughout his formative adolescence (and yes, I knew that before I married him and consoled myself by telling myself he'd lived in Pennsylvania longer than he'd lived in New Jersey, therefore, he was not from New Jersey).
Pasta with Artichokes and Zucchini
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 Tbsp vegetable broth
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried organic basil
12 oz penne rigati (or similar length and shape of pasta)
14 oz artichoke hearts, chopped
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced thinly
4 large Roma tomatoes, diced
Cook pasta according to package directions. If you start heating the water to a boil while you are preparing the sauce, you should be adding the pasta right before you add the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-low and saute the garlic for about a minute. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and stir well to coat with oil and garlic. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the garlic doesn't burn.
Add the zucchini and tomatoes; stir to combine. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and basil, then add 2 Tbsp vegetable broth and stir well. Turn up the heat slightly and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add more broth.
Drain pasta and then add to the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cook for about 1 minute, then turn off heat and continue to toss pasta with vegetables until everything is well-combined.