Tuesday, April 20, 2010


When my grandfather was still living, our whole family was invited for brunch at the home of Hungarian immigrants who were colleagues of my father. Natalie is a spectacular cook, and an even more gracious hostess. The egg dish she prepared for us so delighted my grandfather that he asked for the recipe. Turns out it was just something she whipped together, and the flavor that so enthralled my grandfather was garlic from the salami she'd incorporated. Now, my grandfather was not supposed to eat garlic for some sort of health reasons, and at our house we always made sure to serve garlic-free dishes or make a separate portion for him sans garlic. Being a garlic lover myself, I can't imagine what a thrilling taste it was to Grandpa after so many years of doing without. When Natalie wrote out the recipe, she gave it a Hungarian title - which seemed exotic to all us Midwesterners - which translated as "Eggs-You-Know-What." I don't think anyone ever told Grandpa what he'd eaten. Why spoil such a transcendent eating experience?

In that same spirit of whipping up dishes - especially with what's on hand - I threw together a pasta dish the other night. Pasta is one of the most adaptable of foods. It can go with pretty much anything you want to put with it, and it's an easy pantry staple. So I surveyed my fridge and cupboards, came up with a few ideas, and reminded myself of some favorite recipes from one of my Marcella Hazan cookbooks. OK, so I didn't have the "perfect" pasta in Italian thinking to go with any of them. The only pasta I had in the house was fusilli. To be more exact, fusilli "bucati corti," according to the package. (not that I know what that means, or have the energy to look it up right now). I did have some plain old American bacon - another staple around here, although it's decidedly different from pancetta or guanciale, which Hazan writes about with such passion. I also had a partial can of stewed tomatoes, some mushrooms that needed to be used, garlic, shallots, a teensy bit of thyme that I had purchased fresh but was well on its way to being dried, a few stray kalamata olives, and a silly jar of "tipsy" vermouth-marinated onions that either I must have purchased on a whim or someone gave me once upon a time. (I'm the recipient of many the odd food gift. Which is not a bad thing.)

So with these ingredients, and a little white wine, I put together a dish that was inspired partly by pasta Amatriciana (the prominent features of which are a bacon-like pork product and crushed red pepper) and partly by pasta Puttanesca (another kicky dish, with olives, capers, and anchovies, although I didn't have the latter on hand). Turned out to be a good marriage of the two, a peppy, and peppery, bowl of comfort food that didn't take five hours in the kitchen. It might have been too spicy for Grandpa. But I'm sure he would have liked that garlic.


WaterDog said...

Looks wonderful as usual and just as good!

Dani said...

I'm comin' to your house for dinner!

Big Shamu said...

Sorry I didn't get over here sooner, my Baconization Whiffer needs calibration after a recent bout of garden manure and bone meal.

Ahhhhh Bacon.

LaDivaCucina said...

Sounds fabu, we have very similar cooking styles Eggy! I can't imagine why your grandfather was told to avoid garlic, usually doctor's say to eat MORE garlic!! I'm glad he enjoyed it, want some salami now.