Pasta has become a once-a-week thing at our household, a truce of sorts to satisfy my cravings for it and Michael’s desire not to eat too much of it, so I am now determined to make the absolute most of every opportunity I can get to enjoy it. While this has led me into a state of nearly paralyzing indecision as I fret over what length and shape to use in order to maximize the other players in the dish, it has encouraged me to dive into cookbooks again to try any new combination I can get my little hands on.
Enter one of my newest cookbook additions: Sicily: Culinary Crossroads. This is part of a series meant to explore the hallmark dishes that differentiate each region of Italy, and until recently has only been available in Italian. When I stumbled across this over Thanksgiving while browsing Amazon, two things came to mind: that it would make a perfect gift for my mother-in-law (who is half-Sicilian), and that I wanted a copy for our kitchen as well. It’s not a huge tome, nor is it packed to the gills, Silver Spoon style, with recipes, but the ones that are included are simple, inspiring peasant food.
In my reading for work on trends (especially food trends), the idea of “keeping it real” in the kitchen is expected to be very big for 2010: now that we have returned to our kitchens and have gotten back in the habit of cooking, we’re no longer only going to want “easy” to prepare meals. Instead, we’re going to strive to make more things completely from scratch and have pantries filled with foods that allow us a flexibility to cook with what we have on-hand. It’s a bit of an ambitious statement given that the words “fast,” “easy,” “simple” (usually followed by at least one “super”) are still the big buzzwords in much of mainstream food media, but one can be optimistic, no?
The recipe below, I think, really embraces this trend, because while it is not at all (I think) what the original instructions laid out, it shows that a little creativity and ingenuity can still make for a pretty delicious dinner. We had anchovy fillets leftover from New Year’s still in the house, so when I saw this (well, the original recipe) in Sicily, I knew that it would be perfect in using those guys up, even if we weren’t going to be adhering strictly to the cookbook’s instructions. The tarragon we had was still good and I had no intention to waste it, so that stood in for the parsley originally asked for. The real kicker, though was bringing everything to a boil–perhaps an ingredient was left out in the translation, but as far as I could see there was nothing in that pan that could effectively come to any sort of boil. So in went some white wine. Perhaps the final result wasn’t “authentic” in the way the author intended, but I think it maintained another kind of purity in that we worked with what we had instead of running around to create the correct dish.
Linguini with Anchovies, Tomatoes and Tarragon
heavily adapted from Sicily: Culinary Crossroads
- 1/4-1/2 lb anchovy fillets, preferably those have been marinated and can be found at an Italian specialty shop
- 2-3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 small onion, finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Fresh tarragon, minced finely
- 3/4 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 lb of linguini
- Olive oil
Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and heat, and then add the onions and saute util they are golden. Add the fish, garlic and tomatoes, add some salt to taste, and add the tarragon and white wine and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling,bring down to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta until a minute or two earlier than package directions, and add to the skillet and toss generously. If desired, you can add a little Parmigiano-Reggiano –I find that the cheese cuts the saltiness of the fish and adds a slight buttery flavor to the dish, even though cheese and seafood normally shouldn’t go together.