Let it never be said that E isn't a good sport when it comes to my cooking.
Yes, she does occasionally give me the "who farted?" look when I suggest a particular combination, but she goes along and usually ends up liking it. There have been only a couple times when she's given me the thumbs-down.
She's in Charleston tonight on business, so I'm cooking for one. It gives me a little more room to experiment, because I know that I'll be the only one eating if I screw it up.
I've been craving comfort food, especially food involving cheese and pasta. However, my blood is running a little thick with LDL these days.
With that in mind, here goes my stream of consciousness approach to creating some dinner.
My first urge is to make something akin to mac-n-cheese, but without E to call 911 when I go into cardiac arrest - that seems like a bad idea. Something I picked up from a recipe in the New York Times is to use a mix of tomato sauce and cheese to lighten it up a bit.
I chopped up a shallot and minced a couple cloves of garlic. I gave them a quick sauté in a medium sauce pan with some olive oil. I added a splash of red wine and a box (26.46 oz.) of Pomí chopped tomatoes (very good quality).
With a pot of water heating on the stove and the sauce simmering, I chopped up a mess of fresh oregano. I've got more than I could ever use this time of year, so I've been wanting to cook something that uses a bunch. Oregano is basically a very tasty weed.
I tossed a heaping 1/4 cup of chopped oregano into the simmering sauce. Once the sauce had thickened and the water was boiling, I added half a pound of elbow macaroni to the pot and added some cheese to the sauce.
I would have preferred to use goat cheese, but I had none. I did have a small chunk of Cream Havarti. Into the sauce went the Havarti and some Parmesan – about a 1/2 cup of each.
When the pasta was just before al dente, I drained it and tossed it with the sauce and a little salt and pepper to taste. The mixture went into an oiled 2-quart dish. The last step was to toss about a 1/3 cup of fresh bread crumbs (I keep some in the freezer for just such an occasion) with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the pasta.
After 35 minutes in the oven (uncovered), I let it sit for 10 minutes and plated some up on a bed of baby arugula, which needed to be used and gave some much-needed color.
The only thing missing was a glass of basic Italian red.
Stella Montepulciano d' Abruzzo 2008, $7.99, Green's
Sometimes Italian wine really delivers. This is one of those times – black cherry, licorice, smoke and a nice, dry finish – and a bargain to boot. Add a little Duke Ellington and you've got a respectable dinner for one.