Simple Things and Serendipity

January 18, 2016 – January 24, 1016


Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto

(Pasta with Prosciutto, Peas and Shallots)

Monday:          Leftover Stew with crackers and Fromage Fort
Tuesday:          Parisian Potage (Leek and Potato Soup) w/
Cheese Toasts, Green Salad (below)

Parisian Potage

Wednesday:     Oeufs en Pepperoni, Salad
Thursday:        Spanish Tortilla, arugula with feta, tomatoes and blueberries (below)


Friday:             Lemon-Basil Pizza
Arugula, feta, tomato and blueberry salad (below)

Lemon-Basil Pizza

Saturday:         Pasta with Prosciutto, Peas and Shallots, Arugula Salad                                  Sunday:           Over-the-top Meatloaf with Asparagus Gratin , Baguette toasted with
tomato and cheddar

Cheddar Cheese Toasts

“One of the great things about semi-retirement,” Tim explained, “is no more blue Sundays, dreading the onset of another work week.” We were enjoying the most pleasant meal of the week, a thrown together brunch (fried eggs, bacon, muffins, fruit and, above all, Bloody Marys) at Tim and Hilda’s after Mass. Hilda cooks her fried eggs the way my mother did – in butter so that they get a sort of rind and firmly-set whites with still molten yolks. This is a simple thing and, in its own way, perfect. I’m hoping that we behaved well enough to get invited back.

We have to remember to take pictures when we eat away from home – but to convey the whole experience at Hilda and Tim’s, we would have had to show Chuck, the Cat, occasionally shifting position in his bed as he slept in front of the fire in the family room, and we would have had to record Boz Scaggs in the background (Hilda made Tim turn down the volume twice so that what started out as that wonderful back-of-the-throat Scaggsian voice might have been Tiny Tim or The Chipmunks in the end).

Back at our place, it was a killer week of cooking, if we do say so ourselves. And we do. The Spanish Tortilla was a favorite of Beez, and the Lemon-Basil Pizza a favorite of mine. Sitting in quorum, however, we gave the Keeper of the Week award to a pasta we cooked with prosciutto, onions and peas. It was a Saturday night after a day of oil changes and shopping with Beez (exhausting to me, energizing to her) and the idea of cooking something simple appealed to both of us. I found a recipe – wish I could remember where – that called for fresh-made egg-pasta with mashed peas in the batter, cooked with onions and lardons of prosciutto. We had packaged, dried fettucine, frozen peas and, in lieu of the solid hunk of prosciutto the recipe called for, merely a few slices of the packaged stuff that costs so much I always take off the price tag before SWMBO can get a good look.

The beauty of pasta dishes, once you have the basics down (salt the water, stir the pasta so that it doesn’t clump,* reserve some of the pasta water to loosen your sauce, if needed, and sing like Dean Martin throughout the cooking process) is that you can handle any lack of ingredients and even add some decidedly odd ones. Our recipe appears below the ‘Extra’ section of this week’s post.

*I had originally typed “stir the past so that it doesn’t clump,” which, come to think of it, is a pretty good idea.

Extra:  Speaking of simple things – like Hilda’s excellent fried eggs – we crave handsome, savory salads and often use blueberries, crumbled cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes to create a dish that allows us to have a second helping without asking Mayor Bloomberg’s lackies if that’s advisable. But the key ingredient, of course, is the lettuce. There is a ton of good pre-washed, bagged lettuce available these days – but for our money the best is the small bag of baby arugula sold at Whole Foods. Baby arugula has the signature peppery bite that you will remember from when you first tasted this yuppie green (the larger leaves available, usually mixed with spinach, just don’t make the grade). The key technique is to use a light hand in dressing the salad. We put a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of champagne vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil on the salad, add a grind of black pepper and toss to lightly coat all of the vegetables. (We use feta or blue cheese often – and the salad does not require any salt in that case. Absent the cheese, you’ll want to add some salt to season the tomatoes.) Here is what one of last week’s salads looked like (note: the pasta recipe is just below the salad photograph):

Arugula Salad

Fettucine with Prosciutto, Peas and Onions

Ingredients (for 2):

½ lb. of Fettucine
3 or 4 thin slices of Prosciutto, diced, or 3 oz. of solid prosciutto diced
¾ Cup of peas (thawed, frozen peas are fine)
½ Medium onion chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped Parsley and grated Parmigiano for serving


Bring the pasta water to boil, salt and put the pasta into the pot – once it comes back to a boil cook until just al dente (9 minutes if you’re using a typical dried pasta – if you have fresh pasta it will take just 2-3 minutes)
Meanwhile (if you’re using fresh pasta, do this ahead) you should already have melted 1 TBS of butter in 1 TBS of olive oil over medium plus heat in a large skillet. (The skillet needs to accommodate the pasta, once it’s cooked). Toss in the onions and a pinch of salt to sweat for 5 or 6 minutes, toss the prosciutto in after you’ve got the onions started.

When the pasta is done (taste it to make sure), reserve a ladle or two of the hot pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the pan with the onions and prosciutto and toss to coat and cook for about one minute. Add pasta water as needed to create a sauce and then toss in the peas to warm them, hit it with a few good grinds of black pepper and you’re done.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a bowl of grated parmigiana.