I had a post all written up for you tonight. I was almost ready to publish it.
And then I made dinner. And I changed my mind. Because although you may not have known it, you were here tonight too. So I figured I better tell you about it, just to keep you up to speed on your whereabouts this evening.
I’ve been spending some time with a cookbook that I got out of the Library, Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques. A friend of mine had passed along this recipe from the book, and although she kindly typed it out in an email, I figured I should take a look at the source. It’s a stunning book, a little manual that would become my handbook were I a wealthy childless Californian.
I am many things, but a wealthy childless Californian is certainly not one of them. Ah, well.
Suzanne Goin’s book is packed with ingredients that I don’t have, but it is so lovely that I stick with it anyway. So far as I can tell, many of her recipes are based on an excellent formula: good olive oil, butter, chiles, thyme, anchovies. I had my eye on this recipe for broccoli with burrata, pine nuts, and warm anchovy vinaigrette. Because I am not a wealthy childless Californian, by burrata I mean mozzarella, by broccoli I really mean broccolli and not broccolini or sprouting broccoli, and by any of the other ingredients I mean whatever you can muster. But I feel that this is the mark of a excellent cookbook- that even if I cannot make what is in it, I can be inspired enough to sally forth anyway. This book absolutely succeeds in this regard. I don’t want you to think I have anything against wealthy childless Californians- I certainly don’t. Who knows? Maybe Suzanne Goin is actually from New Jersey and has four children? If so, she puts on a very good show.
Joey and the girls went to a birthday party this afternoon, and I stayed home so that I could make this luscious sounding thing and photograph it while there was still some light coming through the windows. Of course, I got sidetracked with granola, and laundry, and pointless pantry organization. And that is how I found myself at 6:00, chopping anchovies, trying to convince Sadie and Joey to clean up the living room, running up and down the stairs and soaping up a very stubborn Rosie (who would not have anyone but Mama) in stages so as not to stay away from my toasting pine nuts for too long. I started this process quite grumpy, and I had the good sense to open up a bottle of wine. The phone was ringing, and Rosie was hollering and I was creating quite a mess.
As I poured myself another glass of wine, I went from grumpy, to amused, to actually laughing. I was ten minutes from the girls’ bedtime, and I stopped measuring. I decided to put the whole thing over pasta, and before I knew it, ingredients were everywhere. I slipped into my bad habits of crowding counters, stacking cutting boards on top of cutting boards, and making a terrible ruckus. And although there were anchovies and shouting naked kids and it was already bedtime, I realized that you were there, and I felt okay.
People often tell me that they appreciate that I don’t gloss over things, that I show a messy kitchen and crazy children. And I do, at least I try, but to be honest, I don’t always show you how wild things truly get in those twenty minutes before dinner time
But you know right? You know what it’s like to try to cook something beautiful, even when what you really should be doing (if you had any sense, that is) is heating up a frozen lasagna from Costco? You’ve discarded the recipe because you only really have time to cut up one shallot, and who knows how many tablespoons it is, right? And as the storm kicks up, and you holler at your kids to set the damn table (okay, maybe you don’t swear, I support you in that) I want you to know that I’m there too, just like you’ve been there for me, and I’m drinking your wine, and most of all, I’m laughing.
Because sometimes this is all just too much to take. It has got to be funny, or else we might just give up altogether. And when you finally get dinner on the table and your children march around the kitchen holding their noses saying that it smells like cat food and that dinner is Ew-mungous. (I don’t make this stuff up!), we’ll laugh together, okay?
Whatever happened before, I’ll tell you right now that this dinner was fantastic. You should try it. Perhaps chaos was a vital ingredient, and I’m sure that you’ll be able to add lots of that too.
James’s Broccoli with Burrata, Pine Nuts, and Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette (or Pasta with Mozzarella, Broccoli and Anchovy Butter)
Adapted from Suzanne Goin and Terry Gelber, Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 lb penne or pasta shape of your choice
1 lb broccoli, cut into florets
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced anchovy
1 arbol chile, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons minced garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 medium shallot, sliced
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pine nuts and the breadcrumbs on a tray for about 5 minutes, or until toasty.
Bring two large pots of heavily salted water to boil. In one pot, cook the pasta, in the other, blanch the broccoli for three minutes. Drain pasta and set aside. Drain broccoli and set out to cool.
In a small bowl, crush half of the pine nuts. Combine the crushed pine nuts with the whole pine nuts, the bread crumbs and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper
Heat olive oil and butter in a large sautee pan. Add the anchovy and cook, stirring, until the anchovy begins to dissolve, about 5 minutes. Add the chile, garlic, thyme, and lemon. Turn off the heat. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow to sit for a minute.
Turn on the heat again to medium. Add the shallots, broccoli, and pasta if your pot is large enough (otherwise toss with pasta in a bowl). Cook for a minute or so, coating the broccoli and pasta in the sauce. Taste for seasoning.
Pour into a large bowl and top with mozzarella.