And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
The wonder of cherry tomatoes – mmmm unassuming red lockets just waiting to meet your lips and release streams of sweet juice into your soul. The playful look of yellow scallopini, like spinning tops dressed in buttercup playsuits. The crisp morning scent of mint, especially beautiful on unprotected fingers. The magic dust that people call “cinnamon”. The agreeable crunch of macadamia nuts. The foamy sizzle of white wine in a hot pan. The series of sweet pops that fresh snap peas generate. The humble but transformative lemon. The happy union between shallots and garlic which always releases a wonderful fragrance in any hot skillet. The curling, comforting quality of warm fettucine…
I am always interested in observing how ingredients react to other ingredients, to heat, to fingers, to teeth, to time… food is so fun, don’t you think? There are always so many possibilities.
So many possible results or consequences.
So many ways to make things as simple or complicated as you like.
So many ways to nourish yourself or scare your friends.
This evening, I went about making my dinner the Simple and Spontaneous way. That’s been my approach to life these few days, you see, and I’ve rather enjoyed the results of this approach. It’s the path to serendipity.
Over the last two days, I found, as a result of tangled weekend plans or totally spontaneous decisions: a lovely cafe; flamenco by candlelight; a chance to watch a minute or two of live filming with a professional crew on the closed-to-traffic road; a chat with a nice guy at the store about all things molasses; and a cool store.
Being Christmas/silly season, I’ve heard a lot about PLANS and LISTS and BEING ORGANISED lately. And I can see the point of plans and lists… they’re helpful. Fail to plan = plan to fail and all. At the same time, though, I’m finding myself increasingly partial to spontaneity and keeping a very open mind to adventure (within reason). I find that having too many plans and lists gets in the way of real life, if that makes sense; also, they can sometimes cause us to lose sight of the important things…
I don’t want to miss the chance to read or talk to a stranger, while wasting my anger on the stupid bus system in Auckland. I don’t want to plan my weekly menu in detail and overlook that week’s freshest market produce. I don’t want to insist on squeezing into a fuller-than-Santa’s-sack bar and miss discovering another place. I don’t want to let “goals” become more important to me than people. I don’t want to care more about how my Christmas ham turns out than how my family members are doing. And I absolutely don’t want to get caught up in gifting, feasting and festivities and miss the real, non-commercialised essence of Christmas.
Lately my world has been filled with social events, craft fairs, lots-of-work, ideas-sprouting-in-my-brain and invitations to Christmas functions and weddings (whoever told me that deleting my Facebook account would mean no more invitations was wrong). And life is good, but I am acutely aware of the need to focus on the important things.
Also, I’ve been eating all sorts this week, and my stove has been nearly spotless – so tonight I attempted to make a mess in my kitchen and eat some proper home-cooked food! This evening’s haphazard recipe follows in case you are interested… in any case, hope you all have a week of sweet surprises :-)
Fettucine with scallopini, snap peas, macadamia and cherry tomatoes
A knob of butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
A handful of scallopini, ends removed and sliced horizontally (or use 1-2 courgettes)
A handful of chopped macadamia nuts
3-4 tbsp flour
6 cherry tomatoes
A handful of snap peas, ends removed
1/2 lemon – zest and juice
A few tablespoons of leftover white wine
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 rounded tsp muscovado sugar
Herbs of your choice (I used dried rubbed basil and chopped fresh mint)
Method to my madness:
Set a skillet over a medium-high flame, and drop a knob of butter into it. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then throw in some salt and enough fettucine for two.
Place the scallopini halves in a bowl and coat gently with flour. When the butter is hot and beginning to foam (or you can let it brown, but I was hungry so I didn’t), add in the scallopini, shaking off the excess flour as you do. Sprinkle in some chilli flakes and dried basil (rubbing the basil between your fingers as you do). Give everything a good swirl and toss, then add in the chopped shallot, garlic and macadamia nuts. Fry for a bit till everything smells a little more pronounced, then splash in a little bit of white wine and listen to the sizzle.
Add in some olive oil if the pan gets too dry at any stage. Pour in the snap peas, cherry tomatoes and lemon zest. Add in the cinnamon and muscovado sugar, toss and add another dribble of white wine. Stir well, so nothing burns.
Once the fettucine is cooked to al dente (approx 11 minutes), drain it, add in the lemon juice and some olive oil, and give it a good toss. Once there are no visible traces of wine, the cherry tomatoes seem ready to collapse and the vegetables are barely cooked, turn off the heat. Stir the scallopini mixture into the fettucine, then plate and serve with a generous sprinkle of chopped mint.
Yields two servings. Substitute vegetables and herbs for ingredients of your choice, and adjust the quantities of everything as you like.