April 1, 2012

April Fools', pasta rules!

Ah, April...the first full month of spring. Unfortunately, things were somewhat cloudy here in New York, but no matter. Rain or shine, no one can deny that April is a captivating time of year. There's a reason that it serves as the time span of The Enchanted April, a novel about four strangers who rent a castle together for a month, seeking a romantic respite from everything they find unsatisfactory about their routine lives. What an odd notion, but also quite delightful to fantasize about.
It was very well cooked, but Mrs. Fisher had never cared for macaroni, especially not this long worm-shaped variety. She found it difficult to eat — slippery, wriggling off her fork, making her look, she felt, undignified when, having got it as she supposed into her mouth, ends of it yet hung out. Always, too, when she ate it she was reminded of Mr. Fisher.  He had during their married life behaved very much like macaroni. He had slipped, he had wriggled, he had made her feel undignified, and when at last she had got him safe, as she thought, there had invariably been little bits of him that still, as it were, hung out.
The Enchanted April, Elizabeth Von Arnim
What a strange creature this Mrs. Fisher is...macaroni is one of the best pasta shapes, ever. When it comes to pasta, I'm pretty loyal to macaroni and spaghetti. Every now and then I opt for penne or rigatoni. As cute as they are, I've never cared for bow ties, and definitely would never willingly buy or cook orzo.

The appeal of pasta is that it's so easy for it to become a meal, as long as you add some kind of protein and some kind of vegetable. And when it comes to protein, how much simpler can you get than sardines out of a can? I'm a fan of canned sardines, and they're a great source of calcium since you're eating the tender bones of the fish. That said, they probably get a bad rap because some brands are definitely better than others. If you're going to buy cheap sardines, opt for one that's packed in tomato sauce, not flavorless oil or water. (Side note: The cheap sardines in tomato sauce, in the cylindrical cans, are incredibly delicious mixed with some skinny somen noodles and a dab of sesame oil...a kind of Asian twist on the following dish.) If money is no object, I would go with Bela Olhao every time, for its smoky flavor.

Quick Pasta With Peppers and Sardines
1/4 lb spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 tin smoked sardines, packed in olive oil
1 (or 2!) egg(s)

Drain some of the olive oil from the sardine can into a large saucepan, and discard the rest of the oil or save for other purposes. Saute the red bell pepper with the drained sardines, and add the egg(s); when the egg begins to solidify, toss in the pasta and serve immediately.

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