Thursday Night Improv

By James Oseland

Published on March 15, 2010

Thursday night. So hungry I can't see straight. I just got back from a month-long sojourn to California, to be with my mom, who had an emergency bypass and developed complications in the hospital. As a result, there are only odd random ingredients in the fridge and in the pantry. Some decent olive oil. Some stale matzoh. A bunch of parsley that's probably 5 minutes away from being tossed. A wedge of parmigiano-reggiano.

So, what to eat for dinner? Daniel, my partner, and I have been eating out far too many nights in a row, and we both feel the need for something real, something hot, something cooked in our own kitchen, something nourishing and quick and simple. I throw open the fridge and assess the options again.

Within minutes, I have a basic flavor narrative mapped out in my mind.

I set an aluminum pot full of water to boil on the stove, and salt it to within an inch of its life. I heat about half a cup's worth of olive oil in a skillet over a medium-high flame and toss in five (or was that seven?) cloves of thinly sliced garlic. It turns golden-brown, and it smells great. Next, about three-quarters of a cup of julienned sundried tomatoes go in, along with a cup and a half of thawed frozen peas (wow, those Trader Joe's petite peas are really fantastic), some crumbled Greek oregano, and about 25 turns of the pepper mill. I let all the ingredients become one with the oil, and when everything is good and hot, I stir in two beaten eggs until they're just set.

Meanwhile, the three-quarters of a box of Rienzi thick spaghetti I'd dropped into the boiling water has just reached an al dente firmness. I drain the pasta and toss it, along with about a third of a cup of the cooking water, into my odd, instant sauce. I raise the heat to high, let most of the liquid cook off, and toss in a good cup and a half of finely grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Daniel and I have dinner in front of us. It strikes all the notes we were yearning for. It's pretty to look at, it's flavorful but not too palate-challenging, it's comfort on a plate. Thank god for the random ingredients we find in our kitchens.

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