Sunday, October 9, 2011

HARD TIMES/GOOD TIMES

this is neither tuscan kale nor hmong rapini look-alike but some kind of
super bok choy type foodstuff....
The other morning I was in the shower when suddenly I thought: I bet people wonder what I eat. No? Well, I'm gonna tell ya anyway: Tuscan kale and pasta.

Oh I don't mean every meal! That would leave no room for the spoon-size shredded wheat and raisins or single poached egg on toast for breakfast, nor the salad of 99-cent store spring mix and shaved carrots for lunch, nor the tonnage of dried sweetened mango, roasted almonds, Ak-Mak crackers, French Line plain yogurt, cheese and coffee that sustain me for the rest of the day.

I just mean four or five meals a week, if I get to the Silver Lake Farmer's Market on Saturday, that is, where I purchase a couple of bunches of greens: maybe that Hmong rapini-lookalike with yellow flowers ($1), maybe a Tuscan kale ($1.50). And then Monday (and Wednesday or Thursday) afternoon around 2, after I have feverishly written all morning, working myself into a state of catatonic excitement and/or despair, I proceed as follows--in a way you may or may not be moved to get on board with, too.

First you put on the water for the pasta and cut the greens, just three slashes with a big knife and throw them into a frying pan in which you've heated a generous amount of hot olive oil and saute them over fairly high heat till they start to almost burn a bit. Then you throw on a third or so of a blue, yellow, and white Talavera coffee cup of water and put your housemate's screen thing over the top cause it'll splatter. Meanwhile you mince up a couple of cloves of garlic and three or four anchovies. Now if you're one of those people who when you hear the word "anchovy," respond ECCCHHHH, I will still be your friend, but I really don't know what to say other than that I'll pray for you.

Then you throw in a third of a package or so of linguine or fettucine or penne and, after the water's all absorbed from the saute pan, shove the greens up aside against the far side, heat an additional small puddle of olive oil and saute the garlic and anchovies, mashing up the latter. (You can add some dried hot red pepper here as well. This is from one of the Chez Panisse cookbooks and I think their recipe incorporates red wine vinegar, too, but I don't).

Drain the pasta, put a giant serving in a big bowl, add a little butter, heap on some greens, salt, ground pepper,  if you're feeling flush, which I, for one, have definitely not as of late, grate over some real Parmigiana and if not, sprinkle over some of the vastly inferior but not entirely grotesque shaved Parm or Parmagiana-Romano mixture from Trader Joe's, and Bob's your uncle.

Afterward, I like to take a nice long walk around the hilly streets of Silver Lake, pondering God's infinite bounty and the unsolvable problems of life, heart, and writing that cropped up that day.

In this way, I keep my food bill down to approximately $23.87 a week, leaving lots of spare change for the Sunset Boulevard panhandlers, drunks and psychotics who brighten my existence.

Bon appetit!
You can buy the big can at Jon's (Armenian market) for 6.99!






9 comments:

  1. So inspired to read about the aesthetics of fare. I suffer imprisonment in that arena too, sadly, with little to no freedom due to long staid emotional attachments to food. Its really sad.

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  2. Heather -- You may have to become my food guru! That sounds wonderful (the preparation as much as the final result)!

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  3. Heather, we eat so much alike. I buy my usual quota of kale, onions, tomatoes, smoked herring etc., on Sunday morning, and in combination with my store of lentils and basmati rice, I'm set for the week. My beverage: tap water!

    Now, if only I were as svelte as thee . . .

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  4. No picture of the final product?

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  5. Hahahaha!

    Heather, thanks for the chuckle. I envy you being able to get Tuscan kale for that price! It's about 3 bucks a bunch here, when you can even find it. I too have turned to trying all kinds of greens from the Asian supermarkets.
    I love making a pizza with sauteed greens and ricotta and garlic. Beet green stems turn everything a pretty red. And sometimes I slice fat radishes, saute them with garlic, and throw in the radish tops.
    Grits or cornmeal (polenta/mush) make a nice base for greens, also very economical.

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  6. Heather, I love how you keep things real. And I'm inspired by your ability to pinch pennies with your food to have enough spare change for others in need. By the way, poached egg on toast? One of my favs! :)

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  7. Ha ha, excellent, people! I love to cook (though have taken a sabbatical for the past year or so) and have actually thought of writing a book about food. L.A. is an amazing place to eat cheaply, widely and well--and then there's foraging...yes! the "fallen fruit" movement: people have mapped out the streets where lemons, avocados, figs etc. can be gleaned from the sidewalk (Bill and Tony, let's grab our baskets...). (And I will take a picture of the finished product next time, Robert...)

    This all appeals madly to my combination Eucharistic-oriented/food- hoarding, scarcity-mentality, over-the-top Yankee-frugality-formed soul. Eight kids at the dinner table who FOUGHT over (the never quite plentiful enough) food. No wonder I became a Catholic. Free bread!

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  8. Third time is the charm! I keep accidentally erasing my comments instead of posting them.

    Anyway, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post and the comments. We, too, love greens in our home, and I often use Asian greens instead of broccoli rabe or kale. We eat them on pizza, with beans and pasta, and even on top of polenta or grits.

    I have a small collection of books on food and sacrament, and there is no denying the deep spiritual connection there. One of my favorite books in this vein is Robert Farrar Capon's "The Supper Of The Lamb". I remember what a revelation it was - back in the mid-70s, when I first became aware that you could READ cookbooks much as you would a novel or a collection of essays. And Capon gives such a wondrous vision of the Heavenly Banquet. Also my first inkling that someone could be so earthy and so in touch with the transcendent. Lovely.

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