Being in the restaurant business is sometimes unforgiving especially when “normal” people enjoy their time with their family and gather around a restaurants table and dine together. We hospitality people obviously need to work during peak social times such as weekends and holidays. All that time working in a professional kitchen makes you forget about food shopping for your own family - actually in our household my spouse Lori takes care of that – thank God!
(sometimes it's all what you got - Swiss chard stems)
A household kitchen
When I look around the kitchen to cook I find a Beba which is one of those baby mixers (for feeding our daughter Arabella), stainless pots and pans from a reputable company and a fancy toaster. I originally equipped our kitchen with a commercial bar blender, a pricey digital scale measuring exact grams besides ounces, a commercial table top kitchen blender but to my surprise they are all stored in the very back of the kitchen cabinet and get dusty since we rarely use them. Frankly home cooking turned out to be different than I originally thought it would be.
What to cook for the family?
Lori stocks the pantry with spices such as pepper, salt, a few Indian type of spices since she likes to cook hearty grains, and some baking ingredients like brown sugar, whole wheat flower and chocolate chips. The refrigerator is stuffed with a few different olive oils and vinegars next to some seasonal vegetables & fruits, some midnight snacks such as mixed olives, Marcona almonds and cheese, insane amounts of yogurt and then Lori’s impulse buy of the week – this week it’s giant whole wheat tortilla wraps. Needles to say every Sunday night I feel like I’m on the Iron Chef show again presented with a basket of limited and random ingredients without a secret ingredient. But we always make it work.
The latest supper
The pantry shows whole grain pasta, olives, nuts, onions, cheese and some Swiss chard stems.
Whole grain spaghetti with caramelized onions, olives and Swiss chard pesto
(recipe yields enough for a family of four)
1 pack whole grain spaghetti pasta
sea salt such as Baline
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 tablespoons pitted, sliced mixed olives
3 tablespoons almonds such as Marconas
black pepper grindings
2 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese
- In a pot (1-gallon sized) bring salted water to boil then cook pasta “all dente” (7-9 minutes or read package instructions and reduce that time a bit) then pour pasta into a colander (keep ½ cup of the pasta cooking water).
- Rinse Swiss chard then cut (1/2-inch), keep stems and leaves separate. Cook leaves in vegetable oil (5 minutes or until wilted). Combine cooked Swiss chard leaves with almonds in a kitchen blender (I used the baby blender). Peel and cut onion (1/8-inch thick slices). Cook Swiss chard stems and onions (5-8 minutes or until soft) add olives.
- Combine pasta (still warm) and pasta cooking water with Swiss chard/almond puree and onion/Swiss chard mixture then using kitchen tongs toss pasta with ingredients and heat thoroughly.
- Transfer pasta onto plates then sprinkle with the grated cheese.
- toast half of the almonds in a skillet until golden brown in color then fold into a kitchen towel and crush with the bottom of a small pot. Use other half of almonds in Swiss chard puree.
- sprinkle good extra virgin olive oil over your plated pasta. That’s what that good oil is for (not for cooking!)
Sometimes these home cooked day-off meals turn out into a several coursed feast soup, salad, dessert with the occasional amuse bouche course thrown in next to a lovely bottle of wine & some grappa – depends what’s in Lori’s pantry.