Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Anniversary Pasta

... we should have taken a picture (it was gaw-geous, dahling), but we ate it instead.

Then we made it again the next week. And we still didn't take a picture.

(Serves 2+ as main course, 4+ as side or first course)

1 tablespoon dark or golden raisins, soaked
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 anchovies 
1 tablespoon capers
3/4 cup black olives
1 tablespoon minced pine nuts
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
14 oz vermicelli (thin spaghetti)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

This recipe works well prepared as a team. One person (for example, Dennis) actually cooks the pasta. The other (that would be Yours Truly) opens cans, chops nuts, measures ingredients, and eats all the olives that were left in the tin. Yes, all of them.

Cooking Together Is Fun, especially a special dinner for a special occasion. However, if you are a control-freak, as I happen to be, it sadly often becomes Tense and Frustrating instead. With that in mind, let me add another essential ingredient to the list:

A bottle of good wine

It can be white or red, whatever you like. It is very important to open the bottle before you get very far into recipe prep. Trust me, this will add enormously both to the fun of preparation and to the deliciousness of the final dish.

Once you get who does what sorted out, bring a pot of salted water to boil for pasta; cook al dente as directed on the box (about 7 minutes). Meanwhile, in another pan, heat olive oil and add the garlic, smashed and peeled but not minced. Sautee a minute or so till it smells AMAZING.

This is a good time to add some of the wine. This should be sipped slowly by the chef/sous chef, not added to the pot. You will want to add the anchovies to the pot, and mush them up as well as you can. Depending on how hungry you were before those first sips of wine, mashing the weird little pink fillets may seem delightfully funny. Or it may just seem gross. Trust me, the anchovies are an essential ingredient.

After they've cooked a minute, dump in the capers, olives, nuts, and raisins. (At this point, let me suggest using walnuts if the price sticker on the pine nuts at the grocery store gives you palpitations. We did -- it was awesome. Also, feel free to add more raisins if you like them. We are always a fan of adding more raisins.) Cook a few more minutes to let everything get all toasty and delicious, then fish out the garlic (if you are like us, you will then eat the crispy garlic. If that's a little too ... garlicky ... for you, feel free to just throw it away). Throw in those breadcrumbs and let them toast!

At this point, you may need a little more wine. Also, your pasta is probably about done. If both of these happen about the same time, please be CAREFUL as you drain the hot noodles and toss them in the beautiful, beautiful sauce.

This is an Italian sauce. No, there is not supposed to be more of it. There is enough sauce, and it will be DELICIOUS. Have it with meat and salad or all by its ownsome. With, of course, another glass of wine.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

As much as I love and respect and am grateful to my dad, this year Father's Day takes a backseat to a more important celebration. Dennis and I have been married one year -- I find that hard to believe! The past year has been so FULL. I think I have learned more about myself (not very fun!) and about God in one year as Dennis's Wife than in any four years together of my life as a daughter. I still have so much to learn about what it means to be part of this new family I have been given.

Being married is a lot (A LOT!) harder than I thought it would be -- and I thought my expectations were pretty reasonable, compared to the Disney happy-ever-after all the magazines suggest you ought to expect! But I am overwhelmed by how great, how very great a blessing marriage is at the same time. Hard, yes, but a source of encouragement, comfort, strength, sweetness, excitement, and fun. Just to know that, "for better or worse," next year, and the next year, and all the years God gives us, it's not going to be me, or even me and Dennis -- it's going to be Us, that strange two-headed creature I am just beginning to recognize.

We really had a lovely day -- working the opening shift at the coffee shop has taught me to appreciate slow, leisurely weekend breakfasts! A friend gave us a slightly-dilapidated but still deliciously functional French press, which makes our breakfast coffee even more of a treat. Then DH surprised me with a truly, truly amazing anniversary gift -- tickets to see the Des Moines Opera perform Le Nozze di Figaro. (!!!! bounce bounce) I am already excited! After church we had fun with capers, anchovies, and other strange and new (to us) ingredients -- Dennis had picked out THE MOST AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS pasta recipe (raisins, too!) and a savoury chicken recipe from an Italian cookbook his sister gave us. I think I can check off another pound gained! Oh, man, it was good. I'd post a picture, but there isn't anything left to take a picture of :)

Having fulfilled my quota both of Girly Smarm and of Husband Bragging for the week, I shall close. I would love to hear, Dear People whom I love and respect, any thoughts -- Deep Thoughts or fluff -- you care to share on Marriage and what it means.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Things You Learn While Moving House

Our little move is accomplished! We are settling into our new home, and loving the convenience of living within walking distance of the university and of my new Coffee Shop Job! The week before the move, DH was up north on his Grand Canoeing Adventure, while I was working and packing and cleaning and generally feeling rather sorry for myself. Dennis's parents graciously endured the 11+-hour roadtrip from Tennessee in order to help us with the actual moving, so that part of the process was a lot faster and a lot more fun. Anyway, I've learned a few things during the process. I know many of my readers have done this several times over, but I thought I'd share anyway.

1. Things that you can't see still get dirty. You just can't see the dirt. I'm talking about the top shelf of the broom closet, tops of cabinets, the tops of fan blades, and other Things That Are Really, Really Far Up. Generally anything "top."

2. A husband is very useful when it comes to cleaning Things That Are Really, Really Far Up. Perhaps this is why many women are attracted to taller men -- they subconsciously realise how practical said men may be in future?

3. I am a fan of not buying expensive, strange-smelling cleaning solutions -- I pretty much use ammonia, baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice, and plain old dish soap for most chores. When it comes to really tough cleaning jobs, my mom's favorite cleaning secret is powdered laundry soap -- it's gritty and works as an abrasive as well as a cleanser. Great for grease in the kitchen, tub rings, etc. DH and I, alas, buy liquid laundry detergent, so I was thrilled to find an alternate scrubbing mixture online that worked really well in my bathroom. Just make a paste of salt, baking soda, and water -- use that to scrub bathroom surfaces, then wipe clean with a solution of water and lemon juice. Shiny!

4. With that said, last week I learned How To Use Oven Cleaner. That stuff is definitely not "green," but boy, does it work. I feel like a grownup now!

5. Moving is a GREAT opportunity to clean out the clothes closet. Shoes that are super-cute but a half-size too big? Out. Jeans that I may be able to wear ... after a couple of kids ... sometime after the next four years? Out. Very nice, grown-up looking tailored shirt that fits beautifully and just isn't my style at all? Out. Now I'm just wondering -- why did I hang onto those for so long? I haven't grown an inch in seven years. I think it's time to stop holding onto stuff "for next year"!

6. Pack books in small boxes. Sometimes you can ask your local liquor store when they get shipments and they will let you have some of their empty boxes. They are small and sturdy, although perhaps not the best option for Baptists :)

7. DH and I own thirteen and a half boxes' worth of books. In this house. I still have at least six boxes' worth at home (and yes, I made sure to write my name in permanent marker inside the covers!). Who cares if we're sleeping under his grungy college-days quilt and eating off a card table? We are rich!

8. People are WONDERFUL. DH's parents ... all the church families and the friends who offered boxes, packing paper, time and muscle ... I still have thank-you notes to write! Moving was a chance for us to be shown a lot of practical love, and I am so grateful at the people God has put into our lives! Again, we are rich!

9. Being separated from DH for a week was pretty rough -- I have a lot of admiration for my friends who are military wives -- but it was a great opportunity to be reminded of how grateful I am to be a part of this family, and how committed I am to "us," even though that looks a lot different from my default "me" mode. I love my husband!

Thanks to everyone for their prayers and good wishes while we were moving. I love you all!

Should this cake happen?