Sunday, July 17, 2011

Food for a Bad Week

I have spent the past week engulfed in melancholy.

Backstory: I was in New York last weekend, visiting friends from college -- you know, the important ones: those who make much of college worthwhile. It was glorious and exhausting and I relished every instant with a profound joy. The trip was touched with a bit of sadness, though; I learned that most of them are... (how to put this delicately?)... not in the best of places right now. Being the nosy nice guy that I am, I want to step in and help, changing the world so that they can have an easier time of it. That's simply not possible, of course, and it infuriates me. As a result, I have spent all my time since then brooding, frustrated and morose.

My mood deteriorated even further when I saw the state of the kitchen upon my return. Not only did it have the usual filthy characteristics that I hate (recycling: overflowed; sink: full of dishes; all surfaces: encrusted with grime), but furthermore, the dishwasher was broken! I realise that as students, we are incredibly spoiled to have this machine. But it is of little use when it refuses to use water. Disgusted, I withdrew to (read: hid in) my room for a few days.

Passive aggressive? Maybe. But you know things are bad in this apartment when I refuse to cook, especially since I'm the one who suffers most from that decision. I get antsy and irritable (if I'm not already) when I can't create anything.

Fortunately, the weekend has witnessed an upturn of sorts. Melancholy has given way to grim determination, somehow fueled by the memory of joy. I've managed to spend a few hours cleaning and running errands, and the dishwasher has reconciled itself with water. Life is getting tolerable again. I haven't made a difference in New York yet; that's next on my To-Do list. Me vs. the Universe. Yeah. Let's do this.

In the meantime, to keep myself distracted and celebrate the returned-to-functional kitchen, I continue to make interesting things. This here is a fascinating pasta dish that I once made a while ago, but didn't blog about it for some reason. If the mix of red wine, grapes, and Italian sausage doesn't grab your interest already, then think about the taste when the grapes macerate in the wine for 8 hours, along with sugar and vinegar. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Take it from me: the result is a delightful mix of sweetness from the fruit, bitterness from the vinegar, and spice from the sausage. And don't be intimidated by the wait; after the overnight maceration, the rest of dish assembles very quickly.

Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes, and Red Wine
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 lb dried strozzapreti pasta // or whatever type of pasta you happen to have on hand
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1,1/2 lbs Italian sausage (about 4 links, recommended 2 spicy and 2 sweet), casings cut away and meat roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley
Day 1:
Combine the grapes, wine, sugar, and vinegar in an airtight container, and store in the fridge so that the grapes macerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Day 2:
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Remove the grape mixture from the fridge, place it in a medium saucepot, and bring it up to a boil over high heat. Cook the mixture at a boil until the liquid has reduced by half, about 10min.

When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the strozzapreti and cook until the pasta is just al dente.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and begin to brown it for about 3-4min, stirring and breaking up the meat as you go.

Add the onion and continue cooking, stirring well, until the sausage and onion have cooked through, about 5-7min.

Add the sage and stir to combine.

Add the grape mixture and stir well.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it (but do not rinse it). Add the pasta to the pot with the grape-and-sausage mixture and cook together so the flavours combine and the pasta cooks a bit more, about 1,1/2min.

Remove the saucepot from the heat and add the butter, cheese, black pepper, and parsley. Sprinkle with more cheese and serve immediately.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Oh, Spuds, you and I are so, so alike. I know this feeling so intricately, and it is absolutely the worst feeling, because added to generic misery is the love of one's friends, and compassion is the most painful sometimes.

But I am glad you have reached the point of optimistic determination! That is PRECISELY the emotion that lifts me out of that state as well. It is an awesome and powerful state! Make the most of it! I really truly do believe we can use that determination, perhaps not to fix everything ever, but to use what IS in our power to exponentially powerful effect in the lives we touch.

So bravo for this post! And the pasta looks absurdly delicious. I think you should make some stunning cookies or a cake to wash away the last of the bad taste of hopelessness. :)