We’re not planners… never have been, never will be. A lot of times we pay a hefty price for this behavior (figuratively and also quite literally), but that all becomes worth it when exciting surprises and unexpected happenings occur simply because we’re open to following a whim.
Not that this is an example of a life changing “happening”, but isn’t it the small moments that really count? Last Saturday night after a long day of working [insert more exciting activity here], we were trying to decide which of our “weekend rotation” restaurants we would go to. Every place seemed to have a crazy 2 hour wait and then it dawned on us that it was Valentine’s weekend.
The last thing I felt like at 8pm was heading to the grocery store, but then inspiration struck. I had this book right next to me on my desk… I opened it up and let the pages randomly fall and this pasta dish was the recipe it landed on.
Beautiful wide noodles are tossed with an unexpected spiced butter sauce. It’s sort of an Italy meets Morocco… and then they took a quick jaunt to Spain… kind of dish. (Which, come to think of it, sounds remarkably similar to our last vacation.)
There is a seriously bold spice mix in this recipe, but somehow the flavor is still light and balanced. Among other modifications, I added a little lemon juice and zest for some brightness, and a little brown sugar for some softness.
It turns out that good things sometimes happen when restaurants are booked.
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
4-6 oz. pappardelle pasta (to make vegan, use fettucini)
1/4 cup butter (I use non-dairy butter)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliceed
4 oz. (or a handful) crimini mushrooms, sliced in quarters
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teapsooon tumeric
pinch of cayenne (or more depending on how spicy you want it)
pinches of salt and black pepper to taste
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
a few pinches of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
a few squeezes of lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped chives
drizzle of white wine vinegar (if you made your meal too spicy by accident like I did)
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Heat butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and browning on the edges. Add ginger, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and a few pinches of salt and cook for 30 seconds more. Turn off heat and set aside if you’re pasta is not done by now.
Drain pasta and add it to the saucepan with the butter. Add half of the saffron and handfuls of spinach, a few pinches of brown sugar, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings and/or spices. You’ll at least probably need a few more pinches of salt at this stage, maybe a pinch more sugar, or a pinch more cayenne… if it’s not bold enough for you yet, add a bit more of some of the other spices as well. If it’s too spicy, drizzle with some white wine vinegar.
Remove from heat and portion onto plates. Top with remaining saffron threads, toasted pine nuts, mint and chives.