Leap and the net will follow… has pretty much been my motto since I took this picture years ago. It’s my favorite misquote, encouraging both fearlessness and instant tragedy. Hey, if the fall doesn’t kill you, the net will. And from a church too!
Luckily I can say the number of times I have leapt and had the net appear is greater than the times the net has whacked me on the head. But not by much…
Last week, with a sudden surge of frustrated energy dying to be focused on a task, I plowed through my shelves of old cooking magazines- ripping out recipes that I’ve enjoyed or meant to try and tossing the rest.
It was a cathartic experience. I love to clear space and I love to read about food.
I was reminded, however, of how few new ideas there are. I mean, honestly, how many times can they publish a “new way to master short ribs” or a “fantastic grilled salmon” before we stop listening (obviously a really long time because I tend to renew my subscriptions even after an epiphany like this).
The other thing I was reminded of was what happened last year. I was climbing the walls last August. It had been an unbearably hot summer, with almost no work for my company and I tailspun into a depressed lump of a girl. I decided to cook myself out of the hole and went into the lab (kitchen) to test drive recipes I had earmarked in past Bon Appetits & Gourmets.
I had booked an Asian Themed party for the fall, so I focused my attention in that direction. “Golden Crisp Daikon Cakes” had me running down to Chinatown to purchase small dried shrimp, Chinese pork sausages and of course, Daikon.
I love Chinatown, but in the middle of summer, the ripe street smells can linger in your nasal passages for days.
I focused all my attention into these cakes. I was certain that they would be incredible – because honestly, most of the recipes that I’m drawn to work out pretty well. They took a long time, made me feel uncertain most of the day and then were awful. Shannon, in his most diplomatic tone, said that they tasted very authentic and that if daikon cakes were something we grew up on, these would probably be delicious. They were decidedly not delicious. Back into the hole I went.
The next adventure was just a bad idea all the way around. Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto. It was a featured item in last August’s Bon Appetit and it was one of those ideas that you knew someone thought would blow everyone’s mind. They were probably walking through the farmer’s market, noshing on some grilled chicken pesto wrap, when they saw carts overflowing with summer corn. Lightbulb.
Not so much.
I was excited too. Because I love corn, I love pesto and tagliatelle is one of my favorite pasta cuts. I’m a sucker for a wide noodle, you can ask anyone. But the corn in this recipe is the substitute for basil – cooked and then mashed with pine nuts and parmesan. It honors none of the elements. It was mucky and not thrilling. Shannon was definitely less diplomatic with this one, though he dutifully cleaned his plate. “I don’t think you need to make this one again, honey.”
What I had been searching for in that recipe, a sweet salty pasta featuring a seasonal star, I had already found a few years earlier. This is from “Italian Easy- Recipes from the London River Café” by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, which is one of the best cookbooks I own. Honestly, there is not one bad recipe in the book. The food is simple and honest and absofuckinglootely incredible.
This pasta is amazing. I serve it with grilled pork chops with a splash of lemon and a spinach and arugula salad with a champagne vinaigrette. Summer has never been celebrated so brilliantly.
Fig and Chile Tagliatelle
- 1 pound Tagliatelle or Spinach Fettuccine
- 1 pound Black Mission Figs
- 2 Dried Chiles
- 2 Lemons
- 2 ounces Parmesan
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- ½ cup Heavy Cream
- Cut each fig, pole to pole, into 4 pieces. Crumble the chiles. Grate the lemon peel of both lemons and squeeze the juice of one. Grate the Parmesan.
- Bring a large pan of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the tagliatelle or fettuccine until al dente.
- While the tagliatelle is cooking, heat a skillet large enough of the pasta and sauce. Add the olive oil and, when smoking, carefully place the figs in the pan, turning them immediately to caramelize. Turn off heat, season and add the lemon zest, lemon juice and chiles. Stir in cream.
- Drain the pasta and toss it into the fig sauce. Generously sprinkle with Parmesan and serve with extra chiles.