Friday, August 22, 2008

Notes on the child-free night experiment

I know - I am not meant to be here until Sunday, but my goodness the morning is long without a lunch box to prepare and a girl to whip along - and I have to tell you about our child-free night (and day) - well not everything, but the most important bit!

So - where was I - dropped off child, anticipating, quick blog post, set for meeting mother for lunch.

V also had a day off, due to an aversion from taking the food from the apprentice's mounth (actually, told the boss he would let him and the apprentice dig the footings - bit gracious, hey?) and so he and I got to do something we rarely ever do.

After a lovely lunch with Mum we went out shopping.

We had a budget. We were going to look at clothes and ideas and if we fell in love with anything we would lay-buy. (V assured this by "forgetting" to take his wallet. Smooth move there, honey!)

We spent an hour in the main drag.

Went in to my favourite toy store - well, its for grown ups, but oh my it is just like a toy shop - Avenell Bros Gift Store is packed to the rafters with stuff from chef's blocks and saucepan sets to 2m high bird cages. They don't have a website (it would be a full-time job just keeping it up to date on their inventory) so I can't link them (heck, they don't even have email - they have moved forward to fax they told me) but it could soak up a good part of anyone's day. Going in there and admiring the ever-changing merchandise is always a wonderful indulgence.

We also went into and very quickly out of several "boutiques" - I know what I want and no-one ever has anything remote, unfortunately.

Finally got to one large chain who didn't even have a casserole dish to admire (I know, quelle horreur - apologies to francophiles) but did have a clearance rack of clothes. I made a tragic decision to try something on, which basically put a funk over any more clothes appreciation.

We did buy something - incense from the hippy shop is fairly much always a given for us while shopping, but it was a different hippy shop than where we normally go.

By halfway back along the strip we realised that our one hour parking limit would be up and the local council takes infringements of such nature very seriously so we had to vamoose.

We discussed the luxury of the whole evening stretching before us and what we could do with all that time and the possibility of having someone else cook for us as we went to a shopping centre for the next session.

By about 5 minutes into the shopping centre (or "mall") experience, we decided that
  1. it was too long to be in town to wait for a restaurant to feed us,
  2. we could probably put together a better feast than they
  3. that would be exactly what we wanted
  4. for cheaper
  5. (except for the washing up benefit)
  6. and my goodness we are getting OLD!!!

So finally I get to my reason to post - here is the most fantastic pasta dish in the world (without pictures because candlelight doesn't show up well and I was far to busy creating and then eating to think of you - sorry)

  • 1 loaf pasta dura - this is the most yummy chewy bread and can be occasionally found on special at large grocery chains
  • about 1/2 dozen chorizo or interesting sausages with some paprika or yummy european pretensions - we lucked upon checking out a butcher on the off chance, and found out he was "Sausage King" in quite a few divisions and proud of his chorizos
  • eggplant - I heart eggplant!
  • olives - giant kalamatas are generally pretty cheap and go so wonderfully well
  • pine nuts
  • about 300g mushrooms (we used buttons because that is what was available)
  • onion
  • garlic (I used about 4 cloves)
  • capsicum
  • jar of Dolmios Spicy Peppers Pasta Sauce (yes, I know - big time cheating, but it does the job and is a nice little shortcut without that nasty pasta sauce tang)
  • splash of whatever red wine you are drinking
  • italian herbs - if you have fresh basil and someone stupid enough who loves you enough to pick them when it is cold and dark, lucky you - but dried out of the cupboard worked
  • olive oil
  • San Remo Fresh Fettunccine - so much better than dried!!!

So - the moment you get home, slice the eggplant about 3/4" thick and salt it well to sweat it. (Or you could collapse in front of the television news saying how shopping wears you out so much more than a full day of bricklaying, and find someone to love you enough to be joyous in the kitchen while you do so).
Then grab a frypan, very lightly oil it and put in your sausages to fry them on a low heat - we want them cooked through with a soft sizzle, not spitting and splitting.
While that is happening, prepare the veges - as I had visions of a chunky sauce, I just cut the onion into eighths, capsicum into strips, mushies into wedges of sixths and eighths (depending on size), and garlic small as I wanted it smooshed.
Once the sausages were done, I rinsed the eggplant and poured the oil off the pan into a mug. I brushed the eggplant with it and fried it - eggplant is thirsty so will soak whatever oil you offer it, and as I like my eggplant cooked but not soaked I only brushed it just before and just after turning, and cooked twice on each side - the surface gets lightly browned without looking burned and it is cooked through without being adolescent in its ooze. I then sliced the slices into 3/4" strips.
I then toasted the pine nuts lightly in the pan before I got talked into a bigger pan because I always call the pan/ingredients ratio wrong.
The rest of the sausage oil and a dash more olive oil and add the onions and smooshed garlic.
Stir around until just starting to soften and then add the herbs and capsicums.
Add a good dash of red wine as you are refilling your glass - probably about 1/2 a glass full - and stir it around and add the mushies to get full value from the flavour. (Start the pan for boiling water at this point, darling)
Chuck in the rest of the ingredients and stir around - yummy thick sauce.
Oh, I also experimented with a little roasted sweet potato in my mix, but it was such a small amount I ended up with an an extra step for you that I completely forgot - fried it in the sausage oil in discs and then chopped like the eggplant (before I drained the oil off - sweet 'pud just bubbles up with oil rather than having the drinking problem)
Harass your sweetheart into doing the pasta (and try not to question how long it is to boil and has to boil because remember, he survived long before you fell in love with him on more complicated stuff than reading a packet) (and try not to hover over him as he gives your sauce a stir in case he stirs with too much force and breaks up the eggplant) (and try not to get too carried away on extrapolations on other things that his stirring and force could... oh hang on, I am giving you the recipe here).
Anyhow, set the table, light the candles, slice the bread and put out the butter and serve up - mmmmmmmmmm-mMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
This probably should feed about 4 - we had leftovers for V to have for smoke-oh (even though we seriously pushed our stomach limits because it really is THAT GOOD!)
After rinsing off the dishes (where are the staff when you need them) we contemplated the rest of the evening... (then fell asleep in front of CSI Miami because, darn it, we could do WHATEVER we wanted to!)


Pencil Writer said...

Jeanie, love reading your blog. I, too, love making spaghetti (or whatever pasta sauce). But, I've gotten into a rut and will have to experiment with some of the ingredients you've entered into your own. Love the mushrooms in the Marinara sauce, for sure. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Jayne said...

What?! Horatio in his sunnies and with his hands on his hips didn't keep you glued to the idiot box? :P
Great recipe, thanks for the tips on frying eggplant ;)

Debby said...

A toy store? For adults? And you went in? The only stores I've seen like that are off the interstates, and they are marked by miles of billboards with bright red letters, and there are terrible stories about what happens in the parking lots. I'm askeered of freaks so I avoid these places.

Maude Lynn said...

This sounds fabulous! I'm really going to have to try this. I generally have horrible luck with eggplant. I have no idea why . . .

shishyboo said...

you gotta love a kid free day out and about with your boy :)

Crazed Nitwit said...

You're a wise wise woman and I'd always have room for you in Canada if I don't visit you upside folks first!!!!

Thanks and HUGGLES!

MissyBoo said...

Sounds so yummie! I love your concerns about V in the kitchen lol.

Oh and my mind went down the same path as Debby with the adult toy shop...

jeanie said...

Where are your people's minds? When I say "Adult Toy Store" I meant it was as exciting as a toy shop, but for grown ups, with toys like household goods!

If I meant one of those "cheer-up girls" shops (thanks to a forum friend, Clancy, and her son for that coinage) I would have painted it far more starkly. Sheesh.

Oh - and I have been into those - several times in fact - and you can't tell by the way I walk, thank you Cleo.

PW - as I am not a marinara sauce girl, I cannot imagine the improvement mushies give it... But I heartily recommend this one.

Jayne - no. And his... pronouncements... did not stir us... as they normally... would. (sunglasses back on)

Deb, Deb, Deb. Here they are in small shopping strips and (as mentioned above) can be advertised in their front windows with mannequins in costume - and actually sell more than just dirty videos and feathery cuffs - but not quite up to saucepans, I think. You can find far more freaky people in your local bank.

Mama Zen - remember the salting and not too much oil - you can even cook them under the grill with the brushing technique - you want them to turn golden but not black.

shishyboo - especially one anticipated!

Crazed Mom - we would always have room for you.

M+B - he actually can (and does) do a mean steamed nearly every night - its just when I am busy being the mad creative genius that I can't stand the attention! He does skite (and can be) of his "best kitchen hand in the world" mantle, but sometimes his efficiency and my creativity do not mesh.