crazy caper(s)

During Shelli”s recent visit, though we accomplished what I now realize is a crazy amount of stuff, we also had one mishap.  The fridge died.  I mean died for real: when my husband entered the kitchen for breakfast he found berry juice dripping from the freezer onto the floor.

On the plus side, the replacement fridge is a few inches deeper…

…and instead of stick-out handles it has these nifty pulls:

Our poor previous fridge had been declining slowly, we realize now, but until it finally went kaput we mistook the warning signs as evidence of something we were doing.  See, I started messing with the temperature settings after twice breaking raw eggs for a recipe only to discover that their whites were frozen.  Frozen?!  In my book that indicates that the fridge is set too cold.  Maybe others would recognize it as a symptom of an ailing appliance, but I didn’t pick up that clue right away.

Anyway (sparing you details of my early-morning run to the gas station to pay in change for a bag of ice that just might preserve the food until maintenance staff arrived for work) I’ll just say that as my rudely-awakened and ever-loving friend helped me move perishables to the shady balcony…

…she noticed that we have capers and asked what I do with them.  So, Shelli, this one’s for you.

What I do with them is make Spicy Tomato Sauce to put over pasta, a dish I call simply Spicy Spaghetti.  The sauce recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis, whose show I could watch for hours.  I swear, that woman never sweats or has a hair out of place, except in the adorably-rumpled way that works for some women (but not me).  And she makes casually sophisticated food like it ain’t no thang, then serves it happily to other abnormally lovely humans.  It’s like Disney magic for grown-ups.  I’m going to be a bit lazy and just link you to her version of the tomato sauce recipe, but I’ll describe the basics here.

Here’s what Phase One looks like:

That’s half a large onion and three fresh cloves of garlic sauteed in olive oil.  Then I threw in a tablespoon of rinsed & drained capers and a shake-shake-shake-shake-shake of red pepper flakes, because I really like it spi-say.

But it wasn’t quite sauce at this point.  Cue the tomatoes.  (I use a 14.5 ounce can of diced.)  This time I mooshed them a bit with a potato masher after dumping them in the skillet.  That’s because my hubby doesn’t like tomatoes much.  Last time I made this, he requested that I put the tomatoes through the blender first.

I was going to humor him, but I had a fight with the entropy that’s already begun to haunt the closet where I keep my blender.  After losing that fight, I resorted to mooshing the tomatoes instead of whirring them.  Here’s the sauce once it actually gained its main ingredient–smashed, not pureed:

And though I’ve confessed defeat in the Me-vs-Closet match-up, I would like to note that later I re-entered the Chaotic closet with my Order-and-Reason face on and whipped it into shape.

Now back to the recipe we were discussing….  After the tomatoes entered the equation, I turned down the heat and sort of forgot about the sauce while it got busy simmering.  I say sort of forgot because it’s impossible to fully ignore it.  It permeates the whole place with a summery-tangy-pungent aroma that screams, “Here I a-am!  Taaaaste meee!”  I have to wait until most of the liquid evaporates, though, a worthwhile wait; I guarantee you.  It’s not spicy soup, after all.  (Although it could be.  Hm….)

Okay, so waiting….waiting…and then:

Chow time!  Today I was out of spaghetti so I substituted farfalle, which is probably my favorite pasta.  I like the way it holds some of whatever you put on it.  Another favorite (easy!) recipe around here is farfalle with cubed chicken, frozen peas, and homemade alfredo sauce.

And ever since my friend Mindy introduced me to the yummiest bread ever, we eat it with most of our pasta dishes.  Shelli tried out the recipe while she was here and I think she would vouch for its simplicity.  None of that multiple-rise and punch-down stuff.  This is a three-stepper:
1. Mix up dough.
2. Let dough rise two hours.
3. Refrigerate for later OR shape into loaves, raise once, and bake.
I guess you could divide that into more than three steps, but it’s seriously easy compared to the yeast bread I made growing up.  This recipe holds up amazingly too.  It freezes well–you can even freeze the dough, either unbaked or partially baked.  If a baked loaf dries out before you eat it all, it makes nice crumbs for coating (just spin hunks in the blender) or croutons for salad (coat cubes with olive oil and a bit of coarse salt and pepper, then bake at 350, stirring a few times to golden evenly).

I recommend that you try it at least once.  Follow the link above and when you get there, check the far right side for what looks like a Red Star yeast ad–it’s really a tutorial video.

So there you have it, friends and strangers: Spicy Spaghetti, perfect bread, and sweet tea–yum!  This is culinary clinging-to-summer at its best.

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