One of the perks of getting older is being able to use that as an excuse for various indulgences – lobster rolls at Lure, one too many trips to Scarpetta, a weekend vacation in Mexico, the 3rd breakfast pastry I really could’ve done without… and eventually once everyone has satisfied their appetite for celebration, a more humble routine can resume.

Relaxing on the beach in Mexico. SPF 50! And I still turned brown like a rotisserie chicken at Boston Market.

Happy Birthday to Scarpetta! (and myself)

Last Thursday night was spent, the 2nd evening in a week, on dinner at Scarpetta. Also celebrating a major event (their 2 year anniversary!), Scarpetta had released a special menu – a 4 course dinner, plus wine pairings, for $50. (My heart skipped a beat and my eyes wondered if they’d gone blind when I first saw that deal… I could’ve sworn I’d died.) Appropriately, the classics were ordered (polenta, spaghetti with tomato basil, cod — heavenly as always) and some new items were explored (capretto – very sticky; short rib agnolotti – it tastes like a Big Mac in pasta form, never again!). All in all, it was a good combination of enjoying what I’d always loved, and trying something new.

I remember the first time I had the polenta and spaghetti. It was so good I just had to learn how to recreate the dish at home. With healthier ingredients, of course. And so, on some particularly lonely nights, I set up my pasta maker and patiently stirred the polenta, yielding results which I thought was no way of the same caliber as Scott Conant’s, of course, but passable for a non-cook’s studio kitchen.

Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil

  • Pasta (flour, salt, and an egg)
  • plum tomatoes, about 3
  • red pepper flakes
  • grated parmesan
  • basil leaves, chiffonade

Like I said… it was a particularly lonely night, and so I shaped the pasta dough into little balls, and painstakingly rolled each one out into long thick strands. About 2 hours later, and only one serving of pasta made, I was seriously sweating at this point and called it quits. The rest of the dough was rolled using the pasta maker into linguine strands. However, for this kind of sauce, I highly recommend making your own spaghetti the lonely, single girl way. It is really that much better. Chewy!

Heat up some olive oil and saute the chopped up plum tomatoes. Once they are soft, smush them in the pot with a potato masher and add the red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can let them cook for a while to thicken the sauce while you boil the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks ridiculously fast, so keep a close eye on it, slightly undercook it, drain it, reserving some liquid.

Add the pasta to the sauce, and toss, adding some pasta liquid if it is too dry. Add the cheese and basil, toss some more, and serve.

Mushroom Polenta

  • baby shittake mushrooms (or whichever mushrooms look pretty at the market, I like the ones with the stems, Super Mario style.)
  • shallots
  • low sodium chicken broth
  • polenta
  • grated parmesan
  • butter
  • skim milk

Cook the polenta in the chicken broth. I can’t remember the exact portions right now, but it should be on the box. Whisk it, a lot! It will clump up easily if you neglect it. Add some skim milk to round out the flavor, along with some grated parmesan. A bit of butter, if you’d like. Or a lot, which most would probably prefer. What you want to go for is creamy. Cook the mushrooms with the shallots, and then add some chicken broth. Let it simmer away and thicken. (This takes forever. I think I waited a good hour. The longer you do it, the better it will taste. You can also add some marsala wine to it to sweeten it up a bit.) Salt to taste, and top the polenta with it.