I wanted to make beans tonight, but once again reality intruded. Friends of ours had a baby just about a month ago, and Jesse called me to say they had all—mom, dad, baby, and big sister—shown up after work to say hi. The baby jackets I knitted for them weren't quite ready when the baby arrived, and I haven't seen them since, so I dashed down to the office to deliver my gifts before the baby gets big enough to drive a car.
I came home and started scanning my menu lists for the upcoming week to see what quick dinner I could substitute for the one I had planned. Yes, I make menu lists. Because I'm not one of those intuitive cooks who can just look at a set of ingredients and say "Squash fritters!" I always sit down to think out just how I'm going to use what came in my box each week. Planning this way also allows me to go the store only once a week to buy everything I'm going to need.
After reviewing my options, I choose Spaghetti with Zucchini and Basil [pdf]. You'll forgive me, dear reader, for wanting to have this delectable dish again now that we have fresh basil?
By the way, does anyone have any advice on how to keep basil? My CSA advises that you keep it in a glass of water, like flowers. A too-cold refrigerator will turn it black, they say. I've had that happen. But I've also had the basil on the counter turn black from the heat on really hot days. This basil already looks pretty wilty, and it's only been a little over a day.
I often have success keeping cilantro and parsley by wrapping their stems in a damp cloth or paper towel, placing them in a plastic bag, and putting them in the crisper. So, any ideas on the very best way to handle basil?
I get the zucchini out of the refrigerator and realize at once that I overbought. The zucchinis looked so small in the store, but on my cutting board, I can see that I have at least one too many. I put it back into the refrigerator and cut the rest up. What am I going to do with that one extra zucchini?
I wanted to have spinach salad this week, but the spinach was more expensive than the romaine, so I bought the lettuce. I tear some up and make some more vinaigrette. I make a variation of last week's dressing. My very favorite vinaigrette is made with half olive oil and half vinegar, much, much more tart than almost any other dressing you'll ever have. With a good amount of garlic and some basil, I think this dressing is as good as it gets on fresh spinach.
I use the half and half proportions, but instead of basil, I add a bit of dried thyme for flavor. At dinner, we both decide that the thyme just isn't strong enough to stand up to the extra vinegar, so before I use it again, I'll add some more olive oil to the dressing.
Neither one of us is particularly hungry, so I make only 2 ounces of spaghetti per person. There is too much zucchini. After tonight, my definitive decision on amounts is 1 zucchini per person, 3 ounces of spaghetti per person on a hungry night, 2 ounces on a not-so-hungry night. Three or four ounces only if you're very physically active. I should have used a little more fresh basil.
Do I sound like I didn't enjoy this meal? I did enjoy it, every bite. I'd have it again tomorrow, if I had one more zucchini. But Jesse and I often discuss the food I make as we eat it. It gives me a gauge of the success of any recipe (and in home cooking, success with your family is the only gauge that matters). It also gives Jesse a way to actively participate in my hobby—and to contribute to the final shape of the dish.
Today's total includes a whole head of lettuce ($1.29), the vinaigrette ($2.32), a new head of garlic ($0.35), and opening a new bottle of Charles Shaw wine ($1.99).
Friday total: $12.54. Remaining weekly allowance: $24.16.
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