I had great hopes for last night's dinner. I had planned to make a traditional Korean pork dish, except I was going to make it with turkey tenderloin because two thirds of the people in this house are prohibited from eating pork on pain of death. (Such a downer.) I was actually really, really looking forward to it. There was a dish I used to order at this Korean restaurant around the corner from my office and I haven't been able to order it since I got pregnant. I've been toying with different ideas of how to re-create it or at least how to come close... anyway, that's not the point. I went to make the dish and I realized that the meat had expired quite some time ago. It was not a matter of "Oh, it's probably still fine to cook with." (Which, of course, you should still not cook with.) It was a matter of, "Oh. Ick. What is that still doing in the fridge?" I was annoyed by the waste and annoyed by the fact that I'd been thwarted in my aims. There were some other things annoying me too, other non-food things. The Yankee spring training season seems to be full of reminders of the approach of old age, my new television addiction (Sherlock on BBC, if you're curious) seems to be in a production delay (more thwarting) and my daily dog walk had been cut short by freezing rain on my head when the Weather Channel assured me of a 0% chance of precipitation.
In short, I was grumpy. Extremely, hideously, grumpy. Sherlock shooting the walls grumpy, for those of you who follow the show. And I still had to feed the family. Family that included a small child who was also extremely grumpy, had painted herself green and yellow at school and was loudly insisting "I'm hungry!" at every possible opportunity.
I thought quickly. I remembered someone telling me that almonds are supposed to be good for depression or mood or some such thing. I have no idea if that's true or not. I'm not a doctor or a practitioner of traditional medicine or a homeopathist or whatever. I'm a cook. What I do know, and what was looming large in my mind at the time, was the fact that I needed a source of protein for my meal that night and I had an open bag of almonds sitting on my counter.
Right. There we go. It was a quick, simple dish that came together quickly enough for me to get some very calming knitting done before bed. It was also tasty, and what's more my daughter actually ate seconds of it without much prompting. (She's been in another anti-food phase.) It's great for weeknights.
Pasta with Arugula and Almonds (serves 4; approx. $3.00/serving)
1 box whole-wheat pasta, prepared according to package instructions
8 ounces whole almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 bag baby arugula, washed but not dried (Even if the bag says pre-washed, wash it anyway. This is important.)
1 cup grated pecorino
- Whatever you would normally use for cooking pasta
- Large, deep saute pan
- While you're starting the pasta water, heat the saute pan (dry) over medium heat.
- Add the almonds and toast. Pay careful attention as they will burn. Some people toast them in the oven but I prefer this method as it allows me to see how close to done (and how close to burnt) the almonds are.
- Evacuate the almonds to a dish or a bowl or something. Add the oil to the hot pan.
- When the oil is hot (this will be quick) add the onions and reduce the heat slightly. Saute until the onions are softened.
- Toss the arugula into the pan. In an ideal world you will be able to just toss it directly from the washing-water into the pan; either way, there should be enough water clinging to the leaves to prevent burning and to create a tiny bit of sauce. (See, I told you washing the arugula was important.)
- Saute the arugula until it is wilted.
- Add the almonds back to the pan and cook until arugula is done to your desired degree of tenderness. If the pasta is not yet done, turn off heat and wait. When the pasta is done, you can re-heat the sauce.
- Turn out the pasta into the serving dish. Pour the arugula mixture over the pasta and add the cheese.
- Toss to combine and serve hot.