Lenten surprises and guilt

It was really exciting when I was shopping on Arthur avenue on Saturday:  pork stores, one to many espressos, and the crispiest sfogliatella I had had in a long time. What more could one ask for on a sunny winter afternoon?  I shopped, I took notes, mingled with the locals, simply had a blast. Indeed the fan club really noticed that I was hyperactive that morning just before I left and certainly after I got back home.

With all my ingredients properly provisioned I as was ready to face Sunday. I knew cooking was going to be a challenge. I had some company work to take care of and knew that I could not spend more than one hour in the kitchen, and even less at my island. I did not despair, after all I had cooked for groups of twenty or more, outside of my kitchen.

My plan was to cook up good batch Apulian Oriechiette pasta with broccoli di rapa. On New Year's Eve I had had some of the best in a long time, prepared for us by friend of mine while visiting Miami. I thought it it was a dish that had to be had at least every two months. I was in for a double surprise.

Early in the morning - like 7:00 AM early  - I oven roasted the fresh sausage to remove a good deal of the excess fat. and quickly flash blanched the broccoli tips. In my house, on Sunday mornings, you should not be surprised if you awake and you smell everything but pancakes as you approach my kitchen. By the way I make pancakes too. I usually like to prepare ingredients or start off recipes before everyone wakes up. Cereal bowls get in my way, and so do milk cartons and bananas. Anyway , let's get back to food that does not come out of a box.

I tossed the broccoli tips with some garlic in a skillet along with some garlic, a pinch of salt, yellow peppers,  and a little devilish Mexican red chili. I made sure to cook them fast, and not over cook so that greens would retain their bright green color. The blanching helps  by reducing the time broccoli needs to fry and also tampers any bitterness they might have. Lots of people do not like the bitter accent that rapa carries with it. For me, however, sweet broccoli di rape do not make much sense.

So just as the salted pasta water starts to boil, I reach into the pantry, utterly convinced that I had at least a pound of dried artisan orichiette sitting around on one of the shelves.  Instead, low and behold, nothing. a big NADA.  All I could find is five of six types of rice, three varieties of cous-cous, and. of course a small collection - maybe larger than your average corner deli carries - of  DeCecco pastas. But no Oriechiette! My happy bubble had burst. My plan, that I so diligently laid out took a detour and I was not entirely happy. Well c'est la vie.

I needed to improvise and so I immediately switched to rigatoni. Good, the dish was finally coming together. A few minutes later, ensuring that the pasta remained al dente, I drained the pasta , tossed it into the high pan  where broccoli was frying  and added the sliced sausgage. I kept it over low heat for no more than one minute, adjusted for salt, added a couple of tablespoons of pasta water and sprinkled on some freshly grated Pecorino cheese.  Then I pulled out my big oval plate and set it on the table. And quickly had a plate for myself.

It was a wineless meal for me. I had to head back upstairs and do some serious technical writing. And so I did.

The second surprise came around Ten in the evening. I was asked - "Did you forget , did you forget, did you forget ?". Forget what I thought ? Some important date, a chore or worse something pertaining to our relationship? I was stumbled for a moment , then my wife looked at me and said: "You ate meat!". Unknowingly I had broken my promise of no-meat , no-cheese which for me starts with the season of lent.and ends around Thanksgiving. As my thoughts sank in, the day's happiness quietly died out.

Forgive father for I have sinned, well almost sinned.

Rigatoni con cime di rapa e salsiccia piccante
A good stand in for orecchiette. Full size or half sized rigatoni work best
1 lb Rigatoni or Orecchiette pasta
2 lbs of fresh broccoli di rapa 
1 lb of fresh hot Italian sausage m oven roasted and then thickly sliced
1 small yellow pepper , cut in to small sticks
 fresh red chili pepper (a metric ton if you like it hot)
S/P and EVOO 
1 tsp of fennel seeds (optional) 
Pecorino Romano

Rating :  i would not know. I was working too hard behind closed doors. I did notice however that big plate was emptied out. A good sign.

Recipe :
Well, if you read above, you probably can follow the steps that I implicitly outlined. However there are three tips that you need I need to give you.

One  -  I trimmed the broccoli , separating the tips from they more leafy stems. I also kept the stems and so that I could cook them another day.

Two - When making this dish ,  before draining the pasta, keep a cup of the boiling hot water because you might need to add a little bit of moisture

Three - Do recook the sausages, just toss then into the pan with the broccoli and heat up. They are already cooked and we want the flavors to be very distinct in final dish .

Salute !


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