By Bonnie Fishman
Now that we have our Prepared Pandemic Pantry, we are ready to cook. Unfortunately, many of us are faced with the perpetual question: What should I make for dinner tonight? I have an easy solution: swim laps. That’s right, swim mediative laps. I do it every morning. This is where I do my best thinking. No phone, no TV, no interruptions. The creative juices are flowing. If you don’t swim, am I suggesting you take up the sport? Of course not. Find your own solution to pass the time, have your “zen” moment. A leisurely walk, a jog, yoga, knitting, listening to music, looking out the window.
Think about what you might have a hankering for. This can be problematic in the morning because it may be difficult to yearn spicy chili or braised chicken with onions, when all you really want to eat at the moment is oatmeal. I’ve learned not to ask my husband this question early in the day because I get a grouchy “I don’t know what I’m going to feel like eating later!” This makes it easier because now I just do what I want and he has to eat what’s in front of him. Push on, let your imagination go. After I decide on the flavor profile--is it Italian, Mexican, peasant food?--I move onto the pantry. Hey, I have everything at my fingertips. My dry goods are stocked, I’m flush with produce, dairy, meats. My freezer is bursting with possibilities. Now it’s just a matter of pulling it all together.
While I am swimming laps this morning, it dawns on me: a pasta night! My husband would eat noodles everyday if he could. So in my mind at lap 18, I scan my pantries. It’s going to be Linguine Carbonara, a staple in my repertoire.
Here’s the beauty of pasta: there are infinite add-ons and substitutions possible.
A classic carbonara is made with olive oil, garlic, bacon or some Italian meat such as pancetta, raw scrambled eggs and grated Parmesan cheese. Very simple, few ingredients. Now take the ball and run with it! In the version I made tonight, I added sautéed mushrooms and defrosted frozen peas. If you add a vegetable like mushrooms, onions, zucchini or peppers, cook them with the garlic. Since the peas are already cooked, just heat them through at the end.
If you don’t eat pork, you can use turkey bacon but will need to double the olive oil. I have even made carbonara with diced lox and using additional oil. One last secret ingredient would be a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, sautéed with the garlic. I often use it when I’m making a reduced fat pasta or one when substituting a strong ingredient like bacon. It just gives the dish an extra kick and rounds out the flavor.
Yield: 8 servings
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/4” strips
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 lg. eggs, room temperature
1 c. grated Parmesan, room temperature
2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1 lb. dried linguine
In a medium skillet, cook the bacon in the oil over moderate heat until it just begins to crisp. Add the garlic. Cook until the bacon is crisp. Pour in the wine. Reduce by half. Set aside.
Cook the linguine in 1 gallon of salted boiling water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, scramble the eggs in a large warm serving bowl. Return the skillet to the stove and heat through. Drain the pasta in a colander. Toss the hot pasta with the eggs along with the bacon. Mix in Parmesan, fresh ground black pepper, salt, and parsley. Adjust the seasoning. Serve at once.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.