It was one of those rushed Tuesday nights where no matter how quickly you feel like you’re moving, it’s somehow not quick enough. I’m sure you know the one: baseball and soccer practices, work and chores, errands, a forgotten trip to the grocery store and three grumpy kids lined up on kitchen stools, hungry and agitated from a long, busy day (not to mention the senile golden retriever underfoot waiting for his dinner and the dozen other farm animals needing to be fed, waiting only slightly more patiently than the children).
Insert your own to-do list from the day and I bet we are in the same boat.
It would have been easy to throw a frozen pizza in the oven or slap some peanut butter on bread and call it dinner. And of course, there are absolutely those days, but sometimes you need a good meal, something that comforts as much as it nourishes on a busy, hard day.
On this particular night, even in the midst of the chaos, I needed a few minutes to chop and slice, stir and sprinkle. I needed the house to smell like cooking onion and garlic and I wanted my children to eat something green even if they complained. I eyed a few pieces of bacon, some asparagus I picked up at the market the day before and a half opened package of pasta. I could work with that.
People ask me why I cook, and oddly it’s the crazy nights that crystalize why it means so much to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the slow and easy days where I can putter in my kitchen. But let’s be honest, that’s not the norm. Most days look like Tuesday nights; a little rushed, sometimes frazzled, a hungry family wanting food fast.
Using my hands and my imagination, I can create something from almost nothing. I can feed my family and friends mostly healthy food, much of which grows right here in the Valley. This ability to make something tangible and essential reminds me that I can create and do so much more than I often let myself believe.
This easy take on carbonara is a fast 20 minutes. You’ve got a pot and two skillets going all at the same time. You chop and stir, drain and taste and suddenly dinner is ready.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
4-5 slices center-cut slab bacon, cut into quarter-inch pieces
1 pound spaghetti noodles
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends cut off, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot or half a small Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 large eggs (1 per serving)
¼ cup, thinly sliced basil
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
Set a large pot of water over high heat. At the same time, heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and cook the shallot and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the bacon to the frying pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the bacon is cooked through. Turn the heat off to the pan and, using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and onion mixture, letting it drain on a paper towel.
When the pot of water boils, stir in a big handful of salt and the pasta. When the pasta is halfway done, add the asparagus. When the pasta and asparagus are cooked through (the asparagus will be bright green and tender but not mushy) drain away the water, reserving one-quarter cup of pasta water. Going back to the frying pan, turn the heat to medium-low and stir in the butter and pasta water, adding the bacon and onions into the sauce. Using tongs, mix the pasta and asparagus into the sauce until the entire dish is well-coated. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using a small fry pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with a little cooking spray or melt a little butter in the pan. When the pan is hot, crack the egg, making sure not to break the yolk. Cook for 2 minutes or until the egg white is firm but the yolk is still very runny. Using a spatula, remove the egg from the pan and start again until you have one fried egg per person.
To serve, dish the pasta into individual bowls and
lay an egg over the pasta.
Garnish with more fresh basil and Parmesan, a good sprinkle of black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.