Lav and I were headed home from the eastside tonight after a long day of work (and working out, for Lav). By the time we pulled into the driveway, we were starving and it was already 7:45 pm... we needed something really good, and really fast. We decided to go with a simple, rustic Italian dinner.
I remember a dinner at Anne and Craig Stoll's fiercely elemental Delfina back in 2000, when I first tasted one of their simplest, but most perfect of dishes: spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and peperoncini. Made from basic dried spaghetti, just the faintest sliver before al dente, dressed just enough with the sauce of crushed tomatoes and olive oil to highlight the wonderful texture of the pasta without overwhelming the sauce-to-pasta proportion. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the intrinsic flavor of pasta, and it made me stop dousing pasta in ladles of sauce.
So tonight, we made our go-to dish when time is short: spaghetti in a crushed tomato sauce with olive oil. Nothing can be simpler. The sauce is made exclusively of high quality (but inexpensive) organic canned tomatoes, a bit of good olive oil, one small clove of garlic, and a sprinkling of fresh, aromatic basil. A good forkful of spaghetti with the sauce barely clinging to the pasta... a good chew where the pasta both resists and gives in... and purity of distinct flavors.
We also had an awesome bunch of swiss chard that I'd been wanting to saute with bacon in olive oil and garlic... just long enough until the chard becomes lightly tender and delectable, faintly sweet and earthy, and finished at the end with a quick blast of high heat to get a bit of char. At the last minute, I added some crushed hazelnut, and was surprised at how well the rich nutty flavor of the hazelnut matched the swiss chard.
A nice wedge of "Trailhead" from Mount Townsend Creamery for dessert, and we were back in a good place. A pretty good return for 20 minutes and $3 of ingredients.