Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poor People Food

Being an army brat and growing up half my young life overseas, I never realized how poor my parents really were. I did notice that we didn't eat a lot of steak or roasts, and we never had the endless supply of pick-your-flavor-sodas that we have now. But that doesn't mean we had the distended bellies like the Biafran babies so popular at the time. "Finish your meal, there are babies in Africa that are dying." Sound familiar? (So how would my finishing my meal help them?)

Even as an unsophisticated kid with no special kind of culinary knowledge at the time it did not make one whit of difference. We never went hungry, even if we did have to eat some boring to me, sometimes, food. One thing we could always count on was spaghetti and meatballs (not meatsauce--ugh!) on Sunday. My dad taught my oldest sister how to make the sauce and meatballs, she in turn taught my second oldest sister, and she then taught me. Nowadays I don't make my sauce from scratch anymore and I just throw the meatballs together using the basic ingredients, no measuring. Somehow they always come out good.

People talk about "comfort food". To me that means food I like and food that reminds me of happy times. One of these is simply pasta with browned butter and parmesan cheese. How can you go wrong with that? We actually had it quite often, but think of the endless possibilities to switch it up now. Add bacon and eggs and it becomes pasta carbonara. Add a little shrimp and flour to the mix and it becomes a shrimp alfredo. Cold pasta with chopped veggies and a bottled Italian dressing becomes a pasta salad. Leftover pasta cooked with eggs in a skillet and veggies becomes a frittatta. See what I mean?

Today I'm making the basic pasta with browned butter and parmesan cheese. Perhaps not the most healthful meal, but it is simple and filling.

All you need are three ingredients: your pasta of choice; some butter; and some grated or shredded parmesan cheese.

Get a pot of water boiling and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, start to melt a cube of butter over low heat in a sauce pan.

Once the butter is totally melted it's time to turn up the heat. Increase the heat to about medium, constantly stirring or swirling it around in the pan.

Very soon the butter will turn this nice brown color. Now is the time to remove it from the heat.

Put the cooked pasta on a plate or in a bowl, spoon some of the browned butter over top and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Here it makes a nice accompaniment to some left over baked chicken.

Eventually I'll share our other pasta recipes. Meanwhile let your imagination go wild!

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