just a little too soft, al dente

In a triflingly small number of sleeps, Tim and I will not be in New Zealand anymore. For a whole month. So don’t come looking for us. Unless you’re in London, in which case by all means come find us. Unless you’re into knife crime. Even though I never once felt unsafe during my time in London, well, at least up till July 7th 2005, I still can’t help thinking “knife crime!” said like the scene-change ‘dun-dunn!’ on Law and Order. But we’ll be fine. We’re confident, like Maria Von Trapp. Thanks so much to everyone who has emailed in offering ideas and websites and even their roof for us to stay under. And a massive thanks to my godmum and her family who loaned Tim and myself some awesomely functional luggage, especially compared to our sorry, carpal-tunnel-inducing offerings.

I can’t say that it has really made its way through to my brain properly – that instead of getting up and going to work every day, I’ll be on the other side of the world to where I am right now, for a month. Firstly, there have been some extremely heavy events both locally and overseas filling my mind – natural disasters, disastrous man-made situations…plus I was up in Auckland again on the weekend just been, this time working at ASB Polyfest (amazing but exhausting) so between that and Pasifika the weekend before, there hasn’t been much time to really properly consider it. Somehow it’ll all come together though. As I said. Confident. Like a Von Trapp.

Part of making it all come together is using up any perishable food. This might mean chugging a hefty volume of soymilk, or it might mean lots of thrown-together pasta dishes like the following, where a vegetable that’d otherwise curl up remorsefully in the fridge becomes the star. The star of what I named Sexy Pasta. I just looked at our dinner and the name appeared to me, organically and fully-formed.

Admittedly, it looked a lot sexier in person. Now that we’re further into the year and darkness falls earlier, I need to try and remember how to take decent photos at night.

But look at those ingredients. Hello. You don’t have to use pappardelle – it’s unfairly more expensive than other kinds of pasta, and I’m pretty unlikely to get it again for a long time, after the moment of wacky extravagance that got it in my cupboard in the first place. Regular spaghetti is more than fine, although something with a bit of width, like fettucini, would be great. I use almonds a lot because I bought a kilo from Moore Wilson’s for relatively cheap (much cheaper than buying little packets in the long run, I mean, and also cheaper compared to other bulk nuts) but use what you have – walnuts, pinenuts, pecans, cashews or Brazils would all rule.

Sexy Pasta aka Pappardelle with Roasted Capsicums, Sesame Garlic Toasted Almonds, Capers, Lemon and Mint

  • 160g pappardelle pasta or 200g other pasta
  • 3 capsicums
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds (be generous, this is your protein)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed of their salt
  • Half a lemon
    Handful of mint leaves
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil with plenty of salt, cook the pasta according to packet instructions (around 10 minutes) and then drain.

While this is happening, set your oven to 220 C. Halve the capsicums, remove the core and stem, and place cut-side down on an oven tray with some baking paper on it. Roast for about 20 minutes or until they’re a little blackened. Remove from the oven, tip them into a bowl and cover with gladwrap (this will make it easier to remove the skins later) and turn the oven down to 200 C.

While they’re roasting, finely chop the garlic clove. Once you’ve removed the capsicums from the oven tray – leaving the paper where it is – replace them with the almonds and the garlic. Drizzle with the sesame oil, and use a spatula to get it all mixed well, so each almond is slickly coated with oil and the chopped garlic is well dispersed. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes – make sure you keep an eye on it, burnt nuts are no fun.

Carefully peel the skin from the capsicums – should come away easily enough – and tear them into strips.

Finally – assemble. Divide the pasta between two plates, then divide the strips of roasted capsicum over that (including any syrupy juices that appear in the bottom of the bowl). Tumble over the almonds and the capers, squeeze the lemon’s juice on the top, and then rip the mint into bits and sprinkle over.

Soft, slippery capsicums, tender wide ribbons of pasta, salty capers, the sweetness of the almonds roasted into popcorn-crunchy, sticky nutty garlicky excellence, the fresh hit of the lemon and mint. The flavours and textures plow into each other to create a seriously gorgeous meal.

The next post’ll be the last one before our trip, but I’ll try to jump on here occasionally during our time away, to be all like “here’s a fuzzy picture of a hot chocolate I had” and “look! Me in front of a Krispy Kreme donut shop!” etc…

Title via: PNC’s recent single Murderer off his upcoming album. I love his music and it ably translated live, too, when we caught the end of his set at Homegrown earlier this month. I first heard this song a while ago and when he mentioned both Pad Thai and al dente I thought “huh, I’ll most likely end up using that in a title sometime…”

Music lately:

Gary Numan, Are Friends Electric? Whether they are, not much gets my head swaying dreamily from side to side, Stevie Wonder-styles, like this tune.

While looking for Julie Andrews singing Confidence on youtube I found this clip of her tapping and singing Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious with Gene Kelly. As well as being half adorable, half bewildering, it showcases the incredibly polished, staggeringly professional nature of stars at the time. When in doubt, lightly banter.

Next time: Like I said, last post before we go, and I’ve got a recipe for Chocolate Jam Bars for you. And I’ll maybe require some advice on how to be separated from your blog that you love for a month.


14 thoughts on “just a little too soft, al dente

  1. Anonymous says:

    Pappardelle is the easiest kind of pasta to make yourself though – just if you need to use up some eggs πŸ˜‰

    IA that this is an extremely attractive pasta dish. I really dislike capsicum but I can't help but admire its attractive, shiny qualities in a dish!


  2. Samantha @ The Savvy Soybean says:

    Ahh just got back into blogging again.. of course, you always write such thoughtful post regularly! Pappardelle is indeed sexy. I've been really into a certain kind I get from the market that's infused with lemon and pepper…yum. Yours looks great, and super colorful.. I like the idea of adding almonds, too!


  3. Hannah says:

    I seriously CANNOT WAIT for you to be off travelling! It's going to be so wonderful, and I'm going to live through you so vicariously that you'll probably be able to sense me INSIDE YOUR BRAIN.

    Not in a creepy way. Just in the capslock way.

    P.S. Pasta looks fabulous – I've never had anything like that!


  4. hungryandfrozen says:

    Tui: I guess so right – it's so wide, you can't go wrong…been ages since I've made pasta, but I think it'd be worth putting in the effort for pappardelle. Also, if you don't like capsicum, then something like eggplant or courgette would be great, too πŸ™‚

    Anna: Julie Andrews fan! *high five*

    The KitchenMaid: Hello! I think my next move will have to be a DIY pappardelle batch, for sure.

    Samantha: Yay, I love your blog πŸ™‚

    Hannah: Eeeee me neither! I've been vicarious for so long, dunno quite what it's like to be the real thing πŸ™‚


  5. Huia1-Our Story says:

    Just had pasta for lunch (made by cooking class kids). Pappadelle it wasn't but it did have fresh beans and corn in it. Checked out the Julie Andrews sites then rambled through a few others as well. Great nostalgia. And, such beautiful diction!


  6. Anonymous says:

    you had me at “sesame garlic toasted almonds” – YUM! If there was ever a sexy pasta, it'd be this one. I have an abundance of capsicums at the moment(I keep buying those multicoloured heirloom ones at Moore's) so this would be perfect πŸ™‚

    Have fun on your trip, you two!


  7. Mairi@Toast says:

    Definitely sexy πŸ™‚ Sesame garlic toasted almonds sound amazing! Happy & safe travels….it seems to have warmed a little over here…that is to say actually hitting double digits!


  8. Vanille says:

    I also buy the very same kilo pack of almond at M.W and hence tend to eat too much almonds…
    That's definitely a recipe for my dear one who really likes capsicum πŸ˜‰


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