Monday, July 17, 2006

Late, lakeside dinner for 4

This weekend was a Yosemite getaway with Sylvi and Matthias, which pretty much guaranteed we'd be eating well. Matthias is Swiss, which means the chocolate and cheese are always top notch. Sylvi is an artist and approaches edibles the same way she does her work, carefully considering color, texture and sensory response.
Plus, her parents' lake cabin is stocked with her mother's homemade jams (this time they were apricot, peach and plum). So besides lake swimming, constellation gazing and golf attempting, we planned to make a few simple but memorable meals. And indeed, we succeeded.

We got off to a late start Friday and knowing we'd arrive around 9, we needed a meal plan that would be easy to execute but tasty enough to feel rewarding after the drive. While we nosed around the produce at Berkeley Bowl, Sylvi suddenly remembered the perfect pasta to make on the run. It's her friend Carla's recipe, which, interestingly, features brie as its star ingredient. The beauty of this dish is that you toss all the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and let them marinate and mingle for a few hours–like say, the amount of time it takes to drive to Yosemite (in our case, 2.5 hours). Then you need only cook your pasta and stir it, still hot, into the mixture. By this time the flavors have taken on a new depth and the hot pasta melts them into one gooey, glorious, pungent sauce. It couldn't be easier to assemble or more enjoyable to eat.

Brie and Basil Pasta On-the-Go

1 bunch basil
1 container small tomatoes, preferably grape vs. cherry variety
2 wedges ripe brie (the softer, creamier & more pungent, the better)
1 bulb garlic
3-4 c. decent olive oil
Fresh fettucine for 4
coarse ground pepper
coarse sea salt

Slice small tomatoes in half and then put aside in large mixing bowl. Peel approx. 12 cloves of garlic (you can use more or less depending on your taste). Crush them by placing them under the flat surface of your knife blade and applying pressure with your palm. Add the crushed cloves to the tomatoes. Cut brie into small cubes and add to the mixture. Add olive oil to mixture. Rip the leaves from the basil stems in one twist, discard stems and then cut about half of the leaves that remain into chiffonade (fine strips) and add to the mixture. Now give your melange of ingredients a good stir and add healthy grindings of salt and pepper. Allow mixture to sit for at least 2 hours. Before adding hot pasta, stir once more. Then drain boiling pasta, and pour directly into mixture and serve. **Be sure to advise fellow diners to eat around or pick out the uncooked cloves of garlic. (Or not. The more adventurous in your party may welcome the blood-cleansing, detoxing properties of the garlic. Particularly if their acupuncturists tell them that they have angry livers. But I wouldn't know anything about that.) Anyway, if you have leftover sauce, slather it on bread the next day. We did this at 2 AM after plenty of Dark and Stormy cocktails and it didn't disappoint. Simple, surprising and so satisfying.


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