Ready, sghetti?

Pasta. It seems simple enough, no? Would you believe me if I told you a childhood friend lit her stove on fire boiling water for pasta?

So last night was veggie pasta. It helps clear out the fridge at the end of the week, it saves some money with the meatlessness, and is just tasty.

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We cook most things in our biggest cast iron skillet. This was no exception.

Carrots from Johnson’s Backyard Farm, zucchini and yellow squash from the store. I did discs and half moons for the chops. While wearing a nursing baby, no less. A little bacon grease and there they go. Salt and pepper. More salt, more pepper.

I texted for back-up…and was already out of order. “Sweat some garlic and onions first.” Too late for that…another pan it is!

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I added a splash of grapeseed oil to this pan but my intended splash ended up as a downpour. Oh, well. Nothing a slotted spoon won’t solve.

My second hiccup was in remembering the sauce recipe. Considering in the past month I’ve slept more than two hours at any given time twice, I’m surprised I remembered as much as I did, but anyway…

Did you know that tomato paste wasn’t in the plan? No? Of course you didn’t! But I did…before it came time to cook.

Tomato puree, crushed canned tomatoes, and bonus ingredient: tomato paste.

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Some fresh basil chopped small (I won’t pretend it was anywhere near a chiffonade) mixed in, add the sweaty garlic and onions and simmer simmer simmer.

I did not take a picture of boiling water.

The pasta this time was garlic spinach linguine from Texas Pasta Co.

Toddler approved. DH approved. I was not such a fan. The paste made it too sweet and the onions were crunchy.

Learning to cook.

My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”

These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”

This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.

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Let’s back up a little…

I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.

Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail: underseasoned not seasoned.

When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making dinner.”

“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.

I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.

In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.

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So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.

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Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)

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