Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunshine On A Plate

My preoccupation with pasta dishes might have something to do with how versatile I find them. Plus, pastas are becoming a great alternative to rice in my kitchen.

I haven't come up with a name for one pasta dish I cooked up, but I suspect it might already have one: this thing with fresh tomatoes, anchovies (not ikan bilis), garlic and the optional lemon zest and hot sauce.

Let's call it sunshine pasta.

"Sunshine", because it's bright in colour and taste and relatively light. I don't know what I'd call it if you threw in, say, a few lardons of bacon or lamb rag├╣.

But the lemon zest fits, and I've wanted something with anchovies aka orang putih punya ikan bilis for a quick throw-together when I can't decide where to eat out.

I'd go easy with the hot sauce, though; too much and you'd have a plate of scorching Sahara rather than the tepid tropics.

Mise-en-place for "sunshine pasta"

First, your mise en place (prep): chop or dice a tomato or two, seeds removed. Thinking of keeping the wet jelly-like mess next time. Then, mince two to three cloves of garlic and slice three or four shallots (which you can substitute with a medium-sized red onion).

Pour some hot sauce (maybe two tablespoons) into a bowl and mash an anchovy or two in it, depending on the size. Some anchovies can be as big as small sardines and salty as heck. If that's the case, I won't salt the pasta water.

Boil your pasta as usual. I like mine al dente. Whether it's fusilli, shells or spaghetti, I'd add several extra pieces to test the texture - which is why I don't bother with timing here.

When it yields under your teeth like a stick of chewing gum (without the crunch of the uncooked stuff), take it out of the water. If you're going to throw the pasta back into the pot to cook with the sauce, take it out sooner, maybe a couple of minutes.

You can mix a bit of the pasta water to the hot sauce-anchovy mix but plain water's also fine. Give it a taste; if it's too salty, junk some of the sauce. Otherwise, you can adjust the seasoning later.

Sunshine on a plate, whatever the weather

Plate the pasta and toss it with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking. Some would run the whole lot through cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further (from the residual heat), but I don't. Often, it's not necessary.

Fry up the garlic for several minutes in oil, then throw in the tomatoes, followed by a little water. Let the lot simmer for a few minutes, then start mashing with a fork until you're satisfied with the texture. I usually lift the pot off the heat for this.

Onto the heat for one more stir and in goes the hot sauce-anchovy mix. Give it a quick stir - beware of any fumes from the hot sauce - and toss the pasta in. Stir for a minute or two to let the flavours get in before plating it.

The lemon zest can go in before or after plating, but be sure to toss and stir well before serving.

Sunshine on a plate.


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