Good Thursday morning to everybody!
I confess that I didn’t intend to write this much at the outset, but once I got started I realized that I have so much to say to you today, mainly about one ingredient in particular. I think this delicious pasta got me excited and I have rambled, and I apologize. Please feel free to skip straight down to the recipe, or continue reading for what I consider to be interesting information on what comprises about 0.4% of our body’s weight.
So before I let you go on your merry way and continue your beautiful life, I am going to impart some information to you. As I’ve mentioned before, since January I’ve been working as a cook and teaching assistant at Haven’s Kitchen, a beautiful cooking school and private event space in NYC. Working here initially was not only exciting to me (I felt like I finally got the job I always wanted!) but so scary that I felt like a person with no hands constantly trying to grip a knife – I was trying to find ways to work efficiently, but I had no idea how to do so.
As an avid home cook for over 6 years, I have enjoyed testing out recipes, playing around with my food, and cooking for friends and family at my leisure. Stepping into Haven’s Kitchen represented the first time I was working side by side with some of the best chefs I know (ok, fine, all of the best chefs I know), who harked from such amazing restaurants as Per Se, WD-50, and Le Bernardin. Restaurant chefs operate on a different level and get a different kind of high than home cooks do from spending time in the kitchen, and lets just say we didn’t speak the same language.
Aside from going to the bathroom at least once a day to try to breathe and accept that I was still in the midst of learning what cambros, hotel pans, rondeaux, batonnets, and aoilis actually consisted of, I have to say there were many moments of clarification and endless amusement to me.
Perhaps my favorite moments revolve around one essential, controversial, and flavor-packed ingredient: salt. I’ve already expressed my feelings about salt in restaurants in a previous post. And while I do still believe that too many restaurant chefs add excessive amounts of salt as a means of imparting flavor without actually adding substance, I can’t tell you how much I have learned to appreciate these tiny sea crystals that can forever change the way you and I taste food. Regardless, I always enjoyed hearing those typical chef conversations in which they discuss with a little sympathy and a lot of mockery home cooks, us poor commoners who don’t understand the first thing about salt and its vitality in every single dish. It reminded me of a boys club that I wasn’t invited to – poor home cooks, we just don’t get it. Of course, this is all in good fun and I would always harbor a little internal chuckle whenever it came up.
Whatever your opinion on this matter, I learned a lot about the importance of using salt. For this dish, I really would love it if you could salt your pasta cooking water extremely generously. Extremely generously. Pasta cooking water (just like water you use to boil potatoes) should be salty like the sea. The reasoning behind this is that at no other point in creating a dish will the spaghetti noodles themselves obtain flavor; they will be coated in flavor but if that pasta water is not sufficiently salted then as soon as you bite into the noodle all you will taste is starch, which I think we can all agree is rather bland.
A quick word on salts: I like to have several sizes and kinds on hand, but always from the sea (as opposed to sodium chloride which is made from a basic, 7th-grade style chemical reaction). Sea salts have so much flavor and complexity, and while it may sound insane to have a few kinds of salt in your kitchen (salt is just salt, right?), it is astounding what kind of a difference the size of salt makes. If you would like to highlight a dish with big hits of salt that are spread haphazardly throughout the dish, a coarse sea salt like sel gris or maldon salt will do the trick. Want some finesse on your pasta without doing an hours worth of extra work? Top your dish with some fleur de sel for a “wow” moment from friends and family.
Ok my friends, I’ve written too much and you’re bored. So let’s keep moving on to the recipe. You may want to make double the recipe, because it’s really good. Tip the bowl and drink the remaining sauce good. Let me know if you try it, and please let me know what you think.
I kind of want to kiss you right now, but instead of being a creeper I’ll just kiss the screen. Ok, done.
Summer Spaghetti w/ Tuna, Scallions, Corn & Tomato - serves 1
This recipe asks you to cut corn kernels from the cob. In order to do so easily, cut off the base of the corn (the “handle” if you will), and place it vertically flat on your cutting board. You can then use your knife to cut down on the kernels and leave them on your board.
- ½ tablespoon butter
- 1 ear corn, kernels, cut from cob
- 3 scallions, root and very green parts removed, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cup assorted cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus more as necessary
- 1 small can (5 ½ – 6 ounces) oil-packed tuna
- 3 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1. Heat butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once bubbling, add corn and a pinch of salt and saute until corn is just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Place in a medium bowl.
2. Once corn is cooled slightly, add scallions and next four ingredients to bowl. Toss to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper, and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of very salty (like the sea) water to a boil. Add spaghetti once boiling and cook according to package instructions.
4. Once spaghetti is al dente, remove with tongs (this way you can save the pasta cooking liquid) and add to the tomato and corn mixture. Add tuna, toss to combine, and add any additional pasta cooking water in order to add flavor and create a thicker sauce. Season with salt and pepper, olive oil, and vinegar as necessary.