At the beginning of October, N. went to a literary conference in Spearfish, South Dakota. That’s right, Spearfish. For almost a week. Now, I don’t even like eating dinner alone, much less rattling around the empty (all-but-dog) house in the evening and settling into bed by myself (again, aside from the dog who spent each night usurping more of my blankets). You hear the creaking and settling of an old house much more clearly when something is out of the ordinary.
To assuage my loneliness, of course, I turned to food. There are several items in this wonderful culinary world that N. doesn’t like. One of them is shrimp. I know, I must be crazy for having married him with such a deficiency (another of his dislikes is coconut. Crazy!), but otherwise he’s pretty perfect. So in his absence, I ate shrimp. A recent issue of Cooking Light had a wonderful looking shrimp pasta recipe that I wanted to try out, and with the crustacean hater a full time zone away, this was my opportunity.
Shrimp, pine nuts, a little white wine, basil, and some nutmeg and pepper spiced cream made the sauce, and I tossed spaghetti into it and folded the creamy sauce around the long strands of pasta before adding a generous grating of Parmesan cheese. Though this sounded like an excellent meal all on its own, I have been making an effort lately to be sure I include some kind of vegetable (or fruit) material in my meals, and a few julienned leaves of basil wasn’t going to cut it on this one.
I turned to tomatoes. Our sungold cherry tomato plant, with which I’ve been having a serious love affair all summer, provided me with several generous handfuls of tiny, deep orangey-gold spheres of sweet juicy flavor explosions. I drizzled a little olive oil over them in a small skillet and agitated them in the pan until they started to burst their skins. Then I added salt, pepper, and two big glugs of balsamic vinegar and let it heat through until barely simmering. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore, and ate a huge helping of tomatoes and pasta.
It was delicious. The sauce for the pasta was creamy and luscious, punctuated by bursts of freshness from the basil, and deep, complex buttery nuttiness from the pine nuts and nutmeg. The tomatoes, meanwhile, were tart and sweet – almost sweet enough to be dessert. When I went back for a second helping (what can I say, I was all by myself with no one to help me enjoy the feast!), an amazing thing had happened. Though I had turned off the stove (safety first!), I had left the pan containing the tomatoes on the cooling burner, and there was enough residual heat to begin to reduce the balsamic vinegar. What remained was a slowly thickening syrup of balsamic and sweet cherry tomato juice, sticky and oozing among the deflating tomatoes. I couldn’t stand it, I gobbled up the remaining spoonfuls and left the rest of the pasta for another day.
At my house, dinner for one looked like this: