What to do when faced with the early-January depleted larder? (What exactly is a larder? Does it mean the same thing as pantry? Don’t I really mean “empty fridge”?) As if the holidays weren’t horrifying enough on their own, the end of the year further tests my already-fragile sanity by depriving me of both farmers market & regular swimming. After all that, throw in a few days’ torrential rain & the worst PMS in memory, & the world should be relieved I barely left the house all weekend. Is it any wonder there was No Plan, no ingredients, no real prospects of any kind for dinner last night? Worse, we had already used our Go Out Instead card the night before.
But fear not! The spirit of chop suey is alive & well around here, & after having moped around the house all day I rose to the challenge.
Here is what I rescued from the forlorn, echoing chambers of the fridge:
half a red onion, the cut surface shriveling with dehydration
3 shallots in good condition
the middle of a celery bunch, still reasonably stout
4 endives, also fine
a bag of bulk lemon fettucine, keeping the faith from our last trip to the Bowl
1 small Meyer lemon from the garden
a tiny nub of Pecorino
We also had about a quarter loaf of the famous Tartine bread, but, I kid you not, it had to be more than 2 weeks old. (Don’t worry, I wouldn’t ever serve this to a guest, except in an earthquake situation.) I started by aggressively trimming off all the crust & dried-out edges, then stuck the salvaged middle of the bread in the Cuisinart to make crumbs. I did similarly aggressive editing on the onion, then chopped it & the shallots & celery into some vague approximation of a mirepoix. (Did you know that Trader Joe’s is selling mirepoix in a plastic container? It’s actually labelled Mirepoix, & the carrots & onions & celery are arranged in these cute layers in the plastic—has “mirepoix” entered the general vocabulary all of a sudden?! I saw that right after a server in a restaurant used the word while describing a dish to me. She totally expected me to know what it was. I feel like I only happen to know what mirepoix means. Do all of her other customers know? Are we all expected to know mirepoix now? Does Rachael Ray have something to do with this?!)
Breadcrumbs went into the pan with olive oil & melted butter, & were joined by a generous handful of pine nuts from the freezer. When they were all nice & toasted I set them aside in a dish. Into the hot pan with more oil went the wannabe mirepoix. When that was done, I dumped in the just-cooked pasta along with the sliced endive, mixed it all around until the endive seemed to disappear (it’s that cooked translucence thing), gave it another generous drizzle of olive oil, & served it up. Crumbs & pine nuts on top, & then microplaned lemon zest & Pecorino on top of that.
Not bad for a scavenged dinner.
Too late, I realized we also had a few capers knocking around the bottom of a jar; I woulda chopped them up & added them to the mix too.