My brother falls under this category and, so says my mother, that I too was like that when younger. So, whatever you prepare and with however much effort, it is not surprising to hear him say stuff like, “You could have reduced the amount of rasam powder by, maybe half a spoon. It is too strong,” or “The dish would have tasted even better if you’d added more onions and maybe chopped it up finer”. By the way, he tuned 17 yesterday.
I haven’t had much opportunity to cook for him, until recently. I was inDelhiwith my parents for a couple of months earlier this year for my mother’s surgery and the kitchen was under my control (under the stern eye of my grandma though!). One day I decided to make pasta for everyone, especially my brother and his friend. I made red-sauce based pasta and have no idea about how to make all those fancy white cheesy pastas available in hotels.
The one I usually make is a variation of Ree’s Tomato Cream pasta. You can find it here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/09/pasta-with-tomato-cream-sauce/
To continue my story, thankfully for me, the pasta turned out very good that day (thank Goodness for that, otherwise my bro would have sworn, yet again, to never eat my preparation), except that it was quite spicy, something that works well with brother dear. But I’m one of the most amazing cooks ever. I can botch up even those recipes that I’ve made a hundred times over!
And that’s what happened this morning. I’ve been dying to eat tomato pasta for a week or so now (reason being I bought a pack of pasta that’s shaped like nuts and bolts (interesting, ain’t it?). And I have to use up 3 half-used packs of pasta – one in the standard tubular C-shape, the second shaped like bow-ties (very cute) and the third, shaped like shells – before I can open up this one.
And so, this morning, I mixed up all the three opened packets and decided to finish ’em up at one go. But it so happened that the bow-tie pack fell down and the ones at the bottom got crushed. I made the mistake of cooking the chipped pieces with the rest, resulting in the pasta lumping up. But I’m a cool dude. Since the pasta tasted fine otherwise, I simply called it pasta-mash, topped it with loads of chopped fresh coriander and dried basil powder (can you spot this one in the pics?) and served it for breakfast to hubby like a pro! But hubby being what he is, he discovered my lil trick and duly titled it the MASH-TA!
Incidentally, I spotted bok-choy (a Chinese cabbage that has a bulbous bottom and spinach-like leaves) at a food store yesterday and bought one head out of sheer curiosity. Although I’ve read about it, I’d never seen this stuff anywhere before. I forgot to take a pic of the entire vegetable head, but took one after slicing it up into strips.
This morning, I felt really adventurous. Thankfully, while cooking pasta, I’d divided them up into two batches – one with the chipped pasta (that became lumpy) and the other with the whole ones. I used the lumpy half for tomato and the good half for bok-choy.
The green one looks and tastes lovely. The bok-choy has a very unique taste and was a good combination with pasta but is slightly salty naturally. So salt it carefully. Do buy it if you see it somewhere. I sure am going to buy more and try cooking it in combination with other veggies.
Mashed tomato pasta (MASHTA)
Uncooked pasta (any shape, type) – 1 cup
Tomato – 2 (medium)
Onion – 1 (large)
Garlic – 2-3 cloves
Chilly flakes – ½ tsp
Fresh ground black pepper – ½ tsp (you can add more chilli and/or pepper depending on how hot you like it)
Milk – 1/2-1 cup
Oil – 1-3 tsp
Chopped coriander and/or dried herbs for garnishing. You can add any dried herb according to your liking. I added a bit of dried basil
Boil water (four times the quantity of pasta) and remove from heat. Drop the pasta in hot water. Let is stay for 15 mins or so till the pasta is half done. Drain. Spread on a tray/plate. Pour a tsp of oil and mix it once gently. Oiling pasta after it is cooked prevents it from sticking or lumping up
If you want to mash your lovely looking pasta like I did, you’d include broken bits like a nut (I realised I’m one at times!), cook pasta in water when it is boiling and forget to oil it after draining
Finely chop up onion and tomatoes and mince the garlic.
Roughly grind/pound 1 red chilli and a few black peppercorns (more if you want it spicy)
Heat oil in a wok. Add chopped garlic and onions and when they turn translucent, add tomatoes
Sauté till tomatoes leave the sides of the wok
Add milk and let it cook till it becomes a thick gravy. Add salt and pounded red chillies and pepper
Add pasta and sauté for a few mins till the gravy’s evenly coats all the pasta. If you’re like me, you won’t sauté with care and mash up the pasta even more (so sad)
Take it off heat, garnish with chopped coriander/herbs and serve
Pasta with Bok-Choy
Pasta – 1 cup
Bok-choy – 1
Spring onions – 3-4
Garlic – 2-3 cloves
Ginger -1/4 inch piece
Oil – 2 tsp
Cook and drain pasta like in the previous recipe
Finely chop up garlic and ginger
Cut out the very bottom off the bok-choy (the portion that holds it all together)
Wash it thoroughly (it could be muddy at the bottom) and chop it into fine strips
Chop spring onions too into strips (I usually slice the white part into rings and finely chop the greens but it cut it into strips this time for uniformity)
Heat oil in a wok. Add garlic and ginger. Sauté till garlic starts to turn brown. Add spring onions and sauté for about half a minute
Add bok-choy and sauté for a few mins (or till the while stem portion looks almost done)
Add pasta and toss around a few times. Take off heat and serve
PS: I later realised that the bok choy would have done even better with hakka noodles or spaghetti, since it was chopped into long strips. You can chop it in whatever fashion you like