Home on the Range
August 18, 2013
Jonah came for a summer visit. He brought his unicycle, his gardening skills and his plan to feed the world. He brought engineering homework, a taste for YouTube and a teenage appetite.
Jonah was picky about portion size: large. And casual about his compositions. He stacked up pita bread, cold rice and salami. He packed lunch in a plastic bin, piling in half a watermelon, a wedge of cake, plums, mustard pretzels and cinnamon buns, then filling the crevices with peanut butter ball cereal.
He folded airplanes. He fashioned a paper trap that snagged its ping-pong ball prey. He built a bridge out of spaghetti.
I imagined boiling noodles soft, then weaving a suspension hammock. That wasn't the idea. Jonah and his teammates worked in dry spaghetti and epoxy, fabricating beams, trusses and cantilevers.
The students got together to test their designs, weighing down each bridge until it broke. Honestly, I'd never understood the point of all that latticework; I thought it was decorative.
Jonah packed his T-shirts and his plan to feed the world, which is big, hungry and inventive. He starts with the raw, growing food. Before he left I offered him my own plan, which is modest and cooked: a plate of hot spaghetti.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
¼ loaf (about 4 ounces) country bread
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup olive oil
5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (a mix of red and gold is pretty)
3 anchovies, rinsed and chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup slivered basil leaves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut bread (crust and all) into chunks. Drop into the food processor or blender along with 1 clove garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Pulse to fine crumbs. There should be about 2 cups.
Melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs and toast, stirring attentively, until crisp, brown and garlic-fragrant, about 8 minutes. Set aside crumbs. Wipe out skillet.
Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until tender but firm. Scoop out and set aside about ½ cup cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.
Heat oil in the same skillet over medium-low. Add tomatoes, remaining clove of garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes have softened (some collapsing altogether, others still in chunks), about 5 minutes.
Turn off heat. Stir in anchovies and lemon zest. Stir in cooked pasta, adding a spoonful of cooking water if need be. Cover and let rest 2 minutes. Toss in basil, cheese and reserved breadcrumbs. Grind on some pepper. Enjoy.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.
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