Does that depress you? Not me. I like a dish just for me, where the seasoning is to my taste, the proportions easy to handle, the critic of the outcome moi only, standing in my pajamas, fork inserted into mouth.
This is especially true these days, as my husband and I are temporarily apart pending a cross country move, and the kids often have different, less ambitious ideas of what we should have for dinner. (Note to would-be home invaders trolling food52.com under the guise of heirloom tomato experts -- I have a loud-ass alarm and sometimes borrow a dog. Don’t mess with Jenny!)
So on a recent Monday night I found myself in front of my butcher block, preparing my just-me dish of Pasta with Leeks, Peas, Parmesan, and a Fried Egg. I picked this dish because it seemed to have everything I really love -- cheese, eggs, pasta and leeks -- and one thing I feel just fine about -- peas -- in a format that seemed both incredibly easy but, as a sum of parts, potentially delicious.
We repeat it like a mantra -- the culinary equivalent of “don’t roll your eyes at me” -- but, friends, you need to use your best ingredients here. A delightful, fresh-from-the-farmstand leek simmering softly, joined by young garlic, has no stove top antecedent of deliciousness.
Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, and I really should have heeded my horoscope that day, which instructed me to “take measures to make life a little easier for yourself, perhaps skipping a few steps” before I embarked on shelling my own peas. It was a slight pain, but again, made for divinity on the stove. At one point I also realized -- hey, I am only cooking for me! If I want to stop shelling these peas before I get to a full cup that’s my business and even the Census can’t ask about it!
I was beguiled with what appears to be whole wheat pasta in the photo that apartmentcooker posted with this recipe, and decided to ape the look with buckwheat soba. The fried egg on top of all of this savory pasta stuff was a perfect protein kick, but the real kicker was the cheese and red pepper flakes, which served to brighten the dish. Each element stood on its own, with the egg as a matchmaker of polygamous flavors.
The only other thing I did differently was to drop a tablespoon of butter into the pan before cracking my egg in there, which I think gives the dish a much needed fat boost. I may be solo in the kitchen, but I am not virtuous there.
1. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until tender, 7-9 minutes. Drain and reserve.
2. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the peas and pasta (Jenny: and butter! 1 1/2 tablespoons), and toss to combine. Continue to toss until the mixture is heated through. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Using a spatula or tongs, push all the pasta to one end of the pan.
4. Crack an egg into the empty side of the pan (add more butter, if needed). Season it with salt and pepper, and reduce heat to low. Cook the egg until your desired doneness. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and finish with parmesan cheese . Top with the egg and serve.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).