Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A night 25 years in the making

Sunday night was a night I have waited 25 years to experience. My first New Kids on the Block concert!! And Boyz II Men were the whipped cream & nuts on top. 98 Degrees was the cherry. If you know me, you know I usually suck the whipped cream off the cherry and give it to the Big Guy. That's kinda how the concert was...I enjoyed looking at how pretty Nick Lachey is and then left it to the Big Guy to sing along to their songs. He's a closet late-90's boy band nerd. I blame his misspent college years.

The highlight of the night, though, was my sweet NKOTB. Donnie was almost close enough to touch. Le sigh. Here's the photographic evidence:

Shawn - Boyz II Men
Joey MacIntyre!

My girl Amanda, who accompanied us to the event, praised my ticket-selection skills about a dozen times. I gotta admit, I was pretty proud of myself. I rewarded myself pre-show with an iced Dunkacino from the Dunkin Donuts next door. It was a massive let-down that has cured me of my DD cravings for at least a year. (Don't tell the Big Guy or my friend in Boston who loves to ridicule my love of DD coffee.)

Since we didn't make it home until 2 a.m. that morning following the concert, I took (most of) the day off work to chill. Ended up sleeping half the day, as per usual. But I did accomplish two things that evening in the kitchen. 

First, I made a batch of pizza dough for the freezer. This recipe from Annie's Eats is incredible. Try it. Right now. Go mix up the dough and come back here to finish reading while your dough is rising. I mean it. It's that good.

While my dough was rising Monday night, I made my famous spaghetti with tomato basil sauce using ingredients from my own garden. This is the recipe my friends request I make the most. They cannot get enough of it. It's so fresh and yummy and simple to make. My favorite thing about this recipe is where I first learned it (though I've tweaked it and made it my own over the years). When we were living in Orlando, Florida, I worked next door to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. One of my coworkers took cooking classes there with her husband once a month or so. One weekend they weren't able to go, so she gave me her ticket. It was the greatest experience. I learned knife basics; how to butcher, truss, and roast a chicken; and how to make this splendid spaghetti sauce using the ingredients we had just practiced chopping, mincing, and chiffonade-ing. This is one of the few recipes in my arsenal that I don't have exact measurements for, so just do your best and wing it, just like I do every time I make it. :)

Tiny Roma tomatoes fresh from my garden. It's materpalooza this year!

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

1 lb spaghetti, cooked & drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 sticks of butter, divided
2 large or 3 medium shallots, minced or grated
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated (we like garlic in our house)
3-4 cups pureed Roma tomatoes (if mine are big enough, I like to skin them first - personal preference)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt half of butter in a large skillet with olive oil. Saute shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and cook down while boiling water and cooking pasta. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed while simmering. Tomatoes need salt! (And quit using that iodized crap. Go kosher.) When your pasta is just about done, chiffonade the basil leaves and add to sauce along with remaining butter. (What's chiffonade? Stack all the leaves on top of one another and, starting on the long side, roll them up like a jo...I mean, cigar. Then thinly slice across the tiny herb log so you end up with little ribbons of basil to sprinkle over your sauce.) Stir to combine and fully melt butter. Toss with drained pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (no cheating with the powdered crap - this sauce deserves the real deal!). Serve with warm, toasty bits of chewy garlic bread.

Go make it now while your pizza dough is still rising. Now. (Geez, I'm a little bossy, aren't I?)

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