Friday, November 26, 2010

Surprise Snow...and Sun in a Bowl

Well, that's Kentucky for you.

When we left for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, we found it warmer than the clouds and rain had led us to expect.

When we woke this morning, there was a skiff of snow on the ground.

Weather here is highly variable, to say the least.

But no matter what the weather is doing, I've found a way to have sunny times indoors. In a pasta bowl, to be exact. As so often happens, necessity brought it about.

I have a new system when planning menus for the week. I make a list of the things in the fridge, freezer, and pantry that need using and plan the cooking around that list. It's another example of the freedom I find in limitation. I no longer have to consider All Possible Dishes. My search is narrowed and therefore easier, not to mention more frugal.

This week I had sour cream in need of a purpose. My internet search (how did I ever live or cook without you?) turned up a pasta dish that sounded promising. I'm happy to say that it absolutely delivered on its promise. First, it prevented my sour cream from becoming the science experiment that has to go, saving our money and my distress at such waste. Second, it was delightful.

The night that this lovely Lemon-Sour Cream pasta entered our life, it was rainy, gloomy, cloudy--all the gray weather states. But in our bowls, there was sun. The lemon came through bright and clear, perky even. Eating it today left over, that zing was still there. It's one happy dish.

Another happy fact about this dish is that it's (surely you saw this coming) easy! Basically, you sizzle up some onion and garlic in butter (boy, is that a happy smell!), add the sour cream and a few other ingredients, and toss with hot pasta. I added some smoked turkey for more protein and used cilantro in place of parsley. I skipped the lemon-pepper seasoning called for because, with lemon and pepper already there, why would it be needed? (It wasn't.) I also used what sour cream I had, not the amount specified, because...well, that was the point. But also because the original recipe gave a metric amount that was meaningless to me.

Yes, I was too lazy and/or improvisational to look up a conversion. I went with what I had, and it worked. I've always wanted to be that kind of person. Mwha, ha, ha. Ahem...

We followed the dish with a salad to get those all-important veggies in there, but with the addition of a green vegetable, this could be one of my favorite things--a one bowl meal. I can easily imagine it with diced bacon and frozen peas, or ham and asparagus in the spring.

If nothing else, it gives me a flexible, go-to main dish for that half container of sour cream that I often have left over after garnishing quesadillas or the like. And a happy one at that!

Hey, I'll take extra happy wherever I find it--especially at table.

Lemon-Sour Cream Pasta

Serves 4

8 ounces long pasta (spaghetti, linquine, fettucine, etc.)
1/4 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced (more if you really like garlic)
2 tablespoons butter (or less if you have a non-stick skillet)
1 cup (approximately) sour cream
4 tablespoons Parmigiano, grated and divided
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper

While the pasta water comes to a boil, do all your chopping, grating, etc.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a medium skillet. Saute the onion and garlic in the butter until it's tender and maybe a little brown. In here somewhere, the gorgeous aroma will produce the first wave of happy.

Lower the heat and add the sour cream and the remaining ingredients, reserving 2 tablespoons Parmigiano for garnish. Simmer for a minute or so.

Remove from the heat and pour over hot pasta. Add any proteins or veggies you may be using and toss. Garnish with the reserved 2 tablespoons Parmigiano and more freshly ground pepper. Then consume the sunshine no matter what the weather.

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