I feel like cooks are divided into two camps these days. There’s the cookbook people, and internet recipe people. I wish I were both. I want to be both. My husband and friends have given me gorgeous cookbooks on Korean cuisine and Palestinian food.
My husband is a dedicated cookbook guy. He’ll see a sack of potatoes in the pantry and pull a couple of cookbooks out, perusing with a cup of coffee like he’s about to embark on a culinary journey. Which he actually does. He makes the best homemade kimchi I’ve ever had, and I grew up in D.C.’s Koreatown. He follows recipes, substituting as needed. There are mostly hits, a few misses. The pages with the hits are doggy-eared and speckled with tomato sauce and olive oil.
Come to think of it, maybe he wasn’t really trying to bring me back to the cookbook side, like I was pre-internet. He may have been buying them for himself the whole time. He does that sometimes. But I can’t complain – this week he made a knockout potato dish with preserved lemon, onions, and capers – Mediterranean heaven.
Hot Cheetos and pickles
All this to say, I used to refer to cookbooks all the time. Then Instagram came along, with those fast-paced cooking videos and seductive cheese pulls. My husband would call it the low hanging fruit – but I was all in. Some recipes don’t require cooking. In fact, I have a PSA: Hot Cheetos and pickles are divine. I saw a video of a woman slicing giant pickles into discs, and dropping them into a bag of Hot Cheetos that she had crushed into a powder. You could see the flavor explosion in her reaction, and my son and I couldn’t wait to try it. We cannot get enough.
Red pepper sauce
I saw another trend picking up. Pureeing roasted red peppers into a sauce, then pouring over pasta. I've always liked roasted red peppers, thanks to Trader Joe's products from the early aughts (they put them in everything). I tried the trend. It was pretty good. But through experimentation, I realized the recipe I tried was a little plain, so I added garlic and saffron. Now it's a must-try! The dish is so simple, that you may only need to see this recipe once. You’ll just get it.
- 1 lb of pasta (any shape)
- 3 red peppers
- 1 large onion
- At least 4 large garlic cloves (to taste)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pinch of saffron threads (optional, but wow)
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit
- Slice onions and red peppers into strips
- Peel garlic cloves, and slice them in half
- Place the vegetables on a sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Rub a pinch of saffron over the pan, breaking the stamen into little threads
- Toss everything until well-coated
- Place into the oven for 30 minutes, checking to ensure the edges don’t become too burnt. Though brown edges are ideal
- While the vegetables are roasting, boil the pasta water, salting it well so that it can flavor the pasta.
- Drain and set aside
- Once the vegetables are ready, pull from the oven and allow them to cool for a couple of minutes
- Place the mix in a food processor or Vitamix, blend, then add salt and/or pepper to taste, if more is needed
- Por over bowls of pasta and top with shaved Parmesan.
It’s a comfort food that feels healthy. You’re eating vegetables, but not for the sake of eating vegetables. It’s fresh, with a depth of flavor. And a steaming bowl on a cold winter’s day really hits the spot.