I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for the “complicated” characters, the rebels, among us; I find that there’s something magnetic and compelling, something intriguing, about the “brooding” type. Why is that? Perhaps it’s the internal complexity—an edge— that they exude that’s so appealing. I suppose they’re a little like a Rubik’s cube, in that you just want to figure them out, but really struggle to get the task done; you get pulled in and stay glued, thinking you’ve got the puzzle solved, only to find that you haven’t quite lined the colors up just right. You know what I mean? The endeavor’s anything but boring. There are some interesting people out there, some fascinating types. And I love to observe them. I’m curious about them. The “brooders” among us seem to constantly be contemplating something; they’re often quiet (until they explode) and you know what they say about quiet waters, right? Take for example some of our best actors from the past 60 years, or so: Marlon Brando, Geraldine Page, Clint Eastwood, James Dean—all brooding types, and impossible to take the eyes off of —I’m a cinema buff and love these actors in old films. They’ve got a gritty, in-the-moment quality about them, a no-nonsense essence that just makes you want to get in and dig around in their mind, to see if you can find their secrets, and figure out what they’re thinking. Ah…people, fascinating, wonderful, glorious people. With all of the idiosyncrasies, you’ve gotta love ’em; especially those slightly complicated, brooding types.
I’ll tell you a little something that may seem kind of, well, a bit different: I often see personality in a plate of food. So many times, I see qualities in food that truly remind me of some of the qualities I see in people, and I can’t help but inevitably give that food a “personality”. I know…a little strange. For instance, when there are darker, earthier components used in a dish; when there’s spice, a little heat, a bit of good, deep red wine—that would be a dish that I would consider the “brooding type”. And when I came up with this particular pasta recipe, and considered all of the colors, the hues and the textures within it, it had those qualities to me. I look at it and think of it as full of drama and character—of intensity—from the rich Cabernet, the sun-dried tomatoes, the olive oil, the garlic and basil; it’s deep. Not at all that difficult to prepare, but definitely complex on the palette. It’s charactery and slightly on the darker side; and it just seems to sit and brood there in the bowl. Mmm…
So for those of you brooding, complicated types out there, or for any of you who know of some and are as intrigued by them as I, here’s a tasty little gem of a pasta dish for you to enjoy and to contemplate the character of. It’s my little homage to those beloved “brooders”, if you will. So grab a big, delectable bowl-full, and perhaps even a copy of “On The Waterfront”, or “A Streetcar Named Desire”; or maybe “East of Eden” or “Interiors”, and settle in to take a moment to appreciate some complicated characters, those brooding types we almost kinda hate to admit that we love.
Here’s to Marlon!
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
“Fusilli a la Brando” with Cabernet Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pesto, Garlic Rapini and Fresh Mozzarella
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(Serves about 4)
8-10 ounces dry Fusilli pasta
• Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
½ bunch rapini (broccoli rabe), tough stems removed, and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
• Cabernet Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pesto (recipe below)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella (packed in brine), torn into bite-size chunks
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned for garnish
-Cook the Fusilli pasta according to package instructions; drain well and very lightly oil, then set aside and keep warm, covered with a kitchen towel.
-Place a large non-stick skillet/pan over medium heat; add about 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sliced garlic, and saute the garlic slices until just golden and aromatic; remove the garlic slices from the pan and set them aside for a moment; next, add the chopped rapini into the garlic-oil in the skillet, and add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper; saute for about 2 minutes, until slightly wilted but crisp/tender, then add in the lemon zest and lemon juice, along with the reserved garlic slices, and toss with tongs to combine; remove the rapini from the pan, placing it onto a plate to hold for a moment.
-Place a large, heavy-bottom pan onto medium heat, and add the Cabernet-Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pesto in; allow the pesto to gently heat up for a moment of two, and once warmed through, add the Fusilli into the pesto and gently toss with tongs to combine, then add in the sauteed rapini, and toss to incorporate; to serve, spoon equal portions of the pasta into bowls, add about ¼ of the fresh mozzarella chunks to each serving along with 1-2 tablespoons of the toasted pine nuts and fresh basil, and serve.
Cabernet Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pesto ingredients:
• Olive oil
1 ½ cups small sugar plum (or cherry) tomatoes, halved
4 cloves of garlic, pressed through garlic press, plus 2 cloves, smashed, divided use
2 ½ teaspoons salt, plus a ¼ teaspoon, divided use
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided use
½ cup red wine (Cabernet), plus a ¼ cup, divided use
2 (8.5 ounce) jars sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
½ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• Pinch red pepper flakes
-Place a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in; once warm, add the halved sugar plum tomatoes and the 4 cloves pressed garlic in, plus the ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and saute the mixture for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down and soften; next, add the ½ cup of red wine in, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the wine to reduce for about 3 minutes, gently simmering, until slightly syrupy; pour the tomato mixture into a small bowl and allow it to cool slightly, just enough so that you can put it into your food processor.
-Once the tomato/wine mixture has slightly cooled, add that to the bowl of a food processor, along with
the remaining 2 cloves of smashed garlic, the remaining ¼ cup of red wine, the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, the olive oil, basil leaves, Parmesan, pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes and the remaining 2 ½ teaspoons of salt plus ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and pulse the mixture for a few moments until the ingredients are well combined, but still a coarse texture, and a slightly chunky consistency; use immediately, or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 week, and gently re-heat when needed.