Thursday, May 31, 2007

In the kitchen in Nahala'ot

Eight months ago, when we left the United States for a year-long trip around the world, we intended to use our humble blog not just to keep our friends and families up-to-date with our whereabouts and well-being, but also to share our experiences cooking and eating around the world. The truth is, however, that with a couple of glaring / glowing exceptions (grilled shrimp with artichokes at Chakra in Jerusalem, local steaks paired with vin de la terre in the Golan heights), our gastronomic experiences in Israeli restaurants have been somewhat underwhelming. Jerusalem is crammed with perfectly respectable falafel and shwarma joints and (slightly) more upscale "Italian" restaurants, but none truly stand out; and, as we all know, man can live on pita bread alone for only so long.

In our own kitchen in the Nahala'ot neighborhood of West Jerusalem, we've revelled in the fresh bread and produce from our local market, but our domestic culinary options are regrettably limited by our resources; a single pot, a small teflon skillet, a two-burner hotplate and a microwave. (Our own inventiveness in the face of these obstacles has admittedly been less than inspiring too, possibly owing in part to the fact that we don't have a proper eating surface and most often end up taking our meals at home lolling on the bed. This is not to complain; in fact, it's very comfortable.) We've enjoyed constructing simple, produce-based meals: sandwiches of grilled chicken, chunky guacamole and tomato and red onion salsa, various preparations of creamy farm-fresh eggs and bright, crunchy salads - but none of our preparations have seemed especially blog-worthy.

This is all to explain the recent dearth of food-themed entries on Chalk and Cheese. To atone for our disgraceful negligence on the culinary reporting front, we offer here a simple but perfect dish of pasta and cherry tomatoes that has been a staple at our Jerusalem dinner / bedside table. Of course, it helps to have wonderful tomatoes, but the real secret is the sequential additions of garlic.

Pasta with cherry tomatoes (a narrative recipe)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add two servings of pasta. Heat some olive oil over medium heat and add 2 cloves coarsely chopped garlic and some crushed red pepper, to taste. Add 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add one clove of minced garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon, and season with salt and pepper. When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain it and stir in 1 tablespoon of good olive oil and the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with grated Parmesan.


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