Caribbean Pasta II

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  by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been quite so smitten by the discovery of a new dish as I have this evening in my own unremarkable scullery!  Normally my culinary concoctions merit little if any curiosity.  They are more legendary for their infrequency than their talent. But it is quite impossible for me to understate the current infatuation! What makes this find so enthralling is the coalition of superb flavour and my dietary considerations. In a nutshell it’s hugely tasteful without sinful repercussion. Admittedly it’s a distortion to call this dish a discovery; really, it’s more an evolution.  But it has superseded a hurdle which until now I had no idea could be so happily overcome.

To back up a moment my so-called signature dish is what I call Caribbean Pasta. It’s strictly peasant fare, a conglomeration of raw veggies (tomatoes, green or red pepper shards, olives – stuffed or otherwise and sun-dried tomatoes), spices (garlic, Oregano, parsley and red pepper flakes), olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and of course spaghetti. Traditionally I ornament the dish with a side of sliced cucumber doused with white wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar and sprayed with dried or fresh Basil leaves. To start I serve spicy dry sausage and dill pickle shards (usually with a dry martini or a Side Car). Dessert is fruit and perhaps chocolate.

What has made all the difference in tonight’s rendition (apart from the deliberate absence of booze and chocolate) is the replacement of spaghetti with zucchini swirls. I have since learned that my novel acquaintance with this variation is now fairly common though I must observe that it doesn’t appear to have spread much beyond recondite cooking circles. As with any other invention it requires considerable time to insinuate the popular vernacular.

The spiralizer device for the creation of these swirls is probably ideal – and they range from complicated to incredibly simple rather like corkscrews – but I contented myself to buy the product already packaged at the local grocery store. I initiated this gastronomic adventure by adopting the strategic engineering ploy of a soup plate.  In my opinion the soup plate is grossly underestimated as a staple of dinnerware. It’s decided advantage for me in this instance is that it served as an all-in-one vehicle.

I began by loading into the bowl my zucchini swirls. Aside from being easy, it means there is no guessing about how much to serve. To this I added the other veggie ingredients, then sprinkled some Maldon salt to make the veggies sweat, doused a bit of wine vinegar for flavour and added a splash of the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes. On the stove I heated a small frying pan with some olive oil to which I had added freshly pressed garlic and the spices. After the cheese was grated, I poured the oil mixture onto the veggies in the soup plate and added the cheese.  The only other thing I did differently with this preparation is that I added cubes of baby cucumber.  In the future I would consider adding shrimp, salmon or chunks of chicken or meat.

The unspoken epiphany is naturally the zucchini swirls. Honestly it was virtually impossible to distinguish the swirls from spaghetti either in terms of taste or texture. But unquestionably the issues of calories or wheat were lacking!  And it is worth recommending that there was only the frying pan, no pot for boiling the spaghetti – not to mention the abbreviated timing consideration. It can all be prepared in advance which is a plus when entertaining.  And there is no fear of overcooking anything!

I can see this meal being easily adapted to almost any other evolution – for example, just the zucchini swirls with fresh basil, garlic and parmesan cheese. That would be considerably lighter than the meal I prepared this evening. For a bit of protein, the seafood addition would work.

While I hesitate to lapse into the colloquial, I feel obliged to observe as Rumpole did of Pomeroy’s Plonk that the recipe might additionally “keep one surprisingly regular!

Rumpole enjoys smoking inexpensive cigars (cheroots), drinking cheap red wine (claret), and indulging in a diet of fried foods, overboiled vegetables, cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, and steak and kidney pudding. Every day he visits “Pomeroy’s”, a wine bar on Fleet Street within walking distance of the Old Bailey and his chambers at Equity Court, and at which he contributes regularly to an ever-increasing bar tab by purchasing glasses of red wine of a questionable quality, to which he refers as either “Cooking Claret”, “Pomeroy’s Plonk”, “Pomeroy’s Very Ordinary”, “Chateau Thames Embankment”, or “Chateau Fleet Street”. (The last two terms are particularly derogatory: the subterranean Fleet river, which flows below Farringdon Street in a culvert and crosses under one end of Fleet Street at Ludgate Circus, served as the main sewer of Victorian London, while the Thames Embankment in central London was a reclamation of marshy land which, until the 1860s, was notably polluted.)