Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Tiny Rememberance of Tiny Things Forgotten

For years now, my Friday Night habit has been to make Sausage & Peppers; a rustic Italian dish that (like most Italian dishes) vary in ingredients and presentation depending on who you ask and where they come from. Any particular dish will mean different things to different people. For example, when somebody says "let's order a pizza," do you automatically think Neapolitan or Deep Dish? Sicilian or Greek Style? White Sauce? Red Sauce? I could go on all night, but you get my drift.

My particular dish wasn't passed down from my Nona to my mom and then to me. No, my Sausage & Peppers evolved from many years of subtle modifications and was born out of necessity. It started many years ago in my vegetarian/bachelor years. Not much to speak of in the fridge and not too many ways to manipulate it into something edible. I had tortellini in my freezer, a can of diced tomatoes for some reason and a growling stomach that needed to be filled. I guess it was one of those nights where I had to call up every last experience of working under the tutelage of every chef, line and short order cook, in kitchens small and large, and got to it...

Put a pot of water on to boil. In the meantime, gather salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil, red pepper flake, chopped garlic and olive oil. There's a bottle of cheap Chablis in the fridge that got left behind, get that out. Open up a can of diced tomatoes, empty half into a food processor or chopper and save the rest for later. Chop the tomatoes in some of the liquid that came with the can in your processor until it turns into a chunky, not thin, sauce. Set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. If you can swish around your pan and the oil moves like water, drop the chopped garlic in the pan. Saute being careful to not burn it (remove from heat for a moment). Add salt first, that will aid in sweating the garlic and reduce your chance of burning it. Grind in pepper, add dried herbs, return to heat, then add your tomato sauce. While that is reducing, throw your frozen tortellini into the boiling water. They are done in three minutes so don't walk away. Stir occasionally. When they float to the surface, drain your pasta, set aside and add wine to the sauce. Allow the alcohol to burn off for about a minute then add your tortellini. Stir and serve.

This was the dish that stuck with me. I made it up. It's my signature. The above recipe was first made over 12 years ago exactly how I stated it. Since that time, I have changed the tortellini to penne, changed the cheap Chablis to a cheap Pinot Grigio and added mozzarella, fresh herbs when they're available, a ladle full of boiling pasta water and most importantly, sausage and peppers. But since that time where I was hungry and I had to use my wits, to now where it's a Friday night staple, I have never written this down. Until now. I never needed to, I've been cooking this for so long that it's pretty much one, fluid movement in the kitchen; it's less like cooking and more like dancing. Everything starts at the right time, the kitchen's cleaned before one noodle hits the plate and everything's timed to the point of utmost efficiency where everything is served together. Sure, there are nights where I'm half way through making the sauce and I forgot to put the pasta on, things get forgotten. It doesn't matter, because I know what I'm doing. Trying to explain how I make this to someone else takes a little bit of finesse because I never had to before. Full disclosure: I had to go back and edit this at least three times because I left out key ingredients and a step or two. Things get forgotten.


...EEK! Yo! Slappy! Take it down a notch!
At the end of last week, I decided it was time to change my header. It's a little...y'know...harsh. Sure, it was bold and dynamic and dramatic and it looked soooo out of place on my blog. I was trying to make a strong first impression. I made it last year around the time where I first started getting into Photoshop. I had no idea what I was doing (I know, right?), but I was--and am--willing to learn. It's time for a fresh coat of paint. It's also quite important that I don't forget how to work in this medium. 

Then as now, I am reliant on free tutorials to guide me through things. While I'm still nowhere near an expert or Guru level, I'm finding myself saying, "...wait, that doesn't make sense. Why don't I do it this way instead..." more often then I have been. I'm feeling my way through it.

So, here it is. Here's my finished project. It took a while, but not as long as it did the first time around. Granted, I have a lot more time on my hands, but lesson learned from the last time. I cannot be completely
100% reliant on every tutorial I read because they are written by people who have done this for a while. I find this in bloggers who publish recipes, and I suspect a certain percentage of content providers who do the "how to" stuff for a living. They know what they're doing, you don't. Trying to bridge that gap takes a little bit of finesse because, I presume, they've never had to before. Just like this posting in my attempt to explain something that I've been doing for a while, I have to be mindful that I don't skip steps, lest I sound like a lunatic. Things get forgotten.

I felt marginally more comfortable and confident this time around. The abundance of time helped, but I have gained more experience and I'm able to think things through more clearly. This new attitude is handy, especially when an author of any given tutorial inexplicably guides you by the hand into a brick wall, face first. Look, I understand that in order to accomplish any of these projects in Photoshop or Illustrator, one must already have some sort of rudimentary understanding of the tools you'd be using. I get that; In order to at least get your foot in the door in some kitchens, you would probably need to master some knife skills first. But there is something to be said about offering just a smidgen of explanation: Where is this tool located? You just blew past a few important steps between step 1 and step 2, how did you get there? Just like forgetting to put the water on to boil, you can't skip a few steps and expect everyone who reads your recipe get to the same dish you did. Otherwise, what's the point?
...Problem, Noob?

I know. Serves me right. What do I want for free, amiryte? More experience. That's all I need. Experience and determination. Soon, I'll be at the point of writing down my own tutorials and forgetting to pu...

Photo Credits:

Garlic and Tomatoes
For the project itself, Here, Here, Here and especially Here...

Sited Tutorials:

Post Card Tutorial
Another Postcard Tutorial
Texture Tutorial