Sunday, June 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Fusilli with Grilled Nectarines and Ricotta: What I do when I'm not texting while driving

Exactly 72 days ago, I was pulled over and ticketed for texting while driving. At the time I was completely devastated -- I was embarrassed that I was, yet again, one of those "bad" people who gets ticketed, I was sickened by the cost, and I was furious that I'd been singled out for my delinquency.

"Everyone does it," I complained to friends, "Even my mom checks her text messages at stop lights! How am I so unlucky?"

Like a petulant child, I stewed and pouted over it for days. I found every excuse to talk about it -- to tell people my poor plight in exchange for their pity and assurances that yes, they text when stuck in traffic too.

"Why me?" I kept asking. "Why did I have to be the one to get caught?"

In my mind, it was just another indication of how my life is like a sitcom -- amusing for others to watch, but painful for me, the star, to experience.

A few days of textless driving later, I experienced what a certain former daytime talk show host calls an "aha" moment.

"What if I wasn't unlucky?" I wondered. "What if getting pulled over was actually the luckiest thing that could have happened to me? What if that ticket saved my life? Saved someone else's life because I'm no longer distracted by text messages?"

Suddenly I didn't feel like pouting any more.

Since getting that ticket, I haven't used my phone in my car at all. I haven't texted, I haven't tweeted, and aside from the one (legal) hands-free call I made to my mother when I got my new job, I haven't made any phone calls either.

Instead, I've been actually paying attention to the road and the other cars on it.

It's strange to not use the time it takes me to get from my office to my apartment to catch up with my mom. It's even stranger having to sit in traffic without the entertainment of Twitter to get me through those seemingly endless stretches of red brake lights. I don't know what to do with myself. Sometimes I actually catch myself twiddling my thumbs.

For the record, twiddling is not nearly as exciting as finding out what @MyLastBite had for her last bite (probably bacon).

So, of course, my mind starts to wander when I'm sitting there scanning the road for potential hazards and checking my rear view mirrors every few seconds like all those good drivers are supposed to do.

I start thinking about food.

I start thinking about what I want for dinner.

I start thinking about crazy recipe ideas for that dinner.

I start thinking about whole wheat pasta.

With ricotta.

And nectarines.

And then I have to go home and make it.

This recipe for whole wheat pasta with ricotta, grilled nectarines, fresh herbs, and edamame was born on a recent drive up the 405 from Orange County to Los Angeles. By the time I had reached my apartment (60 textless minutes later), I knew I had to make it for dinner that night.

And make it I did.

The sweet nectarines, fresh herbs and subtle ricotta found their perfect partners in the nutty pasta and edamame. Despite my initial qualms that I was really diving into the deep end with this strange conglomeration of flavors, I was completely enamored by the dish. I scraped the bowl. I photographed the heck of it.

And I used my phone to (legally) tweet about it on Twitter from the safety of my dining room table.

Whole Wheat Fusilli with Grilled Nectarines and Ricotta
Serves 2

2 cups dry whole wheat fusilli pasta (I prefer Bionature brand)
1 large or 2 small yellow nectarines sliced into 1/2 inch slices (approximate 1 cup)
1 yellow onion, sliced into thin slivers
1/2 cup shelled edamame, cooked according to package instructions
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 cups arugula
Salt, pepper
Olive oil

For onions: Heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add a teaspoon of olive oil, swirling it to coat the entire surface of the pan. Add the onions and saute over medium to medium low hit, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized and come together in a some what gooey, jam-like clump (approximately 20-25 minutes). Add the teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar and a good shake of salt and continue letting it simmer over low heat until ready for use.

For ricotta sauce: Using a fork, combine ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.

For nectarines: Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add a splash of olive oil to lightly coat the surface, then place each slice of nectarine on the grills in the center of the pan. Cook over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes a side. When both sides have "grill" marks, remove and cut into bite-sized chunks. Reserve four whole slices for a garnish.

For pasta: Prepare fusilli in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions, taking care to not let it go past “al dente” since the pasta will cook more when mixed with the sauce. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain.

To finish: Return fusilli to the pot and add the onions, ricotta sauce, edamame, arugula, and nectarine chunks. Add pasta water as needed to help thin the sauce to desired preference. Season with salt and pepper, then turn off the heat. Toss in the basil and mint and stir until just combined. Serve immediately garnished with reserved slices of nectarines.


Kung Food Panda said...

Quite an interesting combination D.

It's too bad I can't stop tweeting/texting while I drive. Though, I normally do it at a red light. That's legal, right?

Esi said...

Mmm. Grilled nectarines. That's a good looking pasta.

Gastronomer said...

Looks good to me! Perhaps I should try nectarine and ricotta muffins next.

Monet said...

Smile. Yes...I've made an effort to pay more attention to the road too. And I also use my car rides to think up delicious dinner ideas. Thank you for sharing this tasty pasta. I wish I had a bowl beside me now. Have a wonderful afternoon!

Mia said...

This literally looks delicious, and I loved the post. Mmm... i've got to try this.

Evan Chard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
evan said...

My sister was pulled over for the same thing last summer - I always worry about it (and I'm SO guilty of it!).

This recipe looks irresistable. I'm a sucker for nectarines - I actually have a recipe post coming up for a nectartine salad with gorgonzola. They're ideal for savory summer meals (especially paired with cheese and a grill).

Ashley said...

I salute you, fellow LA driver/eater, for making my roads safer and my brain less bogged down with cookers-block.

Diana said...

Danny - Bad Panda! They say that texting while driving (even when at red lights!) is worse than drunk driving. Please be careful out there, k?

Esi - Why, thank you! You have some good looking donuts on that there blog of yours.

Cathy - I like the way you think. Want to invite me over for breakfast when you make 'em?

Monet - I've found I do some of my best recipe planning in the car! I've been thinking about corn and quinoa fritters lately!

Mia - Thanks so much! Let me know how it turns out if you do try it!

Evan - Can't wait to see your nectarine and gorgonzola salad recipe! Sounds amazing! Aaah love summer foods!

Ashley - You are very welcome. Thank you for helping me stay in tune with the latest fashions that I can't afford. ;)