Fast cooking doesn’t have to be unimaginative. It doesn’t have to be plain and it doesn’t have to be colorless. My younger daughter Alex wanted pasta for dinner a few nights ago, I obliged but because I had already cooked something else, the pasta dish had to be simple and cooked fast. This was the result. It’s just mac and cheese, really, but with the addition of crisp bacon, thin slices of pimiento and some sweet peas, the rather plain-colored pasta dish was transformed into something that almost looked like Christmas. Cook the pasta in boiling water. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.
Dice the ham. Cut the pimiento into half, discard the stem, cut off the membranes, and scrape off the seeds. Cut the pimiento into thin slices. Heat the butter in a pan. Cook the ham until lightly browned. Add the sliced pimiento and the sweet peas. Cook for about a minute. Lower the heat, pour in the cream, and add the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the cooked pasta. Add to the sauce in the pan and toss. Divide into individual pasta bowls and top with crumbled crisp bacon. Sorry, no step-by-step photos. Can’t cook something this fast and still manage to take photos.
Sotanghon (vermicelli) soup with clams and wakame
Most Filipinos know sotanghon soup as something with chicken or pork but, let me tell you, clams make a more flavorful broth. No
need for enhancements, the natural flavors that can almost make you smell the sea are all you need and want. Scoop them out immediately and set them aside. Cooking the clams separately ensures you will not overcook them.
Into the hot water, add the garlic, ginger, and onion. Cover the pot and simmer for about ten minutes or until the vegetables have rendered their flavors into the broth. Add the carrot slices and unsoaked sotanghon. Season with patis. Cover and cook until the noodles swell, about ten minutes.
Return the clams to the pot, turn up the heat, and as soon as the soup boils, turn off the heat. Add the wakame, cover the pot, and leave for five minutes. Taste and season with more patis, if needed. To serve, place the noodles at the bottom of the bowl, top with the vegetables and clams then pour in the broth. Sprinkle with onion leaves and serve hot.