Friday, July 25, 2008

The Night Shift

There are two kinds of people in this world- those who wake in the morning with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts ready to face the day, and those who hate the world for the first two to three hours after waking up. I am the latter. My first job ever as a baker required me to be at work at the ungodly hours of the morning that mentioned in my previous post. I had to be at work at 5 am, which I know is nothing to some, but for me it was a living nightmare. For those who do like to rise early, I highly recommend this shift. I must admit it’s very nice getting off work at 2 in the afternoon. But for me, I was tired all the time and was pretty much a robot zombie at work until about 9 every day.
Fortunately there is hope for people like me- it's called the overnight. As I was weighing my options in my career as a pastry chef I decided that my talents were not being fully developed in those early morning hours, and that I could utilize the time of night (usually around ten) when I come alive and become very productive. For me, it was a LOT easier to stay up until four than to get up at four.
I baked overnight for a while, and then quit to start baking on my own. As glad as I am to be in my own bed at night, I still value my nighttime experience, because I learned a lot about myself during that period (for example, just how many inhibitions leave you at 3:30 am).

My husband, who is not a chef, baker, pastry chef, or anything related to culinary careers, is now working a night shift at his job. He leaves for work at about 4 in the afternoon, which means that most days of the week we do not have the luxury of sitting down to dinner together. He eats a LOT, and I need to figure out what to send with him to work every night. Each meal needs to be portable, easy to reheat, and complete with in itself (seared scallops and risotto need not apply). Most importantly, it needs to fill him up without putting him to sleep. For some reason, when I worked the night shift my favorite midnight meal was chili, but right now it’s summer and I want to send him with something lighter.
A few evenings ago, I stumbled on the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network making this little dish of pasta and vegetables with a creamy lemon sauce. It fits all my criteria, and is also quite tasty and (at least sort of) healthy. It’s also quite lovely, which is a plus in the doldrums of the middle of the night. When I made it, it turned out especially great because I lucked out with an insanely sweet batch of cherry tomatoes. I used penne instead of fusilli, simply because it’s what I had around.

Lemon Pasta with Arugula
(Courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa)

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of common arugula, leaves cut in thirds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.


Anonymous said...

Love it, Naka. You're the bomb!

The Saunders said...

The pasta looks yummy! And it is a good idea for a midnight snack (I have the same dilemma with Joe's job) Raj is a lucky man.

Anonymous said...

i worked the nightshift for the first year that i lived in san diego! i know exactly what you're talking about as far as needing food that will fill you up but not put you to sleep. i found that a quinoa salad worked well for me frequently.