31 Jul

No other word made me feel so cool, sophisticated and superior to my high school classmates.

Brooklyn Bridge

I picked it up while doing college stays.  All the women used it, and it made them sound so worldly. “You’re from Upstate New York? So am I! Wow, that’s… so… random… that they had you stay with me.”

The more I heard it, the more intoxicating it became. I was already trying to curb my usage of “like” having been made aware that intelligent young women don’t use the word while debating post-modern anthropological theories unless Margaret Mead really was like Franz Boas. Adding ‘random’ whilst subtracting ‘like’ felt very grown-up.

I would drop it into conversations just to enjoy the effect it had on my red neck classmates and rural hick teachers. I felt like it was my connection to the world I wanted to be in, the world of high academia, while I was still trapped in the hateful morass of high school.

Brooklyn Bridge

And then one day my English teacher pulled me aside and and asked if I knew the actual definition of the word I had become so fond of. I have no recollection of what I said to her, but I do remember the gist of her response; you’re not using the word correctly, it’s making you sound like an idiot and someday you’re going to regret it. I poopooed her, but of course, she was right.

I realize this story may not paint me in the prettiest of lights but I wanted to illustrate exactly why I have such a strong reaction to this word as it has been rearing its ugly head with alarming frequency in the blogosphere lately. There are currently at least two memes being passed around asking the tagee to tell the world 7 or 8 “random” things about his or herself. Here’s the rub… The things are not random.

Pimientos de Padron

What we’re really being asked to do is to reveal 7 or 8 intimate things, 7 or 8 unusual things, 7 or 8 silly things, but certainly not 7 or 8 random things. There’s a calculation, a process, a method, a choice the writer must make about how much she wants to reveal to a world of unknown people about herself. It’s a cold, thought out thing, most certainly not random.

And so to the people who have tagged me for this meme, thank you. Without the tag I wouldn’t have known you were out there. But, you’ll have to forgive me for not playing along in the strictest of rules. If read closely, I’m sure there’s at least 7 or 8 things in this post that would qualify as new or possibly interesting information about me without having to number them.

Carciofi alla Giudia

I think about my posts while I’m waking up in the morning. I formulate a thesis, or sometimes just a headline, then I plan a rough outline of how I want the text to flow, and then I get up to write while still half asleep.

Before I settled on this ‘random’ tangent this morning I was planning to write about how I’m not a movie person and that I only just saw Mostly Martha this Saturday evening after a dinner of amazing fried veggies and homemade pasta with fresh scarlet runner beans. I was going to plead with you to believe me that I had added the movie to our Netflix queue months ago, long before I knew they were remaking the film. I was going to lambaste the movie industry for not having figured out a way to deliver movies on demand in the way that eMusic has for, well, music. I was going to explain why I hate iPods and iTunes, and I was going to tie up all these divergent things in a witty and intelligent way with a story about the ‘random,’ no, I mean, unusual, vegetables I found at the Greenmarket last Friday.

Fresh Pasta with Scarlet Runner Beans

But alas, I feel that I have already run on for far too many pixels and these things will have to wait. 700 or so words and only a dozen or less about food, on a foodblog no less. I hope that’s not too random.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Pimientos de Padron, Carciofi alla Giudia and Fettucini with Scarlet Runner Beans.

Pimientos de Padron

Who am I kidding? This isn’t my recipe! If you happen to find some of these awesome peppers, click here and use the San Francisco Chronicle’s recipe.

Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish Artichokes)

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Baby Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • Coarse Sea Salt

Trim the bottom of the artichokes so that they are flat (you can reserve the stems for eating later, just peel and steam or sautée, they’re delicious!). Discard all the tough outer leaves and lightly press the leaves out so that they are open and look like flowers.

Put a very, very heavy glug of olive oil into a high sided, heavy bottomed pan so that the oil will come at least half way up the ‘chokes. Place the chokes into the oil, bottoms down, turn the burner on to medium and allow the ‘chokes to cook 10-15 minutes until tender.

Increase the heat and flip the ‘chokes so that the leaves are in the oil and cook 10 minutes or until the leaves are brown and crispy. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Pasta With Fresh Scarlet Runner Beans

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 20 minutes

  • 1 portion of Fresh Pasta from the recipe in The Silver Spoon made into fettucini or an equivalent amount of fresh or dried pasta
  • 2 pounds of fresh Scarlet Runner Beans, shelled and boiled for 20 minutes, drained and cooled (these make a great snack)
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1/2 cup Dry Vermouth
  • Chile Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • optional: a few Anchovies

Caramelize the onion over medium heat. When the onions are becoming golden add the garlic (and the anchovies if you’re using them) and cook a minute or two. Season with salt.

Turn up the heat and add the beans, lemon juice, vermouth and chile flakes. Cook the pasta. When it’s done, drain and add directly to the bean mixture. Turn to coat and serve immediately with a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Do not use cheese on this pasta! It tastes really odd for some reason. Enjoy!


13 Responses to “Random.”

  1. Tana July 31, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    We are growing the padróns this year, and two big bushes is not enough. I use the scantest amount of olive oil and get the pan super hot. I finish them off, impatiently, with the blow torch. When they are nice and blistered in their creases, I add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan, and the steam finishes their wilting process. When the water is completely sizzled off, the peppers are ready. I give them one quick spray of olive oil with the Misto, and then salt them.

    Perfect. And the blowtorch is fun, too!

    Best of all, our three-year-old grandson just LOVES them.

  2. Erin July 31, 2007 at 3:16 pm #

    Thanks for the chokes recipe–I’ve yet to master tasty baby artichokes–don’t know if it’s the recipes I choose or my cooking skills–likely the latter.

    My word in high school was “actually”–Aaaaactually, that’s an interesting point…” “Aaaactually, I, too, enjoyed the film.” “Sara, I’m aaaaactually planning to do the same…” Man, I was annoying.

  3. Christina July 31, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    Okay, now I feel like an idiot. I misused the word random (and I AM an English teacher) in my response to the “7 Things” meme as I clearly made decisions about what things to reveal that weren’t random. Thanks for calling me on it.

    Beautiful recipe!

  4. Anne July 31, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    Ah, high school. Where our angst is thinly veiled by attempts to seem above it all. I can totally relate. I went around using the word “ennui” incorrectly. As in, “That pop quiz gave me a feeling of ennui.” Um, wha-?

    Padrons were perhaps my favorite food in Spain. And THAT’S a (very specific) fact!

  5. ann July 31, 2007 at 7:27 pm #

    Hi Tana! — Thank you so much for stopping by! I love your blog (heart it really) and have been pouring through it for ideas about what to do while we’re out in the Bay Area in two weeks. thank you so much for the Padron tips and for having such a wonderful site.

    Erin — That’s hilarious, and slightly random ;-)

    Christina — Oh dear! I didn’t mean to call you out on anything! Oh dear… Please forgive me for being such a persnickety pain in the ass grammarian! See what hanging out with a bunch of copy editors does to you ;-)

    Anne — Somehow I knew you’d get this post. You and I probably would have been friends in high school, we would have roamed the halls the evil Ann(e)s torturing those we felt were below us… Man, I need to grow up!

    You can find the Padrons at the Union Sq. market on Fridays at one of the stands on the North side of the park near Barnes & Noble. I can’t remember the name of the farm, but I don’t think you can miss them!

  6. Terry B July 31, 2007 at 11:24 pm #

    Ann—I’m glad to hear that others have post ideas percolating in their heads throughout the day. It’s interesting to see how things unfold—and the unexpected turns they take on the way to posting. As for random, I took my younger daughter and a friend of hers sledding once. After a particularly exciting [read harrowing] flight down a big hill, her friend called out, “Totally random!”

  7. Lisa (Homesick Texan) August 1, 2007 at 10:01 am #

    I remember when random was in vogue, though during my junior year, everything became apropos: “I saw Vance hanging out by Adrienne’s locker–how apropos!” We were also stuck on the phrase “veritable plethora” as in, “There’s a veritable plethroa of beef tamales in the cafeteria today. Yum!” Sadly, no teachers pulled us aside as we were all deemed a hopeless bunch.

  8. s'kat August 2, 2007 at 7:08 am #

    I’ve no hope to procure such lovely vegetables ’round here, so I’ll content myself with looking at the photos and imagining how good it would be to tuck into one of those dishes.

    Mostly Martha- did you like? Are you going to see No Reservations?

  9. ann August 3, 2007 at 7:46 am #

    TerryB — I think the hardest thing about posts is I get them written almost 100% in my head before I hit the keyboard, and then as soon as I start typing it gets all jumbled up and what should take 20 minutes turns into an hour or more as my inner editor fights with my inner journalist who’s also fighting with my inner copy editor. I need a new job ;-)

    Lisa(ht) — What an apropos memory! heh ;-)

    s’kat — I think I’m going to add No Reservations to my queue right now, which means I’ll be seeing it sometime around next April!

  10. The Fighting Librarian August 5, 2007 at 9:40 am #

    How do you always get your pasta to look so scrumptious? I can never seem to do this, and I think it’s because I can’t ever seem to use the right amount of fats… in this recipe for Pasta With Fresh Scarlet Runner Beans, is it really just the lemon, vermouth, and the oil from the caramelized onions that make it look so tasty?

  11. Julie August 5, 2007 at 4:05 pm #

    I saw a bumper sticker today that said “Nothing is Random.” Although it seemed sort of random to me to see that bumper sticker after reading this post. :)

    I like both your bridge photos very much. Is that the Brooklyn Bridge? I also like the way you did the artichokes. All those crispy artichoke bits look particularly delicious.

  12. ann August 5, 2007 at 4:22 pm #

    TFL — Yeah, it really is just the simple proportions. I watch a lot of Lidia and Mario and how they make sauces. I think one of the most important aspects of great pasta is to not use a lot of sauce and to not drain the pasta too much. The water that clings to the noodles goes into the starch and provides just enough starch and moisture to make it all come together in a beautiful way. Use a big pan and always add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and let it cook a minute there. It allows some of the sauce to move into the pasta and some of the water to move into the sauce. Good stuff.

    Julie — Those pictures are actually from when the boy and I walked over the bridge the day I met you Lisa and Anne at ‘inoteca (where we had lunch today consequently). It is the Brooklyn Bridge, and I still think it’s the most magnificent and safest bridge in the world no matter what the politicians say!

  13. Tana August 6, 2007 at 12:42 pm #

    Ann: send me an e-mail and I can probably help with “things to do in the Bay area,” especially if you are interested in getting to a farm.

    If you’re here long enough, think about getting down to Santa Cruz: it’s only 75 miles away, and it’s just a beautiful drive down the coast. We have redwoods and farms and the ocean and some fabulous places to eat.

    P.S. I just rented “Mostly Martha”: I saw it in the theater. I love it, especially because Italian food is the hero. I won’t be seeing the Americanized version, no way, no how, not ever. Not interested.

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