Dinner for two.
I come home early from work with two hours to clean my apartment and cook dinner. By now I have decided against the pasta with escarole and spicy sausage. (I have been going back and forth about this all day). Instead, it will be rigatoni with spicy sausage bolognese and a side dish of braised escarole. So - first, the sauce. I finely chop an onion and a shallot that had been lurking at the bottom of the crisper. Actually, first I have to clean the pot, because it is full of chicken broth that I made some days before and forgot about (although how you forget about a pot taking up space on the bottom shelf of your fridge is beyond me). Fine. I can use the broth for the escarole. I pour some olive oil in the bottom of the pan and add the chopped onion and shallot. Once they become translucent I can add the sausage, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spatula as they brown. The canned tomatoes go in, and the diced fresh tomatoes. One and a half hours to go.
The sauce simmers away as I run around putting books away, shoving recyclables in the recycle bin, cramming papers in drawers and throwing dirty socks in the hamper. (Luckily K. is all too aware of the chaos that surrounds me at all times and even if it looks like a bomb exploded in here she will not comment, much as she does not comment on my driving, even when I am heading in the wrong direction). Having forgotten to buy flowers, I arrange the Italian parsley into a sort of leafy bouquet on the dining room table, like a feathery green fountain sprouting from a glass teapot. I run back to check on the sauce, which is bubbling away gently, and wash the escarole, which will be sautéed in olive oil and then braised in chicken broth.
As the escarole cooks I suddenly remember that I have forgotten all about the strawberries, which have to be sliced and macerated in a little balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of sugar. The vinegar gives them a ruby-red translucency and a deep, intense flavor, neither sweet nor tart, or perhaps both. K. calls, and she is hungry. I boil water and throw in the pasta. The escarole is done, a whole curly head reduced into a tiny heap. I reheat some of the bolognese - some of it will be saved for another night - as the pasta cooks. Before I forget, I mince some Italian parsley and scrape it into a small bowl. The rigatoni is finally al dente, and I toss it with the sauce, the parsley, and a shower of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Still no sign of my guest, though. Never mind. It will keep.
Then she arrives, with a bouquet of tulips and dazzlingly adorned with her favorite necklace and a fur-trimmed shawl. (And hiking books and backpack). My first real dinner guest. The first of many, I hope.