Knowing how to cook is an invaluable skill that will take you far. It’ll comfort the friend who’s going through a tough time, it’ll bring your loved ones to your dinner table, it’ll make a sick family member feel better, and hit upon the right steak recipe, it’ll garner you more marriage proposals than you know what to do with. (I kid, I kid. But anything’s possible!) It’s a wonder more people don’t tie on those apron strings and get to it. I suppose it’s because if you haven’t done an awful lot of cooking, it can seem a bit daunting.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: if you’ve got the right tools, the battle’s pretty much halfway won. Not that cooking should be a battle. Except for that one time I spent two hours making sugar cookies that looked (and tasted) more like hockey pucks. Anyway. The point is, if you invest in a few good kitchen basics—a big, beautiful saute pan, a quality chopping block, an effective pepper grinder—they’ll make your life a heck of a lot easier. Trust me, my culinary life drastically improved when I upgraded from a tiny, 1/4 inch-thick, notebook-sized cutting board to the wonderfully large, sturdy beauty you see here.
To celebrate the new addition to my kitchen, I whipped up a wild mushroom pasta this weekend, filled with four different types of mushrooms, a good hunk of butter, and sweet spring onions. Recipe below.
Wild Mushroom Pasta
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 lb fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms, such as oyster, chanterelle, or porcini, trimmed and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
2 spring onions, white and pale green parts sliced thinly crosswise
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 lb dried penne
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté fresh mushrooms with salt, and pepper, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in chopped spring onions and saute until limp and tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about a minute short of the package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta in a colander, then add it to mushrooms in skillet. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over moderately high heat, tossing and adding some pasta-cooking liquid if necessary to lightly coat, 1 minute. Add parsley and toss well. Serve immediately with cheese and pepper to taste.