Cars don’t like me.
Nope. Not one little bit. And it’s not for any lack of trying on my part, either. I’ve gassed and changed oil and refilled windshield wiper fluid doohickeys and vacuumed their interiors. I’ve fretted over weird sounds and flashing lights on the dashboards and wondered why the tailpipe drips when I turn the air conditioning off.
I’ve followed maintenance schedules, installed wiper blades and never rode my clutch. I’ve even changed my own headlamps. So there.
And how do my cars repay me? They have wonderful, huge, catastrophic, epic deaths. Engines conk out doing sixty miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway at 6 o’clock in the morning, forcing me to walk half a mile in the dark, in 15 degree weather, to the next rest area to call a tow truck.
They get rear ended by someone downshifting down a hill on a rain slicked road, forcing me to plow into the car in front of me, cracking the frame.
Or, the entire dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree on the Schuylkill Expressway and then has a complete mechanical meltdown on Lancaster Avenue on the campus of Villanova University.
Anyway, I got two rides in a tow truck that day and really, how many people get to say that? And did you know that the tow truck company Radnor Township has a contract with charges $95 for a tow? And that they take cash only?
So try not to break down in Radnor.
I’m fine, the car is not. It looks like this car is done for and we’ll be a one car family until sometime next year, when I’ll be in the market for another car. I’m thinking of either a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon or a Sherman tank. Something indestructible.
If you’re thinking of selling either, give me a call.
A few days ago I made pasta e fagioli for dinner. Or, pasta fazool as they say in New Jersey and South Philly. I used to work with someone who called this particular recipe macaroni and beans, which is really what it is. Small pasta with white beans in a garlicky tomato sauce with parsley and salt and pepper. Grated Romano cheese, too. And that‘s it. A piece or two of buttered Italian bread and you’re good to go.
It’s simplicity in itself, but there’s something about it that just makes people swoon. Maybe it’s because it is so simple or because so many of us grew up eating this around the family kitchen table, I really don’t know. All I know is that I hated this growing up. Hated it. Secretly, I loved it cold (yeah, I know) and used to steal spoonfuls of this from the pot in the refrigerator. But once I started cooking for myself I began having the weirdest craving for this. There wasn’t a written recipe for it, but I remembered how my mom used to make it. So I went back to my apartment and made a pot of it. I buttered a piece of crusty bread, scooped up a big bowl of it and covered the top with Locatelli cheese. I dug in and I swooned, too. Here’s my current version of this Italian-American classic.
- Olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs of celery, diced
- 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- A pinch of dried red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 14 oz. can of plum tomatoes in puree
- 1 14 oz. can cannellini beans
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
- 8 oz. small pasta, like ditalini or small shells
- Parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery and red pepper flakes and cook until tender.
- Add the garlic and cook until it’s golden Do not let the garlic burn.
- Add the tomatoes and break up the tomatoes with your spoon. Add half a can of water, give it a good stir and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the beans with its juice, stir it and season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley
- Cook the pasta until it’s the way you like it. Drain it and add it to the beans. Give it a good stir and get your bowls ready.
- Add the cheese on top, get some bread ready and enjoy!