I was going to do a little think-piece on how we probably get the Congressional representation we deserve. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's district undoubtedly has a majority of eat-the-rich, socialist-leaning voters with no patience for detailed economics; Marjorie Taylor Greene's voters most likely dote on conspiracy theories and their vision of old-time family values. You and I might consider one group or another (or both) a pack of howling fools -- but they showed up and voted; presumably, if the people of those districts wanted someone else, they would have shown up and voted for them. (I haven't looked at turnout in their elections but the people who stay home on election day are usually sufficient to swing the results, especially in down-ticket contests.)
Over in the Senate, Democrat Joe Manchin represents West Virginia -- but only so long as he also respects coal. The tiny state is not only a top exporter of coal, they're a top exporter of coal-fired electricity. His party might be fuming at him, but that's not going to change the reality. In an earlier day, stymied Senate Dems would have hunted up a squishy Republican or two and horse-traded for votes to get around their recalcitrant Senator, but that (and its other-sided counterpart) is out of the question these days, especially for high-profile legislation.
That was what I was going to write about. But what's the point? People will just yell at me that AOC and/or MTG is Teh Debbil, a cause and not a symptom; that Manchin is a traitor or a saint instead of a guy who wants to keep his nice Senate job with its office and junkets and perqs.
So instead, I'll write about supper last night. I was hungry, chilled and short on time. I didn't want to get too many pans dirty. Pasta sounded good; I figured on sausage, mushrooms, some fresh vegetables and....
And what? I reached the grocery store parking lot, still thinking. This was about the right season for the store of have prepared zucchini in the vegetable case. I still had some tiny fregula, tiny pasta that does most of its cooking in the sauce. Maybe they'd work well together.
Sure enough, they have some nicely-cubed zucchini with diced red bell pepper, shredded Parmesan cheese and quite a lot of finely-diced garlic, in a microwaveable tray. I picked up a small red onion, some fresh celery (having used up the last at home) and one each hot and mild cased Italian sausages. Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa, sometimes called hen-of-the-woods) looked good and they had Sanremo pasta sauce -- not the "Truffle & Tomato" version I was hoping for, but the regular Marinara version, which turned out to be outstanding.
At home, it's a simple matter to squeeze the sausages out of their casings, brown and crumble them, and drain most of the fat before pushing it to the edges of the pan and sauteing the onion, a large stalk of celery and the equivalent of a large carrot (all diced) in the center, followed by the mushroom. (Most recipes will have you do the vegetables or the meat first, remove it and set it to the side to be added back later. If your timing is good, you can avoid this -- the sausage should be almost done before you get it out of the way and add the vegetables. If it browns a little more on the bottom, that's fine -- but don't burn it.)
Meanwhile, I had boiled about two-thirds of cup of salted water in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave, added the same amount of fregula, and given it a couple of thirty-second spins with a rest between them. Keep an eye on it -- it will boil over in a trice!
The mushrooms were done enough, so I poured the sauce over the contents of the pan, used a little hot water from the fregula to rinse out the bottle into the pan (you can also use a little Chianti), drained most of the rest of the water off the pasta and stirred it into the pan. A little extra water won't hurt -- it boils off. I put the lid on the pan, turned to vent steam.
All of that was about fifteen minutes of steady work. The pasta takes at least fifteen minutes to cook, so cleared up my work area (cutting board, knife, various kinds of trash and vegetable leavings). I added a little basil and parsley to the sauce and gave it another stir, set up places for supper, and nuked the zucchini; it takes four or five minutes.
Serving is simple: put a layer of the zucchini mixture in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the sauce over it. It's thick and rich; the summer squash moderates the sauce and spicy sausage. One bowl of it is more than enough for a chilly Autumn evening. The smaller-than-pearl pasta remains a favorite; it's not overwhelming but adds body and a subtle flavor.
Total time from setting out the pan -- I used the deep, non-stick Always skillet -- to serving was under forty-five minutes. I did have to chase Tam out from in front of the fridge at one point; the narrow galley kitchen at Roseholme Cottage is best visited at the door to the dining room, conveniently near the stove and sink. But she'd entered to get a soft drink and stayed to discuss politics -- notions like House districts getting the kind of lunatic they deserve and what the Dems were going to do about Senator Manchin, and so on.
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