Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Last Song: Summer Spaghetti!

I think The Last Song might be the only book Nicholas Sparks wrote after he had already written the screenplay for the movie, and he wrote it specifically so that Miley Cyrus could play the main character.  And, according to Nick's website, it's longer than any of his previous novels.  (It's also longer than the next two, Safe Haven and The Best of Me.  I checked.) 

Ronnie (Miley Cyrus picked the name--can you believe that?) is a troubled teenage girl whose parents are divorced.  She lives with her mother and younger brother, Jonah, in New York.  Her parents decide that it would be great if the kids could spend the summer with their father, Steve, in his beach bungalow in WIlmington, North Carolina (aka Tree Hill--anyone a fan of that show?  Thanks to Netflix, I've gotten myself hooked on One Tree Hill this summer.  I'm almost finished with Season Two.  It's cute and hilarious and touching and fun and infuriating all at the same time.  Reminds me of a Nicholas Sparks novel.  You can read more about my latest addiction here.)  Anyhow, Ronnie is not too happy about spending three whole months in some podunk town with a father who all but abandoned her.  Jonah is thrilled; what kid wouldn't want to spend an entire summer at the beach?  Needless to say, Ronnie's visit gets off to a rocky start, and she spends much of her time in town or by the pier trying to find something, anything, more stimulating than hanging around the house with Steve.

One evening after spending the day getting re-acquainted while Ronnie is off galavanting with some newly found friends (and a cute guy she met named Will--more on him in a later post), Jonah and Steve share a spaghetti dinner before heading down the beach for a nighttime spider-crab hunt.

(You can find these little buggers all over North Carolina's beaches at night.  In the summer, at least;  I haven't really been there in the winter.)

I've already made spaghetti for this blog (with my mother-in-law's semi-famous pasta sauce); since I don't like to repeat myself too much here, I decided to make another one of Queen MIL's specialties, Summer Spaghetti.  This was a frequent summertime meal for Joe growing up, and it's become a favorite at our house, too.  I don't have a recipe per se; it's so easy I don't need one.  I just follow a simple procedure as Joe explained it to me years ago:

1.  Cook a box of spaghetti according to the package directions.
2.  While the spaghetti is cooking, heat about a half cup of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
3.  Mince several cloves of garlic (I never count) and brown in the olive oil until golden.  When it's done you can discard the garlic; or if you like your pasta a little more garlic-y you can leave it in.  I usually leave it unless the garlic is overcooked.
4.  Grate about a pound and a half of mozzarella cheese.  
5.  Dice up a few garden-fresh tomatoes. (This is very important.  You never, EVER, want to use the mealy ones that come from the grocery store.  This is why you ONLY make this in the summer when tomatoes are in season.)
6.  When the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain and pour into a serving platter or large bowl.  (Sometimes I just pour it back into the pan I cooked it in.)   Stir in the grated cheese and tomatoes.  Pour the hot garlic-flavored olive oil over the whole thing.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.

Joe's mom often mixes in a healthy portion of freshly-grated parmesan cheese as well; I prefer to grate it on top of my own serving.

When I mince garlic, I like to smash it with the side of my knife and then chop it up really small.  Queen MIL recently showed me how to hold the knife really close to the blade to get the most mobility out of it while you're chopping.  I haven't quite gotten the hang of that yet.

I found a new favorite gluten free spaghetti!  And the linguine is even better.

I never use pre-shredded cheese anymore, not since I learned that it has added cellulose to keep it from sticking together.  And I always use whole-milk mozzarella, too.

Be sure to keep a close eye on the garlic while it's cooking; it's very easy to overcook it.

Fresh, Local, vine-ripened tomatoes.

You can cut the tomatoes as small or as large as you'd like.


My gluten free version.

Steve hopes that eventually Ronnie will come around, and hopefully she'll decide to share a meal and open up to him; and before the summer is over, father and daughter will perhaps be close once again.

Next, we'll re-visit The Lucky One for another summer weekday meal; and soon, perhaps, I'll make some REAL Swedish bacon pancakes--not the American ones I showed you in my last post.  Stay tuned!

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