My travels from the past 4 weeks have taken me to the opposite end of the world and challenged me to cook with a barely-there pantry of sometimes-unfamiliar ingredients. Two weeks ago I visited my good friend Daniel in Munich, Germany. The day I arrived was perfect – 26 Celsius, sun shining, sunset at 9pm, gorgeous array of fruit in Rosenheimer Platz, crusty rye bread at the neighborhood bakery, an extensive beer selection at the Reichenbackebrücke kiosk (like a fancy sari sari store), drinking beer by the Isar river…
Unfortunately the warmth only lasted until noon of the next day and the weather forecast for the next few days spelled me shivering in my 3 layers of clothing while attempting to do touristy things in the Bavarian countryside. I’ve been well assured that a rainy 15 Celsius was quite uncommon for a Münchner summer day but I guess I didn’t have the best of luck in scheduling my trip.
After lots of bread, fruit, and coffee for breakfast, Daniel and I drove to Schloß Neushwanstein (pronounced ‘shloss noysch-vansh-stein’), a beautiful 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace 130-km southwest of Munich. By the time we arrived the sky was covered with gray clouds and rain started to fall. The temperature dropped to the teen-Celsius and needless to say, this girl from the tropics was not ready for such strange weather. The rains continued well after our castle tour and all the way until we got back to Munich at 8pm (and by then we’re talking about 9 to 10 Celsius). Let me just say, if you find yourself in southern Germany, a visit to this castle is a must.
We arrived home shivering, hungry, and without groceries for dinner. Frugal me wanted to cook something out of his existing pantry. All stores close at 8pm anyway. After a cupboard raid we came up with a bag of walnuts, a package of whole wheat (bless his heart!) spaghetti, a can of artichokes, an onion, and dried herbs. Good enough, I thought. He had his doubts. This meal proved to him that he should never question my craftiness in the kitchen.
In 20 minutes we had a piping hot meal that was so satisfyingly tasty, he’s been begging for the recipe ever since. So here it is, my ‘how to survive a cold, rainy day in the Bavarian countryside’ / ‘clean the cupboard’ dinner.
Artichokes aren’t popular in the Philippines but if you’ve picked up a can at the store thinking that you’d experiment with it, never had, and after 6 months it’s still sitting in your pantry, here is your chance.
Whole wheat spaghetti with artichokes and walnuts
Serves 2 to 3 ravenous people or 4 couch potatoes
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, medium dice (or 2 small onions)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or black pepper
Salt to taste
390-gram can of artichokes, drained, chopped into quarters
1/2 package (250 grams total) whole wheat spaghetti
- Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. The water should be as salty as the sea – a tip I learned in cooking school.
- Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and fragrant. Set aside.
- Warm the olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions, dried herbs, pepper, and a pinch of salt until translucent, about 7 minutes.
- Add the quartered artichokes and continue to cook. If the pan looks a little dry, add a splash of water. You just want to warm up the artichokes since they’re already cooked – give it maybe 5 to 7 minutes. Add the toasted walnuts and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid for the sauce. Drain the spaghetti.
- Add the cooked spaghetti to the artichokes and toss well. Add a ladle or so of the cooking liquid to help infuse the flavors from the artichoke mixture to the pasta. Adjust for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
This would taste amazing with a cold bottle of beer (dark is my choice), a glass of white wine, or with tarragon or chamomile tea at the end.
**Daniel, if you’re reading this – thanks for putting up with my whining about the weather (was it that bad?). I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Bavaria and you were the perfect tour guide.