Simple Things

Sometimes simple things taste so good.

Some of my favorite things are perfectly ripe fruits or vegetables enjoyed just as they are. Simple, unadulterated, hedonistic consumption of things in this form also constitute some of my favorite memories. With an undeniable fall chill in the air, we made a dinner last night to celebrate the deliciously simple.On the menu:

A starter of fresh figs with gooey boucheron. Freshly made cracked black pepper fettuccine with a lightly cooked heirloom tomato and basil sauce.

A side of herb-roasted red pearl onions. Squares of an unfamiliar 72% Grand Cru chocolate Oren brought back from Switzerland.For a period of about six months more than fifteen years ago, I made fresh pasta all the time. It was easy, it was fun, and it just tasted so good! An old boyfriend of my sister's, a big teddy bear of a man named Leather who wanted to be a chef, taught me how. That was before wheat and gluten and carbs were publicly shunned, before I had ever heard of food guilt, before other things took up so much of my time... A few weeks ago, I asked my mother if she ever used that old Atlas pasta machine. She was surprised to learn she hadn't sent it to me years ago with the rest of the extra kitchen supplies I love so dearly and a few days later it showed up at my door in an anonymous brown package giving way to a battered old box all in Italian taped back together dozens of times. I didn't bother hand incorporating the flour into the eggs this time, and probably won't again--too inefficient with too little noticeable quality difference. Instead, I threw all of the ingredients together for a few pulses with the dull yellowed kneading blade in the Cuisinart. A minute of kneading by hand and into the fridge to let the dough relax.For the fettuccine, I used a simple but classic recipe:   1 cup semolina flour, plus enough to dust the work surface and rolled pasta   2 cups all-purpose flour   1 T extra virgin olive oil   1 tsp salt   Cracked pepperThis makes enough for generous servings for 4, or keep half of the dough tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to a few days. I rolled the pasta out to level 5, the second thinnest on my Atlas machine, and cut it into fettuccine.Any simple sauce highlighting an ingredient at its peak would be delicious. For this dinner, I lightly sauteed a selection of heirloom tomatoes (the little orange ones in the picture are from my garden) with some red wine, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil, and a few sprigs of thyme and oregano. I garnished the dish with cherry tomato halves and freshly grated Parmesan. The pasta paired nicely with a wine that CellarTracker informed us it was high time we drank: 2002 Testarossa Pinot Noir Palazzio (Central Coast, California). The fruit was already starting to fade, but it was still a nice, if very mellow, complement.