• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 cup vodka
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
• Coarse salt and pepper
• 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
• Crusty bread, for passing
Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and
shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their
sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady
stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2
or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and
reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked
to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad
or other side dishes.
Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from
heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass
pasta with crusty bread.*
It was that recipe that made her fall in love with him. She still
liked to look at it from time to time, to remember the dream of it--
the fantasy of that first night.
Two years after her husband had left her for the pretty blonde dental
hygienist, the seed that was her loneliness had grown into a tree
whose shadow she lived in daily--until one morning when she found she
no longer took comfort from its shade.
"What do I have to lose?" she said, with a laugh, to a friend that
"Meet your Match: A Match Made in Heaven!" proclaimed the site, but
the repetition and play on clichés did nothing to encourage her. At
first she debated each question at length. Some (Would you describe
yourself as introverted?) were easy to answer while others (If you
were a part of a pineapple, which part would you be?) perplexed her.
After a while, she clicked responses without thinking, without even
reading the question in its entirety. If she happened to catch a
mistake, she often didn't alter it--for reasons which alternated
between skepticism and fatalism.
When she bit her lip, took a deep breath, closed her eyes and clicked
"finish", she nearly passed out. Almost immediately, her matches
started flowing in. Caroline skimmed the matches, eliminating the ones
with the more unsavory words or pictures. Of the ones that remained,
most were so formulaic that she passed over them too, their printed
words devolving into "blah blah blah" in her mind's ear.
Just when Caroline had given up hope of finding anyone worthwhile to
"wink" at (wink? she thought, Seriously? I'm supposed to "wink" at men
that interest me? Maybe it should be "honk". How crude!), his profile
caught her eye. Oh, he was attractive, but it wasn't his photo that
Instead of writing about himself (as most self-centered men seemed to
enjoy on this site), he'd posted a recipe. What a strange thing to do,
she thought as she tapped "print" repeatedly.
In the car, for the first time in years, she found herself excited for
At the grocery store, Caroline searched for the ingredients with
relish, pausing each time she saw someone plucking the same items off
the shelves to wonder if she had seen the same profile, and was
preparing the same dinner. Somehow, it made her feel far less alone.
In her kitchen, sautéing seemed sensual; turning simmering into
boiling was almost climatic. And eating it did things to her pallet
she hadn't thought possible.
By the time Caroline had finished savouring the last bite, she was a
little surprised to find herself thoroughly in love. Only that, after
all, could have made her rush to her computer before even clearing the
table or washing the dishes.
Scanning all the supposed heavenly-made matches, she desperately
looked for her love, "Cooking4U". Caroline could scarcely wait to
"wink" at him, to tell him how much she had enjoyed dinner, to find
out his real name, to meet him in person. If he was anything like the
pasta, she thought, she really had found her match. Visions of a
spokeswoman-future flooded her thoughts. She could see an image of
herself with her handsome new husband, and a quote, "I met my match,
and you can too!"...or something more original, some clever play on
words that would melt the hearts of naysayers and bring love to the
Oh yes, months later, she could remember the fantasy of it all, could
still taste it on her tongue. It wasn't unlike her first marriage.
Perhaps it always started that way, before diminishing into reality.
Maybe there was a biological reason for it; there usually was for such
things. Or maybe the heart was simply funnel-shaped, closing off until
but a trickle might escape into it.
She'd still make the pasta, of course, it was too good not to. Not for
herself, but for others, and then afterwards, when her friends and
family would drone on at length about how amazing it was, she'd
readily hand over the recipe. When they'd ask where she'd come across
it, though, Caroline's lips would curve into a bitter-sweet smile.
That was the one secret she'd never tell, the one story she'd keep to
herself. After all, she'd die before letting anyone know she'd fallen
in love with an ad for a cookbook.
*Recipe passed along to me years ago by a friend; original source
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