Spaghetti with Sausage and Capers

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Year two of living in LA is in the books! As this chapter ends, another begins—something like a hydra, but a little more pleasant.

After Jonji’s Step 1 test we had a brief five-day period during which we were able to journey home. I had one more day of school the following week, but the worst and hardest classes were over. We packed Kitty up in her carrier and once again made the drive home on Wednesday, missing the morning traffic and making it to Santa Cruz in great time. Every day was, as usual, a balancing act of spending time with family, getting work done, and eating lots of food.

On Friday I drove up to the city with Mom and Dad. Our first order of business was at the San Francisco Baking Institute, which we found in the middle of the industrial district, far from any normal visitor destination. We were there for bread making supplies, and when we first saw the industrial-looking building I thought perhaps we wouldn’t be getting anything. However, we were greeted warmly, both by the woman at the front desk and by the smell of freshly-baked bread, and brought into a tiny room full of supplies. Another man, who we were later introduced to as Michelle (pronounced “mee-shell”), popped out of his office to explain the various tools. He offered to give us a tour of the facilities, and after accepting we were ushered into the back where the sweet and slightly heavy smell of bread was significantly stronger. Michelle showed us the bread making room, the pastry room, and the commercial baking room, and then graciously offered us some bread to take with us (for free!). Mom almost refused, seeing as we were on our way to Tartine, but Dad jumped in quickly and accepted his offer.

Several minutes later we left, holding a large bag of warm bread plus a series of bread baskets and scoring tools. From there we drove back into the main city, where we found 4505 BBQ. Mom had remembered their breakfast sandwich at the Ferry Building from years past—for good reason, we soon realized. Their pulled pork sandwiches with freshly-made buns and cole slaw were excellent, as were the fries. Feeling contentedly full, we strolled over to The Mill Bakery, which Mom had happened to spot across the street on a glance up from eating her “Best Damn Hamburger” (the menu’s words, not hers, although she thoroughly enjoyed saying it). We enjoyed a pleasant cup of coffee each at The Mill, watching as the morning’s rain slowly made its way out of the city.

After a quick stop at the second Bi-Rite location, which was just down the street from 4505 BBQ, we drove to Omnivore’s, a tiny little bookstore solely dedicated to cookbooks. We spent a long while perusing the books, something I could have done all afternoon, and finally settled on a couple to take home. Once that very important decision had been made, we made our way (finally) to Tartine. Unfortunately, right after we’d parked in a hard-earned spot we realized we’d left a bag behind at Omnivore’s, and Dad had to dive back into the stressful SF traffic. Mom and I found a table at Tartine, happy to get the last three chocolate croissants but sad that, once again, they were out of morning buns. Dad finally returned and we feasted on the croissants and a coconut cream tart. Once the bread was released to the public (4:30 pm everyday), we loaded up on a hefty number of loaves and set off for home. The warm bread’s steam circulating throughout the car made the drive home that much more enjoyable.

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Saturday was the day for getting things done. I got my hair cut, went grocery shopping, and finished a bit more homework. In the afternoon the Barbers and O’Regans joined together for a BBQ at Pat & Taz’s place, where we caught up on life, showered Oakes and Arrow with attention, and devoured some superb mint chip ice cream made by Taz. Several Barbers decided to go see a 10 pm showing of the new Captain America movie, but I chose sleep instead. I was the last to leave, after chatting for a while with Taz, but soon realized that Jonji had taken the keys with him to the movie. Fantastic. Fortunately, I got a hold of them before the movie started and was able to return home for the night.

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The next day (our last day) was Mother’s Day, and Jonji and I each spent the morning with our respective moms. My morning was spent making an apple pie with a new kind of crust from Liz Prueitt (Tartine pastry guru) as well as frantically trying to finish some last minute homework. We eventually all sat down outside to enjoy eggs, toast, kale salad, and bacon, right as the sun was beginning to push away the clouds. After the apple pie, it was time to leave. I packed up, convinced Kitty to get in her carrier once again, and said goodbyes with my usual heavy heart. Just two years to go until we can (hopefully) move closer to home!

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Yesterday was my last day of class! Junior year at Otis is now behind me, and now I get to enjoy two weeks of summer vacation before I begin my internship. You can be sure I won’t waste those two weeks—there will be lots of reading, cooking, and lounging with Kitty. Jonji has now officially started his third year of medical school, although the first two weeks are prep for the actual rotations. After that it’s full steam ahead, for both of us! (Side note: that is NOT an engagement ring in the photo below, in case you were wondering).

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This recipe has been one of my go-to dinners this entire year because it’s quick to make and absolutely delicious. On those nights when I had to prioritize homework, this spaghetti was one of my best options. (For some reason my brain really wants to call spaghetti “spag,” and the first time I told Jonji we were having “spag” for dinner he gave me look of extreme bewilderment.) The recipe originally came from the Bi-Rite cookbook, but I’ve tweaked it to suit my own wants and needs—feel free to do the same.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Capers
serves 4–5 • adapted from Bi-Rite’s Eat Good Food

1 1/2 packets spaghetti (save the other 1/2 for next time)
1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water

4 chicken or pork sausages (I like to use slightly spicy ones)

fine sea salt
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 chili de arbol, crumbled
1 tsp thyme leaves
2–3 tbsp capers, sans liquid
4 tbsp chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
cracked black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti one to two minutes less than the packet instructs. When finished, drain the spaghetti in a colander, making sure to save 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water! Rinse the spaghetti in a little cold water, then set aside.

While the pasta cooks, remove the sausage meat from its casings (I simply use a sharp knife to split them each open down one length). Cook with a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat, breaking the meat apart into chunks as it cooks. Continue cooking until browned or, at the very least, completely cooked through. Set aside.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil (about 3 tbsp) over medium-low heat, using the pot that the pasta had cooked in. When it’s hot, sauté the onion with 1/4 tsp salt for around 8 minutes, until soft. Then add the garlic, chili, and thyme leaves and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant. Add the sausage chunks and capers, turn the heat up to medium, and cook for one minute. Then add the spaghetti back into the pot along with the reserved pasta water and cook for another few minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and mix in the parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Add more salt and some freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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