One of my favorite things about having friends who also like to cook is when they cook for me. For the past few months two of my good friends have been getting together once a week (sometimes more) to cook and watch Gordon Ramsay take off his shirt, err, I mean teach nobodies how to cook.
The great thing about this for me, besides catching up on all the gossip and girl talk I could want, and watching cable TV (which, like dessert, is unnecessary but great to have on occasion), is sampling dishes I’ve never had before. And I don’t even mean the exotic ones with ingredients I’ve never tried. What I mean are the dishes you’ve read about in those magazines that you mean to try but never have, or the dish you don’t order at a restaurant but know you could make. The thing I like best about eating at a friend’s house is the opportunity to try a dish I’ve never made for myself. I get to learn how it’s made, how my friend likes to prepare dishes, what she’s like in the kitchen and how she likes to host. This tells you a lot about the person you’re friends with. If someone didn’t let me in her kitchen, even just to chat I’d feel like I’ve been left out of the party. Most of the fun happens while you’re waiting for the water to boil.

It also tells you a lot about what kind of food you’re not cooking.
Every time I go over to my friend’s house I walk away satisfied and determined to become a better hand at meat. I don’t cook it all that often because I’m a little intimidated, and because I like my vegetables. But she’s great at all sorts of meats so I learn tips from her about what should and shouldn’t be done.
Last night however, we had pasta primavera with mussels and shrimp. Now mussels are one of my favorite things ever. Especially when they’ve been steamed in a bath of butter, white wine and herbs. Shrimp is excellent this way too. But I’ve never had pasta primavera. I don’t know why. I just told you I like vegetables and I certainly like pasta. I think my hang-up has always come from the fact that there’s no sauce. I like my pasta with a sauce. And I guess you could make one to accompany it but I usually just stick with tomato sauces. You can toss a lot of vegetables in there without anyone catching on. Perhaps I was too biased against it because of the poor imitations you see in Italian restaurants, as a concession to dieters. Mushy vegetables and dried out noodles. This pasta primavera had perfectly crisp steamed vegetables topped with the mussels and shrimp, with the lovely wine-butter sauce poured over everything. And then we put that on the pasta. Next step–butter bread, pour wine, watch Gordon say the F word every five seconds. Enjoy!