I think there are so many interesting ways to identify a person.
It can be their gender, their race, their culture, their socioeconomic status. It can also be the way they dress, the way they talk, the things they do.
Or…it can even be the supermarket they frequent.
There are four occupants in the house I’m living in right now.
There’s Kenny, the ABC (American-born Chinese) engineer major who goes skiing every weekend. He shops only at Smart & Final, because it’s the closest and it sells big quantity budget items. His side of the fridge is mostly big cuts of meat and pasta.
There’s Cesar, the 35-year-old public administration graduate student from Mexico City, who speaks five languages and carries the latest Apple gadgets. He shops primarily at Superiors, the local Latino supermarket. He stores almost nothing in the fridge, but his closet is stocked with tortillas and dried chilies.
There’s David, the lanky blond guy from Texas who moved temporarily to Los Angeles for an internship at a film studio. He shops mostly at Trader Joes for microwaveable chicken quesadillas and organic wild-caught salmon.
And then, there’s me.
I shop…at Smart & Final, Superiors, Trader Joes, Ralphs, Costco, the Korean supermarket, and occasionally Whole Foods and the Chinatown market if possible, all depending on what is on sale.
Needless to say, I take up the majority of the fridge space. Not to mention I have my own mini refrigerator. And both fridges are plastered with recipe creations and ideas:
But what can I say? It’s a gift. I have a brilliant nose for hunting down the best bargains in different stores. Blame it on the Asian genes.
One of my favorite stores is Smart & Final. It’s like a mini version of Costco. It’s a warehouse that sells big quantities of stuff at a great bargain price, but unlike Costco, you don’t have to pay for membership and it is smaller is size and selection.
But you pretty much find everything you need here. I was offered a gift card by Social Fabric to create an Easter dish using the ingredients I bought from Smart & Final. Of course I said yes. Any excuse to go grocery shopping…and eat!
I think this must be most people’s favorite aisle…the candy and treats section. Heh heh heh.
But my favorite is probably the dairy and cheese aisle:
For the simple reason that dairy makes me happy.
I bought a number of stuff.
Like Costco, Smart & Final has its own flagship store brand, called First Street. So there’s First Street eggs…
…First Street cheese…
…First Street pasta…
…and First Street grains like rice and lentils and beans.
Smart & Final also holds ownership over other brands like La Romanella, which is mostly Mediterranean inspired products. Like this lovely 2-lb tub of ricotta cheese, which I got for just $4.99:
They also have produce, of course, most of them local, like this 4-lb container of Orange County strawberries:
For which I also paid just $4.99. Woo hoo!
Okay. Time to cook my Easter dish.
To be honest, I don’t know what constitutes an Easter dish. I’ve never celebrated Easter in the traditional way before; all I did was to go to church and remember the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for me.
And honestly, I think that is what God really wants. He doesn’t want us rushing around chasing bunnies and hunting eggs; rather He wants us to take a moment of peaceful silence to commemorate His love and salvation for me.
So this Easter, I’m still planning to go to church, and have a low-key personal time with God. But since it is a day of celebration as well, I decided to make a glorious feast before that eventful day, a meal just between Christ and me.
I decided to incorporate lemon and zucchini into my Easter dish, since lemon and zucchini makes me think of happy spring and renewal. Smart & Final sells lemons, but of course, I have a lemon tree so I plucked my own:
And then, the preparation began.
Easter Baked Pasta Pie
or Lemon-Zucchini-Ricotta baked pasta
- 12 oz spaghetti
- 1 big-ass lemon
- 2 zucchinis
- a handful of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- several cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 heaping cup ricotta cheese
- 1 big handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup-ish Parmesan cheese
- many many handfuls of cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, whatever)
- black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a pot of very salty water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until just barely al dente; drain and set aside. But reserve the pasta water just in case.
Grate lemon zest. Set aside the zest, and keep the naked lemons.
Cut zucchini into long strips. Don’t get intimidated. It’s easier than you think. All you need is a handy knife. Or a mandolin, if you’re a pussy.
Try to slice the zucchini into thin strips, no thicker than 1/4-inch.
Once the butter and oil starts sizzling just a bit, toss in the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon zest:
Cook for a couple minutes or until the garlic is soft, then squeeze the lemon over the pan to release all the juice. Next, add in the zucchini.
Cook for several minutes until the zucchini is soft and pliable, then scoop in the ricotta cheese.
Side note: Oh. Em. Gi. Ricotta. Super fuper duper guper delicious!!!
I couldn’t resist eating it by the spoon as I cooked. So rich and creamy. I DIE!!!!!!! I am humiliated that I did not discover the wonders of ricotta much earlier. I only saw it as lasagna filling. Silly me!!
After swooning for a bit, add in the cooked pasta.
And then sprinkle in the parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Toss with chopsticks or tongs or whatever hits your fancy. At this point if the pasta seems a bit dry, you can always dribble in some of the reserved pasta water. Finally, smother the whole thing with more cheese, and crack some black pepper all over:
Bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese is melted and toasty.
I dare you. I dare you to say this is not the most fantabulous pasta you’ve ever seen.
Yup. I knew it. Not a squeak. I see your gaping jaw. I understand. I really do. But you can close it now.
This. This dish. Oh, this dish. I am wordless. Such a revel of beauty. So many glorious things packed into a single sizzling, cheesy, gooey skillet.
Yes, yes. I am drooling too. Let’s just eat.
Nice big wedge for me. The rest of the pan for God.
There is a reason why I sliced the zucchini into strips instead of just chopping them into cubes or crescents. It’s for the texture. When zucchini is long and skinny like spaghetti, I swear it tastes different. It absorbs flavors differently. It glides down your throat differently. There is a definite difference.
There is also a reason why I used ricotta. First, Smart & Final sold it at a great bargain and I had a gift card to spend. Second, I didn’t want anything too tangy like sour cream, since I’ll be adding plenty of lemon zest and juice. Third, it dissolves well into the dish without losing its characteristic. When you bite into the pasta pie, you can definitely taste and feel its distinct grainy texture.
Ooh. I just realized that this dish is vegetarian. Not a scrap of meat, and it still tastes wonderful. Who needs ham and lamb on Easter when you’ve got this dish?
I am so blessed. Not just because I got to eat this marvelous baked pasta pie, but the fact that I have the option to shop at so many supermarkets and pick and choose where and what I want to buy…it certainly is a far cry from the humble lifestyle Christ led on Earth.
Here’s the truth: sometimes, I do feel a bit embarrassed that I take so much pleasure from food, when Jesus himself subsisted on simple fish and bread loaves, sometimes enduring long fasts in order to pray. But then, that was the purpose of Jesus’s descent to Earth. He wasn’t here to take pleasure in the world, but to sacrifice Himself for the world, so that we can take pleasure in what He has created for us.
Ain’t that a glorious thing? I wasn’t really thinking about this while eating this meal (too focused on the explosion of flavors in my mouth and the warm tingle in my belly), but now that I actually think deeper into the implications of Easter…my heart and soul feels greatly replenished as well.
Yes I’m preaching…but I cannot help it. Just like I cannot help sharing this delicious dish with you, I cannot help sharing the sweetest love I’ve tasted, which is the love of Christ Jesus.
Question of the Day: Which supermarket do you frequent the most? And what does Easter mean to you?
** This meal was compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias, but all opinions, burps and slurps are my own.