Civic lessons

by CSWSmovie

As much as I complain about it to anyone within earshot, my experience with jury duty so far (two more days and counting) has been a mildly fascinating process to go through. While holed up in a small, airless room with fifteen or so other New Yorkers, lawyers from each side of the case interview each person, deciding if he or she would be a fair, objective juror based on each person’s personal history and background.

This might sound like a pretty dry process, but the amount of intimate information you learn about these other strangers is startling, considering how short your time is with them. Abrupt, out of context tales about broken marriages, personal bankruptcy, family members suing other family members, and professional jealousies that have led to Shakespearean-esque downfalls come tumbling out from the carpenter, the restaurant owner, the Syrian rabbi. Of course, it’s not always this dire; I was more than entertained when a young man mumbled for several minutes about working with Jadakiss for a summer, while the perspiring lawyer with a real live pocket protector listened, perplexed, trying to figure out “what Jadakiss is?”

Despite all this, there was cause for my original complaints. The amount of downtime and waiting, waiting, waiting that’s involved is a trying process for an impatient person (that would be me). After I played all the Brickbreaker I could stand on my phone, my thoughts inevitably wandered to food, and recipes, and the food and recipes that I usually don’t bother to make.

I’m not a white pizza kind of girl. It’s pleasant, and unoffensive, and novel the first few times you try it, but its got nothing on the tomato-sauce based stuff, in my opinion at least. The Italians knew what they were doing when they put tomato and basil together. Which is why this pasta dish – which lacks a real sauce and tomatoes and yes, even basil – didn’t jump out to me while browsing through epicurious, despite the enthusiastic reviews. But that waiting time in central jury, I tell you – it will do a number on your brain. It will make you take crazy, unfamiliar action.

And I’m glad I did. This was very good, not to mention easy, fast to make and as healthy as a pasta dish can be (all things I value when it’s a weeknight, and my tired, hungry brain is eyeing the Chavellas takeout menu.) This recipe was also a good excuse to try mustard greens for the first time, another positive experience. So positive, in fact, that it almost makes you think that civic duty might not only be good for God and country, but that it could be pretty good for the stomach too.

Pasta with Greens, Olives and Feta

from Bon Appétit, April 2008 with minor adjustments

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel, plus its juice

2 garlic clove, minced

1 large bunch greens (mustard greens, kale, or broccoli rabe; about 1 pound), thick stems removed, washed and cut into 1-inch strips

10 ounces penne (a whole bag/box would be too much here)

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ to 1 cup Kalamata olives (coarsely chopped or left whole)

Crumbled feta cheese

Sea salt and pepper

Mix parsley, lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic and a drizzle of olive oil in small bowl; set aside.

Bring large pot of heavily, heavily salted water to boil. (A commenter here likened the water needed to boil greens flavorfully to sea salt. A slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.) Add greens and cook just until tender and bright in color, 1 to 6 minutes, depending on type of greens.  Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer greens to colander to drain. Return water to boil. Add pasta and cook just until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot or serving bowl; add greens and 3 tablespoons oil and toss. Stir in olives, feta, and enough reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with parsley mixture and extra feta cheese if desired, and serve.