Sophia Loren

A night in with the power out

By Laura Wainwright - November 8, 2007

We love the excitement of a good storm in our family and last weekend's wind and rain did not disappoint. It was blessedly warm and a Saturday, so what better than sit back, stay home, and cook?

We often lose power in a storm and this one was no exception. The lights flickered for a bit in the afternoon and just as it was getting dark, they went off for good. Out came the candles, the firewood, the flashlights. Cozy quilts came down off of beds, slippers went on and we prepared for a good snuggle around the fireplace.

But what about dinner? We have a gas stove so the burners at least would light. The oven, electrically started, would not. We had an ample supply of lettuce from Morning Glory Farm and I had just made a recipe for cranberry vinaigrette to try out. Salad would not be a problem. In fact, it would be delicious.

But with it...? Earlier in the day I had dragged out my manila file folder of recipes I collect. Things I've cut from magazines, things friends have given me, old recipes from my mother, grandmother, great grandmother, each one in their own hand. I'd noticed in passing a recipe I'd torn out that I'd been meaning to try. It was for a pesto like sauce using fresh parsley as its base. The recipe came from Sophia Loren. I was surprised to learn she cooked.

I had the pasta, not vermicelli but a thin-enough spaghetti. I had parsley in the garden still. Garlic, yes. Anchovy fillets, by some miracle, yes. Green olives, oddly yes. Capers, yes; olive oil, always. I could make it.

The electricity came on briefly and I took advantage of this to use a food processor to make the sauce. It took about one minute. Sophia Loren used a mortar and pestle for hers. This was my back-up plan, but I appreciated the ease of the food processor. I put a big pot of water on the stove to boil, opened a still cold bottle of Chablis and hoped the lights would go off again. They did.

We ate pasta in our laps around the fire. Then we played hearts, got the guitars out and sang. I like it when the lights go out, but the sauce is so good I'll make it again, whether we have electricity or not. It was delicious.

Laura Wainwright is a contributing writer to The Times.