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AS DESIGN DIRECTOR of the New York Times website, Khoi Vinh has set the standard for extending print publications to the online world. He draws a parallel between cooking and learning how to design and code on the web: “A little bit of knowledge and skill leads to more and more, and as you acquire more advanced techniques, you start to think about how to bring out the artfulness inherent in the medium.”
Where did you buy your ingredients for this dish? The turkey sausage is from the Greenmarket in Brooklyn.
Is that the place you usually buy food, or did you make a special trip?
I go there on the weekends, not every weekend but often enough, to buy select provisions.
If it’s your regular haunt, is there something you really love (or hate!) about it?
Well it’s only open on sporadic days, so that’s an annoyance. In fact, there are two green markets near me—Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park—but they’re both open on Saturdays and closed on Sundays, which I think is terribly inefficient. I wish one were open Saturday and the other Sunday. Anyway, that’s my one gripe.
Is this a dish you often make?
I make it pretty often because it’s easy, fast and, in my mind anyway, qualifies as real cooking.
Do you cook often?
I try to cook at least two or three times a week. We live in a part of town where there aren’t that many nearby restaurants, plus I really burned out on the wasteful ritual of ordering delivery, so I like to cook when I can.
Do you draw any connection between the food you like to make and the kind of design you do? Is your approach to one similar at all to yourapproach to the other?
Heh, that’s kind of a question for a psychoanalyst. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that the link is that the dish is very basic, simple and, I like to think, fairly elegant. It’s incredibly not fussy.
When and how did you first learn to cook? Who taught you?
Living in New York, I made it a habit for years to order in, night after night. At some point, I tired of the waste—both all of the materials necessary to package food for delivery and the cost—and I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I started picking up really simple recipes here and there and building a repertoire of dishes that I could make on my own at home, quickly, easily and cheaply. This was over the past three years or so.
Then, my girlfriend and I moved out to a wonderful neighborhood in Brooklyn that was not particularly well stocked with restaurants, so that just exacerbated the need to learn how to prepare a greater number of dishes at home. We cook a lot together (she has far more culinary experience than I do), which is fun. I also like to try new dishes and try and push my skills a little further with each one. It used to be that most every recipe seemed too bewildering and ambitious for me. Now, a lot of new recipes seem more manageable; instead of being intimidated, my attitude is “I can probably figure that out.”
Subtraction.com-style Rigatoni and Turkey Sausage
“It’s basically my own recipe adapted from various other recipes and trial and error. I make it pretty often because it’s easy, fast and, in my mind anyway, qualifies as real cooking.”
24 oz. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 lb. turkey sausage (loose), spicy or sweet
1/2 lb. mezzi rigatoni
Fresh-ground sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Cook pasta according to instructions on package—less 2 minutes so that they remain extra al dente (pasta will go back on heat later). Drain, then flush with cold water to stop from cooking further for now.
Heat olive oil in large, deep skillet about a minute on high, then turn heat to medium.
After a minute, add garlic and let cook until edges start to turn brown. Add turkey sausage and stir/spread with spoon so that it breaks up. Cook approx 5 minutes until it starts to brown.
Add tomatoes, cook for approx 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes begin to break down (firmness is gone) and thicken.
Add pasta, additional teaspoon of olive oil into skillet, stir/turn pasta until fully coated inside and outside. Should take about 2 mins. This ‘bonds’ the flavor to the pasta.
Distribute to bowls/plates, grate cheese on top and add pepper to taste. Add just a very small pinch of sea salt on top.