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Archive for the ‘pasta’ Category

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I made this pesto for my daughter and her vegan friend. My daughter often is not fond of pesto because of the strong basil taste. This recipe incorporates spinach, which makes the flavor much more mild and eliminates the need for a side salad or veggie. I had mine with macerated tomatoes on the side (diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, chopped basil and Italian parsley– combine and let sit for an hour or more).

Pesto
In a food processor, combine (amounts are approximate– adjust for your taste– I added a little extra basil when I made it again for myself):

1 (packed) cup basil leaves, rinsed
2 (packed) cups baby spinach, large stems removed if you’re ambitious, rinsed (don’t worry about residual water)
3 cloves of garlic
1 t sea salt
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, cooled
1/3 cup raw walnuts (adjust nuts to your taste– I like a lot. The walnuts add good protein)
Olive oil until the pesto is combined and soft– approx 1/3-1/2 cup. I like a lot of olive oil– it makes the pesto creamy and soft.
If you like, add a couple 1″ cubes of Reggiano cheese.
Blend until creamy. Combine with cooked pasta– something that hold the pesto well. Serve with macerated tomatoes and red wine (water for the kiddies).

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How to get my daughter to eat her greens… I’m getting desperate. I don’t like to eat much wheat, so I no longer make pasta very often. She loves it, however [really, who doesn’t], and if i throw the green stuff in there she’ll happily consume it. Well maybe not totally happily, but…

I found some gluten- free pasta. Usually this means corn, which I pretty much never eat since it’s hard on my blood sugar, but I found some in the refrigerator at New Seasons under the brand name “Cucina Fresca” and it’s main ingredient was garbanzo bean flour — a good source of protein. It cooks fast — like in under three minutes, so I started the spinach first.

Actually, I browned a chicken apple sausage for her in a pan first. When I removed it I added a little olive oil and sauteed the spinach. I added the spinach about the same time I added the pasta to the boiling, salted water. When the spinach was done I added grated Reggiano, sea salt, pepper, a grating of nutmeg, and about 2 T of cream. I had started with about 4 cups of spinach, just to give you an idea for the amount of cream that was added. It was just enough to meld with the cheese and give the dish a slightly creamy texture. I drained the pasta and added it to the spinach, then threw it on her plate where once sat the chicken sausage. I threw in a few red chile flakes to mine. Fast and really good.

The pasta was really pretty good. It had that slightly grainy texture that non-wheat pasta has, but not nearly as gross as the brown rice pasta, which I consider a complete waste of time, money, and calories.

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pasta two ways

 

well this was kind of a happy accident. i was making lunch for my daughter and myself… pasta with fresh tomatoes, chopped parsley, basil, chives, and mint, dry- cured capers, and grilled spicy italian chicken sausage. it was not until i had grilled and chopped the sausage that i realized it would be too spicy for the baby. so i mixed the pasta, tomatoes, capers, and herbs with olive oil, salt and pepper, then split it in half. i put smoked salmon in hers and grated some fresh lemon zest on top, then i tossed mine with the sausage and grated some reggiano on top. one easy pasta base with two star ingredients– really easy and everyone gets what they want. it would be an easy thing to do at a party, too…

i accidentally got some of the lemon zest in my bowl of pasta and it was great…

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this was a total shot in the dark, but it was pretty good. it would have been better if i had added even more half and half, or a little cheese, but i’m trying to lose the seven pounds i’ve put on in the past months eating my way through this blog. the really fun discovery here was in making croutons from cinnamon raisin bread, they went really well with the squash. they would also be great as breadcrums sprinkled over a squash gratin.

CROUTONS

cube a couple slices of cinnamon raisin bread. if you have time to let it dry, thats great; but i frequently just let it toast in the pan on low for a long time instead. put some olive oil in the skillet and add the cubed bread. toss quickly to evenly distribute the oil. toast on low, turning as needed, to brown evenly. in a separate pan, toast the pepitas. they pop a little when they toast. no oil is needed, just make sure they don’t burn.

PASTA

bake one acorn squash at 400 degrees until soft. i cut it into slices to make it bake faster, but you can do it in halves as well. i like to let one side get a little brown as well; the caramelization is nice and produces a richer flavor.

while the squash is baking, add 2 [or more- to taste] cloves of garlic, chopped or minced, to about 3 T of olive oil [and 1 T of butter if you like] in a saute pan or skillet. add a small hand-full of chopped sage and about 1 cup of chickpeas. let saute on medium- low. the sage is subtle. if you want a stronger sage flavor, add some rubbed sage to the chickpeas and garlic a minute or so before adding squash.

when the squash is done baking, scoop the flesh from the skin and roughly chop.
add to the skillet with enough half and half to make a thick sauce. salt and pepper
to taste [this dish needs salt] and toss in cooked pasta; i used penne.

serve with croutons on top and toasted pepitas. you could also add chopped, toasted pecans.

you could use a whisk or hand blender if you wanted to make it really smooth;
i just prefer it with a bit more texture. if you do, whisk or blend the half and half with the squash before adding to the chickpeas. you could also put it in a dish and add the croutons [maybe crumbled] and pepitas, and some reggiano or grated semi- hard goat cheese, and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees until it’s a bit brown on top.

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i made this for my 40th birthday. i had a few friends over for a small get together.
my friend michelle always makes an amazing birthday cake, and this year was no exception; chestnut cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. i don’t bake a lot, but michelle does. she turns out many stellar cakes, year after year from
The Cake Bible.

LAMB

the lamb stew is a variation on a stew i have done before with ethiopian spices.
the berbere spices are such a great mixture for any stew or chile, and other ingredients
can be added to it to give it more dimension. this recipe will serve about ten people.

trim and cube [about 1″ cubes] a medium- sized leg of lamb. dredge in flour and brown. brown them a few at a time, not allowing them to touch. scoot cubes over to the side of the pan and add more until they are all browned. add two large yellow onions, diced.

after the onion has softened a bit, add about 1/4 cup of the berbere spices. if you do not have access to a blend, you can make your own from ground chile [ancho works well], coriander, fenugreek, a little cumin and cardamom. in addition to the berbere spices add 1 T dried mustard, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 T unsweetened cocoa, ground pepper and
1 t salt. add 6-8 cloves of peeled garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 small can of tomato paste, 2 cans of fire- roasted chopped tomatoes, and 1 cup dry red wine. fill the pot with water until the lamb is covered. put the pot, with a lid, in a 325 degree oven for about 3 hours. taste and season if necessary. you should not need much salt, the spices are intense enough.

GNOCCHI

i love gnocchi, but had never attempted to make it fearing complete failure. i’ve had amazing gnocchi, and i’ve had horrible gnocchi, it seems like something that could so easily go wrong. so i did my homework. many recipes use eggs, but traditionally there is no egg; it’s used as a binder and supposedly makes it easier to make. i made mine without and it was easy. adding egg can make it tough. i originally wanted to make sweet potato gnocchi, but sweet potatoes are so wet that i thought it might not have the texture i wanted. this recipe is kind of a an adaptation of a few recipes and techniques i read about, and it turned out great.

bake 3 large russet potatoes, and one medium sweet potato. allow to cool completely, then peel off the dark skin with a knife. there will be kind of a tough outer layer of potato left, leave it on and remove the pieces left at the end, it will help you grate the potato without it totally falling apart. the sweet potato will just come right out of it’s skin; just do your best pushing it through the grater. grate the potatoes with the coarse side of a grater.

after the potatoes are grated, add 1/2 lb grated grano pedano cheese, 28 oz whole milk ricotta, 1 1/2 t salt, 3 1/3 cups flour [all purpose is fine], ground white pepper, and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. mix with a large fork until the ingredients are combined. try to be gentle, the dough will form large chunks in the bowl.

pour the dough out and knead it briefly until it forms a solid mass. this took about 30 seconds. handling the dough too much develops the gluten and will make the gnocchi tough.

take a bench scraper or a knife and cut off a chunk. form it into a sausage shape, then roll out into a rope. many people roll into a small, 1/2″ size rope, which is fine, but i wanted mine bigger. once they have butter and grated cheese on them, i didn’t want them to be too rich. cut each rope with the bench scraper into 3/4″-1″ lengths. arrange on a cookie sheet or somewhere to rest. we made layers on the cookie sheet separated with plastic wrap. parchment or a cloth would work just as well i think, but this being my first attempt, i wanted to make sure they did not stick to stuff.

boil the gnocchi in salted water in batches. make sure they do not initially stick to the bottom. they will float to the top after a minute or so and puff up a bit. treat them gently. if you are making smaller gnocchi, poach for about 3-4 minutes; for larger, about 5 minutes. don’t let them overcook, they will fall apart. drain with a large slotted spoon, and transfer to a baking dish that has been greased lightly with melted butter. you will need two large dishes, this makes a lot of gnocchi. once they are closely arranged on the dish, brush with butter, sprinkle with 1/2 pound of grano padano cheese [split between dishes], and drizzle in a little cream, about 1/3 cup all together. put under the broiler on high until it is bubbling and brown. congratulations… you just made gnocchi, easy.

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i love a provencal salad. the same combination of flavors works great in pasta.

over an open flame on your burner, or under a broiler, roast a red pepper. after it has blistered and partly blackened, remove and put into a plastic or paper bag. i try to not use plastic bags, but if i have one around i’m going to throw away anyway, i use that. as it cools the pepper steams, and you can rub the charred skin off of the pepper in the bag without making a huge mess or rinsing the pepper [which rinses away good flavor].

in a hot skillet with some olive oil, wilt some broccoli rabe [rapini]. take out of pan and set aside.

cook your pasta; i like angel hair pasta with shrimp. try to time it with the cooking of the shrimp; you want to be draining the pasta while the shrimp are cooking.

add more olive oil to the skillet and throw in peeled and deveined shrimp. i like to use big shrimp, around the 10-12 pieces/lb. size. the shrimp have a much better flavor at that size, and they are large enough that you can put them in a hot skillet and they will brown a bit before they overcook. let the shrimp brown, then turn them over.

drain the pasta and add [to the pasta] olive oil, salt, pepper, a handful of chopped basil, and a couple cloves of garlic chopped fine. some red chile flakes are good.

when the shrimp are finished cooking [don’t overcook them], squeeze the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon over them. add chopped olives [i used mild green ones, but you can use whatever kind you prefer], chopped roasted red pepper, and chopped italian, flat leaf parsley.

serve the pasta on the bottom with the rapini, then add the shrimp mixture. garnish with crumbled feta and capers. i’m not a fan of capers, but i used large, wild, salted capers that were not in brine and they were pretty good.

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pasta ricotta

this reminds me of summer pasta. after my cabbage disaster this afternoon, this was culinary redemption.

boil one half pound of penne in salted water. while it’s cooking, mix the following in a bowl: 1 c ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 c half and half, 1-2 cloves of garlic *finely* chopped, 1/4 to 1/2 c grated reggiano, salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg.

when the pasta is done, drain and add to cheese mixture and stir until the cheese starts to thicken a bit and creates a sauce. stir in at least one cup of finely chopped baby spinach and italian, flat leaf parsley. you can add some basil as well, but that’s so predictable! serve with cut fresh tomatoes on top, more reggiano, salt, chile flakes,
and pepper.

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