Archive for the ‘Pasta and Grains’ Category
Okay, first things first—Can I just go ahead and say that my Baracky road ice cream worked? I knew my efforts of trying to finish off the batch with a friend on election night were worth it. Because let me tell you, it is hard work to shovel in spoonful after spoonful of that rich ice cream with some homemade chocolate sauce once the point of fullness has been reached. So yes, if you insist, I will take the credit for why we still have the Obama administration in the White House. Heaven forbid what might have happened if I had made Mitt chocolate chip ice cream instead.
(By the way, isn’t this the nicest photo of the Obamas ever? Sigh, I wish I were a part of that family.)
Anyway! Back to the mundane and exclusively non-political realm of food from now on. We’re in the home-stretch of reaching the holidays, friends, and I could not be more happy about it. These flavors here, the earthy squash and sage, is a reminder to me that home and Thanksgiving are not so far away. Now, I’m not sure if this is one of those flavor combinations that has been so overly circulated and widespread among the general population that, by this point, it bores some of you to tears. Has it? That’s an honest question, because after seeing it here and then here, as well seeing the results on a google search, it seems that butternut squash-sage everything exists.
This is, however, both a very new and very exciting flavors to me. If you’re like me and haven’t the luxury of yawning at this post right now, if nothing else please go out buy butternut squash and roast its rosy-orange flesh with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced sage until the squash is meltingly-tender. You can go through the extra steps, like I did, of quickly sauteeing it with some penne, parmesan, and then top it with some toasted hazelnuts and little fried sage leaves, but I honestly think the majority of the satisfaction of this dish lies in those near-mushy little cubes of squash roasted with sage.
But when finished, this dish has a warmth to it that I don’t think can be explained away by just looking at the individuality of the ingredients. There must be some magic to it, then, when you roast the herby sage with the squash and let it settle into the pasta with some salty parmesan cheese and nutty hazelnuts. If I were to make this again (which I will, because let’s be honest—I have a tupperware full of extra roasted and saged squash that I made once realizing that I my love for these flavors needed to exist beyond dinner last night), I would sautee the squash and pasta together a little longer. I thought I didn’t want the squash to break down completely, but I think I would have liked it a bit mushier. Sounds less appealing, but probably tastes so much better.
One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, loosely packed, divided
12 ounces penne
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
freshly grated parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the squash, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out its seeds. Cube into about 3/4-inch chunks. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet, and then drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mince about half of the sage leaves and then sprinkle that on top, too. Gently toss so that the oil and sage coats the squash cubes as evenly as possible, and then spread it all so it is one even layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the squash is tender and soft, about 30-40 minutes, taking out the pan halfway through to turn over the squash.
Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil, add a few big pinches of salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking liquid.
While both the squash is roasting and the water is boiling, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the rest of the sage leaves and cook until crisp, about one minute, before removing them with a slotted spoon and setting them aside. In the remaining heated oil, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, but not brown. Once soft, add in the pasta, reserved cooking liquid, butternut squash, and pan-fry until the pasta begins to crisp and the squash begins to break down. Grate in some parmesan cheese and add most of the hazelnuts and stir to combine. Serve, topping each plate of pasta with another dose of parmesan, and a sprinkling of the fried sage.
The Wednesday Chef was the first food blog I really got. It was through her site that I learned to recognize the very fine, but distinct, line between simply caring about food in all of its forms and caring about the more important people, places, and memories that inevitably get tangled up in all the food that gets made and eaten and shared throughout a lifetime. Because while there is certainly food out there that deserves attention, food by itself can really only go so far. Food is a means to an end. A beautiful means, mind you, but a means nonetheless. I think I always felt like this, since I really only like cooking and baking for others, but it was Luisa who really articulated it for me.
There’s this letter that F. Scott Fitzgerald sent to a young woman who was hoping to get some feedback on a story she wrote. Fitzgerald let her know that to be able to be a writer, “you have to sell your heart.” He said that the price of admission to that sort of profession is being willing to transfer your emotions “to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.”
Luisa Weiss must have sold her heart to the public (thank you, Luisa, for doing that), because her book, My Berlin Kitchen, is pure beauty in its writing and story. Luisa said something along the lines of how she wrote this book for anyone who has felt perpetual homesickness, being split between opposing worlds with loved ones being on different continents and how to deal with it. Now I’m fortunate to have almost everyone I really love and care about be pretty close near me, but I know the feeling of wanting everyone you love to just get along, and fit together like one big family, even if they don’t and probably won’t ever. I also know the feeling of homesickness, even if I’m home, just because I’m one of those people who live in the past and nostalgically (and unsuccessfully) try to reconcile the moments from those that are gone with what I’m currently living through. And I also know trying to choose what type of path you want to lead in life, and trying to figure out and guess where those different paths might lead you. My life hasn’t followed the same pattern as Luisa Weiss’s has, as narrated by her memoir. But her writing is good, so good, enough to where her heart is lent out to you and every emotion she has, you feel.
Of course, all of these emotions are usually, in some way, tied to food. Luisa has such a way of talking about life and food that makes you want to make every single recipe she shares in the book. That’s just how it goes: the emotions come out, there’s that whole wonderful human feeling, some time or another food follows and we invariably want to get at those feelings again by making that same food. The first recipe I chose to make out of her book may seem pretty homely, and a little unshowy. And guess what, appearances don’t deceive here–it is homely, and unshowy. This is the sort of meal you make for just yourself, when you’re not fortunate enough to have people to share it with. Luisa’s recipe in the book reflects this, as she writes it out to serve just 1. How convenient for my life lately! But you know, it gets the job done, and in probably the best way possible when you’re just trying to feed yourself before getting back to some school readings or papers.
Anyway, go out and enjoy Luisa’s new book if you haven’t already. Because I’m willing to go out on a limb and say if you have any value for love and finding your place in this world, you’ll love Luisa’s new book. If you happen to love food, too, then better yet.
One Year Ago: Risotto with Wild Rice, Butternut Squash, and Mushrooms, and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting (By the way, just recently made these again and replaced the old photos with new ones. In case you’re interested.)
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Capers, Anchovies and Parsley
Adapted slightly from Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen
A couple notes: although Luisa says the anchovy is optional, I would go ahead and say it’s really not. Don’t omit it, please, or you’ll be missing out. Also, instead of smashing the garlic clove and taking it out at the end, you could just cut the garlic into slivers, cook until barely golden, and serve the pasta with it.
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 anchovy filet
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons capers
Bring water to boil in a medium-large saucepan. Just as it gets boiling, add in a few good pinches of salt. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente. Drain, but make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup or so of the starchy pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking, set 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the smashed garlic clove, red pepper flakes and anchovy in a small saucepan over medium heat. Break up the anchovy with a wooden spoon so it dissolves into the heated oil. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crunchy and coated in oil. Remove the smashed garlic clove, add the parsley, and taste for salt.
Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan along with the second tablespoon of oil, the capers, and a spoonful or two of the reserved starchy cooking water, and toss to coat in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Serve, and top with a little more parsley if you’d like.
I’m currently knee-deep in the last stretch of the school year, trying to make it through these next two weeks without losing myself too much for the sake of an essay or presentation. After I get done with my last final, I’ll be heading back to that greatly superior-than-Oregon-state, Washington, to spend the summer in what I still consider “home.” Because of this, I’ve been trying (somewhat in vain) to stop dropping by the grocery store on my daily walk back from my classes to my house and actually trying to use up the reserves of food I have in my fridge and cupboards.
Although the process has been a little bit difficult in terms of having to force myself to stop planning out new recipes that require new masses of ingredients, I’m actually really enjoying it. I’m one of those people (are we a people? I don’t know) who gets immensely pleased when those last 4 strips of bacon that have been sitting in the freezer for probably too long finally get used up, or when the last bits of the dijon mustard get scraped out of the jar to make a vinaigrette. Maybe it’s something of a cathartic thing, using up everything to replace everything with something fresh. I suppose if nothing else, it’s at least a glorified attempt at frugality.
Anyway, this pasta is a pretty little product of this, when I had cauliflower and a hunk of parmesan in the fridge, and a little bag of pine nuts to use up. I didn’t think I would post on this dish, but kind of like this one (which I just made again for dinner tonight!), I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it and wanting to immediately make it again. Even though making it again would require that I go to the store and thus defeat the whole purpose of why I made this pasta in the first place.
Anyway, Bon Appetit, where this recipe comes from, says this is something like a Sicilian version of cauliflower pasta. After blooming the spices in oil for about half a minute, you add the cauliflower, some diced onion and garlic and let that stew in the skillet until the cauliflower becomes nutty and caramelized, completely tender and browned. After it’s tossed with the cooked pasta, you give it a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of toasted pine nuts and parmesan. It’s entirely simple but somehow the flavors completed each other so that it felt that absolutely nothing was missing. That is, of course, everything but a fried egg on top.
Caramelized Cauliflower Pasta with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Lemon
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012
Serves 4 or 5
extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more for taste
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed and cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices and pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces pasta (I used linguine)
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice from half a lemon
2-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, plus more for taste
fried (or poached) eggs, if desired, to top
Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium low heat. Stir in coriander and red pepper flakes to bloom the flavors, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Watch out here, the spiciness of the herbs kind of make the air spicy around the kitchen due to heat, if you know what I’m talking about.) Add diced onion, garlic, and cauliflower pieces and about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook, stirring often, until the cauliflower is tender, sweet and well-browned in places, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Heat a large pot of generously salted water until rapidly boiling. Add pasta and, stirring every once in awhile, cook until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add later to help bind it all together.
Over medium-high heat, add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the cauliflower and toss to combine, adding in reserved pasta water as needed. Cook for about a minute. Off heat, add the lemon juice and zest, and toss to combine. Serve, topping with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of freshly grated parmesan, more pine nuts, and a fried (or poached) egg.
Being home has proved to be a bittersweet excuse for me to recklessly abandon all attempts at cooking. Why cook to feed myself, when the pantry and fridge are full (thank you, mom and dad) and there is that butter and sugar and flour waiting to be baked up into something delicious? It’s in the holiday spirit to bake, after all!
Everyone’s already gotten used to the higher influx of baked goods that circulate every couple days. Last night when my sister, brother and I were watching television my Dad walked in the room and in a hopeful tone asked, “Amy, aren’t there any treats to eat?” It’s became the assumption that there is always something sweet to snack on around here, so when I replied reminding him that there was leftover chocolate hazelnut yule log hidden in the fridge, everything seemed as it should.
But really, I haven’t given up on cooking. My mom passed off the responsibility of Christmas dinner to me this year. Ha, as if it were a responsibility! I received this “responsibility” as easily as I received my Christmas presents. (I should note here that I only had to plan this for 5 of my immediate family members, including myself. There wasn’t much pressure to succeed if it all fell through in the end anyway.) I plotted my menu, and it came to be something like this:
Pot Roast Risotto. More details on this later, obviously.
Braised kale with lemon, onion and red pepper flakes.
Salad with fennel, dried cherries, walnuts and roquefort.
These fresh potato-buttermilk rolls.
And for dessert, a chocolate-hazelnut yule log (also known as buche de noel).
Pretty simple, but everyone liked it and I’d like to think it all went fairly well in the end. From these things I want to share the pot roast risotto though. It’s a fairly straightforward recipe: sear the beef, braise in oven, use braised juices to feed the risotto. This concept of using the leftover braised liquid to flavor the risotto comes from Tyler Florence, and I think it’s pretty neat. It resulted in a really flavorful risotto and a pretty presentation with all the meat piled on top of a big heap of risotto (please forgive the photography that does little to show off the dish). As most all pot roasts are, the meat was tender and fell off the bone as we dug our forks however barbarically into the serving dish itself to grab at pieces of meat.
While this little stint at Christmas dinner got me in the mood in to cook, I’m afraid I’ve already begun retreating into that little comfortable cove of the oven with baking sweet treats. I blame you, wintertime and the holiday season.
Pot Roast Risotto
Adapted from Tyler Florence, here
Serves about six
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 lb beef shoulder (I actually used a ribeye cut, because it was on sale. A lot of different cuts work, though.)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 large onions, sliced roughly
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup red wine
1-2 quarts beef stock (depending on how large your dutch oven is)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
8 cups pot-roast braising stock, strained, skimmed and heated
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
To start with the pot roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the pot roast and season liberally all over with salt and pepper. You can’t really over-do this when it comes to this. Meanwhile, heat three or four tablespoons of olive oil over moderately high heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a cover. When the oil is hot enough that it shimmers (and maybe even smokes), add the meat in the pot. Sear each side for about one or two minutes, making sure to sear the sides as well. The meat should get a nice crust and even, dark color. Once seared, add the garlic, chopped onions, thyme sprigs. Then pour in the red wine and stock, adding in the beef stock until liquid comes up to about half the height of the meat (this depends on how large your pot is).
Cover the pot tightly and place in the preheated oven. Cook for about 3 hours until the beef is fork tender, while making sure to bast the meat every thirty minutes or so with the pan juices and stock. Set the meat aside and take out the vegetables and thyme. Strain the braising liquid and skim the fat. This stock will be used to make the risotto, and if the fat isn’t skimmed out, the risotto will be heavier and greasier than it should. The stock should be kept warm on low heat throughout the process of making the risotto.
To prepare the risotto, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or so of butter in a large, deep skillet (12-inches is best) set over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rice, making sure to coat all the grains with the oil. Add the white wine and thyme leaves and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. At this point, ladle in 1 cup of the prepared, hot braising stock. Using a wooden spoon, stir the rice constantly until most of the stock has been absorbed. Keep adding stock, one cup at a time, as the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, making sure to consistently stir the rice. After about 10 to 15 minutes of this process, test the rice. It should be cooked and creamy but still be slightly al dente (you may not need all of the stock). Season with salt and pepper and then stir in about two tablespoons of butter and the grated parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning then remove from heat and cover. Serve the dish with the pot roast placed on top of the risotto and sprinkled with parsley. Extra pan juices can be served over the roast and risotto, if desired.