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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

If I keep waiting to share this recipe it will be full-on winter and then what is the point of talking about Fall Sage Pesto?  The problem is that there is no recipe.  I found this pesto in an Ina Garten cookbook.  But since then I’ve packed up and moved twice and now many of my recipes are somewhere between here and Ecuador … or the Runyan’s garage.  It’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll give you a pitiful attempt at my recollection of what this entailed and see where you go with it.  It was pesto so it involved herbs, nuts, olive oil and parmesan blended.  The herbs consisted largely of sage and rosemary and I’m pretty sure it used walnuts.  There.  There’s your recipe.

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But if I haven’t given you enough help to try your own pesto experiment, I figure this is a great opportunity to remind you of the BEST GNOCCHI RECIPE.  It uses sweet potatoes instead of the regular little guys and in doing so creates a lot of extra flavor without tasting overly sweet, which is often my sweet potato complaint.

Not to dissuade you, but gnocchi is one of the easiest pastas to mess up.  If you handle it too much or add just a bit too much flour it will turn totally gummy and feel like glue when it hits your stomach.  Because it’s easy to mess up, there is a lot of bad gnocchi out there.  I’m convinced that this is why more people don’t love gnocchi.  They’ve only ever been served bad stuff and now don’t care to try gnocchi again.  I was fortunate to try the most delicate and meltingly delicious puddles the first time and have thus ordered many a gnocchi hoping to find that perfection again.  This means that even though this recipe uses precise measurements, you shouldn’t.  Your goal is to get a workable dough with as little flour, handholding, and cursing (just kidding, but it is time consuming and sticky at times) as possible.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Originally from allrecipes.com
Serves 4

2 (8 ounce) sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.  (I do the quick version by pricking the potatoes and cooking them in the microwave til soft – about 10 minutes.)
Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Drop the pieces into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with butter or cream sauce.

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Spring Shells and Cheese

Because Nate put this recipe together, he deserves the credit for it.  So on top of making Sunday lunch, I asked him to do another not-favorite thing: guest blog about it.

He Said …

I love mac and cheese, but Kelley hates to make the stuff.  How can you hate noodles and cheese?  She doesn’t mind eating it, but for whatever reason distastes putting the deliciousness together.  So this recipe was put on the magnetic clip that is attached to the can of mushrooms that sits on our kitchen window sill that Kelley uses as a recipe holder as she cooks.  As she left for church (we can’t always both go to church due to Quino’s naps) Kelley said, “You’re on the hook for this one.”

As I got the ingredients out and put them on the counter (when I cook all the ingredients come out before the cooking starts) I noticed I didn’t have bay leaves or fresh thyme.  So they didn’t make it into the recipe.

Though I like to help Kel cook, I don’t like to run the show in the kitchen.  I get stressed.  This was no exception, though it went smoother than usual.  Probably because I knew that I would get delicious mac and cheese at the end of the process.

The recipe asked for lemon zest… um… that doesn’t go in mac and cheese.  The recipe asked for zucchini…um… that doesn’t belong in mac and cheese either.  The recipe asked for spinach…yep…not really mac and cheese tradition.  But don’t throw the recipe out yet.  Turns out these things can go in my boyhood favorite without completely destroying my memories.  I probably wouldn’t put the lemon in next time, but it didn’t ruin the meal.

The whole thing couldn’t have been too bad since the recipe made it through Kelley’s chopping block to the recipe binder.  We may actually get to eat this recipe again.  As long as I am willing to make it.

She said …

I do hate making mac’n’cheese.  It bores me.  It also bores me to eat it once a week, which we would do if Nate was in charge of the world.  A recipe like this is a nice compromise in that Nate gets his mac’n’cheese and I get a sense of variety and newness.  But he’s wrong about the lemon zest.  It doesn’t deserve to be left out.  It’s what helps make this unique, bright flavored mac.  (Oh and for the record we do have bay leaves and thyme but these are things that only the head chef is aware of.)

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Spring Shells and Cheese
Originally from foodnetwork.com
Time: 1 hr 15 min, Servings: 6-8

2 pounds medium zucchini
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 pound medium pasta shells
4 shallots, minced
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 ounces baby spinach

Grate the zucchini into a colander using the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1 tablespoon salt, then place in the sink to drain, about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste and mix with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste puffs slightly, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, then add the thyme, bay leaves and lemon zest and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 25 minutes. Strain into a bowl; discard the herbs.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini mixture to the pasta along with the egg yolks and all but 3 tablespoons of both cheeses; stir to combine, then add the spinach.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the reserved cheeses. Bake until browned on top and heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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I know you’ve probably seen a few salads similar to this on my site.  It’s not the first time I’ve combined shrimp and salad, shrimp and orzo, or orzo and salad.  (Whether I ever remembered to post these recipes on the blog is altogether different so I guess it’s possible you’ve seen far fewer of these combinations than I have.)  Clearly I’m attracted to this basic mash-up.

So when the thermometer goes above 80 degrees and trolling for new dinner ideas, a refreshing salad for dinner just screams, “Make me!”  And this one passed the muster of “different enough from what we had recently …” because of those beautiful, fuschia radish wedges.  Radishes are not a part of my regular vegetable line-up.  I guess mostly because I forget about them.  But every once in a while that peppery kick wrapped in such a pretty-colored package calls to me.  Cut off the tips, a sprinkle of kosher salt and mmmh I’m good to go.

Radishes don’t work this way for my husband, but I’ll tell you what does.  Olives.  Kalamata olives.  Or any olive other than the plain black ones.  Olives always find their way off of my cutting board and into his mouth before they reach the salad.

This salad has nice flavor, it’s not overly complicated to make, and it’s filling enough without being carb top-heavy.  And if you ignore the demand for boatloads of olive oil and about twice as much dressing as you really need, it’s actually quite healthy.

Spinach-Orzo Salad with Shrimp
Originally from foodnetwork.com
Serves 4

Kosher salt
1/2 cup orzo
4 cups spinach, thinly sliced
10 medium radishes, quartered
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/4 cup pitted oil-cured olives, chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the broiler. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and shake dry.

Meanwhile, toss the spinach, radishes, cucumber, onion, olives, mint, parsley and 1/3 cup each lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the orzo and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons each lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. Arrange on a foil-lined broiler pan and broil until slightly pink, 1 to 2 minutes. (I added a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly ground lemon pepper to mine.)  Turn and broil until just cooked through, 2 to 3 more minutes.

Divide the salad among plates. Top with the shrimp, sprinkle with the feta and season with pepper.

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About a month ago I made the WORST RISOTTO EVER.  I did something I rarely do and believed someone when they said a recipe was just as good as the original when done in the slow-cooker.  I was skeptical, but thought this could be a great time-saver.  So one Sunday morning I pulled the crockpot out and left it to work its risotto magic while I went off to church.  The result was that I served up saffron and white wine GLUE to a friend.

I was left both with a sense of disappointment and a taste for good risotto.  Fortunately I had this little gem of a recipe flagged and all of the ingredients on hand.  It’s perfect comfort food, hitting your stomach all warm and creamy.  It’s also perfectly decadent without leaving greatnutritional value behind.  It’s rich in butter and lycopene, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.  And flavor.  Yes, it’s definitely rich in flavor.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Found at smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Serves 4

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).

Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

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Happy Thanksgiving!  (And a non-Thanksgiving dish for you …)

I’m in love with orecchiette.  Something about then looks so much more elegant and enticing than say elbow macaroni or mostaccioli.  It’s possible that I choose recipes just for their inclusion of this sweet little ear-shaped pasta.  I don’t know why I do this, though, because I have NEVER once found orecchiette at any of my grocery stores.  They are simply nonexistent.  There is cavatelli, shells, linguine, fettucine, and angel hair.  And even sometimes campanelle, which is what I substituted with in this case, but never my beloved orecchiette.  Oh I know they exist.  They exist at those little, kitschy gourmet food stores for $8/lb. but I’ve got principles that keep me from that ludicrousness.    And so I pick recipes for their cute little orecchiette and end up with pasta made from campanelle.

I’d give this recipe mixed reviews.  I liked that it highlights some lesser-used ingredients for pasta.  It’s got all the elements needed to pack some major flavor punch.  And yet it just didn’t quite get there.  I expected an explosion of flavors in my mouth and what I got was good pasta instead of great pasta.  I don’t think this recipe is dead, though, so if it appeals to you I’d encourage you to play around.

I think if I tried it again I’d do two things differently.  First, I would not mince the shallots.  I’d keep them in long stringy strips and sauté them until thoroughly caramelized.  (I don’t even eat onions, but I love the flavor enhancement that they give and know that many others consider them a real treat.)  Second, I would greatly enhance the lemon flavor.  Adding some lemon zest to the cream sauce and then upping the amount of fresh lemon juice at the end.

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and Brown-Butter Pecans
From Fine Cooking 102, pp. 107
Serves 4-6

Kosher salt
20 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed (4 cups)
3-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. dried orecchiette
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 large shallots, minced (3/4 cup)
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled (1 cup)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, set a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

In a food processor fitted with the medium (4 mm) slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts. Transfer them to a large bowl, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with 1-1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, and toss until well coated. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the Brussels sprouts on it in a single layer. Roast, stirring once about halfway through the cooking time, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and flecked with charred bits, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette according to package directions until just al dente.

In a medium heavy-duty skillet, melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter is deeply browned and the pecans are toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, add 3 oz. (3/4 cup) of the Gorgonzola and stir until melted.

Drain the orecchiette and return it to the pot. Add the Brussels sprouts, Gorgonzola sauce, and lemon juice and toss well. Serve, sprinkled with the pecans and the remaining Gorgonzola.

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Oh deary me.  You’re probably thinking “Risotto?  In July?”  Well, maybe you aren’t.  I certainly wasn’t.  But I should have been.  Why did I not think about what making good risotto entails?  Thirty minutes of almost constant stirring, folding and scraping over a hot pot in order to bring out the starchy goodness.  The hot pot located right next to a boiling pot of chicken broth.  Shee boy!  I was one hot girl with a really red face.

But, as it turns out, risotto in July is totally worth it … when it’s as good as this one was.  The Arborio was perfectly creamy and delicious.  The corn gave this a needed textural crunch.  And the wine, leeks, arugula, and sausage were beautiful, complex flavor enhancers.  But let’s go back to that risotto in July story because the heat wave over the stove isn’t the only thing to consider.  The other thing to consider is that this risotto is a total comfort food; warm and heavy in your stomach.  So you gotta decide if you’re ready for that on a warm, July night.  I say bring on the bowl and fork!

Risotto with Corn, Spicy Sausage, and Arugula
Adapted from Fine Cooking 100, p. 37

Serves four to six as a main course.

6 cups lower-salt chicken broth; more as needed
2 c. fresh or frozen corn
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 packed cups trimmed arugula
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium leek (white and light-green parts only), finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 lb. hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed and broken into chunks
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano; more for serving
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot. Put corn in microwave for 3 minutes or until tender crisp.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large, heavy saucepan or medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the arugula and toss with tongs until wilted, about 1 minute. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer the arugula to a cutting board, let it cool slightly, and then coarsely chop it. Wipe the pan clean.

Melt the butter in the cleaned pan over medium heat. Add the leek and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it apart with a fork or spoon into crumbles, and cook until no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with fat and the edges become translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir until it’s absorbed, about 30 seconds.

Ladle enough of the hot broth into the pan to barely cover the rice, about 1-1/2 cups. Bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue adding broth in 1/2-cup increments, stirring occasionally and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next.

After about 20 minutes, the rice should be just cooked but still fairly firm. At this point, add the whole corn kernels, chopped arugula, and another 1/2 cup broth. Continue to simmer and stir until the corn is warmed through and the rice is just tender to the tooth, an additional 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in another splash of broth if the risotto seems too thick. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season withsalt and pepper to taste. Serve the risotto immediately with a sprinkling of cheese and parsley, if using.

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