Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Unrecipe of the Week: Cacio e Pepe

March 24, 2016

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Just like in fashion, some foods suddenly take on a life of their own, as every menu, magazine and blog seems to be gushing over the same dish. Lately, that dish is Cacio e Pepe.

Translating from Italian, “cacio e pepe” means cheese and pepper. It is just a slight upgrade from the children’s plate of pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, but the simplicity of the dish, and the purity of the ingredients make it one that you will go back to again and again.

The preparation varies from recipe to recipe, but all agree on the ingredients: pasta, some of the water in which it was cooked, Parmesan, Romano, and or Pecorino Cheese, butter, and of course, pepper.  You really can’t go wrong here.

Cacio e Pepe:
Cook pasta a minute or two less than stated in the directions, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.

In a large pan, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, and add a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper, swirling until the pepper is “toasted.”
Put the drained pasta into the pan, and add about a cup or more of the grated cheese, ( you can use all of one kind or mix the Pecorino with the Parmesan) and another tablespoon of butter, and toss until the pasta is coated. Slowly add some of the pasta cooking water, while continuing to mix and toss the pasta, until a smoother consistency is reached. You will likely only need 1/2 of the water. Place in a bowl and enjoy!!

Photo: Bon Appetite

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Sauce It Up

March 15, 2016

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I used to wonder how restaurants got their pasta dishes so hot. It seemed that the act of draining the pasta and pouring the hot sauce over it didn’t yield me a dish as piping hot as those I got when dining out.

The secret? Instead of putting the sauce on the pasta, put the pasta into the sauce!
Cook the pasta according to directions, removing it about a minute earlier than the stated cook time. Add the drained pasta to a warm pan, add the sauce, and swirl it together until the pasta is fully coated, and heated through. If the mixture seems a bit thick, add a little of the pasta cooking water to the pan to make the sauce smoother. Pour the entire contents of the pan into your bowl and enjoy it while its hot!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Speedy Pasta Cooking

February 2, 2016

 

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Sometimes, waiting for a big pot of water to boil for pasta takes as long as making the whole dinner itself. If you are the impatient type, have no fear. Simply swap that huge pasta pot out for something a bit shallower, like a saute pan.

Heat the salted water in the pan, add the pasta, and stir. Because it is a smaller vessel, the water comes to a boil more quickly than a larger pot.

Long pastas, like spaghetti or fettuccini work especially well this way, as they can lay flat in the pan for cooking. Try to avoid putting crowding the pot…dumping a whole box of penne in will result in sticky pasta.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Gnocchi

December 28, 2015

We were so excited to receive the Gjelina cookbook for Christmas this year. It is filled with simple, delicious vegetable and grain-centric recipes from acclaimed chef, Travis Lett.

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We tried the ricotta gnocchi tonight, and it was recieved with rave reviews. Like any dough recipe, this requires using your sense of what the dough should feel like, vs. a hard and fast recipe to follow to a tee. The result was light, pillowy gnocchi that we devoured with nothing more than a pool of pomodoro sauce and some Parmesan cheese. The best news: it didn’t take much more than 30 minutes to create. Go ahead and give it try…we’ll guide you through the process.

Ricotta Gnocchi adapted from Gjelina:
Spread about 1/2 cup of flour onto the counter in a circular shape. Top with 1 pound of strained ricotta cheese. ( we used part skim from the grocery store.) and then top that with another 1/2 cup of flour. Sprinkle it with a pinch each of salt and ground nutmeg.

Using your fingertips, lightly mix the flour and ricotta and gather it into a mound with a well in the center. Add 3/4 to one whole egg,which has been lightly beaten into the well, and combine it with a fork until it is roughly held together. Using a bench scraper, gently fold the dough repeatedly until it has come together into a ragged mass. Sprinkle it with small amounts of flour and delicately knead the dough, adding more flour as you go until it comes together into a ball. Delicate is the operative word here, and the more assertively the dough is handled, the more the gluten will develop and make your gnocchi tough, or gummy in texture. Handle the dough as little and as gently as possible to attain the results outlined above.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit about 20 minutes.

Cover the surface with flour and gently shape the dough into a large disk about 1″ thick. Cut the disk into strips.  Take each strip and roll it into a log about 1/2″ in diameter. With a knife, cut each strip into 1″ segments, and press the tines of a fork into one side of each piece. Don’t flatten them with the fork, just create an impression. Place the pieces of gnocchi on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with flour until ready to use.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Place the gnocchi into the pot and cook for about 2 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss them in the sauce of your choice. Keep sauces on the lighter side, so you don’t overpower the gnocchi. We recommend a simple pomodoro sauce, or even butter and sage or basil and Parmesan cheese. Serve while hot and enjoy!!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Sticky Pasta

August 25, 2015

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Friends should stick together. Family should stick together. Pasta, on the other hand, should never stick together.
Why do we sometimes get lumps of pasta when other times the noodles slip apart with ease? The answer is not what you might think.

Contrary to popular belief, adding oil to the water is not the solution. Sometimes, we all need a little space. The size of the pot, and the amount of water is the secret to cooking pasta well.

Pasta releases starch when it hits the water, and can absorb nearly double its dry weight in water as it cooks. Not using a big enough pot crowds the noodles, causing them to stick together during cooking. Less water means more starch in the water, and ultimately, gluey pasta.

The solution? Use 5 quarts of water for every pound of pasta. Add a little salt, and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and give it a stir. Continue cooking at a full boil until the pasta is al dente, or cooked, yet firm to the bite. Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse it.

The ultimate finish is to add the pasta to the sauce for the last minute or so of cooking. This allows it to absorb the sauce, get perfectly coated, and hit the table piping hot.

And why not add oil to the cooking water to keep the noodles slippery and separated? They will become a little too slippery and the sauce will not adhere to the pasta properly. Even if you are serving the pasta with oil, add it at the end. It really does make a difference.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Fresh Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

June 1, 2015

Isn’t it funny how once the weather changes, my palatte changes with it? I suddenly can’t get enough tomatoes, corn, basil and zucchini. My spiralizer becomes my best friend, allowing me to morph a zucchini into noodles with the quick turn of a handle. Two minutes in a pan and I have a tasty base that gets me past my pasta craving most days. Except yesterday.

Home Made Pasta

Home Made Pasta

I made homemade fettuccine in the late afternoon, and tucked it away until dinner time. The dough gave me a run for my money…it was too dry, so I added a little olive oil and water and kneaded it into submission. When I started to put it through the pasta machine (the old fashioned hand crank type is all I use,) I felt like something magical had happened. The dough reacted perfectly, and didn’t require untangling or adding flour to prevent the cut pasta from sticking together. After 2 or 3 minutes in boiling salty water, I had a big bowl of the lightest, most delicate fettuccine I had ever made. It easily held its own against the fresh pastas I have had in fine restaurants here or in Italy. I had to give in and taste it.

Don’t let people trick you into believing that fresh pasta is always superior to the dried varieties. Fresh pasta is more delicate, and takes to simpler, oil based sauces. The dried types do the heavy lifting, and should be used for tomato sauces, especially those with meat, which could overpower many freshly made pastas. I tossed ours in a garlic and basil puree with lots of parmesan cheese and topped it off with my latest obsession, oven roasted cherry tomatoes. They become so sweet they are like eating candy.

This dinner is so simple to make that you can prepare the components and go sit around and relax until dinner time. At least that is what I did.

If you can’t get fresh pasta (many stores carry it in the refrigerator case ) and don’t feel like making your own, it will still be good with the boxed kind. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to shave your zucchinni into ribbons. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender, or buy a bottle of pesto sauce. The beauty of an unrecipe is keeping it simple and making it your own. Do roast the tomatoes though. Its totally worth the minimal effort.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

For the tomatoes:

Rinse and dry a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes.  Toss them in a little olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper, and spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until they are starting to caramelize, but not burnt or dehydrated. Turn the pan about half way through and give it a shake to ensure more even cooking. You can also sprinkle some dried or fresh herbs, such as basil or oregano on them before roasting.

For the basil oil: 

Place the leaves of one bunch of basil and a clove or two of garlic into the food processor, and process until finely minced. (Traditional pesto has pine nuts in it. If you would like to use nuts, add them now and mince thoroughly.)Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube with the machine running, until it forms a loose paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that lays right on the surface of the food to avoid it turning brown. (* Traditional pesto has the parmesan integrated into the sauce. You can add it now if you prefer. I like the consistency of the basil puree without the cheese for this purpose, but it is your choice. If using jarred pesto, it will already be in there.)

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

For the zucchini:
Saute the zucchini noodles in a little olive oil until starting to soften, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the pureed basil oil and mix well. If it is a little thick, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water to thin it down.

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

To assemble:
Cook the pasta according to directions, or about 2-3 minutes if homemade, and drain.

Place the pasta in a bowl. Spoon the zucchini on top, and sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. Place the oven roasted tomatoes on top, and enjoy!!!

Pasta photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Starch We Can’t Resist

May 20, 2015
Vermicelli nests

Vermicelli nests

I tend to avoid refined carbs as much as possible. It’s not easy. Especially when I love pasta, potatoes, bread and dessert. The hard cold reality is that those foods don’t love me back. Everytime I indulge a little, the dial on the scale goes up, and a little spare tire instantly appears around my midsection.

When I read an article in Prevention about resistant starches, I admit I got a bit excited.

Resistant starches have the chemical structure of starch, but act like fiber, in that they pass through our colon undigested. Our bodies can’t convert them to energy, so they become calorie free. Resistant starches are naturally found in many foods, including lentils, black beans, green peas, oats, and barley. Research has found that resistant starch enriched foods were responsible for an 8%-45% reduction in fat in an animal test group. Most of the fat loss came from visceral fat, or the dangerous fat that surrounds the internal organs. A human study revealed increased fat burning of 20%-25% when resistant starches were consumed.They have also been linked to lowering blood sugar, helping digestion, and reducing appetite.

Roseval potatoes

Roseval potatoes

The catch? How you prepare the foods, effects the levels of resistant starches. Cooking, and then cooling potatoes or rice, for example, has been shown to increase the levels of resistant starch, where allowing a green banana to ripen, decreases the benefits.

While there is not enough research yet to prove its effects, it could be the next big thing in weight management.

Head over to Authority Nutrition for more detailed information.

Related article: Like White on Rice

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Lemon Basil Pasta

January 26, 2015

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This lemony pasta is perfect on its own, or as a side dish for fish or chicken. We served it last night with sauteed shrimp, and a tomato, arugula and burratta salad. It’s easy enough to whip up at a moment’s notice, and the sauce can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until needed.

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Lemon Basil Pasta:

Whisk together the juice of 3 lemons and about 2/3 cup of olive oil.

Cook pasta reserving a little of the cooking liquid. We prefer a short pasta like rigatoni or calamaretti but any shape will do.

Toss pasta with the lemon dressing, about 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese and a couple of handfuls of chopped basil leaves. If the mixture seems dry, add a little of the pasta water to moisten.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Pasta With Seafood + Marinara Sauce

April 3, 2014

This is a perfect unrecipe for those of us lucky enough to live near a place to get the freshest seafood, pasta made daily, and even a homemade marinara sauce in a jar. For me, it’s a quick trip to Chelsea Market.

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I purchase freshly caught Atlantic shrimp and scallops at The Lobster Place, one of New York’s very best fish markets. I sear them with very little seasoning, as the marinara sauce from Buon Italia is full of diced garlic, rich red tomatoes, and slick with olive oil, which coats Rana’s homemade pasta beautifully.

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Sure, this can be done with commercially jarred marinara sauce, and dried pasta with acceptable results. For a few extra minutes

(ok, maybe 15 extra minutes,) you can create the sauce yourself. It’s that simple. It’s that easy. It’s that good.

Shrimp and Scallops in a Spicy Marinara Sauce Over Pasta:

Clean and devein shrimp, rinse scallops and pat dry. It is important to get as much moisture off of the seafood so it sears and browns.( I figure about 1/2 pound of seafood per person )

White garlic from Lomagne

Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté 3 or 4 cloves of diced garlic until soft. Place the seafood in a single layer in the pan so that each piece touches the hot surface. Don’t over crowd the pan. If necessary, do this in batches. Flip it and sear the other side. This should only take a few minutes.

This is our homemake pasta from a previous post.

This is our homemake pasta from a previous post.

Add a can or box* of diced San Marzano tomatoes and a liberal dose of salt. Add a little red pepper and lay a leaf or two of fresh basil across the top of the mixture. The leaves will wilt into the sauce naturally. Heat until the sauce starts to bubble, stirring to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook briefly, and serve over pasta.  Enjoy!

*canned tomatoes are a good news/ bad news item. They are healthier, due to the higher levels of lycopine than fresh tomatoes, but their acidity makes the chemicals in the can even more harmful. Whole Foods carries San Marzano tomatoes in tetra pack boxes, which is a much healthier alternative. If you can’t find them, you can use Pomi brand, which has always come in boxes.

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Peas Please

July 8, 2013

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It’s pea season, and the farmer’s markets are brimming over with shell peas. Pop the pods open and roll out the tiny green peas nestled inside. Each pod only contains a few, so if you are thinking about peas for a crowd, invite someone else to join in the task.

Lots of pods...

Lots of pods…

There are lots of reasons to eat your peas. They are high in protein, vitamin C, fiber and other healthy micronutrients and antioxidants.

Once extracted, the peas can be eaten raw, boiled for 20-30 seconds just to soften them slightly, or quickly sautéed. They are great as a side dish, with just a little butter and salt, or tossed into a salad. Peas are versatile, and can be used in pastas with a creamy or lemony sauce, or pureed into soups, and spreads. Add them to risotto, or grind them into pesto. There isn’t much these little green wonders won’t work with.

Not so many peas...

Not so many peas…

Feel free to share your favorite pea recipes in the comment section!

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