Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Old Bay Shrimp Pasta

Old-Bay-shrimp pasta

I have a new book called The Flavor Bible.  It is very cool — it is an index of ingredients, cross-referenced with complementary ingredients.  For example, if you were to look up “Cabbage”, you will get a list like this:

apples and apple cider
BACON
bay leaf
beef
bell peppers, red
butter, unsalted
CARAWAY SEEDS
carrots

celery: leaves, salt, seeds
Champagne
cheese: cheddar, feta, goat, Parmesan, Swiss, Taleggio, Teleme
chestnuts
(etc.)

The flavor pairings are ranked by how many chefs and food experts mentioned the pairing.  Capital letters with an asterisk (*) are the “holy grail” pairings, like mint and lamb or white chocolate and raspberries. Capital letters are very strong, familiar pairings.  Bolded are well accepted pairings, and the rest were mentioned by one or more experts.  The book also supplies flavor affinities — several ingredients often used together such as mustard + shallots + oil + vinegar — and combinations to avoid, such as coffee and lavender.

I haven’t yet used the book as a reference for my improvisations, though I did use the principle.  I was staring at some great looking shrimp and wondering what to do with them that I hadn’t tried before.  The only thing I could think of, however, was Old Bay seasoning, since regardless of how I decide to cook shrimp, my dear husband always douses them with Old Bay anyway.  Rather than fight his system, I embraced it.

I decided to use the cooking method for my salt-and-pepper shrimp and replace Chinese 5-spice with Old Bay, and the chiles, garlic and ginger with, um, more garlic.  Then I used the same pan to make a shallot and white wine sauce  The result was fantastic.  A little spicy, but rich and buttery too.  As it happens, when I looked up shrimp in the Flavor Bible, Old Bay seasoning appeared in bold letters.  Definitely some wisdom in the new tome!

Old Bay Shrimp Pasta for 2

3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1-2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (to taste)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. spaghetti-like pasta
Butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 shallot, chopped fine or sliced thinly
1 Tbs. flour
3/4 c. white wine
chicken broth (optional)
1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbs. chopped parsley

Put a pot of water to boil on the stove. In a small saucepan, bring oil and garlic up to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Set aside.

Old-Bay-garlic-oil

Dry the shrimp on paper towels. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cornstarch and Old Bay. In a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbs. of the garlic-infused oil, reserving the garlic solids.  Toss shrimp in the Old Bay mixture to coat. Immediately place the shrimp in the oil, one by one. Cook shrimp until brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then flip to brown the second side (about a minute). Remove shrimp to a pan or bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Old-bay-shrimp

Add pasta to boiling water. In the same pan used for the shrimp, add a tablespoon of butter and let melt over medium heat. Then, add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and stir over heat for about a minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Let boil until reduced and slightly thickened — should be pourable but also thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you don’t seem to have enough sauce to coat the pasta, add in a half cup of chicken stock and let boil for a minute or so until proper consistency is regained. Swirl in butter to your taste.

Old-bay-sauce

Add cooked pasta to sauce in the pan, and toss to coat. Add shrimp and sprinkle with parsley and squeeze of lemon juice. Plate and serve.  Delicious!

October 23, 2009 at 9:56 am 5 comments

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta

Duck Lasagna

The final recipe I tested for my Cookbook Challenge review of the Sweet Basil Cookbook was Duck Lasagna Strapazatta.  I picture many readers saying to themselves: “Duck – check.  Lasagna – check.  Strapa-wha?”  In general, I try not to go into long, pedantic descriptions of certain foods, as both the well-informed and the uninterested among us might yawn at a recounting of the conflicts over the definitive elements of cassoulet or the supposed aphrodisiacal properties of oysters. Yet strapazatta is not a term you come across frequently, and even my Google searches neglected to produce a consensus on the definition.

From what I gather, strapazatta literally translates to “bungled” in Italian and is used in cooking to refer to ‘free-form’ dishes.  I am copying the spelling directly from the cookbook, though online another recipe title often pops up: uova strapazzate, or scrambled eggs.  It seems likely that strapazatta is an Americanization of the word strapazzate and that the general concept is a stirred-up, rustic preparation — here, of lasagna (also known as lasagne: further proof of my theory).

So much for avoiding long-winded explanations…  To keep the rest brief: I liked this, I didn’t love it.  I think the best translation based on what I put on the table was the first: “bungled”.  The port made the sauce quite sweet, and it neglected the strong savory component (oregano? more fontina?) to counter it.  In addition, the noodles refused to cooperate — the short lasagna pieces didn’t separate well and I ended up having to place them in the dish in rows, much as I would have with whole lasagna noodles.  The texture was phenomenal, however, with the pleasing contrast of rough shredded duck, sheets of smooth pasta, and crusty cheese topping.  If I hadn’t been following the recipe so closely, for the purposes of a proper review of the cookbook, I might have thinned out the sauce with some beef stock and added a couple of savory herbs to finish.  All told, however, the ragu had real merit as a concept — it just needed a few tweaks and a different pasta to top.

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta, from the Sweet Basil Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4 to 6)

4 duck confit legs

mirepoix2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 Spanish onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
10 white mushrooms, quartered (about 2 cups)
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
1 Tbs. dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups port wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red sauce (use your favorite marinara sauce or follow the recipe below)

Fresh pasta sheets, cut into 3-inch wide strips
2 cups grated fontina cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Saute the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, until the ingredients begin to brown. Add the garlic and the white and portobello mushrooms. Continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, until the ingredients begin to caramelize. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, port, bay leaf, and sage. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the Worcestershire sauce and the red sauce. Decrease the heat and allow the sauce to stew for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the flavors have had a chance to get acquainted. Stir the duck in with the sauce and remove from the heat.

Duck_RaguMeanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta, stirring it to keep from sticking. Cook for 1 minute, or until al dente [I used no-boil lasagna noodles and 2 minutes of boiling softened them up, though I would recommend serving this over penne rigate or rigatoni or even pappardelle — adjust cook time accodingly]. Drain thoroughly.

Duck_pastaStir the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large casserole dish, sprinkle with the fontina, and bake in the oven [at 350 degrees] until the cheese is bubbling. Serve garnished with parsley.

P.S. — the cookbook also suggests that subbing in sliced eggplant for the duck would make a lovely vegetarian version.

duck lasagna

July 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm 2 comments

Best Ever Chicken Scallopine

Scallopine

It seems I am not the only one lax in my blogging duties.  Some of my favorite sites are on indefinite breaks.  Granted, I don’t have a truly good excuse, as I am not in the middle of opening my own restaurant, mourning the loss of my pet, or recovering from a difficult break-up.  I’m more in the same league with Katie of Chaos in the Kitchen, who just wants to hang out with her kids, since my reason is that I’m pouty about not having my own kitchen.  This, however, is all about to change!  Starting July 6th, my table — of “From My Table to Yours” fame — will be relocated to Beacon Hill in Boston, MA.  From those heights overlooking the historic city, the dirty river Charles, and the ivory towers of Cambridge, I hope to bring my cooking to a whole new level.  Think: exotic cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen, game meats from Savenor’s, and guess what — a Whole Foods only a couple blocks from my front door!  If I can just manage to keep my graduate student homework to a minimum, I can really get something accomplished here!

So, unlike my compatriots listed above I am not on a break from posting, I simply need another week to gather myself together and get back into the swing of things.  To tide you over, I have a great recipe to share though I do need to make a confession.  While my Cookbook Challenge was conceived with the absolute best intentions, I always suspected it might come back to bite me in the arse.  The mission was to work my way through the massive collection of cookbooks I own so that I could at least say that I had tried several recipes from each one (and thus justify their purchase).  Yet deep down I knew that I had a dark secret — I buy books faster than I can cook from them.  Since the start of the challenge at the end of April, I have added five cookbooks to my collection, or seven if you count Ratio and The Flavor Bible in the count!  No matter — I won’t let my own weakness for shiny hardcovers and glossy photographs lessen my dedication to (or enjoyment of) the Sisyphean task of the Cookbook Challenge!

Next up: Sweet Basil by David Becker.  This book is particularly close to my heart since the restaurant Sweet Basil is located in my hometown of Needham, MA and is a favorite of mine.  Inside the small establishment, corrugated tin walls flank an open kitchen from which steam clouds billow and giant white bowls of pasta emerge.  Outside, crowds gather to await their tables, each couple sharing the burden of a mysterious brown paper bag.  Those in the know, of course, are aware that the bags contain wine and beer, since part of the charm of Sweet Basil is their BYOB policy.  And as Dave Becker confesses in the book, he’s seen wine harvested during the Reagan administration sitting on one table, with Schlitz in a can holding court at the adjacent one.  It’s just that kind of place.

What I loved most about this first recipe is that it came out tasting just like it does at the restaurant.  The characteristic flavors of bright lemon juice, pungent garlic and, yes, sweet basil, were all present and accounted for.  Each bite came alive in my mouth – and each tastebud was singing in chorus: salt! sweet! sour! umami!  (it’s true – it’s from the parmesan cheese).  I would not call this recipe the “Best” unless it really was extremely good and the best I’ve tasted.  Please make this.  Go.  Now.  Cook!  Or if you don’t cook, get yourself over to Sweet Basil on Great Plain Ave in Needham.

Chicken Scallopini with Lemon, Capers, and Tomatoes, from Sweet Basil the Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(Serves 4)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
All-purpose flour
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (about 1/2 cup – don’t skimp too much!)
1/2 c. white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
2 c. chicken stock
2 plum tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. salted capers, rinsed (I used the capers in brine)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Cooked angel hair pasta for serving

scallopine-chickenPlace the chicken breasts, two at a time, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap [or in a gallon-size Ziploc bag]. Use the smooth side of a meat mallet [or a rolling pin] to pound them to about 1/2 inch thickness. Arrange the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the chicken with a pinch each of salt and pepper, and then dredge generously with flour, coating both sides. Shake off the excess and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter. When the butter melts, place the chicken in the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Turn over and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate (it is not cooked through at this point).

chicken scallopini sauceAdd the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the white wine and the lemon juice. Simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan for a few minutes until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and capers. Increase the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer for 6 minutes, or until the liquid is decreased by about one-third.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly and the chicken is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the herbs [and cheese] and serve immediately.

July 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Doctored-up Ramen

Ramen Noodles

A cookbook author and an editor/correspondent for Gourmet, Nina Simonds has shared her philosophy about Asian cooking and ingredients widely.  One of her methods for spreading the word is through her “Dinner Doctor” character, who goes around solving common challenges to making delicious, healthy dinners.  She can be seen on Oprah and her own website breaking down people’s extensive excuses – I am too tired at the end of the day, I don’t know how, it’s too expensive to buy groceries, I have to eat takeout to get to my fortune cookie, etc…

My second foray into Nina’s book, Spices of Life, is a healthful twist on doctored-up ramen.  Ramen noodles, the staple of college dorm rooms everywhere, answer almost all of the above excuses (you’ll still have to get your own fortune cookie – sorry – but Confucious says necessity is the mother of invention).  Ramen are super easy and low effort (add water and stir) and cost about 20 cents a package.  Granted, this dinner-doctored version is a bit more high maintenance, but it is also far FAR better tasting.  Toss out your “flavor pak” and check this recipe out:

Stir-Fried Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, from Nina Simonds’ Spices of Life

(serves 6)

ramen-mise3/4 lb. fine dried Japanese ramen, Chinese egg noodles or angel hair pasta
1/2 small head Chinese (Napa) cabbage (about 3/4 pound)
2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. dried chile flakes, or to taste
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin slices (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed and grated
2 Tbs. rice wine or sake

Noodle Sauce (mixed together):
5 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. mirin (or 2 Tbs. rice wine or sake plus 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar)
1 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. soy sauce

2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop the noodles into the water and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Bring the water again to a boil and cook 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, or until the noodles are just cooked. (Since the cooking time varies with the type of noodles, refer to the package for the recommended time.) Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under warm running water. Drain again and set aside.

ramen-onions

Cut the cabbage leaves from the stem. Trim the leafy tip ends and discard. Rinse the leaves thoroughly and drain. Cut them into julienne strips about 1/4 inch wide, separating the stem sections from the leafy sections.

ramen-cabbage

Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, pour in the oil, and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the ginger, garlic, chile flakes, and onions, and stir-fry for about a minute. Cover and cook for several minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the cabbage stem shreds, carrots, and rice wine. Stir-fry lightly, cover, and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, until almost tender. Add the leafy cabbage shreds, toss, cover, and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the Noodle Sauce, bring to a boil, and add the noodles and the sesame seeds. Toss lightly to coat the noodles and vegetables and spoon onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.

Fancy Ramen Noodles

(As you can see from the pictures, I sauteed some shrimp to mix in, but as-is it is a vegetarian main course.)

May 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm 2 comments

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Some recipes, like croissants, are expected to be difficult and involved.  Recipes like those take actual scheduling to tackle – as in, when will I have three straight days in the same kitchen without interruption?  Other recipes such as, um, spaghetti and meatballs, seem so simple as to be almost an afterthought.  In fact, even though I knew that I needed to post this recipe today along with the other Barefoot Bloggers, I figured it would only take a half hour or so to make and photograph, so it was only last night that I began it.  

While spaghetti and meatballs is one of those American classics, it was never something my mother made.  If she had, maybe I would know that this dish takes FOREVER… At least the way Ina makes it.  The meatball combining and forming is not time-consuming, but frying said meatballs (in batches, no less) takes a long while…  Those puppies cook slow over medium-low heat.  Then you make the sauce and cook the meatballs in the sauce for a half hour.  The only thing you can do simultaneously – since Ina insists you use the meatball-browning pan for the sauce – is boil the pasta.

All that being said, the meatballs tasted great.  They had a light texture and a subtle but interesting flavor, led by the addition of nutmeg.  RJ immediately said “Great Meatballs!” – not eloquent or revelatory necessarily, but still sincere and based in experiential expertise.  Not sure I’d take the hour+ on another weeknight to make this dish, however.  

 Spaghetti and Meatballs, from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

(Serves 6)

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb. ground vealSpaghetti and Meatballs - Ingredients
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:Spaghetti Sauce
1 Tbs. good olive oil
1 c. chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) c. crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

MeatballsPlace the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Spaghetti Meatballs

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

February 12, 2009 at 9:00 am 8 comments

Orzo to Make You Say “YES!”

Cheesy Orzo

When RJ proposed to me in June of 2007, I was blown away.  Not completely surprised, but quite overcome with the enormity of the step we were taking.  He brought me out to the southern most point of the beach in the town where we met.  The sun was just beginning to set and the ocean was in our ears when he asked me to be his wife.  I just happen to have a painting of the moment (my wedding present to him) if you’d like a visual:

painting

After I said yes and started crying, etc. etc. we went out to dinner.  The idea was to enjoy a few moments together before we started calling all of our friends and family.  But I was so excited and nervous that it was very difficult for me to concentrate on food.  I could barely hold my champagne flute steady!   I had ordered the Chicken Statler, and though the chicken was good, I merely picked at it.  The orzo on the side, however, was a different story.  Despite my shaky mental state, I devoured it!  On the menu it was called “Asiago Mac and Cheese” and with those clues, I resolved to recreate the dish in my own kitchen.  And every time I do, I am taken back to that wonderful night – and to the memory of the proposal too!  

Asiago Mac and Cheese (or Cheesy Orzo Risotto)
Serves 3-4

Toasting orzo3 c. home-made chicken stock (you can, of course, use the box or can from the grocery, but for the best version of this dish, you have to use the rich, home-made stuff)
2 Tbs. butter
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 c. dried orzo pasta
3/4 c. grated asiago cheese (you can substitute parmesan, or a mixture of the two, for a slightly different flavor)

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a separate medium to large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic, stirring to coat. Cook 3-5 minutes, allowing the shallots to become translucent and fragrant. If they begin to brown, turn down the heat.

Add the pasta and stir to coat with the butter. Allow pasta to toast for about one minute. Pour in the simmering chicken broth, and stir to combine. Over medium high heat, boil the orzo in the chicken broth according to the orzo package’s cooking instructions (usually around 10 minutes). If, after that time, the orzo is tender but the stock has not completely absorbed into the pasta, drain what is left of the liquid from the pot (it doesn’t have to be completely dry, though. I usually just tip the pot and drain the excess – holding the pasta back with a slotted spoon – rather than using a colander). Stir in the grated cheese, 1/4 cup at a time, until you have reached a taste and consistency that works for you.

January 18, 2009 at 8:19 am 2 comments

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Now that we have the cake and the cookies and the other holiday indulgences past us, I thought it time for one of those ‘right-healthy-like’ meals. The kind that come together easy and don’t sit like a rock in your stomach for days. Something that feels good for you without seeming to be a sacrifice. As I wrote that sentence, I asked myself if shrimp, the featured protein in this dish, was actually healthy. Sometimes I think something is healthy, and then find out it is terrible for me. Quite a let down.

Thankfully, however, shrimps are as they appear – low in calories – and even have a little bit of hidden goodness – rich supplies of selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (all nutrients that are often deficient in the US diet).  I think that’s why this tasted so good.  Right!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo, from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

(Serves 4)Noodles in pan

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined 
1 tsp. salt, plus additional as needed 
1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes 
3 Tbs. olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons 
1 medium onion, sliced 
1 (14 1/2-oz.) can diced tomatoes 
1 c. dry white wine 
3 garlic cloves, chopped 
1/4 tsp. dried oregano leaves 
3 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves 
3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside. Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve over cooked pasta.

January 7, 2009 at 7:17 am 4 comments

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