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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

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Another of the wonders of the CSA is occasionally receiving something you’ve never heard of before. Like lamb’s quarter, which I received a few weeks ago and which Wikipedia tells me is a varitey of goosefoot. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Lamb’s quarter, as it turns out, is a plant in the same family as the one that produces quinoa. It’s scientific name is chenopodium album or “white goosefoot” and it makes a mean pesto.

Observe:

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Ramps! Version 2.0

hpim3644

Back on May 5, 2008, Kevin blogged about the delicious springtime phenomenon of ramps. May 5 was a special day for me… first day in a new apartment and in a new job. Now that ramps are back in season, and because a friend of mine fortuitously brought me three pounds she found growing wild (or, rather, rampant) in southeast Ohio this past week, I decided I’d honor Kevin’s contribution with a second one of my own

Ramps can be intimidating. They are related to both onions and garlic, and smell like both at once. And unlike onions and garlic, ramps typically come to you with lots of torn membranes (you have to rip them out of the ground), which makes them incredibly pungent. You wonder, ‘what am I going to smell like after I eat these?’

The answer – you’ll smell strongly of ramps, basically. But it’s worth it.

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macaroni-and-cheese

When I was a kid, I loved Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese. Once, my mother — an amazing cook — made mac and cheese from scratch and, because it was made with whole-wheat penne and also because it lacked a fluorescent orange color, I was not a fan. So it was Stouffer’s, or now that I’m a grown-up Annie’s, for me. However, even though Annie’s is ubiquitous and I know its fans are loyal, I don’t really see its appeal. I want my mac and cheese baked; Annie’s consistency always feels loose and soupy to me. But when you’re making mac and cheese for one, a box of Annie’s or Stouffer’s is the way to go. Mac and cheese isn’t expensive (though getting good quality cheese makes it a little less cheap than you’d think), but it is a Goliath of a dish. Meaning, the perfect potluck dinner party option. (more…)

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spaghetti-in-red-wine

So what do you do if you’re having someone over for dinner, and you want to seem like you’re a good cook (and you are!), but it’s a weeknight and you’re tired and don’t have a lot of time. And really, you’d just cook yourself pasta, probably, on a night like this, and eat it plain, but no, someone is coming over, so you can’t do that. But you can. You just have to fancy it up a little, by which I mean cooking it in the red wine you’ve had sitting around for weeks, possibly, with you knowing — just knowing — that you’d eventually get the chance to use it.

Well here’s your chance: to use up your red wine, to hopefully impress your dinner partner, and to get away with just cooking pasta (well, and fancied up grilled chicken and salad, but that’s for another week). Try not to overcook your pasta like I did (it’s a little easier to overcook with this method), and you may actually get away with it. (more…)

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Boot Camp: Tomato Sauce

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Boot Camp is a back-to-basics series focusing on some classic easy-cooking staples. If you would describe your cooking ability as “my-easy mac-is-on-fire,” then this is a great place to start, and if you’re more of a veteran, we hope you’ll pick up on some new ideas and add advice of your own as a comment. If you’re only interested in how to sous vide heirloom romanesco, you might want to move on.

I don’t think I need to proselytize about the beauty that is a simple pasta in red sauce. Simple, cheap, easy, filling, with leftovers to boot. There’s a reason that it’s the first thing a lot of people learn to cook.

Yet I’m astounded at how many people open a jar of Ragu every time and never think that there might be a better way. Don’t get me wrong, jarred pasta sauce has its place, and there are plenty of excellent varieties out there. Sometime boiling pasta is all I can manage, and it’s nice to have something that requires zero attention.

But more often, when I’m feeling a little (and I mean really, really little) more ambitious, I make my own sauce. If boiling pasta is a 1 of 10 on the cooking difficulty scale, a simple tomato sauce is a 2. It requires ingredients that you can easily (and should probably) always have on had, can be made in the time it take to heat water and boil pasta, and costs less then half the price of the bottled stuff.

Here’s how:

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The story behind this dish is one of those vaguely annoying Under the Tuscan Sun-style ones, but I’m going to tell it regardless, so deal with it.

In the summer of 2005, I was lucky enough to get a spot at an archaeological field school dig at Pompeii. It was a fantastic summer (Shout  out to my PARPPS peeps!), and in addition to a lot of sweating, crouching, and poking around in the dirt, we had a lot of chances to eat and drink.

We cooked in our apartments a fair bit, and my apartment at least drank its fair share of one euro bottles of local wine. But there were also a few restaurants worth the trip. For all of Pompeii’s fame and tourism, the town itself (which is actually called Pompei as opposed to the ruins of the ancient town which are Pompeii) is pretty sleepy. Most of the visitors to the site actually stay in the more glamorous towns along the Amalfi coast – Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, etc.

But there were some great little places that catered to the locals, and my personal favorite was a small, family-owned place up the hill a bit from where we lived. They made great pizzas and delicious seafood, but there was one pasta dish in particular that blew me away.

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Sometimes, you just get a craving for something. Now usually cravings are for a taste that you recognize, something that you’ve had before, often that is produced by your local pizza or pommes frites restaurant. Other times, the craving is not so simple.

I had just such a complex craving, beginning two days ago. I could start to see the tastes coming together in my head: pasta, yes, and mushrooms, definitely. I knew I wanted cream sauce as well. So there would be butter, and there would be thyme (because as I’ve discussed before, mushrooms love butter and thyme). But I could taste that dish in my head, and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So, I withstood the agony, and decided to let my thoughts develop. And then the next day, I realized: I wanted something sweet.

Something sweet? That can’t be right. How do you make pasta sauce sweet, and also edible? Well, for starters, a lot of things you eat — and a lot of pasta sauces — are slightly sweet, so it really isn’t such an outlandish idea. But how do you do it, and without just pouring some sugar in? Honey. Honey, my friends. (more…)

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