Archive for the ‘Pasta and Pizza’ Category

Ladies of the Evening

Friday, April 28th, 2017

This week I returned to Mass Appeal and had a lot of fun. I am a huge ham—so performing (and let’s face it, the cooking I do there IS a form of performance) on television pickles me Tink. And of course I was happy to see my dear friend Seth, who was hosting the show alone that day.

The first dish I made was a pasta concoction I have always enjoyed. With its anchovies, capers, red peppers, and olives, Puttanesca sauce is simultaneously tangy and light, perhaps like the ladies of the evening from whom it derives its name. (Yes, “puttanesca” means of or pertaining to prostitutes.)

It takes very little time to make. And at this time of year as we chomp at the bit to eat local produce, it tastes remarkably fresh for something that comes mostly out of jars and cans.

As I explain in the video below, I gather that there are a variety of possible explanations for naming a pasta sauce after prostitutes. 

1. It was something the girls could whip up quickly between clients.

2. The aroma of the sauce was good for business, luring in prospective clients.

3. Like some ladies of the evening, the sauce is easy and cheap.

Just about all of the proportions below are subject to change according to your preference. Think of the recipe (as you should think of just about any recipe) as a general guideline.

And don’t forget to watch the video and admire my lovely new hat, a gift from my family. It was made by a small Vermont company known as Swan and Stone, after the last names of the owners.

Pasta Puttanesca

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (you may use less, but the oil really does enhance the flavor of the dish)
4 cloves garlic, slivered
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1 generous pinch red-pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt!)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
12 ounces dried linguine
1/2 cup (or more) chopped Greek olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon lemon zest
roughly torn fresh parsley and (if you can find it) fresh basil

Instructions:

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta.

In a wide pot over medium heat warm the oil. Add the garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, just until the garlic starts to turn golden brown.

While those ingredients are cooking, drain the tomatoes (they don’t have to be COMPLETELY drained) and squeeze them with your hands to break them into smaller pieces.

Add the tomato pieces to the garlic mixture, along with the salt, pepper, and dried oregano.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture begins to look like a sauce.

While the tomato sauce is cooking, salt the pasta water and cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Just before the pasta is done, stir the olives and capers into the tomato sauce.

Drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce along with the lemon zest. Garnish the dish with the fresh herbs. Serve with grated cheese.

This dish serves 3 as a main dish (it may be doubled) or 6 as a side dish.

And now the video:

Hot Sauce!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Unless otherwise noted, photos come courtesy of Kitchen Garden Farm

“We’ve always loved growing hot peppers,” Caroline Pam of Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts, told me recently. “Hot peppers are essential to many cuisines around the world. They come in so many colors and flavors and heat levels that they are really fun to grow.”

In 2013, she and her husband/business partner Tim Wilcox decided to try making something different with the peppers from their organic farm. Each September they organize a spice lovers’ weekend called Chilifest. That year they added a new feature to Chilifest: their own Sriracha.

Caroline and Tim, courtesy of Jim Gipe/Pivot Media

Originating in Thailand, Sriracha is a chili sauce that has taken the country by storm in the last couple of decades. Kitchen Garden’s version is special, Caroline Pam informed me. “It has a completely different flavor when it’s made from peppers that are fresh and are fermented the way we do them,” she explained.

She is far from alone in seeing the merits of the farm’s Sriracha. In late January Kitchen Garden’s sauce won a coveted Good Food Award in the “pantry” category.

According to spokesperson Jessica Zischke, the Good Food Award program is “a national initiative to honor American craft food and drink producers for excellence in both taste and sustainability.”

“We seek to highlight businesses in all parts of the U.S. who are making products that are tasty, authentic, and responsible,” Jessica told me. This past year 2059 entries were submitted from 38 states. Only 291 products received awards.

“I hadn’t thought to enter it,” Caroline Pam said of the program. “I got an email from one of the pantry judges who wrote to me out of the blue and said, ‘I think you should enter your product.’

“We had to submit our unmarked samples in September, which for us was a little crazy! It was our first bottling day [of the year for the Sriracha], and I think it was the day before Chilifest.”

I asked about the process of making the sauce. During the harvest season, Caroline told me, the farm picks 3000 pounds of peppers each week. “We fill up our box truck with hand-picked peppers,” she explained.

The peppers are taken to the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield. The next day, they are washed, stemmed, and ground. The peppers then go through two stages of fermentation, a process that takes weeks.

Eventually, the pepper mixture is cooked and milled; then the pepper pulp is heated with vinegar, bottled, and sealed. The Sriracha—like the salsa Kitchen Garden Farm also produces—is shelf stable but must be refrigerated after opening.

In their first year of Sriracha production, Caroline and Tim put up 400 bottles. The following year (2014) they ended up with 4000 bottles. Their haul for this past year was 32,000 bottles from 18,000 pounds of peppers.

The sauce is sold in stores and is also available from the Kitchen Garden website, www.kitchengardenfarm.com. It is popular in restaurants throughout the northeast. “It’s fun to see how people are using it,” said Caroline.

She and her husband stagger the production of the sauce through the fall and early winter months. Picking can take place only in the warmer months, but bottling ended in the winter.

At this time of year the two farmers are still harvesting; they produce hardy greens and root vegetables in their high-tunnel greenhouses. They are also busy planning for the coming season.

Kitchen Garden was founded in 2006 “with just one acre and a rototiller,” Caroline told me. The 2017 season will be the first in which their now 50-acre farm will operate exclusively on a wholesale basis. Caroline noted that she will miss seeing customers at farmer’s markets.

“It was a really hard choice, but we’re responding to what the farming opportunities are,” she said.

Consumers will still be able to find Kitchen Garden’s range of organic produce at local markets. And the farmers will be on hand for this year’s Chilifest, scheduled for September 16 and 17.

Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox are both passionate cooks. In fact, Caroline attended culinary school in New York City. The two use their Sriracha in a variety of dishes.
“It complements everything else that we’re growing. It’s really just so good with everything you can cook,” Caroline enthused.

I asked her for a recipe that involves the Sriracha—and she shared the noodle formula below.

“In my first apartment, when I was 18 years old, a vegetarian, and new to cooking, I made this at least twice a week,” she said. “The recipe has evolved somewhat since then, but the basic concept is the same: noodles, peanut sauce, fried tofu, and raw vegetables.

“Always fills you up. Never lets you down. And it just so happens to be the perfect vehicle for our Sriracha.”

Caroline was kind enough to send me all three types of Sriracha so I could test the recipe with my family. The classic Sriracha was our favorite—just enough heat to lend kick to the noodles. The habañero flavor was quite a bit hotter—and the VERY hot ghost pepper version offered initial sweetness followed by a little burn. I have no doubt we’ll manage to finish all three eventually!

We changed the recipe a bit to suit what we had in the house, blanching asparagus instead of broccoli and substituting leftover chicken for the tofu. (Some form of egg might also be nice.) I will definitely make this recipe again; I love peanut sauce.

Here’s what our spread looked like.

Caroline Pam’s Peanut Noodle Bowls

Ingredients:

for the main event:

1 pound pasta: whole wheat spaghetti, buckwheat soba, or udon noodles
sesame oil as needed

for the peanut sauce:

2/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini sesame paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh Thai chilies, minced, or 1 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or 2 tablespoons soy and a heaping spoonful of miso paste
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 to 1 cup hot water, to thin the sauce

for the fried tofu:

1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (1 14-ounce package, drained)
1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
4 tablespoons canola or other neutral vegetable oil

for garnish (use any combination of these):

blanched broccoli florets
shredded cabbage
shredded carrots
sliced radishes
sliced cucumber
chopped scallions
chopped cilantro

for the final touch:

Kitchen Garden Farm Sriracha, drizzled to taste, based on heat tolerance (start with 1 to 2 tablespoons per person)

Instructions:

Boil the pasta until it is al dente; then drain and rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking. Toss it with a little sesame oil and set it aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients, adding hot water as necessary to achieve the texture of thick and creamy salad dressing.

For the fried tofu, cut the tofu into thin (1/4-inch) slices. Put the soy sauce in a small shallow bowl or saucer. Dip the slices on each side briefly and fry them in hot oil until crispy, turning once, as you would fry bacon. Drain on paper towels and chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces. Put the tofu in a serving dish on the table.

Toss the sauce with the noodles and serve each portion in a large bowl. (Sometimes a little extra hot water will help the sauce spread over the noodles.)

Prepare the rest of the vegetables and herbs and arrange them artfully on the table so that diners can serve themselves. Lubricate with Sriracha as needed. Serves 4 to 6.

Here is Caroline’s version of the dish. Note that she julienned her veggies to make everything even and gorgeous.

Pasta with Melon? You Bet!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

melon pastaweb

My friend Michael Collins accompanied me to my most recent TV appearance. Michael and his partner Tony, an artist, were the owners and hosts at one of my family’s favorite western Massachusetts eateries, the Green Emporium in Colrain.

That restaurant closed a couple of years ago, but they are hoping to reopen in a new location, and they want to keep Michael’s work as a chef in the public eye. So he made the main course for our gig on Mass Appeal, and I put together the dessert.

His dish was absolutely fabulous. I would never have thought of pairing fresh local melon (or any melon, for that matter) with pasta, but the sweetness of the melon with the acid of Michael’s tomato sauce really worked. (The cream didn’t hurt, either.)

Michael’s recipe appears below (thank you, Michael, for sharing it), along with the video of his segment. I’m afraid my face disappears behind my hat somewhere in the middle of the segment, but he looked fine, and that’s all that matters.

But before we get to the recipe, I want to announce that we have a winner for the Yummy Yammy salsa giveaway—Peter from Connecticut. Thanks to all of you who left comments on my last post.

On to Michael’s triumph……

Tinky Michael Cweb

Michael’s Pasta with Melon and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 local cantaloupe, peeled and seeded
butter and olive oil as needed for sautéing
the juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pint heavy cream
approximately 4 cups marinara sauce, pureed
grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh basil, and freshly ground pepper for garnish

Instructions:

Cut the melon into 1-inch chunks. Sauté it very briefly in butter and olive oil. Add the lemon juice, the salt, the pepper, and the cream. Stir in marinara sauce until the whole concoction is a pretty pink, more or less the color of the melon. (You’ll probably want about 3 cups here.)

Cook for a few minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Serve over the pasta of your choice. Garnish with cheese and basil, and grind pepper over all. Have the extra marinara sauce warm at the table in case it’s wanted. Serves 4 to 6.

Here’s the video:

And here’s the clip of my dessert, a peach cobbler. The recipe appears elsewhere on this blog.

Grad’s Pantry Pasta

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

pasta with blossomsweb

My friend Grad in Savannah sent me this recipe months ago, but somehow or other it took me a while to make it. She says she always has the ingredients in her pantry. Unfortunately, they weren’t all in mine. The pasta was particularly hard to find. I tried numerous local grocery stores and finally gave up and ordered bucatini from Amazon.com.

Bucatini are long, thick strands of pasta that are slightly hollow inside—sort of like lengths of thick pipe. They hold their shape beautifully in the sauce. The word “buco” means hole in Italian; hence the name. Bucatini will be a staple of my pantry from now on.

Here’s what Grad had to say about her dish:

This is one of those things my eldest son loved so much when I made it years ago, he now makes it himself, adding what he has on hand. Rather than a recipe, I think of it more a road map that allows side trips. Leftover shrimp? In it goes. Clam juice? Why not? A little bit of chicken broth left over from yesterday? Absolutely. How about that leftover asparagus? Or those little cherry tomatoes you want to use? You get my drift. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you have the anchovies, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, pepper flakes, olive oil and perciatelli (or bucatini) you can’t go wrong.

I hope you make this dish. It is even better the next day and I love it cold! Keep the basic ingredients in your pantry (along with a nice bottle of red wine) and you are ready for any foodie emergency—or for when you need a hug.

My minor additions (bell pepper and fresh asparagus) are noted below. With asparagus season over, I think I’ll try the pasta next time with a little sautéed zucchini and some tiny tomatoes. And broccoli would be divine in the fall. After all, we need hugs in many seasons….

bucatiniweb

Grad’s Pasta

Ingredients:

1 lb. bucatini or perciatelli (if both are available, Grad prefers the the bucatini, but either will do)
salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
6 peeled garlic cloves, minced (or more)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced (added by Tinky)
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more if you like things hot
3 to 4 flat anchovies packed in oil (I chopped these up)
1 6-ounce. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 4-ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in oil
1-1/2 cups blanched asparagus pieces (added by Tinky)
2 tablespoons of oil from the tomatoes
Parmigiana-Reggino or Grana Padano cheese to taste

Instructions:

Put the pasta on to boil in boiling, salted water. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion gently until soft. Add the garlic and bell pepper; cook gently until they soften as well. Try not to brown the garlic.

Add the anchovies and cook gently until they disappear into the other ingredients. Sprinkle in the pepper flakes and heat them for a minute or so. Drain the artichokes, reserving the marinade. Slice them thickly, and add them to the skillet. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into thin strips, and add them to the skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil in which they were packed. Cook gently. Stir in the asparagus pieces. Taste and sprinkle with a little salt if needed. (I just waited and added salt at the table since people like differing degrees of saltniness.)

Add a little of the artichoke marinade to the mixture. Taste and correct seasonings. Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and bring the mixture to a boil to reduce it slightly. (At this point, Grad sometimes adds 1/2 cup of bottled clam juice or chicken broth. They are not essential, however.) When the pasta is al dente, take it out of the water with a pasta fork and add it to the skillet to finish cooking. Toss everything together with tongs. If it is needed, add a little pasta water one ladle at a time, tossing between additions, until the mixture is a nice saucy consistency. Take the pasta mixture off the heat, and sprinkle cheese on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you'll see the little hole inside.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you’ll see the little hole inside.

My New Go-To Pizza Crust

Monday, September 17th, 2012

A Mini-Pizza with Spiced Lamb

I have made a variety of pizza crusts over the years. They are generally quite tasty. But they’re generally also a lot of work. I’m just not geared toward stretching things gently.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I tried a recipe published in the 1960s, in TV Guide of all places. The recipe was from entertainer Danny Thomas, and it walked me through making Laham Ahjeen, Lebanese lamb patties. Thomas was pictured in full chef’s regalia making this dish “from his homeland—Toledo, Ohio.”

The patties were simple, a mixture of lamb and spices on a basic flatbread. Once I discovered the flatbread, a metaphorical light bulb went off above my head. I realized I could use it as a pizza crust! So last week I made tiny Margherita pizzas using the same dough recipe. They were WONDERFUL … and I had no trouble shaping them!

Here is the flatbread recipe, slightly adapted from Thomas’s original. So far I have made 12 or 18 patties with it. I imagine one could also make one large pizza, but I love the tiny version so much (I really get a kick out of miniature food) that I’m not tempted to do that right now.

Since we still have tomatoes and basil galore, I’m planning to make another batch of mini-Margheritas soon. I suggest my readers do the same. Here’s my Margherita recipe to use as a guide.

Luckily for me, the dough balls do NOT have to be perfect rounds!

Inspired by Danny Thomas Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons butter, plus a bit more later if necessary
1 envelope yeast
approximately 1/2 cup lukewarm water (a little less is okay)
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Begin about 4 hours before you want to bake your pizza/patties.

In a small saucepan melt the shortening and the 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the yeast with the lukewarm water and let it proof briefly.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Stir in the shortening. Add the yeast to the flour mixture.

Mix and knead the dough until it is firm enough to roll. If the dough refuses to hold together, add a small amount of melted butter. Place the dough in a greased mixing bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and place it in a warm part of the kitchen to rise until it has doubled in bulk (2 to 3 hours).

When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces (or 18), and place the pieces on a cookie sheet covered with a damp cloth. Allow them to stand, covered with a damp cloth, for about 1/2 hour. Use the palm of your hand and your fingers to shape the balls into little flat rounds. They will be between 3 and 4 inches in diameter, depending on how many you are making.

Place the rounds on cookie sheets covered with silicone or parchment. Cover the rounds with the toppings of your choice—spiced meat or pizza ingredients—and bake until done, between 10 and 20 minutes. (How long the baking takes will in part depend on your toppings.)

Serves 12 to 18 as an appetizer, 4 to 6 as a main course.