Archive for the ‘Pasta and Pizza’ Category

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:

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

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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.

Silent Idol Spaghetti Sauce

Friday, June 8th, 2012

I recently won a drawing–something that seldom happens to me! The prize was a book I had been coveting for some time, Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol by Donna Hill.

Valentino was born in 1895, the same year in which the Lumière brothers first showed films to the public. He is one of the few silent-film stars who is still remembered and recognized by much of the American public. A handsome Italian who wasn’t sure what his destiny would be but was sure he HAD a destiny, he came to the United States at the age of 18 and began his career as a dancer.

His dancing skills would help establish his stardom in his breakthrough film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). The dance scene in Four Horsemen started a national craze for the tango and is still breathtaking to watch. Valentino made several hugely successful films before dying of a perforated ulcer in 1926.

Donna Hill became a lifelong film fan when she was ten years old. She saw her first Valentino film, Blood and Sand, on her local PBS station shortly after that. She bought her first Valentino photograph in the mid-1970s when she was a teenager. She now owns hundreds of photographs of the star; she tells me that she hasn’t counted but thinks the collection numbers between 700 and 1000.

Her book, which came out in 2010, uses her collection to illustrate the life of Valentino. (Its subtitle is “His Life in Photographs.”) Other books have been written about the actor; in fact, Donna lists most of them on her Valentino website, called Falcon Lair after Valentino’s beloved house in Beverly Hills.

This one is unique in that it literally gives the reader a look at this much photographed icon, at work and at home.

Courtesy of Donna Hill

Donna Hill is my favorite kind of film scholar. She writes about film because she loves it. She will spend months following a tip that might give her just a little more information about long-lost artists and pieces of celluloid. She is currently at work on a biography of Dorothy Gish, the less well known (but in the eyes of many equally talented) sister of silent-film star Lillian Gish.

Donna has taken the nom d’internet “RudyFan.” She doesn’t let her adoration stand in the way of a little straight shooting when she talks about her idol, however. She says in the book:

Was Valentino a great actor? The answer is, under the right circumstances and with the right director, he could be. More often than not he was hampered by poor scenarios, lackluster direction, and cheap production values. But cinematic legacy is not necessarily a function of thespian craftsmanship. Rudolph Valentino was—indubitably—a star.http://tinkyweisblat.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/this-girls-notes-on-that-girl/

With Carrie Clark Ward in "The Eagle" (Courtesy of Donna Hill)

Donna’s book shows that stardom at work on the screen and in Valentino’s personal life. The photographs are stunning, and so is their subject. By the time the book gets to the actor’s untimely death at the age of 31, the reader has been drawn into Valentino’s world and mourns that death.

Naturally, as soon as I saw the book I wrote to Donna and asked for a recipe. She told me that Valentino loved seafood, having grown up in Puglia, a coastal region of Italy. “When times were lean [in his early days in Los Angeles], he went to the beach for shellfish,” she informed me. He also hunted small game to put food on the table when necessary.

His mother was French so he adored French as well as Italian food, Donna reported. And he loved preparing pasta for his friends. One special meal some of them remembered was a spicy dish of six-foot-long pasta with garlic, hot pepper, and olive oil.

Donna also sent me a version of the recipe below, which has been making the rounds of Rudy fans. She wasn’t 100 percent certain it was authentic, but its use of fish (anchovies!) as the “secret” ingredient seems right up Valentino’s alley. (They are secret because they disappear into the sauce, leaving only a hint of their haunting flavor.) Until I find six-foot-long spaghetti for the spicy sauce, this is my Rudy Recipe.

You can read more of Donna’s cinematic thoughts on her blog, Strictly Vintage Hollywood. And do consider buying her gorgeous Valentino book and/or liking it on Facebook. Meanwhile, enjoy the spaghetti sauce. Be sure to watch a Valentino movie while noshing; I suggest The Son of the Sheik (1926). I promise that you will swoon into your spaghetti……

Courtesy of Donna Hill

Rudolph Valentino’s Secret Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (8 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (16 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped and undrained
(Note: it’s hard to find a 16 ounces can these days; either use a slightly smaller can or measure 16 ounces out of a larger can.)
1 pound Italian sausage (I used half sweet and half hot), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 can (2 ounces) anchovies, drained
1/2 cup red wine, plus more wine if needed

Instructions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onion pieces and mushrooms over low heat until they soften, adding a little water if needed. Add the tomato sauce, the tomato paste, and the whole tomatoes. Continue to cook over low heat, partially covered.

In a separate skillet sauté the sausage pieces, adding the second tablespoon of oil if they start to stick. Add the garlic pieces as the sausage cooks. When the sausage has browned, scoop the pieces of sausage and garlic up and pop them into the Dutch oven. Stir in the oregano and rosemary as well.

Deglaze the skillet with the red wine, and add the wine and any pieces of sausage that are in it to the Dutch oven. Stir in half of the anchovies.

Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, partially covered, and taste. Add more anchovies as needed. (I just threw them all in.) Cook for 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and/or add a little more wine if the sauce starts to get too thick.

Serve with spaghetti and grated cheese. Serves 4.

 

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Inspired by Holy Smokes Barbecue Pizza

Friday, April 20th, 2012

On the way into the oven.....

I have recently interviewed not one but two restaurateurs who put barbecue on their pizza.

I do a monthly feature for the Greenfield (Massachusetts) Recorder called Blue Plate Special, in which I interview the chef at a local restaurant and ask him or her for a signature recipe.

Last month Lou Ekus of Holy Smokes BBQ Delicatessen in Turners Falls gave me recipes for Tuscan white beans and pickled onions (coming soon to a blog near you!).

Lou also mentioned a dish he makes frequently, one I knew would appeal to my family (who happened to be coming to dinner the evening after I talked to him): pulled-pork pizza.

This month I talked to Craig White of Hillside Pizza, who along with partners runs pizza restaurants in three western Massachusetts towns. He described his mouthwatering chicken barbecue pizza.

Both of these men are passionate about good food so I figured they must be onto a good thing!

I will try Craig’s pizza when I return home to Massachusetts. It uses an almond Asiago pesto only available at his establishments.

Meanwhile, here is my recreation of Lou’s pizza. I’m sure it’s amazing made with his signature barbecue sauce and pulled pork. (The man is a serious smoker!) I’m afraid I just purchased barbecue sauce and pulled pork at Trader Joe’s.

Even with those ingredients, the pizza worked. I love salt so for me the combination of barbecue and blue cheese was a real winner!

I should warn you that my nephew Michael didn’t take to the blue cheese in this recipe. He believes blue cheese belongs only in salads. (We’re working on his culinary education!) So I have listed cheddar as an alternative.

Let me know if you come across any barbecue pizza yourselves, readers! And if you haven’t seen it but would like to, try this one……

Inspired by Holy Smokes Barbecue Pizza

Ingredients:

1 pizza crust, homemade or store bought
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
butter as needed for sautéing
a small amount of barbecue sauce (1/4 cup or less)
1-1/2 cups prepared pulled pork
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or grated Cheddar (use a little more if you’re a cheese lover, but don’t overwhelm the pork!)

Instructions:

Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.

Sauté the onion slices in a little butter, starting with high heat and then reducing it to low. Stir occasionally and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions have caramelized.

Roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan). Use a little flour to help with this if necessary.

Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Spread a very thin film of olive oil on top.

Spread the barbecue sauce on top of the crust, and sprinkle the pieces of pork around evenly on top of that. Arrange the caramelized onion slices over all, and top with little chunks of cheese.

Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven this took about 20 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.