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Cavatippi

Cavatippi

While I was cooking this dish, I was trying to think of a song to celebrate my love of Cavatippi pasta. When you have played in pit orchestras and have a lot of gay friends, the mind turns naturally to the musical. I tried “Cav’tippi, I just cracked a box of cav’tippi…” sung to the tune of “Maria” from Westside Story. It didn’t scan well, so I bastardized a little Rogers & Hammerstein: “Caaaavatippi where the cheese sticks neatly in the twists….”

Whilst I was singing, I was making this really good, fresh thing. I found the recipe in this month’s “Cooking Light,” and was pleased to see that it included pasta, but had enough vegetables in it that the carb content was fine for us. We are trying to work some carbs back into our diet, but even in “healthy cooking” cookbooks and recipes it isn’t uncommon to find recipes with a carb count above (gulp) 70. In order for us to eat something that high in carbs it would have to involve enough fiber content to make a small woven mat, and we’d have to walk to a neighboring state after dinner.

The recipe also calls for what is freshest and best right this minute, and all of the produce I used was from my last trip to the Farmer’s Market. The original recipe, which is designed for “quick cooking” calls for purchased chopped onion and bottled garlic, but I was cooking for delicious and not the land speed record.It would have been okay, but it would be sad to use beautiful fresh zucchini, corn and tomatoes, and…bottled garlic.

Mid-dinner, Rob said “I need to tell you something about this dinner.” I braced myself. “It’s awesome” he said. What more can I say? Everything’s up to date in Cavatippi?

Cavatippi with Bacon and Summer Vegetables

(adapted from the August, 2009 “Cooking Light” Magazine)

Makes 4 2-cup servings

Per serving: 32.6 grams of carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 28.6 Net Carbs

  1. 8 ounces uncooked cavatipppi (the recipe calls for regular pasta, but it would be healthier with a higher fiber variety)
  2. 4 slices center-cooked bacon, chopped
  3. 2 teaspoons olive oil
  4. 1 cup chopped onion
  5. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  6. 1 medium zucchini cut in quarters and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  7. 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  8. 1 pint grape tomatoes
  9. 1/2 cup shaved (or grated) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  10. 1/4 cup small, fresh basil leaves (I used larger leaves, but cut them into chiffonade)
  11. salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions

2. While pasta is cooking, cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan; add oil to pan. Add onion and garlic to pan and sautee 2 minutes. Add zucchini, cook 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and tomatoes, cook 5 more minutes, or until tomatoes burst, stirring occasionally. Add pasta to vegetable mixture, stir, and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add bacon, cheese and basil; stir to combine. Serve with extra cheese as an option.

Plain, Please.

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Sometimes, it’s not just not a good idea to gild the lily.

Last week, as I was on hour three out of five of judging moot court at a local law school, I received the following text message from Mr. Annie: “got a box from foodbuzz. something refrigerated.” We are regularly given opportunities by foodbuzz to try new foods – the granola bars, for example, but I couldn’t remember anything that would be cold. I amused myself while listening to the same case being argued approximately 10 times by imagining what could be in the box. Epicurean pickles? Fancy jelly? A bold American Gorgonzola? Whatever it was, it would be free, and probably interesting.

I arrived home, kicked off my heels and tore opened the box to find a package of Buitoni refrigerated pasta – Wild Mushroom Agnolotti from the new “Riserva” line. This was nice, but I wasn’t that enthused; I had tried Another Brand of Refrigerated Pasta in the past, and while it was decent in a pinch, it was nothing to write home to Rome about. I sort of forgot about it (as is my wont) until I noticed that foodbuzz was running another contest, this one focused on creating a sauce for the new Buitoni Agnolotti. That reminded me that I should try the stuff, so I boiled it according to the directions on the package, and dressed it lightly with a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and some freshly shaved Parmaggiano Reggiano.

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. That’s all I’m sayin’. (I am not working for Buitoni, it’s heirs or assigns; I just really loved their Wild Mushroom Agnolotti). The filling was flavorful and hearty with lots of really good mushroom, garlic and cheese flavor, and the pasta itself was perfectly tender and just thick enough. My only complaint is the packaging, which seems excessive in terms of thinking “green,” but I’m not really sure how else they would package it. I guess I hope that if they come up with a more earth-friendly method of keeping it fresh and getting it to market, they’ll switch.

Finally: I can’t participate in the contest to come up with a sauce because I wouldn’t sauce this stuff. It’s perfect as it is, and any kind of sauce heavier than a little butter or oil and a grating of cheese would bury the beautiful flavor of the mushrooms, roasted garlic and Grana Padano with which they are filled. I would serve them in broth, as a first course, but again, a delicate chicken “brodo” wouldn’t drown out the flavor of the pasta filling. So try this out, if you’re so inclined – a package is enough for a light meal for two with bread and a salad. You can put sauce on it if you must, but I’ll have mine plain, please.

Lemon Linguine

Susan Branch’s The Summer Book is one of the great pleasures of the season for me. It is about gardening, days at the beach, cooking, herbs, picnics…everything that is summer, complete with perfect quotes, delicious pictures drawn by Ms. Branch, and even a recipe for “Bologna Sandwiches & Potato Chips.” Every year I put it away until June, and then take it out to savor for the season.

One of my favorite recipes in the book is for a very light, versatile pasta dish that makes a great light, vegetarian dinner on its own, or serves as a fresh and pretty side dish for grilled meat or fish.

Lemon Linguine

(adapted from The Summer Book by Susan Branch)

  1. 1 lb. linguine
  2. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. Juice from 2 lemons
  5. 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  6. 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  7. Salt & freshly ground pepper
  8. Lots of fresh Parmesan cheese
  9. Optional ingredients: steamed or grilled shrimp, leftover chicken, roasted vegetables, chopped tomatoes, slivered almonds, toasted pecans, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil…use your imagination and your refrigerator.

Cook linguine in boiling, salted water until done (about 10 minutes).

Combine next five ingredients in a large serving bowl. Add pasta & toss well. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and Parmesan to taste. Serve, or toss in additional ingredients of your choice.

Penne with Sugar Snap Peas and Prosciutto

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Recently, much of my culinary mojo has been focused on getting my mother to eat actual food during her stint in orthopedic rehab. One day not too long ago, a Real Live Italian Angel (no, really) sent me some sugar snap peas fresh from the farmers market, along with a generous quantity of really good prosciutto. [Edited to add: I have now been informed that the sugar snap peas came not from the market, but from the garden of the Italian Angel. In addition to her celestial duties she is also a Master Gardner]. It happened that the Pea and Prosciutto Courier had been entrusted with a recipe for a quick, fresh, pasta dish using both ingredients to great advantage, and we whipped some up. At our house we ate the dish alongside a beautiful piece of cod baked with butter and lemon, but my mother ate hers all by itself, savoring every still-crunchy pea.

Penne with Sugar Snap Peas and Prosciutto

  1. 1 lb. dried penne pasta
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1-2 tablespoons butter
  5. 3/4 lb. sugar snap peas, strings pulled
  6. 1/4 lb. prosciutto
  7. Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  8. Splash dry white wine (optional)
  9. Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Begin boiling water for pasta, and steam sugar snap peas; your goal is just to get the raw taste out of them while leaving them crisp. If you have a pasta pot with a steamer insert, you can steam peas over the pasta water for 2-3 minutes, otherwise they are easily steamed in the microwave or in a folding steamer insert.

When water is boiling, salt water, add pasta, and boil for 10 minutes.

While pasta boils, melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sautee onion until transparent. Add prosciutto and sautee about 2 more minutes. Add steamed peas, a splash of white wine, and salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta, reserving a cup of water from the pasta pot. Stir pasta into pea and prosciutto mixture, adding a bit of pasta water to form a bit of sauce.

Serve with Parmesan for grating.

That’ll Teach ‘Em…

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I would eat grilled, marinated chicken, rice pilaf and asparagus every night. At least for a while. Maybe a month or two. When I offered it to the boys as a dinner option, however, I was greeted with facial expressions more appropriate to a three-year exile on the Gulag Archipelago. I could not get a straight answer about what was wrong with this dinner (which I thought we all enjoyed); after extensive inquiry the best I got was a passive-aggressive “it’s really okay,” which made me feel simultaneously guilty and annoyed.

Boxed pilaf lasts forever, and I was going to have to go out and buy fresh asparagus, anyway. The boneless,. skinless chicken breasts, however, really needed to be eaten. I rummaged through the cupboards and found a can of San Marzano Tomatoes and a bag of linguine, and I always have onions, garlic, carrots, and olive oil. I also remembered that I had fresh basil and a container of heavy cream left over from a recipe that lost out to take out one night earlier in the week. The game was afoot, and no one in this house was going to roll their eyes at an “okay” dinner. I was going to make them beg for seconds.

This is what I made, and I have to say with complete immodesty that while it was not healthy, and highly inauthentic as Italian cuisine, it was very, very tasty and they ate every last bit.

Chicken and Linguine with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

  1. 4 large or 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts cleaned, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  2. 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes, briefly pulsed in food processor or blender
  3. 1 onion, chopped.
  4. 3 cloves garlic, diced
  5. 1 clove garlic crushed
  6. 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  7. 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
  8. 1/4-1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
  9. 1 pound linguine
  10. 1 cup half & half or heavy cream
  11. salt and pepper
  12. red wine (optional)
  13. sugar (optional)
  14. Parmesan cheese

Fill large pot with water for pasta and bring to a boil.

In a large saucepan, sautee onions, garlic and carrots in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and basil, and a splash of red wine if you like; bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

In a large sautee pan, heat olive oil and sautee 1 crushed garlic clove until golden; remove with slotted spoon. Add chicken to pan, salt and pepper, and sautee until golden brown. Add chicken to sauce mixture.

Boil pasta for 10 minutes. During final 2 minutes remove sauce from heat, add cream and taste, adding salt and pepper if necessary. If sauce is too tart for your taste, add a pinch of sugar to correct.

Serve linguine with sauce, and Parmesan to grate. This is perfect with a green salad lightly dressed with oil and vinegar, and a bottle of good red wine.

Planned-Overs: The Transformers of the Kitchen

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
-Calvin Trillin

Mine is not a family of happy leftover-eaters. While I would gladly eat the same thing twice in one week (provided, of course, that it was good the first time around), neither my husband nor my son is best pleased by the reappearance of anything unless it was a spectacular hit. In that case, they ate it already.

For reasons both budgetary and moral, I hate to waste perfectly good food. This waste-hatred dovetails neatly with the fact that I am entering the time of year when everything seems to move faster, and it is a blessing to have at least part of dinner prepped in advance. Enter the Planned Over. In a cosmic coincidence, as I was planning this entry, I happened to see Lidia Bastianich on “Lidia’s Italian Table” making a braised Pork Shoulder with a Salsa Genovese. She demonstrated the traditional pattern of saving the small, incidental chunks of pork broken up during the removal of the bone and carving, and adding them to the Salsa left over after serving the pork shoulder. The next day, Sunday dinner consists of pasta topped with the pork-enriched Salsa thinned with a bit of hot pasta water. Planned Overs.

The Planned Over is basically intentional recycling of food from one form to another, rendering it barely recognizable to other family members. If you re-heat a casserole and serve it two nights later with a different vegetable: leftover. If you serve pork tenderloin and rice one night and fried rice two nights later: Planned Over. It does require some thought, but I find it to be a brilliant way to save time and money while keeping dinner interesting. Here are some suggestions:

1. Meatloaf – Spaghetti with Meat Sauce or Baked Spaghetti

I tend to make meatloaf that is very much like a large, firm meatball: 2 pounds ground beef, 1 egg, 1 onion finely diced, 2 cloves garlic finely diced and about 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs or my own bread crumbs with some Italian spices (rosemary, oregano, parsley) added separately. I mix this with my hands, shape into a loaf and cook at 350 for an hour.

I cut leftover meatloaf into small cubes, about 1-inch in diameter (about the size of a meatball) and either refrigerate or freeze, depending on when I plan to reuse them. They freeze beautifully. When I’m ready, I boil a pound of pasta, and heat purchased or homemade tomato sauce with the meatloaf “meatballs” in it, and serve. Sometimes I mix the cooked, drained spaghetti with the meaty sauce, place into a 9×13 inch pan, cover with fresh, shredded mozzarella or Provolone cheese, and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted.

2. Pork Tenderloin – Pork Fried Rice

To accomplish this feat of transformation, I buy a large or two small pork tenderloins. I cook all of the pork at once – on the grill if its warm enough, and in a slow oven if its cold out. If the pork is going to be grilled, I marinate the half for the first dinner, but leave the other half unadulterated. If I’m cooking the pork indoors, I brown it with some onions and garlic, put it in a Dutch oven with some carrots and celery and a bay leaf, cover the pot and cook slowly (275 or 300 degrees) until the meat is tender.

For dinner one, I make twice as much rice as we will actually eat (which is quite a lot) and serve the pork with rice, a salad and another vegetable or some pan-fried apples. After dinner, I cut the remaining pork into small pieces and either freeze or put in the refrigerator.

For the second dinner, I make a westernized fried rice. In a large bowl, I put my cold, leftover rice, my chopped pork, a bag or box of frozen peas, chopped green onions and/or cooking onions (I use both), two eggs, and a couple of dashes of good soy sauce. I heat a large pan or wok with about 3 tablespoons of peanut oil while mixing up the contents of the bowl, then add the mixture to the hot pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it is heated through and the egg is cooked. I then shake on a few drops of sesame oil and serve. this is a complete meal if you add a salad, and I often add other vegetables including carrots, broccoli and green beans to the rice.

Roast Chicken – Chicken Noodle Casserole

Although I used to roast chicken using Nigella Lawson’s recipe, I am still happier with Mark Bittman’s method. When small roasting chickens are on sale, I often buy and cook two; one to eat with potatoes and a vegetable, and one to refrigerate for soup, enchiladas, or a casserole later in the week.

This casserole from “Cook’s Country” (a homier version of “Cook’s Illustrated”) is not only loved by my family, but is my standard dish to take to a family suffering a loss, enduring an illness, or (busy) celebrating a new baby or a move. It is also popular at “bring a dish” occasions, particularly with picky child eaters.

I leave the mushrooms out when I know I am preparing the dish for people who hate them (including my own child), and compensate by increasing the egg noodles from 12 to 16 ounces and using 4 1/2 -5 cups of chicken instead of the 4 called for by the original recipe or I use about 2 cups of either chopped broccoli or green pepper.

Chicken Noodle Casserole

(developed by Judy Wilson and published in the February/March 2006 issue of “Cook’s Country”)

Topping

  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  3. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  4. 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley

Filling

  1. Salt
  2. 12 ounces egg noodles
  3. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
  5. 1 pound white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
  6. Pepper
  7. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  10. 3 tablespoons dry sherry (If you are cooking for someone who prefers not to consume alcohol, just substitute 3 more tablespoons of broth)
  11. 2 cups sour cream (I use “light” for us, full fat for others)
  12. 4 cups cubed leftover chicken
  13. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  14. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  15. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. For the topping: Mix melted butter, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and parsley together in bowl.

2. For the filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and noodles and cook until nearly tender. Drain and set aside in colander.

3. Melt 2 tablespoon of butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until mushrooms begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

4. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted. Add flour and stir until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in broth, sherry, and sour cream and cook, not letting mixture boil, until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in chicken, noodles, parsley, thyme, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

5. Transfer mixture to 3 quart baking dish. Top with bread-crumb mixture and bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serve.

Tips:

  1. I always deliver food in disposable containers so that the family that is bereaved, exhausted or sleepless due to a new baby doesn’t have to worry about washing your pan and returning it.
  2. If you suspect that you are delivering this meal to a family that has several other offerings waiting to be eaten, stop after transferring the mixture into a baking dish and topping with crumbs, write out the baking temperature and directions (I just use a Sharpie on the lid of the container) so that it can be cooked fresh when the family is ready to eat it.

 

 

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