Pasta Archive

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

gnocchi in tomato broth + more book tour

gnocchi in tomato broth

I realize that when it comes to January Food — carrot sticks, soup, legumes and other things I suspect, what with it being the third week of the month, you are already tiring of — gnocchi, thick dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes, hardly makes the cut. It’s, in fact, not even invited to the party, having no place among the sweatband-ed, pumped up, high-topped aerobicized… okay, maybe my brain went straight past “earnest attempts at resolution-inspired rebalance” to a Richard Simmons video, circa 1982. These things, they happen.

readying the tomato broth
a hearty tomato soup's elegant leavings

But a kale-apple-ginger smoothie, gnocchi is not. And yet, this dish from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is one of my favorite things to make after a month of holiday gluttony because it is both light and filling, yet warm enough for the coldest day. The thing with gnocchi is that it’s so plagued by a reputation of being bad for you that it’s presumed that if you’re eating it, your arteries/girth/sense of proportion must already be doomed so let’s just ladle on the blue cheese, okay? And, indeed, most restaurants will serve it with butter, cream, cheese and other rich ingredients, such as truffles, probably with more butter. It’s not my thing; I think such preparations wreck the delicacy that’s at the heart of perfect gnocchi, which is featherlight, dumpling-like and best appreciated in a puddle of intensely flavored broth. It’s true: I turned the Italian classic of gnocchi and red sauce into a riff on matzo ball soup, and I’m not even a little sorry.

a snowdrift of riced potato

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

chicken noodle soup

baby, (all of the sudden) it's cold outside

There are about as many recipes for chicken noodle soup as there are people who enjoy it, which is everyone. Well, everyone but me. I understand that announcing that one does not like chicken noodle soup is tantamount to saying that one dislikes comfort, thick sweaters on brisk fall days, well-padded shoes for long walks and sips of tea from a steamy mug. I get this. But in my defense, I am not the one who broke it.

getting started
browning the onions, wisp of steam

I cannot take responsibility for delis that keep a batch of soup at a low simmer 24/7, until the noodles are gummy and the bits of chicken taste like death itself. I find it depressing that few recipes on the first three pages of Google results for chicken noodle soup image that one might want to make it from scratch, that an “old fashioned chicken noodle soup” recipe on one of the largest food websites out there has you begin with eight cans of low-sodium chicken stock. I am equally suspicious of chicken soups that have you cook the chicken to a point beyond repair and then discard the meat, because my inner Depression-era granny (frankly, outer, too, on days where I don my aforementioned thick cardigan and padded shoes) would fall over at the thought that people cook a chicken only not eat it, and therefore, maybe so should we. I am uninspired by soups that have you cook the chicken so briskly in the name of saving it for later leaving just a pale, weak broth behind. And with this, what happened is what always happens when I attempt to explain in great detail why I have no love for a certain dish: I ended up making it anyway.

not bad for a 40 minute chicken broth

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

spaghetti with broccoli cream pesto

spaghetti with broccoli cream pesto

Surely, you didn’t think I was going to stop my hasty populating of the broccoli archives with just one new recipe, right? I mean, sure, the slaw is still a star. The fritters were great. But when your kid likes broccoli, you will always be on the hunt for new and more advanced Methods of Broccoli Implementation. These days, I’ll read a recipe for a cauliflower dish in a magazine and think: broccoli would work here. I had a watercress salad at a restaurant in which the finest dusting of flavorful breadcrumbs clung to every leaf and thought: broccoli. I roasted potatoes with garlic and a little lemon zest and kicked myself: should have included broccoli. I guess you could argue that the obsession has spun off its toddler axis and landed squarely on the mama-ship. These things, they happen.

parmesan, a heap of it
peeling the broccoli stems

And who am I to fight the broccoli love? I started making this… well, I’m going to call it pesto but it’s less a pounded mixture of raw herbs, garlic and cheese and more a tender broccoli sauce. Anyway, I started making it over the summer. It was loosely inspired by this dish I saw on the most stunning blog, one that is in fact dangerous for me to look at because I immediately start to question everything: Why don’t we live in the French countryside? Why haven’t I ever biked home with a cluster of warm-from-the-oven baguettes prepared in the ancient style in my wicker basket? Why don’t I have any heliciculturalist (escargot farmers, of course) for neighbors and why don’t those yelling people down the hall (my actual neighbors) ever bring me freshly-dug morels? Alex, are you reading along right now? Honey, why don’t we have 14 dogs? It’s gotten to the point where I greet a new post on the blog by peeking nervously through my fingers the way you would when watching a scary movie because I’m so terrified that it will be the post that breaks my will to live a single moment longer as we previously happily did, that all there will be left to do is pack this place up, and holler “Thanks anyway for the morels!” at the yelling neighbors door as we head for the stairs/street/taxi/airport/new life, one with backyard plum trees.

chopped broccoli

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 6, 2012

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

Okay, I know that despite everyone being back to school, people actually showing up to the office again, like, to work, again and Labor Day being but a blip in the rearview mirror that summer isn’t really over yet — it’s hot, the days are still relatively long and, no, I will not put my sandals away. But I can’t help it. As soon as the first day of September, one of my favorite months, arrives, my brain becomes fiercely rooted in all things fall. I grab cardigans on the way out the door. I crave soup. I walk right past the peaches at the market so I can get to the new apples instead. And I turn on the oven again to make deep, bubbly, and more filling meals.

sliced, then diced eggplant
salting and draining the eggplant

I have mixed feelings about traditional baked pasta dishes. I mean, if you show up to my place with a foil casserole dish of your grandma’s baked ziti, I will probably leap in your arms with relief because I don’t, in fact, always feel like making dinner. We will devour it; everyone will go to bed happy and my son will probably wonder why his mama can’t just cook like that. But I would probably never mix a pound of cheese or tub of ricotta into a casserole dish — it’s all too much, too heavy. And so, when I spied a baked orzo dish, with eggplant and just a modicum of mozzarella from Yotam Ottolenghi (sadly, not from his new cookbook out next month, because I am totally out of order), I knew it was everything I’d ever hoped and dreamed for in baked pasta — balance (there’s are pillows of eggplant throughout), comfort (there are decadent cheese pulls stretching from every forkful, a delightful term I learned from this article) and ease (like the easiest macaroni-and-cheese I know how to make, you don’t even need to pre-boil the pasta).

fresh oregano, I like you

Continued after the jump »

Friday, June 22, 2012

cold rice noodles with peanut-lime chicken

last night's dinner

If you told me a week ago that I would willingly adding cold chicken to cold noodles and call it a meal, a meal I’d eat enthusiastically, I’d think you had lost your mind. The various intersections of cold chicken and cold pasta are littered with foods I’d rather forget, such as those macaroni salads with shredded, overcooked chicken, suspiciously squicked together with mayo in a clear plastic take-out container of dubious expiration at the nearest corner deli. Hey, who’s hungry? Probably not you anymore!

lots and lots of limes
lime garlic sauce, sauce 1

But in David Tanis able kitchen (and I hope you’re following his City Kitchen column each week as eagerly as I do) chicken is marinated with a potent mix of ginger, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce before being flash-grilled or broiled and then cooled and roughly chopped. It is then added to rice noodles as long and twisty as skeins of yarn, topped with lots of crunchy vegetables, a medley of two sauces (one loud with chiles, lime and fish sauce and the other nutty and perfect with ginger, peanut butter and toasted sesame), salted roasted peanuts, slivers of cooling herbs (mint, basil and cilantro) into something that’s about as close to a dream of a summery one-bowl meal as we can get, and just in time for our first inferno of a New York City heatwave this year.

peanut sauce, sauce 2

Continued after the jump »


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