Thursday, April 30, 2009

Langoustine pasta

Langoustine tails (aka "baby lobsters" as certain parties know them) are tossed along with white wine and lemon into an easy, quick pasta dish. You can always make this with shrimp (or adult lobster) instead, but if you can easily find langoustine, go ahead and use it. This really will only take a few minutes to throw together and it doesn't take a lot of ingredients so it's particularly good for lazy nights.Mince up 2 cloves of garlic and add them to 3 tablespoons of butter in a big pan over medium low heat. Keep a good eye on it--you don't want the garlic to get over-browned or burn--it should only take about 2 minutes. Mix 1 tablespoon flour into the butter until it is all incorporated, then whisk in a generous 1/2 cup white wine. You can always pour more in your glass, don't worry. If it needs additional thinning as you go along, add a splash of chicken stock or more white wine. Stir the sauce until it slightly thickens, then add in 1 tablespoon minced parsley (I actually used cilantro because that's what I had around in the fridge). Add in your peeled langoustines--mine came in a 12-oz bag from Trader Joe's and I just tossed them all in still frozen--and stir a few times over low heat. Taste one after a few minutes to see if they are warm through, you really don't want to leave them on heat for too long, especially if they came precooked, as mine did. I probably only let mine go for about 3 minutes or so before adding in the pasta. Stir in the juice (and zest too, if you like) from one lemon, along with salt and pepper, then add pasta--cooked just shy of al dente--and turn it lightly to coat with the sauce. I used these pretty tri-color linguine and it was a nice combination.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Strozzapreti are sometimes pasta and sometimes dumplings. This is because italians like to use the same words for different things, kind of like how Atlanta likes to have many streets with exactly the same name. Strozzapreti means "priest-stranglers," which, when you are referring to the version that are long rope-like strands of pasta, has an excellent Name of the Rose kind of thing going on. The strozzapreti I make are the dumpling kind, and the meaning of the name twists slightly; ghoulish humor, a joke on greedy priests stuffing their faces with dumplings and choking to death. The cultural mistrust of authority (and clergy and anyone with community responsibility or funding) implicit in the name of this dish is somehow just very italian.

You can (and possibly should) make these with spinach or chard but I just had a big bunch of lacinato kale, so I used that instead. Kale has a thick stem in the center that you must remove first, then slice into thin ribbons.Sauté the kale in a hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt and pepper until it is soft and cooked down.Mix the cooked kale in a large bowl with 3/4 cup ricotta cheese......and about 1/4 cup of parmesan.Beat in one egg, then mix in 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and salt and pepper until it is creamy.Measure out one cup of flour--you probably won't need it all, depending on how wet the mixture is. Incorporate the flour slowly into the batter, gently adding more if it seems too loose. Shape the dough lightly into balls--they might be sticky which is OK, better than too doughy. You can do a test of one by dropping it in the boiling water and see if it keeps its shape. Form the dough into dumplings, drop in water and boil them, using a skimmer to get them out after they are floating at top. It takes about 3-5 minutes for them to cook.Remove them as they finish cooking and sauté until lightly browned and slightly firmer. Set aside and keep warm.Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and fry sage leaves until crispy. Roll the cooked dumplings around in the sagey butter and top with fried sage leaves to serve. You could also have them with a light tomato sauce instead of the sage and butter.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Matzo brei

Last week Ali did a very thorough job of keeping surprises there, but it's still impressive. I made matzo brei one night--however, in the interest of full disclosure, Ali was not a fan. She likes it healthy, it turns out, and I probably used about eighty hundred pounds of butter. It got thumbs up from Aviva though. Anyway, it's easy and you can make it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether it's Passover or not. By the way, I thought it was neat how I managed to carry all my cooking supplies and my wine in my pan down a flight of steps to make dinner at Ali and Aviva's, checkitout:This is an easy recipe, in fact it probably doesn't even count. For the 3 of us, I used 4 eggs and 4 matzo and it was more than enough. First, break apart the matzo and run water over the pieces for about 20 seconds or so to get them wet (Ali: "You don't have to use a colander!").Then melt a ton of butter in a big pan, like at least half a stick or more.Beat your eggs in a bowl then add in your soggy matzo. Scramble them together over medium heat in the butter and add a lot of salt (Ali: "I like mine really salty. We never added pepper!").Let it get really browned so some parts are delightfully crispy. I needed consultation on this from Aviva.When it's browned and delicious looking, eat it all and don't think about all the butter. Aviva says her family used to put on sugar, some people also like it with sour cream or other toppings (Ali: "We never did that. Our family was very healthy.").

Monday, April 13, 2009

Roasted beet and microgreen salad

Right now there are gorgeous baby beets in season so I decided to make an easy salad using them and a few other guest stars from the Morningside farmers market. They are really lovely and candy colored.... When they're this small they roast very quickly which is a definete bonus. I sliced them in half which makes it go even faster. Also, check out how pretty they are on the inside:I roasted the tiny beet halves facedown on foil in a pan with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil at 400 for about 30 minutes.The other nice thing about these tiny little guys is that you don't even have to peel them because they are so tender. If you end up making this with larger sized beets, try peeling them then cutting into small chunks to roast--it will go just as quickly as these little guys did. Also from the trip to the farmer's market that morning--an enormous watermelon radish! It must be the end of the season for these because it was huge. I actually ended up using only half of it for my salad. It's a beautiful vegetable though and extremely mild.I found some microgreens at the same stand that sold me the baby beets, so those became the base for the salad.Microgreens are sort of fragile so I tossed them very lightly with white balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil then sprinkled salt and pepper over the top. This was sort of a composed salad--sometimes beets and goat cheese mixed together will just turn everything neon so it can be best to simply arrange rather than toss. So, first the dressed microgreens, then lay out the watermelon radish and beets, then a light hand with goat cheese and a few pine nuts on top.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Zabaglione alla giovanna

This is something my mother used to make us for breakfast when we were kids. She called it zabaglione, although I believe to most people that refers to a light custard dessert, similar to sabayon. What my mom called zabaglione was perfect for breakfastime and simply involved an egg yolk beaten with sugar and mixed with equal parts hot milk and coffee. Looking back on it now, I see that it was a great way to occupy annoying children because if you wanted a cup of zabaglione, you were responsible for laboriously beating that egg yolk into the sugar until your wrist hurt and it turned a pale yellow that was acceptable to Her Excellency Giovanna, Head of Kitchen, Duce of Dissertations and Founder of Three Kids.

You'll need 1 egg yolk per zabaglione so begin by separating as many eggs as people that will be enjoying this.Beat each egg yolk with at least 3 heaping teaspoons of sugar. This is sort of to taste so add more/less as you like. This is the part that really works well as child sedative. My mom would just keep telling us to beat it more, no matter how long we'd been at it. Genius.It's clearly an important step though. Eventually the egg and sugar will completely combine, making a light yellow paste. You should be able to see the difference in color--the one on the left is unbeaten, compared with the one on the right:Meanwhile, steam some milk until foamy and hot (but don't let it scald).Pour the hot milk and coffee into your egg-sugar mixture as if you are making a cafe au lait. Stir well once and enjoy a leisurely morning.