Search This Blog

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spaghetti with Garlic, Sage, and Olive Oil

Ruth's steak-loving sister is visiting, but between the Deadline, the Move, and a general lack of time for food shopping, we've been forced to scour our meatless pantry each evening for dinner fixings. The other night we remembered an Italian classic: spaghetti with garlic and oil, which is pretty much just that. It's also simple, delicious, and fast.

Mark Bittman's variation incorporates fried breadcrumbs, which provide wonderful texture to the slithery pasta. We added a handful of whole sage leaves just because we had them.

1/3 cup olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
1/4 cup whole sage leaves
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (either fresh or dried are fine)

salt and pepper
1 pound spaghetti

1. While the spaghetti boils, heat the oil in a saucepan, then fry the garlic over medium heat until it's golden—keeping a watchful eye on it, as just a few seconds can turn mellow deliciousness into scorched nastiness. Remove with a slotted spoon.

2. Add the sage leaves to the hot oil, and let them fry until they are dark and curly. Remove them from the pan.

3. Add the breadcrumbs, and fry until crispy and brown.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it into a large bowl. Top with the fried garlic, sage and breadcrumbs, and add more oil if you like your pasta on the slippery side. Season with salt and pepper. Serve proudly to even your staunchest meat-eating guests.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Almost Halloween

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble."
Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1

What's bubbling or burning in your caldron?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Again with the Kale Chips

This will be our last post on this subject, we promise. But last week's CSA box offered up a gigantic, ruffly head of curly kale, so we decided to try making chips again. Our first attempt, with dinosaur kale, resulted in delicious but very fragile chips; we wondered how the tougher leaves would work. So we cut away the stems, tore the leaves into palm-sized pieces, tossed them with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt, and roasted them for about 40 minutes at 250 degrees.

The results were even better than our first batch: the thicker leaves resulted in more-substantial chips, and the longer roasting time made them so addictively crunchy that we ended up consuming the whole batch in about 24 hours.

Usually we split our CSA box with Kevin and Cynthia, but Cynthia had given us the whole bunch of kale, claiming that she didn't like it. But once she tasted the chips, she was astonished and converted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guest Blog: Prasad, an Indo-Caribbean Treat

The recipe is from Ramin Ganeshram's, "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago," (Hippocrene Books, 2006). Although the first edition is sold out, a second edition with an updated and expanded recipe section is slated for February 2010.


8 servings
When I was a child visiting Trinidad, the only way my father could persuade me to go to the many Hindu prayer meetings was with the promise of prasad, a sweet dessert that is given to guests at the end of a Hindu religious ceremony. The basic “pudding” is garnished with coconut, raisins, and nuts, which are collectively called panjaree. It’s generally accepted that panjaree is only for actual religious functions although plain prasad—called mohan bohg—can be served any time.
2 cups ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups farina
2 cups whole milk
3 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
2 pounds sugar
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Raisins, grated fresh coconut, coarsely chopped almonds, and a few cooked chickpeas, for garnish
  1. Heat all but 2 teaspoons of the ghee in a large, deep frying pan. Add the raisins and fry over medium-low heat until they plump. Add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it becomes light brown.
In a separate pan, combine the whole milk, evaporated milk, sugar, ginger, and cardamom. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until the prasad forms semi moist clumps. Remove from the heat. Garnish with grated coconut, almonds, and raisins. Place a few chickpeas on top.

Candles on Ice

Our friend JP, who has written here before, snapped a shot of these Dias at the Indo-Caribbean Diwali parade in Brooklyn a couple of weekends ago. They look a bit like clams on the half shell on ice. They're actually candles that the celebrants light and walk around with at the celebration.

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2008 Maipe Malbec

When we first opened the Maipe Malbec, we thought it okay but not spectacular. Certainly not spectacular enough for this $8.99 (retail) bottle to warrant a 90 from Robert Parker and others.

It was near the end of a course of ravioli with Marinara sauce, so the wine worked well. But we just wondered what about it warranted a 90.

We vacuumed it shut for the night and opened it again the next night with another pasta and red sauce meal. That little extra time of breathing in a bit of 2009 air made all of the difference.
"The 2008 Malbec is a glass-coating purple color with a striking perfume of violets, black cherry, and black raspberry," Parker had written. "Exhibiting surprising complexity for its price category, the wine has gobs of fruit, savory flavors, and excellent depth and length. It is an outstanding value for drinking over the next 3-4 years. Alberto Antonini (think Altos Las Hormigas) is a consultant at Maipe which in and of itself is an indicator that the winery is focused on quality."

This is a Malbec you can afford to drink every night. It tastes of chocolate and coffee, with a finish full of ground pepper.

We would easily pay twice as much for this wine from Argentina. You should pick it up at its price of $8.99.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The World Is a Delicious Place

We may not be writing much this week, but we're glad to see that plenty of other people are. Check out this fine essay on home cooking by Jonah Lehrer. Our favorite paragraph:
And then there's the next meal. Who knows what we'll want to eat? Because we cook, we don't just see things as they are, raw and tough and fibrous. We look at what is and we glimpse the possible - that ugly fish can have crispy skin, and that bitter broccoli rabe would be delicious with garlic and oil. The pretty radicchio belongs in a risotto and those leftover scraps of meat will make a perfect stock. The world, it turns out, is a pretty delicious place. All it needs a little attention, and maybe just a pinch of salt.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rasa: The Essence

The Sanskrit word rasa is sometimes translated as "flavor," but it also means "juice" — the delicious essence of something. The sweet taste of a ripe peach is its rasa, its essence. Applied in a deeper sense, rasa is the juiciness in life, the subtle lusciousness that gives the world its taste. Without rasa, life would feel dry and flavorless.
—from Vegetarian Times and Yoga Journal

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apologies . . . and a Request

We apologize for the scant postings this week. In addition to the Move and the Deadline (both fast approaching!), we also had to contend with the Sick. We'll be better next week, we promise.

In the meantime, if any of you have a delicious cheap recipe or tip to contribute, please do! We're always interested in what other people are cooking.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Favorite Kitchen Utensils: Mesh Strainer

Our plastic mesh strainer, bought years ago in a dollar store, gets used almost every day. It hangs on the wall in our kitchen so that it's always close at hand. We most often use it to sift flour, or wash rice and other bulk grains. We just measure a cup of rice into the strainer and run it under cold water for a minute or two. This washing not only cleans the grain, but also helps with digestion, believe it or not. The strainer makes it easy: pour, rinse, and drain.

Strainers are also great for incorporating a paste into a larger pot of liquid such as soup, sauce, or gravy.
Tonight when we were making Tom Yum Gai, a spicy Thai soup that calls for a couple of tablespoons of hot and sour paste, we heated four cups of stock (veggie or chicken). Then we added some tofu (you can also use shrimp or chicken, or omit the protein altogether), mushrooms, and mung bean sprouts. When those ingredients had softened, we added scallions and then used the strainer, dipping it almost fully into the liquid, to incorporate two tablespoons of the hot and sour paste.

The strainer keeps the paste from getting lost as a blob in the bottom of the pan. You know whether it has been incorporated, because you can see it in the strainer.

Finally, sprinkle chopped cilantro on the top of the soup and serve.

This is not only a wonderful quick dinner but also a good tonic when you feel yourself coming down with a cold.

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Hugues de Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet

As we've said all too often, the wines of Languedoc are a two-edged dilemma: they can be great wine bargains — or they can be really lousy imports.

When they are great, these wines from the part of southern France that is hard against Spain and Catalonia are the last real bargains from France. When they are bad, they are an unmitigated waste of money. Often the only way to know is to "buy and try."

Unless, of course, a particular $8 wine from Languedoc has been rated 89 by Wine Advocate. That is the case with this wine, which we found at our local wine warehouse. It didn't seem like much of a risk with that endorsement.

This dry white would work with chicken, seafood, and pasta. Tonight it stood up incredibly well to the spicy Thai soup called Tom Yum Gai. It has the aroma of melons and granny smith apples and grapefruit, which also comes through in the citrus-forward flavor.

This wine is crisp, light, and a bargain at $7.99

Friday, October 2, 2009

Florentine-Style Baked White Beans: Fagioli all Fiorentina

Our absolute favorite thing to do with baked white beans is to make Florentine-Style White Baked Beans. It's a casserole that we much prefer these to the sweet pork and beans served at summer picnics throughout America. Serve these once and you'll have people asking you to bring them to the next outing or dinner.

The complexity of the flavors in this pot go with fish, pork, hamburger, beef ... you name it.

Start with the cooked white beans we made a couple of days ago. Put half of the beans (probably three cups) in an oven-proof casserole, along with enough of the cooking liquid to make them slightly wet but not drowning. (Do NOT discard the cooking water. We'll deal with that in a future post.)

Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees F. Add 1-2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, a 15 oz. can of tomatoes, preferably fire roasted. (We use the kind with green chilis added because we like just a touch of heat, but the chili part is certainly optional.) Add 5 oz. of prosciutto cut into short strips (optional; we don't add this, given Ruth's vegetarianism), 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed, along with 3-5 fresh sage leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the liquid isn't up to the top of the beans—don't drown them—add enough liquid to just reach the top of the beans.

Put in the oven uncovered and bake for 30-45 minutes. Serve with any fish, chicken, pork or beef. Or just about anything vegetarian.

This pot of white baked beans can also stand up to a crisp chardonnay or a hearty red wine.

(You can make this with canned Cannellini beans if you're in a hurry or just don't want to make the dried beans.)