Tag Archives: pasta

DarkWing Duck

24 Mar

I spent some time over spring break in West Side Market up in Cleveland where I got my hot little hands on quail eggs and duck breasts.  These two ingredients were key to a recipe I’d been concocting in my dreams and of which I was terrified.  Sadly pomegranates are not in season and so couldn’t be the color, crunch and sweetness to this dish – which I believe was part of its downfall.  Not that the dish wasn’t yummy, it just wasn’t there yet and needs some tweaking.  Also there is nothing in this world cuter than a little quail egg or even a dozen.

It’s very simple: place duck breast skin down in a skillet after scoring the skin and let the fats of the bird cook it to perfection while you prepare some stock (either duck or chicken), throw in leeks and shallots in the pan with the duck, serve over pappardelle with fried quail egg on top.  I cut the shallots length wise and peeled away the little cups of shallot to create a nest for the quail yolk which formed the center of a flower of sliced duck breast over the pasta, then poured the stock over top.  Next time I’d love to use rag cut noodles.  It’s more a winter than spring dish and is very comforting but could use some more work.  I consoled myself by pairing it with Southern Tier’s Gemini whose sweet hoppy notes complimented the rich game nature of the duck and its buddies.

Bomb Lasagna

11 Dec

Mozzerella is a great thing — it makes pizza happy and caprese a perfect snack — but I feel it’s a misplaced addition to lasagna.  I’ve never been a fan of lasagna because I never found the combination of mundane ragu and a relatively flavourless cheese that thrilling.  So, over this Thanksgiving break I gave it a try with very slight variations.  For my ragu I started off with browning up some garlic, shallots and chopped andouille sausage in a little olive oil with some splashes of Beckwith cider and a can of whole, peeled tomatoes.  The cider gave it a mild sweetness to counter the spicy sausage, yielding a frankly delightful meat sauce.

A casserole dish was buttered up, layered with the kind of lasagna you don’t have to boil before you bake, then the ragu, ricotta blended with a little heavy whipping cream/cayenne pepper and then slices of creamy havarti on top and halved grape tomatoes.  The havarti was neither too sharp nor too mild and worked it’s quasi-spiciness with the andouille ragu.  The most common reaction from friends was, “this is a BOMB-ASS lasagna!” and then some fighting over bites.  I suppose it was a success.

p.s. it went really nicely with Alesmith’s Grand Cru


16 Nov

Nona — Italian for ninth — is a modest enoteca/osteria/ristorante in Granville (home to our rival school, Denison University).  Located right on the “main drag” of the town, Nona offers a small portal back to Toscana with an Italian/English menu, the feel of an authentic Italian enoteca and a wine list that includes the famous Brunello di Montalcino and other DOCG wines.

The service was excellent and friendly, the atmosphere muted but warm and bustling and the food was life-saving.  To start my roommate ordered the vegetable soup which made her eyes roll back in her head and for me the braised fennel with blood orange vinegar infused onions.  Ummm ok so that all rocked pretty hard but then came our primi: for my roommate, the Sundried Tomato and Asiago Ravioli with Arugula pesto and Toasted Almond Butter and for me, the spinach and ricotta tortellini with ragu — TO DIE FOR.  All the pasta is done in-house so the freshness can’t really be beat.

For the dolci, we split a gorgeous flaky pastry nest of roasted apples and balsamic gelato.  Whatever, we basically had a roommate date but we had so much fun and you could not have slapped the grins off our face.  I think our waitress thought we were slightly insane because we gushed at every special she told us about but whatever.

A Sad

26 Aug

Today I had a sad.  I tried my hand at making homemade pasta.  DISASTER!  First I tried all by hand – got my big wooden cutting board, made the volcano shape out of the flour, poured the eggs inside.  Then things went terribly wrong.  One wall of my flour volcano sustained a collapse and egg lava started oozing out.  Then my hands turned into sticky doughy monsters.  So, I started over and this time used the food processor.  Things went much better but in the end the dough sucked – as in, not tasty after cooked.

fig, cheddar, big honkin knife

The fun, and successful, part of this venture was the filling.  I decided to screw around a bit in the kitchen and ended up pureeing fresh figs, marcona almonds, sharp white cheddar, cardamon (another mistake), ground ginger and black pepper.  It was unique, a touch spicy and a little sweet. I think it would be lovely if the pasta dough itself were actually tasty and bathed in a cream sauce (one of my friends suggested a saffron cream sauce) and some prosciutto crudo.  All of this was a great way to kill some time, stall packing for school and watch a documentary on Woodstock.  But I still has a sad.

I should have been a fat kid

26 Jul

I really should have.  I really should be.  A big thank you to good genes.

I recently confessed to my mother that my favorite pasta was capellini, and not for the taste.  I wanted capellini because I could spool huge amounts on my fork for one mammoth mouthful.  I blame my mother for this because she makes an incredible meat sauce.  Sometimes, even now, when she makes it and there are leftovers I will eat it out of the tupperware with a spoon foregoing the pasta.

I’m not quite sure why  I was so secretive about this, but oh well.

In other pasta news, I actually made myself ill on an incredible dinner in Genoa, Italy.  We sat at a long table  and were served simple spaghetti with pesto and fresh fried sardines.  I had one bite of both these local specialties and was hooked.  When others at the table couldn’t finish their food I gladly took over.  By the end of the night my stomach was so distended I could barely move, I’d already unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and everyone’s plates were fighting for a spot on my small corner of the table.  I couldn’t help myself it just seemed criminal not to do the food justice.

The Food Pushers

21 Jul

II. So I’ve been reading two books this summer that my mother recommended, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright and The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser.  And it lead me to think about how we view food, and food coupled with drink.  Myself, I am a slave to pastas of every variety and the blue and yellow of a DeCecco box are enough to make me swoon, but what about everybody else?  My 4 months abroad in Italy gave me a chance to make some lifelong friends and alter some of my perceptions while strengthening others.  Everyone had different tastes, many of which I found amusing.  My dearest roommate, a Persian pescatarian who didn’t cook, relied heavily on Buitoni pre-made pizzas, gelato from Chocolat (I am happily, equally as guilty) EXY — the local vegetarian take-away store — and hard boiled eggs.

She is not a fan of cooking but she is a lover of food and would eat anything I put down in front of her never shying away, even when I brought out the Srichacha chili sauce.  Her pescatarian ways also challenged me to produce meatless meals and remold my brain from its strong convictions that a meal isn’t a meal without some meat.  It was a running joke when she would catch me hunched over my computer for hours looking up recipes for our next dinner party or sniffing out the new Italian microbreweries/brewpubs around Milan.  There were still others in our friend group who would order plain cheese pizzas, something I’ve never understood, and a Becks. However, when sat at our kitchen table they too ate what was in front of them and enjoyed it.

Back in the states, I had an illuminating conversation with a dear friend of mine who is also an avid cook and a lover of good beer.  We had a discussion about how we were raised when it came to food and drink.  Her family rule was no matter what you were served you were expected to eat.  In fact, she and her siblings would become the catalyst for other families’ picky children to try new foods when faced with the attention-creating prowess of their eating habits.  This too was how I was raised and we both benefitted from parents who could cook, who were adventurous in travel and diet and with the money to do so.  Is the blame or the responsibility for “good eating” shouldered solely by the parents as Willy Wonka would say ?  Are we faced with a combination of good parenting and personal choice or are some people naturally inclined towards, as Visser would say, neophilia – the pursuit of the new?

We also talked about the idea of the “food pusher”, or one who forces food upon one’s guests consent given or not.  She places herself in the  more aggressive streak of food pushers whereas I find myself in a more insidious position:  if I invite people to dinner, I place all the food on the table equally in front of everyone and food in the middle to be eaten by hand.  The arrangement uses unseen peer pressure as the trigger for the others who lag behind.  For example, if everyone is eating fettunta and you are the only one not, you feel kind of stupid and HUNGRY when everyone else is making those lovely yummy sounds and wolfing down the few pieces left.

From a personal stand point, I have never been afraid to try new foods and actively crave the seeking and eating of these new morsels.  A pivotal book in my high school years, was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: the one line of advice I took away from the book was to never order something I’d had before.  Even in my baby diary my mother wrote (besides, “she cries when is told No.”) that my new favorite food was mulligatawny soup.  I have the same craving when it comes to craft and microbrews.  The emotions I feel when confronted by a wall of pasta are much the same when I step into a beer store for the very first time.  I’ve been compared to a kid in a candy store when I shop for beer: in the beginning, I had no control and could spend $100 on beer, oops!  My drive for the new usually means I try a beer and move on to the next, so that drinking a beer I’ve already had feels counterproductive — like I’m wasting my time on a beer I know, when I should be plowing through to discovering unknown breweries.  However, this urge too I have learned to control and recognize the benefits of coming back to some beer to dig a bit deeper and create a better understanding of it.

Spaghetti Mistress

21 Jul

I. I guess this is more of a post to describe my background with food and in particular my early childhood memories associated with beer and food.  One of the fears most commonly represented in movies for kids is the idea of getting lost and separated from your parents (sup, Home Alone I and II).  My real-life encounters with parental separation usually took place in the grocery store.

I was so in love with pasta at an early age that I would frequently head for the pasta aisle and stare up at all the different styles (gemelli, which means twins, was an early favorite) and somehow lose the rest of my family.  I would also lose track of time pouring over the wall of pasta until over the PA I would hear my name being called and being asked to come to the cash register.  My mother was smart enough to also groom me as an intuitive pasta tester at an early age.  Every time she made pasta she would ask me to try it at different times so I would grow accustomed to what was raw, semi-cooked, al dente and overcooked.

As for beer, I was also groomed at an early age to pour a beer properly and specifically a Guinness, by my father.  He would take us on family vacations to England, Ireland and Scotland where I spent some quality time in pubs inhaling fish and chips that were drowning in malt vinegar while keeping my eyes trained on the tap pulls.  My next adventure is to become the queen of pasta making, something in which one would think I’d already dabbled, and try my hand at homebrewing one of these days.  So I guess let’s just call this a work in progress and I’ll fill you in on the details as it grows.

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