I have Spring fever

April 21, 2009

Springtime Bulgur Salad

You know the story:  Every year, on May second, Sean Kingston pokes his head out of his hole and if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of rain.  But if he doesn’t…

This is no joke.  The weather here has been kind of variable, but I have all the symptoms anyways.  I’m talking allergies AND the urge to mate.  Pollen’s got my sinuses all kinds of jammed up with headaches and nasty nuclear green snot, but I still just want to go around quoting Marvin Gaye lyrics to girls in oversized sunglasses.

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Get your kind veggie burritos, man

April 20, 2009

Kind veggie burrito

As a kid I went to a lot of Phish shows, and from Red Rocks to Oswego, this refrain could be heard all through the parking lots, shouted by greasy-dreaded whiteboys with Coleman tailgate grills and hand-lettered cardboard signs, hawking sloppily thrown-together burritos filled with God knows what.  Never would I have imagined back then that I would be make for myself food somewhat in the vein of this product I so reviled and associated with the stigma of neo-hippies stumbling and juggling devil sticks amid the carnival-reminiscent sounds of third-generation Grateful Dead dubs and the screech of nitrous tanks and constant haze of cigarette and weed smoke and pink taillights.  So, apropos of today’s date, I present my own Diggity Dank Kind Veggie Burritos!

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Bon soir, s’il vous plaît,

April 13, 2009

Je voudrais un verre du lait au chocolat, et une soupe d’oignons, et un sandwich avec… How do you say grilled cheese?
Une Soup d'Oignons

All right, that was a big stretch, but I couldn’t think of any other pithy or pop culture-referencing headline / introduction for my French Onion Soup post. It would have been better if I had composed this picture with some chocolate milk and a grilled cheese and maybe a bloody mary too, but when I made this soup and took the pictures two months ago, I wasn’t thinking of Hotel Chevalier.

I had meant to put this up on either Wednesday or Thursday, but I ended up being out of town a while with my friends, and then was camping all weekend (Which was awesome, by the way.  There is nothing like spending a few nights in a tent or rustic cabin around a fire with some good friends and enough beer to sink a canoe).  After a couple months, what’s a few more days anyways?  That’s the beauty of having your own blog.

This onion soup was really good though, if my memory serves me.  The recipe is Giada de Laurentiis’s, though I did add some sherry to round out the taste a bit and I substituted dried thyme for the fresh stuff because I don’t have fresh thyme in February.  I also used the ciabatta bread that I had made the day before.  I thought fontina  was kind of an odd choice for cheese(they usually use gruyere right?), but this was the first time I made the stuff and I didn’t want to stray too too far from the recipe.  It came out delicious all the same with a great melty top and soggy bread chunks in a rich broth with great sweet onion slices all soft and caramely.  Also, this was a superlatively easy recipe to make, and it was ready in about 40 minutes.

Cheesey, melty top

Onion Soup with Fontina and Thyme

from Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large Vidalia onions

kosher salt

pepper

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons sherry

4 slices of crusty bread (I used ciabatta)

4 ounces sliced fontina cheese

Directions:

Slice the onions up on your cutting board, maybe into like 1/2″ slices.  They’ll shrink a bit in the soup, but not much so kind of picture what you’d want to get on your spoon without having them drop back into your bowl and splash hot, hot broth on you.

People don't cry when you slice up a violist

Heat up the oil in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven and add the onions, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Saute them, stirring occasionally, until they’re thender, about 10 minutes, then add the thyme, broth, and sherry.

Ohhhhh so oniony

Simmer this all up for a bit, until the onions are soft and brown and it just smells like onion soup should smell.  Use your common sense for the time.  The recipe called for 15 minutes, but I did mine a while longer.

Then divide the soup up into your special ramequins that you have especially for onion soup…er…maybe that’s just me.  I don’t know where they came from, but I’m not gonna complain.  But yeah, split the soup up four ways and top with the cubed bread and fontina.  As you can see, I went a bit overboard, but ahhhhhhhhhh cheese, you know?

Cheeeeeeeeese

Now just broil this until the cheese is melted and just a bit brown on top et voilà! Soupe à l’oignon.

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Gon’ eat these li’l fools like ciabatta bread

April 7, 2009

Ciabatta bread

Just when I was wondering how I was going to transition from something nicely spring-y like veggie burgers into a reason to make posts from my photos leftover from the winter, a storm comes along and dumps 3 inches of snow on us in April.  I guess I should be used to this kind of thing and even thankful for it making this and my next post relevant, still, I hate the goddamn snow.  Fuck it.

Anyway, I made this ciabatta bread way back at the beginning of February from the recipe for “rustic ciabatta bread” in Cook’s Illustrated no. 97.  If you get this magazine, go back to that issue and look at the pictures of this.  It looked so damn good that I could not resist making it.  I love ciabatta bread, it’s so chewy and crusty and slightly sour, and it’s got so many great applications from sandwiches to panzanella to just dipping it in some olive oil or marinara sauce, the bread is great and it entirely deserves it’s own theme song.

Unfortunately, mine didn’t come out so wonderfully.  While ciabatta is supposed to be kind of flat and rectangular/ovoid, mine didn’t achieve quite the rise that I wanted.  If I remember correctly, I wasn’t paying very close attention to this bread as I was making it, especially during the rise times, so that may have contributed to the lackluster results.  It was pretty dense and just kind of meh all around; in other words: destined to become breadcrumbs.  One great result of all the recent baking is that huge stockpile of homemade breadcrumbs I’ve got building up in the freezer.  The veggie burgers from Sunday were made from these bread crumbs and those from the leftover challah.  Also, this ciabatta served well in the French onion soup I made just a couple days later and that I will post up either tomorrow or Thursday.

Lackluster loaves

Ciabatta Bread

From Cook’s Illustrated no. 97, March & April 2009

Ingredients:

Biga

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast

1/2 cup water, room temperature

Dough

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water, room temperature

1/3 cup milk, room temperature

Directions:

Combine all the biga ingredients in a bowl and stir them until they just make a shaggy ball.  The biga is your starter, or your mother sponge, or whatever the French call it.  You want to just let this thing sit in the bowl overnight, at least 8 hours anyway, and ferment and get big and sour.

Biga up yourself

Next, put the biga and the rest of your dough ingredents into your mixer bowl (you’re using a mixer, right?) and mix it on the lowest speed with the white paddle thing for about a minute, scaping down the sides as needed, until it’s roughly combined.  Then crank it up to medium-low and mix it until it sticks to the paddle and is pulling off of the bowl and generally slapping all around.  Then switch the paddle out for your dough hook and mix it on medium for about 10 minutes until the dough isn’t shaggy any more and instead is smooth and kind of shiny and super sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until it doubles.

Dough

Spray a rubber spatula and fold the dough over itself “by gently lifting and folding [the] edge of [the] dough toward [the] middle” (Cook’s Illustrated hates using articles).  Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold the dough again.  Turn the bowl and fold the dough six more times for a total of eight turns, then re-cover it and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

Repeat that last turning and folding step and let it rise again until it doubles (Cook’s Illustrated says about 30 more minutes).  In the meantime, put your oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 450 with a pizza stone in there so it gets good and hot too.

Pull off two 12″x6″ pieces of parchment paper and dust them with flour, then dump your dough out onto the counter or your slab of marble or whatever you want to work with dough on.

Flour the dough liberally and cut it in half.  Then take each piece and press it into a rough 12″x6″ shape and then kind of fold the pieces like you would a letter that you’re going to stuff into an envelope.  The magazine says your loaves should be 7″x4″, so kind of imagine them that size.  Put them seam-side down on the parchment paper sheets and let them rise another half hour.

Last rise

Slide the parchment with the bread onto your pizza peel or whatever you’re using to get the bread onto the baking stone.  Press the dough out into 10″x6″ rectangles/ovals (ciabatta is Italian for slipper I hear, so you know make it look like a slipper whydoncha?) and spritz them with water.  Slide the parchment and everything onto your hot baking stone and bake the bread, re-spritzing twice more during the first 5 minutes.  They’ll be done after about 22 – 27 minutes total.  Pull them out and put them on a wire rack to cool to room temperature (about an hour) before slicing and serving.  Makes 2 loaves.

One of two loaves that this recipe produces

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I’m back (with veggie burgers)!

April 5, 2009

Black Bean Veggie Burger

Okay, so it’s been a real long time since I updated this thing.  There’s been a lot of personal nonsense going on in the past couple of months and even though I have a backlog of pictures for posts on my computer, I haven’t really had the inclination to put anything up here.  Until today that is.

It’s spring!

I am so pumped about the beautiful sunny weather and all the great stuff it brings with it: IPAs, frisbee golf, playing with dogs outside, gardening, and grilling.  A couple friends and I just signed a lease for a gorgeous apartment in the city with a little vegetable plot out back and a beautiful west-facing balcony for us to warm our faces on as we sip crispy summer beers and gorge ourselves on all kinds of foods charred over hot coals.  In anticipation for that and an upcoming camping trip in Allegany State Park, I made a huge batch of veggie burgers today (well bean burgers anyways) and I daresay they came out really well.

See, I’ve never made anything like this before; I’ve always been content with burgers made of ground up cow or turkey flesh, but after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve really tried to limit the amount of meat I take in.  It’s not that I’m against eating meat in theory, I still love the stuff and I certainly see myself eating it in the future (there is a place nearby that sells grass-finished meat seasonally called the Freeman Homestead that I’m planning on checking out), but for now in an effort to be healthier, reduce my carbon footprint and support local farmers I’m trying to cut back on meat as much as I can as well as buying locally whenever possible.  So expect to see a lot more vegetarian-oriented stuff on here (you’re welcome, Devon)!

Black beans in a Cuisinart

Black Bean and Corn Veggie Burgers

Ingredients:

2 15-ounce cans of black beans

4 eggs

1/2 an onion, somewhere between a chop and a dice

3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

1/4 cup pulled apart roasted red pepper (I just finished off a jar I had open)

pinch of salt

1 t. ground cumin

cayenne pepper

chipotle pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)

Directions:

Drain and rinse the black beans and put them in your food processor with the eggs, the pepper, onion, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne, and chipotle flakes.  Really just throw in whatever you want.  I just happened to have those things on hand, these are so versatile though you can just go nuts.  I wished I had some canned chipotles in adobo or something, but alack.

Most of the ingredients

Just pulse all this stuff a few times until it’s kind of smooth, but not so smooth as you would want hummus.  This is your main batter so to speak, and once you’ve got all the corn and breadcrumbs and everything in to bind it, you want it to have sort of a meatloaf-y consistency, you know like ground meat or…wait for it…hamburger.

The batter

Now add the parsley and pulse just once or twice more to mix it all together and dump the whole thing out into a bowl.  Stir in the corn and then mix in the breadcrumbs and cheese.  You might want to use your hands for this part and use more or less of either until you get the right consistency.  Remember: think hamburger.

Right before the cheese goes in

At this point you can shape the batter into patties and bake them on some parchment paper at 450 or cook them on a grill pan or a griddle like in a diner.  I just made a couple for my mom and I for lunch, then froze the rest for Allegany.  I don’t know how it’ll work, I just kind of formed them into the burgers and wrapped them in Saran Wrap.  We’ll see when they defrost.  Anyways, pretty much every ingredient is optional and can be substituted or swapped out.  The only things you really need I think are the eggs and some kind of bread crumbs or bulghar or something to act as binders.  I want to do some more with chickpeas and pine nuts and maybe even feta cheese or something like Mediterranean inspired. These ones I served on just some shiny buns we had with some spinach and this sauce from a local dairy.  It’s like yogurt with chile and mustard in it and it went perfectly with these veggie burgers.  I know that you can get the stuff at Wegmans in the Buffalo area as well as some places in New York.  I highly recommend it.  Their website is here.

Veggie burer with awesome yogurt sauce

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Ruuuuuuuude Pad Thai

January 29, 2009

Pad Thai

Touch my ass if you’re qualified.

Sometimes you’ve got to listen to Midnite Vultures and make insane pad thai in the deadest part of winter.  It’s looking like Thursday is becoming my night to treat myself with tasty food and hilarious comedies.  Well, maybe the Office isn’t really hilarious any more, but I have a new appreciation for 30 Rock and that’s going strong.  Even Kath & Kim happens upon a good gag from time to time (i.e. Kim: “Ugh, you guys should just elope!” Kath (holding a canteloupe): “We can’t elope, Kim!”)  All right, anyway, I decided to make pad thai as pantry sort of a night dish.  We had a couple limes, some old rice sticks, and some pork that needed using.  After picking up some cilantro at the store, we were all set.  I followed a recipe from the July 2002 issue of Cooks Illustrated, and it came out as perfect as I have ever gotten pad thai.  No sticky, gummy noodles, no overly fishy or sour sauce, no too huge chunks of un-scrambled egg.  This shit was straight rude, seriously just icky good.  The sweet, sour, and spicy flavors were all really well balanced and the noodles were deliciously tender and homogenously combined with the peanuts and scallions and crispy mung bean sprouts.  I could eat this pad thai until it came out my ears.  Dawn Yanagihara, I owe you one girl.  It also synergized just right with Beck’s sexy, funky, nasty album, which I listened to as I prepped dinner.  This guy’s got so many faces, but nothing of his beats this CD, it’s like Prince and Prince Paul teamed up to build a robot out of some pots and pans and a GameBoy and ran the whole thing with a twisted up rubber band like those balsawood planes.  Maybe because pad thai is also sexy, funky, and nasty, but they compliment each other perfectly.  Someone should hire me to be some kind of music sommelier to tell you things like if you’re eating one of those brie wrapped in puff pastry things, you should be listening to “Let It Die” by Feist (depending, that is, on what beer or wine you’ve paired it with).

But back to the pad thai.  I guess the main thing here is the importance of the mise en place.  Get everything together before you start cooking, because it all cooks so fast that you really just need to be able to grab and go.  Mise en place, if you don’t know, is the French phrase for having everything together before you start cooking.  You know how on TV, they have all the  ramequins so they don’t ever measure anything and they just dump the stuff in and chuck them into the sink?  Mise en place.

The mise en place

Here is the mise en place from tonight’s pad thai.  This might not even totally qualify because the noodles were in a bowl of hot water in the sink at this point and the pork was marinating.  Also, as you can see I am not Ming Tsai or Rachel Ray; I do not have a huge set of matching ramequins.

As far as changing this dish, shrimp is really good in it (I just happened to have pork), as is tofu.  You might want to increase the amount of fish sauce or cayenne pepper slightly to your taste, and also if you are one of those people, you can use tamarind instead of the lime juice.  I didn’t because I don’t have tamarind.  Supposedly, it is better and more authentic.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Ingredients:

Small pork tenderloin

pinch five spice

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup of water

5 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

8 ounces dried rice stick noodles, about 1/8″ wide

2 large eggs

pinch salt

3 garlic cloves

6 tablespoons chooped roasted unsalted peanuts

8 oz. package bean sprouts

6 scallions, green parts sliced thin on a bias

White parts of 3 of the scallions, minced

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Directions:

Cut pork into small strips and marinate in 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and five spice for about an hour.

Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl; soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes.  Use this time to prepare the other ingredients.  Beat the eggs and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside.  Stir lime juice, remaining fish sauce and rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into water and set aside.  Drain noodles and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes.  Add pork and cook, tossing occasionally, until pork is carmelized on the outside and cooked all the way through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer pork to a plate and set aside.

Off heat, add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl to coat; add garlic and white part of scallions, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes; add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds.  Add noodles to eggs and toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine.  Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated.  Scatter 1/4 cup  peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallion greens, and cooked pork over noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly until noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes.

Transfer noodles to serving dish, sprinkle with remaining scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts and cilantro; serve immediately.

Makes 4  servings.

Pad Thai

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Chicken Finger Sub

January 25, 2009

Chicken Finger Sub

I Googled chicken finger subs before writing this because I wasn’t sure if this was solely a Buffalo-area phenomenon or not.  It appears to be pretty much isolated to Western New York, which sort of makes sense, although the rest of the nation is seriously missing out. I used to work at a pizzeria and sub shop and if you’re not from here, you would not believe how popular they are.  You can walk into any Jim’s Steakout location, even at 3 in the morning, and find the place cram-jammed with people seeking these hot, crunchy, spicy fingers with  Buffalo wing or barbecue sauce.  They’re complimented with creamy bleu cheese dressing slathered all over a sub roll and topped with shredded lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.  These things are probably my guiltiest pleasure; they are so delicious as a Friday night kind of dinner with some Dr. Pepper or Cherry Coke or something and even better as a hung-over Sunday kind of thing where you don’t even eat until 4 in the afternoon.  There is something about getting down in your PJs and unwrapping that white paper blotched with glops of bleu cheese dressing run through with bright red-orange veins of hot sauce and reviewing your notes or something.  Fat kid heaven; seriously next level shit.

I decided to make my own with the baguette I made to eat on Thursday while I watched the Office and 30 Rock.  The Buffalo wing sauce is usually made with some vinegar-based chili pepper sauce like Frank’s Red Hot, but I switched that out for Sriracha.  This stuff is seriously spicy and is so great on nearly anything, it was a perfect fit for a chicken finger sub and would be awesome on some chicken wings.  I also didn’t have any bleu cheese dressing, so I made my own out of Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, and these bleu cheese chunks I had in my fridge:
Rosenborg Bleu Cheese

This stuff is out of control, crazy good and could be used on anything you want bleu cheese for.  I don’t know where it came from, but we’ve had it for a while and it is still great.  Lastly, I didn’t have any lettuce to shred for the sub, so I just used baby spinach and it was great.  Washed down with a crispy, hoppy Southern Tier IPA and a healthy dose of Jack Donaghy, this is a hell of a dinner for a once-fat kid now grown.

Chicken Finger Sub

Chicken Finger Sub

Ingredients:

Sub roll or baguette cut in half

shredded lettuce

thinly sliced onions

tomatoes (optional)

Chicken fingers:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast pounded flat and cut into 2 or 3  “fingers”

1 egg

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

salt

pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce:

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha

Bleu cheese dressing:

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

blue cheese cubes, chunks, or crumbles

pepper

Directions:

Mix the sauce ingredients together until fully incorporated, adjusting the proportion to your taste.  1 1/2: 1 is pretty spicy, you might want to decrease the amount of Sriracha to make it more mild.

Mix the bleu cheese dressing ingredients together.

Beat the egg and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken fingers in the egg mixture, and then coat them with breadcrumbs.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat and pan-fry the chicken fingers until they’re golden brown on each side.

Lightly toast the baguette or sub roll.

Mise-en-place

Dip the chicken fingers in the sauce and put them on the roll.  Top them with lettuce or spinach, onions, and tomatoes if you want them. Liberally spread some bleu cheese dressing on the top of the roll and make it into a sandwich.

This isn’t rocket science.

Makes 1 chicken finger sub.
Chicken Finger Sub

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Baguette? Oh, ho, ho, baguette!

January 23, 2009

Baguette

Guess who has two thumbs, speaks limited French, and only cried once today?  This moi!  In the past 2 days both my oven and my coffee maker have stopped working, a terrible combination when right now the main part of my mind is occupied with baking and with finishing my personal statement for law school applications.  Thankfully my grandma lives just around the corner and I was able to bake these baguette-oids at in her oven.  From what I’ve read online, baguettes are supposed to be a real challenge for novice bakers such as this myself, but since I love that crunchy, chewy, Gauloise-smoking stuff, I decided to give it a whirl.  I got the recipe from the King Arthur company because their picture of it just looked exactly how I wanted mine to come out.  They didn’t.  Not exactly, anyway.  Still, it was a fun experience; I love the idea of baking bread from starters, and though a little gluteny, my baguettes actually tasted pretty damn good.  They formed a nice crust too, though I didn’t “spritz” them with water because I don’t have a little bottle of the stuff like in Austin Powers 2, I just put a pan of water in the oven on the rack below the baguettes when I was baking them.  I heard that was supposed to work.

Baguettes

Baguette

Ingredients:

Starter:

1/2 cup water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast

Dough:

All of the starter

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Mix the starter ingredients together until you have a smooth mini-ball of dough.  Let it sit covered for 14 hours.

Dissolve the yeast in the cup of water with a pinch of sugar and let it bloom for 10 minutes, then combine with the rest of the dough ingredients and knead it together by hand or with a dough hook until you have a soft, cohesive dough, with a little roughness still to the surface.  You might need to add a little bit more water.  Let this rise covered with lightly greased plastic wrap for three hours, punching it down every hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it.  Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form them into “rough, slightly flattened oval[s].”  Let these rest another 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

Fold each piece of dough in half and seal the edge.  Fold it in half again, and then carefully shape into a log about 15″ long.  If you want to make a couche out of a floured dish towel, now is the time.  I just put them straight onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Anyhow, cover those bad boys up again and let them proof for another 60 – 90 minutes.

Baguettes after proofing

Preheat your oven to 450 and move the baguettes to a parchment-lined baking sheet or baguette pan or peel if you’re baking them on a stone. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in each loaf at about 45 degrees.  Spritz them down with water or else do what I did and bake them with a pan of water below them in the oven.  Pop the baking sheet into the oven or transfer them to the stone and bake for 25 minutes.  Pull them out and cool them on a rack, or King Arthur suggests turning the oven off, cracking the door and letting them cool in there.

Baguette

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The gnocchi experiment

January 19, 2009

Gnocchi Carbonara

I was actually thinking of naming this blog Big Gnocchi Plates at one time, the idea being that is in the same hypothetical Ghostface song name vein, but I had never made gnocchi before, and haven’t even liked it much in the past.  Anyways, I got to thinking about gnocchi lately (after hearing an anecdote about a woman at the nursing home where my friend works who was convinced that her family had been there and made gnocchi and sang songs and from seeing Tyler Florence do it on TV), and so I decided to give it a go.  I’ve also been thinking about carbonara lately, and an eggy, bacony, cheesey sauce seemed the perfect breakfast for dinner-y accompaniment to a potato pasta.  Besides bacon, potatoes, and eggs are all things that I have and the idea of getting my mom to eat raw eggs is extremely appealing to me.

In the end, the whole thing was pretty lackluster.  The gnocchi were a little tough and a lot misshapen, and I didn’t have enough cheese so the sauce was thin and sort of eggy.  The taste wasn’t bad, just a little bit bland.  I think if I were to do it again in the same proportions, I would use an egg less in the sauce and one and a half times the cheese.  Also, some fresh herbs like basil or parsley in the gnocchi would really knock this out I think.  I’m going to post the recipe as I did do it,  rather than how I would next time.

Gnocchi all formed up

Gnocchi Carbonara

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

4 small potatoes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs beaten

Carbonara sauce:

1/4 lb. bacon cut into lardons (you can use pancetta or guanciale if you are the kind of person that has these things)

3 eggs beaten

1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese

freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 450.  Wash the potatoes and prick them all over with a fork.  Bake them for an hour.

Halve the potatoes and scoop out the insides and run them through a ricer onto a marble surface or into a bowl.  Allow to cool for about a minute and then add 3/4 cup flour, eggs, and salt.

Work the potatoes, flour, eggs, and salt together into a sticky dough and knead in pinches of flour until it is dry and smooth.  Make the dough into a ball.  Don’t knead them too much though or they will become tough and dense.

Gnocchi dough

Pull off handfulls from the dough ball and roll them into long snakes.  With a fork, cut off bite-sized pieces and holding it by the small sides, roll the tines of the fork over it to make it look like gnocchi.  This is hard to get down and only about a third of mine ended up looking right.  The rest were like little buff turds.  Lay them all out on a piece of parchment paper until they’re all formed.

Little buff turds

Set a big pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, render the bacon and crips up the bits in a skillet and then remove the pan from heat (I took it outside and stuck the bottom in the snow for a couple seconds to really cool it down).

When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the gnocchi in batches.  Fish them out with a slotted spoon once they start to float and put them in a bowl.

Reheat the bacon and add 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Toss in the gnocchi, the cheese, and the eggs.  Toss it all together until it’s warmed through and incorporated and add plenty of pepper.

Serve in warmed pasta bowls with more pepper and cheese to taste.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Gnocchi Carbonara

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“College” Pasta

January 12, 2009

Lemon Tarragon Pasta

I basically lived on this stuff for the last two years of college.  It is super easy to prepare, and can be made on a college kid’s  budget in even the tiniest of kitchenettes.  All you really need for this is a stove and a couple of pans, one to cook the pasta and broccoli in and one to make the sauce in.  I guess you could say that this is my own recipe (you can barely call it that, it’s so simple), and it perfectly demonstrates my philosophy that even with the extremely limited means of a college student, one can make healthful, delicious meals for oneself.  There is no need for the Easy Macs and scrambled eggs for dinner you think of when you imagine the dietary habits of off-campus collegians.  I have liked it so much that I still make it even when not limited to it by my budget.  This makes a huge bowl of pasta in a light, garlicky lemon sauce and can easily be halved or modified or substituted.  I have made it with lemon juice out of a bottle, fresh tarragon, shrimp, chicken, and asparagus before.  Even the bumblingest of amateur cooks can whip this together in only the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.  My personal preference is to make this with fresh lemon juice and zest, dried tarragon, broccoli, and whole grain thin spaghetti.

Lemon Zest

Lemon Tarragon Pasta

Ingredients:

4 oz. whole grain thin spaghetti

1 crown broccoli, broken into bite-sized florets

juice and zest of one lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 – 4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons dried tarragon

1 tablespoon romano cheese

crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions:

Add pasta to boiling salted water and cook.

When there is 3 minutes left for the pasta, saute garlic and crushed red pepper in olive oil until it just starts to brown.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice and cheese to the oil, and stir until it’s melted.  Stir in tarragon.

When there is 2 minutes left for the pasta, stir the broccoli right into the water with the pasta.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and toss with the sauce and lemon zest.  Serve with additional cheese and red pepper to taste.

Serves 2 or 1 really hungry college guy (or 1 really hungry alumnus)

Lemon Tarragon Pasta

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