On Monday I really, really didn’t feel like going anywhere, including the grocery store. I rummaged through the refrigerator, then tossed a tweet out asking for suggestions based on my main available ingredients: macaroni noodles, fresh tomatoes, feta and salami. Cook Local (as well as my cousin Katherine) came through with an improvised pasta idea – thanks! I decided to add arugula at the last moment, partly to add color but mostly because a friend gave us a bag of arugula that still needed to be finished off – I had forgotten to list it among my assets.
macaroni salad, very al fresco
This week we did our annual car camping trip to Washington Park on Fidalgo Island. It rained. Welcome to a Pacific Northwest summer.
Fortunately the firewood we brought burned well, and we were able to successfully cook our dinner. Hebrew National hot dogs, blistered over the fire and dressed with sweet relish and very hot Dijon mustard, macaroni salad, Bonny Doon grenache, and toasted marshmallows. I tend to think that, if you don’t cook it on a stick over the fire, it’s not real camping food. Except the macaroni salad, which can be scooped directly out of its tupperware in case you don’t feel like washing extra dishes.
pea and goat cheese ravioli
Ever since our last cooking class with Casey Schanen, I’ve been thinking fondly of his ravioli stuffed with fresh peas and feta, served in a lemon beurre blanc. We received a ravioli making kit for Christmas, and fresh shelling peas just appeared in the market. Our choice for Sunday dinner was clear.
For the filling, I wanted to use Gothberg Farms fresh chevre, because I am still newly in love with this cheese and I want to use it in everything. This particular ball of cheese had a distinctly grassy note entwined with its sweet milkiness. It seemed made to go with peas.
First, we shelled our peas. I blanched them in boiling water for two minutes, then drained and cooled them. I set aside a few peas to go on top of the ravioli, but mashed the rest lightly with a spoon before adding the goat cheese along with some salt and pepper. In retrospect, a little lemon zest would have been nice as well. And perhaps a little chopped fresh mint. Next time…
Bellingham farmer's market, and two pasta lunches
Since our local farmer’s market doesn’t start for another month, we drove up to Bellingham last week to see how their market was doing. Man! I have serious market envy. Not that I don’t love ours, of course, but wow.
Covering a large parking lot as well as filling the big permanent covered area the city built, the market is thriving, not just with local fresh vegetables and crafts, but food carts, plants, bread, meat, clothing and henna tattoo artists. Instead of a main stage, they have the old-fashioned approach of letting acoustic musicians set up in the intersections. A hula-hoop area is set up on one side for the amusement of limber youth, and the goat-with-a-cart sculpture on the corner is constantly beset by children. People are everywhere, shopping and visiting and hula-hooping and eating.
pasta al cavolfiore
We had originally planned to have steak for dinner, but I was feeling tired and steak sounded like a lot of work to eat, so we did a little menu rearrangement. We had bought a cauliflower with the intention of making Pasta al Cavolfiore, a comforting Moosewood standby from our college days, and it was just the thing for my mood. My husband used to make this for me when we were first going out, and I find it soothing.
Because this is a recipe from the 1977 Moosewood Cookbook, a book that could have been commissioned by the Eat More Cheese Association, it’s less of an Italian pasta dish and more like a vat of cauliflower cheese with some pasta and tomato thrown in. You don’t really have to add as much cheese as the recipe says to – it would still taste great – but I admit a lot of the appeal here is the dense richness of the cheesy pasta, studded with tart bits of cauliflower and herb. We do veer away from the Moosewood vegetarian standard by adding some chunks of seared kielbasa, which adds a nice smokiness, as well as heft.
setting fire to shrimp
I don’t know if we make this dish mainly because it’s tasty, or because it’s so much fun to set fire to a panful of shrimp. Probably both.
Shrimp fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”) is a traditional dish, the main idea being a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp, saucing long skinny pasta. The version we make comes from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It adds an extra step or two to the typical recipe, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’ve never flambéed before, give it a try – it’s gratifyingly easy. Just make sure there’s nothing flammable right above your stove burners. You can skip the flambéing step, but the shrimp won’t have as deep and rich a flavor.
This is an awesome lasagna. I’m not kidding, it’s really, really good. Unless you don’t like mushrooms, of course, in which case I can’t help you. This is all about the mushrooms. And the cheese.
I got the idea for this lasagna from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but I embellished it a bit with extra cheese and a generous amount of sausage, because I tend to feel that sausage makes everything better. One technique of hers that I think is really key here is adding the porcini soaking liquid to the bechamel. It gives the creamy sauce an earthy perfume that I find irresistible.
pasta with wine-braised sausage
One of the real perks of living in Ellensburg, as we did many years ago, was proximity to the town of Cle Elum, home of Glondo’s Sausages. Recently recovered from a serious bout of vegetarianism, we were ready to take advantage of Glondo’s wonderful products, and this recipe is what we invariably made when we were feeling festive. Now that we’re an inconvenient 140 miles from Glondo’s, we have to make do with the sausages from our local grocery, but the pasta is still very tasty.
My original plan for Halloween dinner was to try a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi from the penultimate issue of Gourmet (sigh), but the little sugar pie pumpkin that I bought at Gordon’s was looking at me reproachfully. Right. I put off the gnocchi in favor of a sort-of repeat of last year’s pumpkin ravioli. Why did I think it would be less painful this time?
I recently invented this soup, and its become one of our favorites – as it turns out, really just a version of pasta e fagioli (Italian for noodles and beans, also known as pasta fazool). It also happens to be one of the easiest soups I’ve ever made, with the exception of the kind that involve opening a can or two. The first time I made it with freshly shelled borlotti beans from Colony Creek Farm (which were incredible), and the second time I used some locally grown, cupboard-aged Calypso beans (like little Yin-Yangs) that had taken up embarrassing residence in my pantry. Good thing dried beans don’t go bad very quickly.