Weekly Winner:  Light, Cheery (and Cheesy) Summer Pasta

It is finally tomato season here in Chicago.  My farmer’s market has an ample supply of these beauties and to me they signify the definitive start of summer. You really don’t want to do too much with these guys. They’re pretty much perfect just the way they are. The lightest touch of seasoning is all you need to bring out their best.  These tomatoes were the crowning touch on dinner tonight, which was so good, I had to post this immediately.

Two-Cheese Fusilli with Marinated Tomatoes is summer perfection on a plate.  It combines pasta (a Friday night “must have” for us), cheese (always a bonus) market tomatoes, home-grown basil and little else.  It’s reminiscent of a perfect Margherita Pizza.  Elegant in its simplicity  It doesn’t even need to be served piping hot — warmish is just fine.  On a muggy night like tonight, warmish pasta paired with an ice-cold glass of rose was the ideal way to cap off a busy week and kick off a long holiday weekend.

The recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine and the pasta is quick and super easy.  This is guaranteed to be a go-to summer dish for me — for as long as the tomatoes and rose hold out.

Two-Cheese Fusilli with Marinated Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped tomatoes (1-1/2 pounds)

2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

8 ounces fusilli

1 cup finely diced fontina cheese

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature

2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil
  2. Combine tomatoes, vinegar, garlic and salt in a large bowl.  Set aside to marinate.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain.  Immediately return the pasta to the pot. Add fontina and the reserved cooking liquid; stir constantly until the cheese is melted.  Fold in ricotta.  Transfer to a serving bowl or individual pasta bowls.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the marinated tomatoes over the pasta.  (Discard the marinade). Drizzle with oil and top with basil and a generous grinding of pepper.
Advertisements

Weekly Winner:  Addicted to Amazing Asparagus … and apparently farro too

The asparagus this season has been amazing. I find I simply can’t not buy it.  I’m grilling it, roasting it, sautéing it and adding it to anything I can think of.  Also, if you peruse past entries, it appears I have quite the culinary crush on farro.  I find it so much more interesting than rice, quinoa or barley. So, when a hearty salad combines those two things and adds nuts and cheese (which is always a bonus in my book) I knew I’d love it. And I did. This is one of those salads I could easily and happily eat once a week.

The only problem is that I’m at a loss as to where I found this winner of a recipe. Various internet searches have come up empty.  All I know is that it was a magazine.  The good news is I cut it out so I have it forever and am sharing it with you so we can all make it whenever we want —  even if I can’t give appropriate credit.  

Toasted Farro & Asparagus Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 lb thin asparagus

6 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed

1-1/2 cups pearled farro

Kosher salt

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

Grated zest of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

3 oz feta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon

Procedure:

  1. Snap off the tough bottom of each asparagus spear and discard.  Gather the spears into a bundle, cut off the tips, and cut the spears into 1/4-inch coins.
  2. In a wide saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the farro and stir to coat the grains evenly.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and enough water to cover the farro by at least 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the farro is al dente, about 25 minutes.  Drain.
  3. While the farro is cooking, in a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, the butter, and the red pepper flakes over medium-high heat, stirring a few times so the pepper flakes evenly toast, just a couple of minutes.  Working in batches in needed, add the asparagus tips and sauté for about a minute, then add the asparagus coins and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the tips and coins are bright green and crisp-tender, a minute or two more.
  4. Add the drained farro to the asparagus. Add the lemon zest and juice and 2 tbsp of the olive oil, tossing well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add up to another Tbsp of olive oil if you’d like. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then add the pistachios, feta and tarragon and toss again.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Weekly Winner – Crushing on Cashew Chicken Kebabs

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for a good peanut sauce (heck, I’ll eat a bad peanut sauce!). In my mind, the only thing that can make peanut sauce better is if you use cashews instead.  And seriously, how fun are kebabs???  So, put the two together and you know you’ve got yourself a winner.  Combine all that goodness with a fresh, crisp, cold veggie and rice noodle salad and you quite possibly have the perfect summer dinner.

Cashew-Chicken Kebabs comes from Martha Stewart Living magazine and is super easy and if you can convince someone (aka your husband) to grill the kebabs, it doesn’t even heat up the kitchen.  The only change I made was to julienne the carrots and cucumber rather than serve them in long, wide ribbons.  I thought the julienne shape matched better with the rice noodles.  (Sorry Martha!)

Cashew-Chicken Kebabs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups unsalted roasted cashews,plus more, chopped, for serving

3 to 4 Tbsp red curry paste (depending on desired heat)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1-1/4 pounds, total)

8 oz vermicelli rice noodles, broken in half

1 English cucumber

2 large carrots, peeled

Safflower oil, for brushing

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

Lime wedges, for serving

Procedure:

  1. Soak eight 8-inch skewers in water 15 minutes.  In a food processor, pulse cashews with curry paste and 3/4 cup water until smooth. Combine 1 cup cashew mixture with 1/3 cup water.  Toss chicken with remaining mixture; lightly season with salt.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook noodles until just tender, about 2 minutes; drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain well.
  2. With a vegetable peeler or mandolins, shave cucumber and carrots into wide, paper-thin ribbons.  Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high; lightly brush with oil.  Thread chicken onto skewers; grill, in batches if needed, 6 to 8 minutes per side, transferring to a plate as done. Serve, with noodles, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, cashew sauce, chopped cashews and lime wedges.

Weekly Winner: Craving the Creature Comforts of Carbonara with a side of smoke

Yeah, I know.  It appears I’ve taken a leave of absence. It has been a busy beginning of the summer and now that I can sit back and take a breath, I’ll get you up to date on some of the tastiness that’s happened around here.

Awhile back my best friend came for a visit.  This is always cause for celebration and usually quite a bit of decadent eating and drinking.  While all of that happened, I also had a party to cater so most of the eating and drinking took place at restaurants and bars, with the exception of this dinner. Smoked Gouda Carbonara.  O. M. G.  This is amazing.  I mean downright luxurious and definitely decadent.  But how often down your BFF (who, by the way is Italian) come to visit?  Time to bust the diet, open a bottle of wine and enjoy.

The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and like all good carbonaras has a minimal amount of ingredients.  The only tweak with this one is using smoked Gouda in place of the Parmesan.  The smoked Gouda emphasizes the smokiness of the bacon without becoming overwhelming.  It is just different enough to be sublime.  

Smoked Gouda Carbonara

Serves 6 [not in this house, but that’s what the recipe says]

Ingredients:

1 lb. spaghetti

5 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 cup (4 oz) finely shredded smoked Gouda, plus more for serving

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

6 oz slab bacon, finely diced

3/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Procedure:

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the whole egg, the 1 cup of Gouda, 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of black pepper.  Very gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to temper the eggs.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until rendered but not crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the pasta, crushed red pepper and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water.  Cook, tossing until the pasta is coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the pasta mixture into the large bowl and toss vigorously until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes; add more cooking water if needed.  Season with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta into bowls and serve, passing more Gouda at the table.