Peking Duck

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The last time I made Peking duck was 35 years ago.I know this because I did some serious cooking between getting married in early 1982, to when my baby arrived in late 1983.

During this time I dove head first into cooking, making my way through The Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook set. I wanted to learn how to cook, and those cookbooks were the only ones I owned, gifted to me by my mother when I got married!

There were 27 cookbooks in that set, with both International and regional American cuisine represented. The first was published in 1968. I still treasure them today.


Growing up, my mother, who was a passionate and crazily talented cook, whipped up International dishes from her set of Foods of the World cookbooks, so I was familiar with a lot of “exotic” ingredients, and fortunately not intimidated by the recipes when I began cooking seriously.

My favorite dish from the Chinese cookbook was Peking duck, served with Mandarin pancakes, hoisin sauce, and green onion “brushes!”

Preparing all of the elements, including the duck and the Mandarin pancakes, was not difficult, but it was time consuming. And I loved it.

Until the baby was born. At that point I continued to cook a lot, but I couldn’t make recipes that took hours of preparation. No more Peking duck!

Fast forward to 2019. Peking duck popped into my head. I have no idea why. So, it’s been so many years since I’d made it, or enjoyed it. Time to fix that!

Peking Duck
Pei-ching-k’ao-ya

1 – 5 pound duck
6 cups water
1/4 cup honey
4 slices peeled fresh ginger root, 1″ by 1/8″ each
2 scallions, cut into 2″ lengths

The sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons sugar

12 scallions
Mandarin pancakes, recipe below

Wash the duck under cold water, then pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tie one end of a 20″ length of cord around the neck skin. If the skin has been cut away, loop the cord under the wings. Suspend the bird from the string in a cool, airy place for 3 hours to dry the skin.

In a 12″ wok or large flameproof casserole, combine 6 cups water, 1/4 cup honey, ginger root and cut scallions, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Holding the duck by its string, lower it into the boiling liquid. With string in one hand and a spoon in the other turn the duck from side to side until all of its skin is moistened with liquid.


Remove the duck and hang it again in the cool place, setting a bowl beneath it to catch any drippings; the duck will dry in 2 to 3 hours. Discard the liquid in the wok.

Make the sauce by combining hoisin sauce, water, sesame seed oil and sugar in a small pan, and stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to its lowest point and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Pour into a small bowl, cool and reserve.

To make the scallion brushes, cut scallions down to 3″ lengths and trim off roots. Standing each scallion on end, make four intersecting cuts 1″ deep into its stalk. Repeat at other end. Place scallions in ice water and refrigerate until cut parts curl into brush-like fans.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Untie the duck and cut off any loose neck skin. Place duck, breast side up, on a rack and set in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the bird.

Roast the duck in the middle of the oven for one hour. Then lower the heat to 300 degrees, turn the duck on its breast and roast for 30 minutes longer. Now raise the heat to 375 degrees, return the duck to its original position and roast for a final half hour. Transfer the duck to a carving board.


With a small, sharp knife and your fingers, remove the crisp skin from the breast, sides and back of duck. Cut skin into 2 by 3″ rectangles and arrange them in a single layer on a heated platter.

Cut the wings and drumsticks from the duck, and cut all the meat away from breast and carcass. Slice meat into pieces 2 1/2″ long and 1/2″ wide, and arrange them with the wings and drumsticks on another heated platter.

To serve, place the platters of duck, the heated pancakes, the bowl of sauce, and the scallion brushes in the center of the table.

Traditionally, each guest spreads a pancake flat on his plate, dips a scallion in the sauce and brushes the pancake with it. The scallion is placed in the middle of the pancake with a piece of duck skin and a piece of meat on top. The pancake is folded over the scallion and duck, and tucked under.

One end of the package is then folded over about 1″ to enclose the filling, and the whole rolled into a cylinder that can be picked up with the fingers and eaten.

Mandarin Pancakes
Po-ping

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup boiling water
1-2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

Sift flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the center and pour into it 3/4 cup of boiling water. With a wooden spoon, gradually mix flour and water together until a soft dough is formed; on a lightly floured surface, knead it gently for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle about 14″ thick. With a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter cut as many circles of dough as you can.

Knead scraps together, roll out again, and cut more circles.
Arrange circles side by side, brush half of them lightly with sesame seed oil and, sandwich wise, place the unoiled ones on top.

With a rolling pin, flatten each pair into a 6″ circle, rotating the sandwich an inch or so in a clockwise direction as you roll so that the circle keeps its shape, and turning it once to roll both sides. Cover the pancakes with a dry towel.

Set a heavy 8″ skillet over high heat for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to moderate and cook the pancakes, one at a time, in the ungreased pan, turning them over as they puff up and little bubbles appear on the surface.

Regulate the heat so that the pancakes become specked with brown after cooking about 1 minute on each side. As each pancake is finished, gently separate the halves and stack them on a plate.

Serve them at once or wrap them in foil and refrigerate for later use.

Spicy Scrambled Eggs

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In spite of owning Plenty, a wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, I just had to purchase Plenty More, published in 2014. And I’m certainly glad I did.

For the blog, I’ve made zucchini Baba Ghanoush, and I’m especially intrigued by a membrillo and Stilton quiche, made with butternut squash, so that will be next.

But one recipe I bookmarked on the first read-through is Spicy Scrambled Eggs. Nothing exceptional except, well, it is. There are spices, herbs, eggs, tomatoes, a chile pepper and did I mention spices?!!


From Ottolenghi: Many of my brunch dishes were devised BC (before children), so food-meets-the-need-to-soothe was often in mind when cooking on a Sunday morning. A few dishes have remained part of the weekend breakfast repertoire since we started turning in early on a Saturday night. This is one of them.

Spicy Scrambled Eggs
Serves 4

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/4″ piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 medium red chile, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4″ dice
8 eggs, beaten
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Urfa chile flakes

Put a large, preferably nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil, cumin, caraway, onion, ginger, and chile. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.


Add the ground spices, tomato paste, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and for and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.


Add the eggs, turn down the heat to medium-low, and continuously, but very gently, scrape the base of the pan with a wooden spatula.

You want to end up with large, curd-like folds and you want the eggs to be soft and very moist.

Cook the mixture for a total of about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with the green onions, cilantro, and chile flakes.

Serve at once.


Enjoy!

Smoked Trout and Shrimp Pate´

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Although I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, I probably would have balked at the idea of smoked trout, until I actually had it. And it’s spectacular.

Our younger daughter went to summer camp outside of Estes Park, Colorado two years in a row, and one time when we dropped her off, we stayed in cabins on a large, beautiful property. There were hiking trails and a large fish pond. They sold their own trout they smoked themselves on property.

The smoked trout was so good that we brought a bunch home in the ice chest. I just ate the smoked trout like one would enjoy kipper snacks – on crackers.

When I discover the paté recipe, shown below, I’m glad I didn’t hesitate to make it. It’s wonderful, in an unexpected way. I’m guessing this was cut out of Gourmet magazine, but I can’t find it online anywhere to confirm.

As the recipe states, cutouts of pumpernickel bread are fabulous, but so are any hearty crackers.

The recipe uses both smoked trout and baby shrimp, both of which I found canned.



The recipe is so easy because it utilizes a food processor for the room temperature cream cheese, lemon zest, trout, and shrimp.

Then it’s just a matter of folding in the green onion; I saved the capers to serve separately.

Serve the paté at room temperature.

Serve it with breads, crackers, and veggie sticks.

If you make individual canapes with the paté, buy an extra can of shrimp and put one baby shrimp on top of each canapé.

And don’t overprocess the mixture in the food processor. You want some texture.

You can serve the paté in a serving bowl with a server, or mold it in a bowl the day before serving and unmold onto a platter.

Croissants Breakfast Boats

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I happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!


Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!


Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my favorite florist Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.


You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.


I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

Kimchi and Kimchi Pancakes

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I’ve had kimchi twice in my life, and neither time did it strike a chord, so to speak. I mean, it’s stinky. However, the smell is also addicting. It’s multi-layered, with fish and fiery spice, garlic and ginger.

Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that is considered a staple of Korean cuisine, is basically used like a condiment. I’ve learned that Korean families always have a vat of it going in their homes.

I’ve also learned that there are a multitude of recipes for kimchi, but I’m going with a quick kimchi recipe on TheKitchn.com, written by Emily Han.

From TheKitchn.com, Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.

So I wanted to see if my I liked kimchi more, but mostly I wanted to use the fermentation crock that my daughters had gifted me again; I recently used it for Escabeche.

If you want to understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

Kimchi

2 pound head Napa cabbage
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons seafood flavor (I used 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste)
1-5 tablespoons gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes
8 ounces Daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
4 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2” wide strips.


Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage.

Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar. Let stand for 1 – 2 hours.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru; this author recommended about 3 1/2 tablespoons.

Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.

Mix thoroughly, working the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Disposable gloves are highly recommended for this step.

Pack the kimchi into a jar, (I used the fermentation crock), pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace if you’re using a jar. Seal the jar/crock with a lid.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 – 5 days. You may see bubbles inside. If using a jar, brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch overflow.

Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to eep them submerged under the brine. This also releases gases produced during fermentation.

Taste a little at this point. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. It’s best after another week or two in the refrigerator, but can be eaten right away.

I couldn’t wait to make the following recipe using my kimchi.

Kimchi Pancakes
From Bon Appetit

1 large egg
1 tablespoon kimchi brine from jar
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white flour
1 1/2 cups kimchi
4 scallions
4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar

Crack 1 egg into a medium bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. kimchi brine, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, and ¼ cup water and whisk to combine.

Whisk in all of the flour.

Coarsely chop 1½ cups kimchi, add to bowl, and stir to combine. Thinly slice 4 scallions on a diagonal. Add half to batter; reserve remaining scallions for serving.


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Drop ¼-cupfulls of batter onto opposite sides of skillet (pancakes should be about 4″ in diameter, so you’ll probably only be able to cook 2 at a time).

Cook pancakes until golden brown on first side, 2–3 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on second side, 2–3 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat process in batches with remaining batter and oil; you should have 8 pancakes.

Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 3 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.

Transfer pancakes to a platter. Top with reserved scallions and serve with dipping sauce alongside.

I honestly couldn’t stop eating these pancakes. Look at the beautiful kimchi in the batter.

They were fabulous as is as well as dunked in the sauce.


Next time I will double the pancake ingredients so there are more in which to indulge.

They’re best crispy right out of the skillet, bet you can also re-crisp them in a hot pan before serving the leftover pancakes.

Summer Corn Dip

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I’m not a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse. It’s not that I don’t respect his accomplishments, which are vast. In fact, he’s one of the longest lasting tv chefs in the U.S. We just never clicked. I didn’t get the “night show” element of live music on his cooking show, and the “BAM” was way overdone. Just my opinion.

So I wasn’t completely thrilled when I received an Emeril cookbook as a gift. But when I opened the book, Prime Time Emeril, to a random page, it was to the recipe for Hot Corn Dip.

Not being from the Midwest, I haven’t always been a huge corn fan like some people. I mean, it’s really good with butter and salt – on the cob, of course. But corn dip???

corn22

Well I made it, and it’s now one of my few repeat recipes I make in the summer. For this one recipe alone, I will always keep Prime Time Emeril, published in 2001.

So here is my version of Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for corn dip, from his cookbook. It’s especially fun to make when corn on the cob is 10 for $1.00! However keep in mind that to make it simpler, canned corn can also be used.

Hot and Cheesy Corn Dip

4 corn on the cobs
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces grated white cheddar or Monterey jack
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Remove the corn from the corn cobs using a knife, slicing vertically on four “sides” of the cob. Then break up the pieces of corn into individual kernels.

Cook the corn in boiling water for about 10 minutes; test it to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Drain the corn in a colander, and set aside to cool.

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat. Chop the onion, red bell pepper and green onions. Add the vegetables and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.

Then add the corn, the cream cheese and cubed or grated cheese, and allow the cheeses to completely melt into the vegetables.

Add the salt and cayenne, or sprinkle the cayenne on top of the dip when serving.

Serve the dip warm with good corn chips. I like the “scoopable” variety!

I’ve also used mayonnaise in this dip along with cream cheese. It just adds a depth of flavor.

Now to change things up. You can make a Southwestern version of this corn dip by adding chopped green chile peppers and cilantro, plus a little ground cumin.


I’ve included made this dip with crumbled chorizo. Yum. Italian sausage also works.

For a pescatarian option, add crab, some Old Bay, and top with chopped avocado!

Chicken Teriyaki

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My husband, thanks to me, has quite a developed palate, considering how he was cooked for growing up. He loves Indian food, he loves Ethiopian food, he loves most Mediterranean cuisines, minus the olives and capers, and he absolutely loves dim sum.

However, there’s no dim sum or Indian restaurant where we live. So when we go out, it’s more for me to get out of the kitchen, and much less about either of us having a great food experience. (Sometimes our experiences are downright comical.)

But I admit he seriously sacrifices himself when we go to this local Japanese restaurant.

The restaurant has the most beautiful salad, called the avocado ball salad with a crabmeat filling. It’s divine; I could have it every day. It’s really the main reason I ever want to have lunch at this specific restaurant, although their sushi and sashimi are also outstanding.

However, all my husband orders off of their menu is chicken teriyaki, and it’s not good.

One day I received a Nigella.com email, sharing her Chicken Teriyaki recipe, and it dawned on me that I’d never made it at home before. Chicken Teriyaki was something I learned early on, was grossly over-sweet. I think I figured that out when I purchased a bottle of teriyaki sauce. Horrible stuff.

So I decided to test out Nigella’s recipe, even though she made it abundantly clear that there is sugar in it.

From Nigella: “I know the world is full of good parents who never give their children food with salt or sugar, and this recipe proves conclusively that I am not one of them and, on top of these dietary failings, the following also contains alcohol!”

Here’s her recipe:

Chicken Teriyaki
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons mirin
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
Splash of sesame oil
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sushi rice

In a glass baking dish, combine the sake, mirin, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and sesame oil. Stir well.

Add the chicken pieces and let them marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a braiser. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the chicken out of the marinade, and let it cook until browned on all sides.

Pour in the marinade, and cook the chicken for five minutes longer. Remove the chicken with the slotted spoon to a serving bowl, loosely covered with foil to keep the chicken warm.

Lower the heat and reduce the marinade until thick and syrupy. Pour over the chicken, toss gently, and serve, with cooked sushi rice.

It’s a wonderful recipe, and of course my husband thought it was a thousand times better than what he orders locally.

I served the teriyaki with some chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

I looked at my Japanese cookbook just to see what an authentic chicken teriyaki recipe included, and I discovered something unexpected.

Teriyaki sauce is made up of mirin, soy sauce, and chicken stock. To turn it into a teriyaki glaze, sugar is added – 1 tablespoon of sugar for every 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce.

That’s actually pretty sweet, which is why, obviously, teriyaki becomes such a syrupy glaze. Also, to serve the chicken, the recipe says to “spoon a little of the glaze over each serving.”

So maybe it’s not just the sweetness that can be overpowering, but also the volume of teriyaki glaze on the chicken in Americanized Japanese restaurants.

But in any case, if you dislike chicken teriyaki at your local Japanese-American restaurant, do try this recipe. My husband said, “It’s wonderful.”

And now I’ll probably never get him back to the Japanese restaurant so I can have my avocado ball salad…

 

Nigella’s Pasta with Squid

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In May, my refrigerator died. I was without a refrigerator for 12 days. It was awful.

So what did we do? My husband and I went out to eat, a lot. We had to. It’s quite challenging to come up with ideas for meals when no refrigeration is available and it’s hot outside.

At first, it was fun for me, because it was a nice break from cooking. Until going out really got old.

To make things worse, I kept coming across more and more recipes that I wanted to prepare, and started to really miss cooking.

I never divulged that to my husband. Instead, I would make obnoxious comments, like “Hey, this is what most Americans do. They go out to eat! All the time.”

I guess when I think I might starve because I have no refrigerated food, pasta really appeals to me.

Specifically, there was a pasta recipe in Nigella Kitchen that got my attention.

It was simple, made with squid ring-shaped pasta, and containing squid rings!

I would have thought that no Italian would actually make such a dish, but Nigella actually had it at a restaurant along the Amalfi coast.

She does refer to the pairing as a “culinary pun,” but hey, if it’s served in Italy, she can put her recreation of it in her cookbook!

The calamari=shaped pasta I found is called Pasta di Gragnano; Gragnano is the area where Nigella had the pasta dish.

In any case, it’s now December and I’m finally getting to this recipe, which is actually good timing, because it’s totally festive! I might make it again on Christmas!

Quick Calamari Pasta
Slightly adapted

1 pound pasta, calamari-ring shape
Salt
1 pound cleaned squid, sliced, tentacles left whole
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh red chile peppers, sweet
1/2 cup vermouth
1/4 cup pasta cooking water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Handful of chopped parsley
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add the green onions for one minute, then add the garlic and red chile peppers.


Stir well.
Add the squid rings AND tentacles and cook for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the vermouth and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the squid is tender and the vermouth reduced.

Add the cooking water and butter, then add the drained pasta to the squid and stir together well.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve!

I added a little more salt, and also included some cayenne pepper.

The next time I make this, I might remove the squid and vegetables before continuing with the liquids. That way it’s insured that the squid doesn’t overcook.


Plus, I’d love to try it with a little tomato paste and cream.

But it’s a delightful recipe, and classically Italian in its simplicity.

Asparagus Gremolata

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No, you didn’t read it wrong. This isn’t asparagus with gremolata, this is actually gremolata made with asparagus!

I’m the first to snicker when cooking terms are wrongly or “loosely” used – especially on menus! Sometimes it just makes it hard to figure out what the dish is. Names like “confit” and “coulis” and now, “gremolata.”

Gremolata is a fabulous condiment of sorts, Italian in origin, made up of lemon, parsley, and garlic. It’s often served with Osso Bucco, but it’s also good with roasted meats.

gremolata1

My husband and I once dined at a restaurant that served us bread with gremolata as soon as we sat down. Within a short time, the restaurant had run out of gremolata, probably because of us devouring it!

In any case, my friends had me over for my birthday in April, and I sat down to a lovely meal of steaks, grilled by him, and pasta with asparagus gremolata, made by her.

She told me it was called asparagus gremolata, and it was in a recent Bon Appetit. I was a little confused because I was familiar with traditional gremolata. In any case, it so so ingredible, I got the recipe from her and I’m making it. Here’s the recipe, photographed from the magazine.

IMG_0597

Besides serving the asparagus gremolata with meats and fish, Bon Appetit suggested adding pasta and arugula, which is how it was served to me. I used half spinach and half arugula!

IMG_0598

There was a little prep work involved, but it didn’t take much time. One thing I did was to remove the ends of the asparagus spears, so that only the thinly sliced asparagus stems were part of the gremolata.

The sliced asparagus was rinsed multiple times in icy water to keep it crisp. I was so tempted to parboil the asparagus, but it was so good as my friend made it that I didn’t want to change a thing!

A ribbon pasta would be beautiful tossed with the gremolata, but I chose pipe rigate.

Once the gremolata, the pasta and the arugula/spinach combo was tossed together, I added much needed salt and a generous amount of olive oil.

You can treat this dish as a side dish, or also like a pasta salad.

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It would be good with some shaved Parmesan as well.

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Although the arugula adds some spiciness, I could see sprinkling a little cayenne pepper flakes on the top of the pasta.

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But I just offered salt and pink peppercorns. Enjoy!

note: What was especially nice about the whole dinner, is that many friends won’t cook for me! That made the whole celebration even that more wonderful. People, if you have friends who are cooks, whether it’s their main passion in life, a hobby, or their livelihood, please cook for them! They will love it!