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.

Nigella Kitchen

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I happen to be a fan of Nigella Lawson. She’s so prolific in the cookbook department, but each of her books manages to be different.

My favorite is Nigella Christmas, but probably because I’m a Christmas freak. Feast is also fabulous. But maybe in my top five is Nigella Kitchen, published in 2010.

Nigella describes this book as a comfort chronicle – “the story of my love affair with the kitchen,” which she refers to as the “heart of the home.”

That’s probably one major thing that all food bloggers have in common, that we’re at home in our kitchens. It’s where we’re the most comfortable, where we dish up love in the form of food.

In her introduction, she stresses the fact that she is not a chef. Nigella writes, “I understand why cooking can hold so much terror and the kitchen seem a place of stress, not solace. I’m sure this is partly to do with the contemporary cult of the chef…”.

Well I’ve been saying this for years. If anyone was ever hesitant about getting into the kitchen, I think the intimidating chefs on tv put an end to any attempts at cooking. This is especially sad when home cooking has nothing to do with what chefs do in their restaurant kitchens.

Furthermore, she adds, “I say and can never seem to say enough: if we needed qualifications and expertise before we stepped into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago.”

I love her approach, probably because it was always my goal, especially when I taught cooking classes, and now with this blog, to show how simple home cooking is, and how easy it is to be creative and not stick to an exact recipe.

In another part of the book she writes about having a girlfriend over for supper:

“We were chatting, moaning, jabbering away and generally passing the time, as one does. I was at the stove, pontificating and pottering occasionally pushing and prodding what was in front of me with a pair of tongs; she was facing me, at the kitchen table. After about ten minutes, if that I presented her with her plate and she looked surprised, as she was sure she hadn’t seen me actually cooking. In a way, I can see her point: this wasn’t Cooking-with-a-capital-C, but the lower-case way which is always my starting point, and on busy days, I wouldn’t think of going beyond. You put something on the heat, you take it off the heat.”

Nigella’s writing is so impressive to me (her first career was journalism), and she’s also damn funny. And even though she’s gorgeous model-pretty, she seems so down to earth and shall I say normal?

I also love the passion she has not just for cooking but also eating; the way she embraces her love of indulging is respectable to me. I’d rather live like Nigella and eat chocolate cake in the middle of the night, than doom myself to eat egg white omelets the rest of my life like rail-thin Gwyneth Paltrow.

So what recipe from Nigella Kitchen to pick for this post? I have many recipes bookmarked, some of which are quite simple, but manage also to be unique. One really spoke to me – it was a salmon over sushi rice topped with a spicy Asian sauce. Simple? Definitely. Yet fabulous.

I’ve always mentioned that I use brown rice, or actually when I use any grain I purchase the unprocessed variety for more nutrition, but Nigella’s use of sushi rice in this recipe – with its beautiful white elegance – made me actually go out and buy some.

Plus I finally get to use some sake that I’ve had on hand forever!

Salmon and Sushi Rice
with hot, sweet, and sour Asian Sauce

2 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 – 1 pound slab salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red or green chile peppers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water (used used only 1)

Cook the rice following the package instructions.

Sear the salmon on a flat griddle for 4-5 minutes. Turn it over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. The salmon should be just opaque and cooked in the center. Set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients together, and put in a bowl to serve alongside the salmon and the cooked rice.


Flake the salmon and serve it over the rice, and generously add the sauce.

This would be a fantastic sauce for any leftover salmon you might have. This recipe, as it turns out, is only about the cooked rice, the cooked salmon, and the sauce!

I originally assumed that the salmon was marinated, but no, it’s just a matter of making this fabulous sauce!

Besides reducing the water in the recipe(I didn’t want a watery sauce), I also added chile paste (sambal oelek) to the sauce.

Part of the reason is that I used jalapeños, but I could only find sweet red chile peppers.

I wanted the sauce more spicy!!!

Make sure and serve the sauce with the salmon. You’ll want more of it!

note: You can probably tell that I cooked 2 small salmon fillets, plus I only cooked 1 cup of sushi rice; my husband doesn’t eat salmon. But I made the full recipe of the sauce and will use it up on something else soon. Grilled chicken? Eggs? The next morning after I’d made this dish, I ate the second salmon and rice serving of it cold, for breakfast. It was fantastic.

Christmas Rocky Road

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I happen to really admire and idolize Nigella Lawson. And if you do, too, you know she loves Christmas.

This rocky road recipe is a Nigella recipe that she adapted for her Christmas cookbook, in order to make it more Christmassy! I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s become a holiday favorite for my family.

My favorite Nigella cookbooks are Nigella Kitchen, Feast, and Nigella Christmas. I can’t narrow those down any further. They’re all so unique and wonderfully entertaining, and packed full of hearty and satisfying recipes. Nothing too fancy and fussy. Or fiddly, in British speak.

Nigella had a tv show in the U.S. at one time that I loved to watch. She’s extremely funny, irreverent, and quite a hoot. Nigella embraces just about all food and drink, loves her children, and loves parties. We should really be friends.

So I’m not sure why I made this rocky road recipe the first time, actually. I don’t love candied fruit, marshmallows are strange, I don’t like rocky road ice cream, and we’re not really a sweets family. But am I glad I took a chance on this recipe.

In the past I’ve followed it almost exactly, except for the fact that I’ve always substituted other cookies for the Amaretti, because I could never find them. I used shortbread once, and gingersnaps another time; both turned out fabulous.

But this year I ordered Amaretti in the fall, so I was prepared! Plus I made a few changes to enhance the Christmas theme of these fudgey bars. I used pistachios for their green color, and I added some dried cranberries for their scarlet color. So here’s this year’s version of Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road:

Christmas Rocky Road

1 bag Amaretti cookies, 7 ounces
1 cup whole pistachios
1 cup whole candied cherries, plus a few extra
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
15 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle’s golden syrup
Powdered sugar

In a food processor, pulse the amaretti cookies until they are a coarse crumble. Place them in a large bowl.

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Add the pistachios, candied cherries, dried cranberries, and mini marshmallows, and set aside.

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To the top pan of a double boiler, place the chocolate, butter, and golden syrup. Heat about 2” of water in the pot below until it is gently simmering; the water should not boil, and should not touch the pan on top. We are melting the chocolate, not cooking it. Then, place the pan with the chocolate mixture on top. Using a spatula, occasionally stir the mixture as it melts. This should take about 10 minutes.

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Have a 9 x 13” pan ready.

When the chocolate and butter have melted, pour this into the cookie mixture in the large bowl. Using the spatula, fold everything together until completely incorporated. Then pour this mixture into the pan, using the spatula. Push it all around so it fills the corners, and is relative smooth on top. Using any extra cherries, if you wish, push them into the bars in random locations.

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Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the bars, slice them into big squares and remove them from the pan. If you wish to cut them smaller, it’s easier to do on a cutting board. If desired, sprinkle the Christmas Rocky Road with sifted powdered sugar.