Monday, June 27, 2011

Sun-Dried Elbows

Super simple summer pasta?
Fresh mozzarella, marinated/rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and pasta.
Oh, and salt to season.
That's all you really need.


Cook pasta.


If you're feeling decadent, throw a knob of butter on the hot drained pasta along with the sun-dried tomatoes.

Combine all ingredients in the still-hot pot, making an homage to the Italian flag while the mozzarella begins to soften and stretch.


Friday, June 24, 2011

My First Manicotti

What do you do when you only have 2 sheets of fresh lasagna left?
Make manicotti!

This may highly resemble the lasagna from my last post.
That's because I made this just a day or two after the lasagna, as I had leftovers of just about everything.
But this time I made sure to use a healthy dose of prosciutto.
The hubs and I are not vegetarians.
Yay pork!

I start out, as ever, sautéing some shallot and garlic in olive oil, and once it was translucent and fragrant, I added some diced asparagus and cooked it for about 2-3 minutes.
Season with salt.

Next I added a splash of white wine, some prosciutto cubetti, sliced sun-dried tomatoes (marinated in garlic, herbs, and olive oil), and some fresh basil ribbons.
Cook another 3-4 minutes to combine and the white wine has cooked away.

I was using the Giovanni Rana fresh lasagna sheets, so I could just lay it out to fill without any pre-boiling messing about.  Spread some fresh ricotta in a line, top that with everything from the pan, and give it a roll.

Sauce in the bottom of the pan before placing rolled manicotti.

Top with a bit more tomato sauce (just marinara from the fridge) some sliced mozzarella, a sprinkle of grated cheese and basil, and it's ready to bake in a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is melted and the inside is bubbly and hot.

If your finished product doesn't look aesthetically pleasing enough, at the 20 minute mark turn on the broiler and cook another 2-4 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Allow to set before serving or cutting into  the manicotti.
Who knew manicotti was just an answer to leftover lasagna ingredients?!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato & Asparagus Lasagna

Who doesn't love lasagna?

Well, maybe people who aren't big fans of asparagus, but this is a lovely change-up from the average layers of meat sauce and bechamel.
And it's still asparagus season, so take advantage of it!
This is based off a Giada di Laurentiis recipe, which calls for pancetta in the base of sautéing the asparagus, which would be delicious, but as I was trying to make a vegetarian dish I skipped that step.
I also didn't sauté the asparagus, as you will see below, because there was just far too much for any one pan.

As I was making 4 lasagnas, I stretched the sun-dried tomato sauce with a little fresh homemade marinara. Just your standard onion, garlic, large can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, pinch of dried oregano, salt, and fresh basil.
For the sun-dried tomatoes, I used marinated Turkish-style tomatoes (rather than dried Italian) which are already plumped up from being in their olive oil with garlic and herbs.
Simply drop them with their oil in a food processor and let it go until smooth. Add more olive oil if you need to break them up a bit more.
Combine the two types of tomato sauce and set aside for layering.

For this much asparagus (3-4 bunches) I washed and sliced them all first and then laid them on a baking sheet, drizzled with salt and olive oil and a few pats of butter (white spots you see) and put each tray under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes. This way they get a bit cooked and flavorful, but they're not mush. 
You want them to still have some bite after baking.

Lightly sauce the bottom of your pan and then begin layering: pasta, sauce, asparagus, ricotta, grated parmigiano, repeat.

You could also just combine the ricotta and asparagus and spread them on together. I just didn't know how much ricotta I was going to need for 4 lasagnas (turns out, roughly five 14 oz containers. I really like ricotta.) so did it all separately.

Cover the top layer of pasta with a bit more sauce and then lay some low-moisture (read: deli sliced) mozzarella and bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes, depending on whether you are using no-boil lasagna or pre-boiled lasagna.
Note: for this dish, I would recommend either pre-boiled lasagna or fresh lasagna sheets (Giovanni Rana makes a very delicate kind) as there is not as much moisture in the sauce to cook the noodles.
Also, be cautious when salting your various stages of cooking, as sun-dried tomatoes can be quite salty. But I also avoided that excessive salt by using the marinated Turkish tomatoes.
A tasty twist on a comfort classic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Garlic White Beans

Have you ever eaten something that was so incredibly simple, and yet so very tasty and addictive?
Well, this is one of those dishes.

I was having dinner at Supper in the East Village a couple of weeks ago, and instead of butter or even a bowl of olive oil for dipping, the bread basket came with this delicious pile of garlicky, slightly spicy white beans, slightly drenched in olive oil and speckled with parsley.
It was delicious, and I decided immediately that I had to recreate it at home for both snacking and entertaining purposes.

I started by sautéing 4-5 cloves of grated garlic on medium-low heat in regular olive oil with a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. (Go with your comfort level of heat. I like things with only a slight warmth in the back of the throat so I probably only use about 2 pinches. If you like spicy, this dish can take it.)
Cook for 2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden.

Drain and rinse two cans of white beans.
You can use whatever beans you prefer: cannellini, northern beans, navy beans... as long as they are a mild white bean, it should be fine.

I place them in the pan with the garlic and red pepper flakes and add a splash of water to help cook and soften the beans for another 3-4 minutes.
(I don't like too much bite in my beans. If you prefer a firm texture, skip this step.)

Wash some fresh parsley and finely chop it, about 1/3-1/2 a cup as you prefer.

I went with about 1/3 of a cup.
Add to the pot of beans, salt to taste, and stir to combine.

Off the heat, finish the beans with a few glugs of good fruity olive oil.
Optional: a spritz of lemon right before serving perks up the dish as well.

This is delicious on its own, or on toasted ciabatta for crostini for a dinner or party. 
You could also purée this before adding the parsley (but with the good olive oil) and use it as a dip.
It's very versatile, very healthy (packed with protein and fiber and only good fat!) and VERY addictive.
It also goes brilliantly with prosecco!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Clams + Ramps + Prosciutto = Delicious

Yes, I made this once before last Spring, but when you make something delicious, it bears repeating.
Also, better photography this time around.

Cook clams in a covered pot with stock and white wine and a pinch of dried oregano, 5-6 minutes or until the clams open.
Strain the liquid VERY well if you want to use it as a sauce, as there will be small amounts of grit that the clams have released when they opened.

In a separate pan, sauté some pancetta or prosciutto in a bit of olive oil.

Add the sliced whites and necks of the ramps and cook on medium-low heat until fragrant. Mere moments really.

Add the (washed and dried) sliced greens of the ramps, and cook until they just wilt.
Remember, you want the ramps to be the star of this dish, complemented by the clams, prosciutto and pasta.

I went with angel hair this time as it made it easier to pick up all the small bits of the dish, but also because I could cook it IN the (well strained) liquid from cooking the clams in just 2-3 minutes, making it super flavorful pasta.

Combine everything in a hot pan, stir, and serve.

I absolutely love this dish. It's ready in minutes and packed with flavor.
Too bad it's only available for a few weeks in Spring.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mushroom Mac n' Cheese Cups

6 boxes of elbow macaroni later...

Mushrooms, both baby bellas and porcini, sautéed in butter and sherry with dried thyme.

Lots and lots of rounds of cupcake pans and muffin cups.
Note: environmentally friendly muffin cups to not stand up well to moisture buildup or reheating...

For the actual mixture I used 1/2 cup of butter, 2/3 cup of flour to make the roux. Then add 6 cups of milk and stir until thickening.
Add 3 cups of your favorite cheese. I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and gruyere.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, add 1 TBSP of truffle oil, and add cooked pasta (about 2 boxes).
Toss in the mushrooms and stir to encorporate.

If you're lucky, you'll have a friend to help you ladle out each portion of mac n' cheese into the muffin cups. Then bake them at 350º for 15-20 minutes.
If you have the patience, add a smidge of butter and bread crumbs on top of each cup before baking to create more of a crust.
Repeat the process three more times if you're feeding over 100 people...

I could easily have gone a much fancier route with this mac and cheese,  maybe combining goat cheese and herbed alouette for a more grown-up palate, but fancy cheese costs a lot more than standard sharp cheddar, so I just used the mushrooms and truffle oil to step it up a bit.

But it was tasty!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Slow Roasted Caprese Skewers

This is incredibly straight-forward, but also usually a hit at parties.
All you really need is patience.

The only way these would be easier to make would be if you used the tomatoes whole and raw, in which case I would have just called these Caprese Skewers.
Unfortunately for me, the only tomatoes I could find in late May were still largely an under-ripe orange color and not very sweet. To combat this I sliced them all in half, spread them out on a sheet tray, sprinkled them lightly with both salt and sugar, drizzled them with olive oil, and then slow-roasted them at 200º (F) for two hours.

The resulting tomatoes will be sweeter and have a richer flavor, akin to sun-dried tomatoes, but still a bit juicy. Then it's just an assembly line of tomato half, bocconcini mozzarella (which I marinated overnight in good olive oil, salt, dried oregano, and some leftover oil from my marinated sun-dried tomatoes, but plain would be delicious as well) a torn piece of basil, and capped with the other half of tomato.
Super simple bites that are tasty at room temperature.

Note: you do not want to make these more than 24 hrs ahead of time, especially if you are using fresh tomatoes. The mozzarella needs to be refrigerated before serving, but if raw tomatoes spend too much time in a refrigerator they become mealy and unpleasant to eat. If you are roasting the tomatoes as I did here, refrigerating overnight should be fine.
Just don't serve the skewers cold from the fridge.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ramp Naan, Revisited

Because when something is tasty, you make it again.

Slice or tear prosciutto, throw in a warm skillet with a bit of olive oil.
Slice ramps.
Sauté lightly in olive oil, until wilted and fragrant.
Pour on top of (possibly leftover from ordering-in, or store-bought) naan, including the oil that was in the skillet, as it will be flavorful as well.

Place that under the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until the naan* has heated through.

* Naan is a soft Indian flatbread that can be simple and plain, or be baked with garlic and other herbs. For this particular dish I of course was using the plain naan so that the ramps were the star.