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Monday
Feb252008

Pasta With Shrimp and Sicilian Pesto


I've been reading
Faith Willinger's newest book, "Adventures of an Italian Food Lover."  It's quite a fun read.  She takes you all over Italy and profiles lots of her friends and includes "254 recipes from my very best friends."  And she's not kidding.  She knows everyone.  For those of you not familiar with Faith Willinger, she is quite famous in the Italian foodie world.  She is an American who has been living in Florence for 25 years.  She's written a number of cookbooks and she travels and speaks and gives cooking lessons out of her home in Florence.  She does "market to table" lessons where she takes the class to the produce stands and selects what's fresh that day and everyone goes back to her home to cook.  I just had to try this pasta from Osteria Antica Marina in Sicily.  It's a light, delicate dish.

Pasta with Shrimp and Sicilian Pesto
serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound large shrimp, with shells
  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes
  • salt
  • 2 Tbls. chopped almonds
  • 2 Tbls. pine nuts
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbls. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 14-16 ounces short pasta.
Instructions:
Peel and clean the shrimp.  Combine the shrimp shells, tomatoes, and 2 cups water in a large saucepan.  

Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the mixture and reduce the broth over high heat to obtain 3/4 cup stock. Adjust for salt.

 

Combine the almonds, pine nuts, mint, basil, garlic, and 1/4 cup of the stock in a blender or puree with an immersion mixer.

Bring a pot with 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta until if offers considerable resistance to the tooth, around three-quarters of the package recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Transfer the pasta to a large skillet or a 3 or 4 quart pot. Add the pesto, 1/2 cup stock and the shrimp. Cook over high heat, stirring gently and frequently, until the past is cooked through and the shrimp are hot. Add the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the sauce seems dry.  Add salt to your taste.

Tip:  Yes, they are serious when they tell you to add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to the pasta water.  In Italy, they believe the pasta should be cooked in very salty water, to flavor the pasta, and it should have the "taste of the sea".  


 Tip:  When simmering the shrimp shells to make the stock, simmer very gently and if you are losing too much liquid, put a lid on the pot.
Pasta used: Rummo Lenta Lavorazione Tubetti Mezzani Rigati

 

 

Sunday
Feb242008

Bolognese Sauce

Ask ten Italian cooks for their Bolognese recipes, and you will get ten different recipes. Similar, but different. Some add milk, some don't. Some use a combination of meats, some use only beef. It goes on and on. I've made a lot of meat sauces, but this is my favorite. I have to say, though, I really don't measure anything, so it's a little different every time. But that's the fun of it. The basic technique is the same, though. You begin with a soffritto (aromatic vegetables), cook that until it's soft, add your meat, then add some wine, let that cook off, add your tomato and broth and seasonings. Let all that cook low and slow for a very, very long time. This is the basic recipe.

Bolognese Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 pound pasta

Instructions:

In a heavy pot, brown the meats. Remove the meat, drain the fat.  Do not wipe the pot.

In the same pot, add some olive oil and add the onion, carrot, celery. Let that cook slowly, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add your meat back in. Turn up the heat a little. Add the red wine and let the liquid cook off. Add the beef broth and then the tomatoes and herbs. Turn the heat to low and let this simmer, uncovered for at least a couple of hours. The longer the better. If it gets too dry, just add a half cup of water and keep cooking, letting the liquid cook off. Taste and salt and pepper as you like it.
Serve over pasta.

Yes, I grind my own meat. I know exactly what's in it that way. The KitchenAid grinder attachment works great. I couldn't do a lot of things without that KitchenAid mixer.  It's a wonder.  This is the one I have and I love it.

 

 

 


 

 

Favorite Pot used: Le Creuset Bouillabaisse Pot
KitchenAid Mixer: Professional 600 Series Bowl Lift Stand Mixer

 

Saturday
Feb232008

The Dreaded Grocery Store Egg

Anyone who really knows me knows that I adore eggs. They're my favorite thing. I could eat eggs three times a day. I love them cooked every way - but when they are scrambled, they absolutely have to be very softly scrambled, not completely cooked until they are firm, which is the mistake most nonegghead people make.  I love them softly boiled, hard boiled and over easy. But, sadly, I allow myself exactly one egg a day. That's it. (Except on vacation.) I have to keep such a craving in check. But this one egg a day is the very best egg I can buy - an organic, high quality farm fresh egg.

I have two resources for my farm eggs. The first is a foodie lady who lives down the road who raises beautiful chickens at her home. And they are beautiful. Some have black and white feathers, layed out like stripes. She picks them up and pets them. They lay beautiful eggs and when I buy them from her, I open the cartons and there is a mix of brown eggs, white eggs and different shades of blue green eggs, from her Araucana chickens. It looks like Easter. But her hens got too old and stopped laying and so I'm waiting for her new chicks to start laying. That will probably be in the spring. During this time, I have been using my backup resource, which is the family farm where I buy my meat and poultry. Their hens produce very large, brown eggs that are delicious. But they did not make any deliveries for February, because of the weather here. So I haven't been able to get any farm fresh eggs this month. That's one of the reasons it's been a long, long winter for me this year.

I have had to resort to buying the dreaded grocery store egg.

All you serious foodies out there know what I mean. There is a huge difference in the eggs at the grocery store and the fresh eggs from a farm. One is thin with a pale yellow yolk. You eat them and you wonder why you bothered. Here is the grocery store egg:

The other is a firm egg with a yolk that is a deep orange, bordering on orangish red. And it tastes sooo eggilicous. (I'll post a photo of a good egg when I'm able to get them again.) They are a joy to bake with and they make all the difference in homemade pasta. In the spring and summer when the chickens can scratch around outside and eat bugs and grass, the eggs taste even better. If you love eggs, try to find a resource in your area where you can get them. In the spring and summer, most Farmer's Markets will have vendors who sell them. That's the very best time to enjoy eggs.


And I will - one egg a day. If spring ever arrives...