So you know how it goes. The kids go back to school and maybe you are feeling a little guilty about the fact that you are SO EXCITED that they are back in school or maybe you are just an over achiever and you decide that you want their first day to finish with an amazingly tasty meal. You start early. You prep, you sauté, you cook. You show up to the table with a beautiful meal and everyone is all smiles. Does this sound familiar to you? Yep. Me neither.Read More
Does absence make the heart grow fonder with blogging too? I sure hope so. I realize that it seems like I’ve been a bit out of touch, but really, I’ve been right here in my very kitchen processing fruit. Lots and lots of fruit. I will be posting about the fruit shortly, but for now, can we talk about one of my favorite subjects? That’s right, pasta.Read More
My Aunt Debra can GROW some tomatoes. I’m sorry for shouting but I have never seen so many tomatoes in all my life. Ok, maybe I have seen that many tomatoes at the farmer’s market (and of course in a 1970s-ish cult movie which shall remain nameless), but not in someone’s yard. I am clearly friends with the wrong people.Read More
Warning: The photos of this meal do not represent in any way how tasty this meal actually was. Sometimes, you just have to trust the chef who is still very much behind on her food styling and photography skills.
This week’s menu called for some serious grilling. It is summer and it is time to cook outside. Oh, but did I mention that it is snowing as I write this? In the middle of June? What the heck am I doing living here?Read More
I saw a photo of spring pea farro salad from What’s Gaby Cooking on Instagram and I had to make it. I actually wanted to make it the very day that I saw it except that I don’t live in Los Angeles, and our farmer’s markets are open yet, and there are no spring peas or pea shoots to be had in the mountains in April. And I almost couldn’t find farro. It’s ok, though. I persevered. Anything for a good meal.Read More
Can I start by stating the obvious? Construction projects are not fun. Don’t get me wrong, the results are great. But be honest. If you were putting an outlet in a white island, what color would outlet would you use? Black, of course. Any fool knows that. I mean, you want the very first thing that your eye is drawn to in the kitchen to be the island outlet. Really? Black outlets on a white wall? You would also paint over gouges in the wall without patching them in hopes that no one would notice the gouges that were already pointed out to you. Let’s just say I was NOT at my personal best in terms of behavior yesterday.Read More
There is something about the crust of Roman or Neapolitan pizza that is absolutely amazing. It is at once crispy and chewy, with just the right amount of salt. We’ve been trying to perfect that pizza for the last three years. We are getting closer, but still have yet to master it.Read More
It would be seriously amazing if I could just once pick a recipe for which I didn’t have to substitute ingredients because I live in the middle of nowhere. Of course, it isn’t the middle of nowhere’s fault. I should totally read the recipe before planning to cook it. This would leave me with nothing but chuck roast and mashed potatoes but I digress.Read More
We did a little switcheroo on the menu tonight because we are taking the kids night skiing tomorrow. Night skiing. How did they get old enough to go night skiing?
Anyway, through no intentional planning, I served spring on a plate tonight. We switched Tuesday night's tacos for Wednesday night's Italian. Both the penne and the asparagus salad were incredibly light but flavorful. This dinner was very refreshing, especially after last night’s burning man. I wasn’t sure how I felt about raw asparagus salad. I know. I’m the one who planned to make it, but I still wasn’t sure. And while my associates did an excellent job juicing lemon,Read More
This meal is not for the faint at heart. And it requires some tools. And a lot of time. But it is worth it.Read More
I’ll admit. I picked this recipe for chicken Milanese based solely on the photo. I scanned the ingredients, recognized that I had everything but arugula already and figured it couldn’t be that hard. This recipe was ridiculously easy. And for those of you like me who don’t actually read, let me just say now that this chicken is BAKED. In a good way.Read More
You have to love a recipe that says, “Cook…until 2 minutes from al dente, and then…” If I knew when 2 minutes from perfect was, I could rule the world.Read More
We made a slight deviation from the original meal plan last night. Both the planned recipe (Barley Soup with Chicken and Pancetta) and the actual recipe (Stuffed Chicken Thighs, La Cucina Italiana, January/February 2014, page 27) are Italian. And both call for chicken thighs and pancetta. But you know, sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for soup. And sometimes you have more people for dinner than you anticipate. And they are teenage boys so you can’t very well serve them soup or they will be hungry in five minutes. You improvise. Maybe you turn three pages back in the magazine that you took out for dinner and hey, there’s something that looks tasty. It’s tough work, this kitchen gig.Read More
Remember weeks and weeks ago (ok, a month ago) when I said we were going to have meatloaf for Christmas dinner? Yep. We did. And it was amazing. It’s probably about time that I write a review of that dinner because you should make every bit of it.
Just for the record, meatloaf does not photograph well. It’s rather camera shy. At least for amateurs. That and I was so busy actually cooking in the kitchen that I assigned one of my sous-chefs the photographer roll. While he got some very creative shots, the color was not exactly in the appetizing category. More like old Chinese take-out menu. Totally not his fault as I didn’t change the camera settings before handing him the camera. Oh well. Never mind the photos. The food was outstanding.Read More
Cacio e Pepe is a traditional Roman pasta dish. It is more than just a fancy way to say spaghetti with cheese. It is the best dish on the planet when done right. If you are in New York, go to Lupa in the Village and try their Cacio e Pepe (as a bonus, the last time we ate at Lupa, we sat two tables away from Alan Rickman). If you are in Rome, you can order it anywhere. Do yourself a favor and try this dish at a café (aptly) called Cacio e Pepe. There is no menu and no English and it is (or at least was) cash only. But go anyway. This is where I first fell in love with the simplicity and amazingness of cacio e pepe. It is also where an amazing Italian couple sitting at the table next to us held our six month old twins while we ate so that we could enjoy the meal. And it is where my husband and I both forgot our wallets (traveling with twins, people), resulting in his high tailing it across Rome to get said wallet while I sat at the table with both babies and hoped he would make it back before dinner was served. Did I mention that neither of us speak Italian?Read More
Remember almost 100 years ago (last Monday) when we made Bolognese for the Baked Green Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style (Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, page 215)? Well on Tuesday, we made spinach pasta and assembled the lasagna. It took forever. I really wanted this lasagna to be the best ever. Nope. It was good, but it wasn’t great. In fact, it really needed more flavor. I am certain it was the chef and not the recipe. Perhaps it was completely corrupt taste buds. Either way, the last time we made this lasagna, it was better. And we made it with store bought “fresh” pasta and substitute Bolognese on a weeknight after my husband came home from work. Go figure.
I was not alone in the kitchen making lasagna on Tuesday. While I stirred the Béchamel, my daughter, Abby, rolled all the pasta. My mom played dishwasher (and there were quite a few dishes). Lacie, our Girl Friday, ran interference, subbing in for the pasta roller, taking photos when my hands were covered in dough, cooking the pasta, and rubbing it “delicately, as though…doing fine hand laundry.” I can’t make this stuff up, people. You have to have this book.
Pasta from scratch is totally worth it. If you have never made your own pasta, you should. Make it a few times before you judge because it gets easier every time and your first batch might not be a winner. Marcella Hazan’s pasta recipe is amazing (page 128). I know I said that the lasagna wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the pasta’s fault. You should make this pasta for something even if you aren’t brave enough to conquer the lasagna.
The funny thing about making pasta is that you are never sure you will be able to incorporate all of the ingredients together into useable dough. My kitchen entourage on Tuesday was certain that I wouldn’t be able to do it, but, low and behold, there it was in the end, a nice soft (“smooth as baby skin” says Marcella) ball of dough. And it was not because of the cook.
The first step is to make a mound of flour with a well in the center. Marcella recommends using unbleached all-purpose flour (unless you can find Italian 00 flour, in which case, send me some please). This works great.
Next, you crack eggs into the center of the well and begin to give them a little scramble. If you are adding spinach, it gets added in with the eggs.
Work the side of the flour into the eggs a little at a time until you can’t use your fork anymore and have to use your hands. Don’t worry about the stuff that is stuck to the counter. It will get cleaned off when you are done mixing. And please excuse the Despicable Me bandaid. It was all I had and better than red pasta.
Marcella’s instruction is to keep mixing until you don’t think you can add any more flour and a clean thumb stuck into the middle of the mixture comes out clean. This is the best instruction that I’ve seen on knowing when the pasta dough is ready to knead. It took me three thumb sticks this time, but it was worth it.
The final step is to knead the dough, in this case, for eight minutes. The time varies depending on the recipe. Also, some recipes instruct you to let the dough sit before cutting and rolling. This one did not. We just got right to it.
You might consider inviting Abby over to roll your pasta. Marcella says to get it as thin as you can. How about so thin you can see through it but it still doesn’t break? I’m telling you, the kid has a future in pasta making.
The Béchamel took a very long time to set this time. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I finally gave up and set it on the double boiler to help Lacie with the pasta. This turned out to be a wise choice as the Béchamel set up perfectly on the double-boiler. Once the pasta was properly laundered, it was easy to assemble the lasagna, though I didn’t have enough Bolognese to complete all six of my layers and Abby’s pasta was so thin, we could have used a seventh layer. It’s ok. We filled in with parmesan cheese.
Overall, we had fun. Was it worth the time that it took to make this lasagna? Probably not, but it was a good time and we had a nice hot dinner on Wednesday night. I think I will try it again. With a little more patience and a little less on my plate to do, I think we can make this the way it was meant to be made. I’m willing to give it another go.
Oh, and we served this with a nice kitchen sink salad. Excellent.
Baked ravioli is simple and fast. Sauté some garlic and onion, add oregano, salt, pepper, and two containers of Pomi. Toss over pre-made ravioli. Cover with cheese. Bake for 25 minutes. How simple is that?
I used spinach ravioli to sneak some extra vegetables into dinner. I also added a pound of ground meat and two Italian sausages. I was feeding four boys tonight, after all. Didn’t think I could get away with a vegetarian meal. The result was successful. I should have added a little more salt and pepper, and maybe more oregano. Overall this is the perfect week night meal. Or Friday night meal when it has been a long week. Anyone else tired?