Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meatless: (Some Crazy Blue Pasta) with Marinated (Non) Heirloom Tomatoes

It's been hot as balls in my apartment since I returned from the states. Of course, the AC in my bedroom was working before Matt joined me in NY, but was blowing hot air once we returned. Not that it's relevant, but while we were gone, our kitchen cabinet fell out of the wall and into our sink, showering the room with glass. Three cheers for Fiestaware, which never breaks, no matter what ridiculous situation comes its way! Booo for Pyrex!

Yesterday, Matt told me that his office was putting together a care package for our buddy, who is deployed to Afghanistan. Matt asked me to bake chocolate chip cookies.

A care package to Afghanistan is the only reason in the world I'd happily and willingly turn my oven on today, so while the AC repairman was here replacing my old unit, I baked. It was still 95 degrees today, but at least there's been a steady breeze, which is more than I can say for the past few days.

Point is, I was not willing to cook much for dinner.

Maltagliati with Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes (pg 274 of Meatless) fit the bill, because I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen (thanks for the tomatoes, Amy!), and because the stove was only used to boil pasta and to slowly brown thin-sliced garlic in a heap of olive oil for ten minutes.

While the water is boiling, sliced tomatoes are left to marinate for a half hour in a mixture of lots of basil (1/4 cup), capers, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, salt, the garlic chips, and garlic-infused oil. Add the pasta, then stir in another 1/2 cup of basil.

This took a lot of basil. I would have destroyed my plant if I tried to cut 3/4 cup worth off of it, so I just trimmed as much as I was comfortable with and used that.

The recipe calls for maltagliatti, which I've never heard of, but appears, from the picture, to be a very wide, flat noodle. Very wide. I've learned, since living in Naples, that Italians are very strict about what pasta you eat with what sauce. There are rules, man. I, unfortunately (or fortunately. Does it really make a difference, most of the time?) don't know the rules, and so I had no qualms flouting Martha Stewart's pasta recommendation and just using what I had, which happened to be a blue and black farfalle. I bought it because it was blue. You know you would have done the same. The use of the blue pasta was also strategic. Charlie has been refusing dinner since we returned from NY, which means that he's deciding he's hungry at bedtime, being impossible to put down, and then waking up a lot at night. I think his hunger kicks in after I turn the AC on in his bedroom. I can't blame him. I don't like to eat when I'm hot, either. Surely, I thought, if anything could lure him to the table, it would be blue pasta. The blue-ness did help get the food in his mouth. The promise of a chocolate chip cookie dessert if he finished is what kept him eating, though. Success! He did eat (though he spit out every tiny piece of basil that passed his lips), and he slept through the night! At least now I'm mostly certain that the reason he's waking up is because he's hungry, and he's not just trying to send me to the loony bin.

I loved this pasta dish. The flavors were all so light and tomato-complementary that it was refreshing. It was simple to make, and that counts for a lot. My favorite bites included the garlic chips. Those things were gooood. I'd use more garlic next time, just to have more chips. Also love that blue pasta. There's not enough blue food in the world.

Matt grunted, "I like this. Really good." He proceeded to eat the entirety of what remained (commenting upon the absence of meat). Later, he asked me if there were leftovers. You ate them all. Remember? Regardless, ringing endoresements, all around.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

FFwD: Peach Melba

A while ago, the French Fridays with Dorie crew made Peach Melba from Around My French Table. I skipped it at the time. Don't remember why, now, but I'm pretty sure it was either because I couldn't get my hands on peaches yet in seasonal-produce-ridden Naples, or because I was dieting in preparation for being a bridesmaid (bridesmatron? Yuck. I'll stick with bridesmaid) in my brother's wedding.

Well, peaches are in season and the diet is over (sort of. I'm going on a new, self-created diet, called "The Common Sense Diet." Ha!), so I made peach melba in a desperate attempt to salvage the crate of peaches I compulsively bought from a roadside stand on our way home from the airport. Those puppies went bad fast.

I have no photo to document the glory, but really, how could poached peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce be bad? It couldn't. It was awesome. That is all.

I'm going to attempt to make up a lot of Dorie recipes in the near future, so brace yourself.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Up Next: Meatless

I'm back from New York, and soooo glad to be back in my own kitchen. It's tricky cooking in someone else's house, even if that someone else is your own mom. I spent 20 minutes searching the cabinets and pantry over and over for vanilla. Eventually I found it in the refrigerator. Like I said, tricky. I cooked a few recipes from her copy of Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof while I was there, but not enough to warrant a real trial of the book. For what it's worth, I'm not running out to buy my own copy anytime soon. Many recipes are for meats that are too expensive to make on a regular basis. It is a book for entertaining, so I get that, but I'd go broke if I really tried to cook out of it consistently for a chunk of time. On the flipside, there were a lot of other recipes that were pretty uninspired. Roasted kale. Spinach with feta. Hard stuff to get excited about. The couple of recipes I did make--I don't remember the actual recipe titles, but I made a mustard marinated steak, shrimp with fennel, and salmon with guacamole on top--came out fine, but weren't fantastic, and were not, in my opinion, good enough to serve company. Salmon with Guacamole is a remarkably tasty combo, so it scores points for that, and was mine and mom's top-rated dish of the bunch.

Anyway, I've returned to Naples to find that it's hot. Really hot. And electricity is too expensive, so AC during the day is not an option. Fortunately, I get a nice sea breeze during the day, so it's not too bad until I have to lock up the heavy metal security shutters at night. This place heats up fast when I turn the oven on. Now I understand why Italians take riposo from 1-3 (or 4, or 5, depending on who you're talking to), and don't start cooking until 7-8 pm. It's too stinkin' hot to cook.

Oven avoidance, merged with my overwhelming desire to eat as much of the beautiful produce as possible makes my next book a logical choice. An additional reason is that I wanted to cook from a book that I'm not certain is a winner. If the recipes suck, I need the space for the four books I bought in the US. I didn't plan to buy four. Whoops. Don't judge me--I haven't been in a bookstore in a year!

Drumroll please! My next book is....Meatless, by Martha Stewart.
I haven't cooked anything from the book yet. This could be good or bad. We'll see!