Thursday, June 07, 2012

Pasta + pasta + pasta

The blur is caused by my rapid and artful tossing.
I love the grab-bag aspect of cooking from food memoirs. I love that you can find recipes for cookies next to tamales next to Provencal breads next to strawberry jam and they're all tied together with story.

I'm continuing to cook through Bread and Chocolate by Fran Gage. Monday we ate farfalle with the roasted pepper sauce that appears in the chapter about olive oil producers. It was very simple and tasty, this sauce. You char four meaty red bell peppers, peel and seed them, then puree with mustard, a little vinegar and, of course, olive oil. A good recipe to have in your repertoire.

Tuesday, we had Gage's penne with saffron cream sauce, which appears in the chapter on the staff lunches she served at her bakery. Saffron! Lucky staff. This was also very simple and tasty and remarkably expensive.
The saffron you can buy for $6.99.
That seemed like enough pasta for the week. Last night I was going to make Gage's oyster stew, but when I went to open the jars of oysters purchased a few hours previously, noticed that one of the lids was bulging. This led to the discovery that they were a week past their sell-by date. You're slipping, Whole Foods.

So I made pasta again and improvised a sauce, which I do a lot. It can be useful in clearing out the refrigerator. Last night's pasta was spectacular so I'm going to tell you what I did. You can skim the beginning of the "recipe" but pay attention to the end.

I started with a 2-inch stub of dry salami, which I chopped into pieces the size of chocolate chips. Then I chopped up two strips of lean bacon and fried them in a small amount of olive oil. Once the bacon was soft and had rendered most of its fat, I added half a red onion (chopped), and the salami. I let this cook until it was almost impossible to distinguish squares of onion from squares of bacon from bits of salami. I found a half-used tube of tomato paste and squeezed some in and cooked some more. Added salt and pepper. I cooked fusilli, tossed it with the sauce. And now comes the part you should pay attention to: I took some goat's milk ricotta (though any kind would do) -- maybe a cup and a half -- and mixed it into the hot pasta but not too thoroughly. Some of the ricotta melded with the sauce, but most of it remained in big, cool, creamy lumps. You're eating your salty/lusty pasta and instead of getting more salty/lusty in the form of Parmesan, you hit on a lode of cool, sweet and creamy ricotta. It was just fantastic.

This improvised pasta was the best pasta of the week. We ate it in front of the TV while watching Game of Thrones, a show that always makes me want to gulp wine out of a goblet. We don't ordinarily watch TV while we eat, but want to finish the season of GOT before everyone disperses for the summer. It was so very pleasant and harmonious, I'm thinking we should do it more often.

I also made Gage's chocolate brioche with chocolate bits. It's a little dry and severe on its own, but I predict it will make amazing french toast.


  1. oh my gosh GOT! My guilty pleasure reading last summer--haven't seen the show yet,but I imagine knowing that everyone dies ahead of time may make it a bit less shocking. wish I had some goat's milk ricotta for my eggplant lasagna that I'm making at 2 a.m. because I can't sleep :) Brioche scares me, but the thought of chocolate brioche French toast is inspiring.

  2. Ginny -- 4:53 a.m. and I've been up for an hour. Can't sleep EITHER. Make regular brioche, I think it's better. Everyone dies on GOT? Even the Mother of Dragons? Oh dear.

  3. Not everyone but people u would have thought weren't expendable.... What's worse than insomnia? The line at the DMV I am standing in....

  4. Try a similar idea: take the hot pasta, toss in fresh basil and halved cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper and then partially stirred clumps of good ricotta. Oh, yeah!

  5. Brioche is an easier bread to make than many others, I think, maybe it's the eggs? Does that make it more forgiving? Anyway, no one should fear brioche if I can make it. I actually like Portuguese sweet bread better, but it is quite similar. The best pasta sauces I have ever made have been made flying by the seat of my pants. I have trouble reproducing them though. I couldn't sleep EITHER! We are all part of the epidemic of insomnia, I guess. It even has me looking at linen sheets, which I have never slept on, because they are supposed to promote comfort during hot months. Got any experience with that?

  6. I have used calendula petals to replace saffron and I swear you can't tell the difference. Please try it sometime and let me know what you think.
    I don't think I'm brave enough to eat while watching GOTs, someone is always losing a body part in a gruesome way on that show.

  7. Fortunately for me, I never have trouble sleeping. I also have made the best things when I was in a hurry or did not have quite the right ingredients and had to improvise. I once came home from the grocery store needing to mix and put a quiche in the oven 5 minutes before so they would be ready when we wanted to eat. I added ingredients until it looked right, sloshed it in the pie crusts and they were THE best quiche I have ever made, hands down, BUT I have no idea what I did.

  8. Your salami and ricotta pasta sounds amazingly yummy. I've been known to even use a scoop of dry-ish cottage cheese or even a tablespoon of cream cheese with tomato-based pasta sauces... Amazing how it can enrich/mellow it out.

  9. Now I know what to do with that piece of truffle salami and small carton of ricotta lingering in the frig. Thanks!

  10. This is off topic, but I was at the bookstore yesterday and I saw that there was a cookbook for the Book Of Thrones series. It looked...interesting.

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