|Pasta with the marinara sauce|
|Pasta with pesto|
|Pasta with Alfredo sauce|
|Pasta with the marinara sauce|
|Pasta with pesto|
|Pasta with Alfredo sauce|
Just in time for Lent, this is a delicious and meatless dish. Catholics around the world abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays of Lent. Some people forego meat throughout Holy Week: from Palm Sunday until Holy Saturday. Still, others abstain from eating meat during the entire Lenten season.
Of course, you can serve this anytime of the year. When I serve this during those times, I usually accompany it with roasted chicken or pork, grilled beef, or sausages.
1 lb dry pasta
1 cup Marinara Sauce (see 2/17/14 Post)
1 cup Pesto (see 2/27/14 Post)
1 cup Alfredo Sauce
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Cream Sauce (Alfredo Sauce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add the cream and grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Stir sauce over medium-low heat until cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened.
As you might have guessed, the green white and red represent the Italian flag which is called il Tricolore. Some say the colors have meanings: green represents the country’s hills and plains, white for the snow capped Alps, and red for the bloodshed in the wars of independence. The other meanings have a religious significance to them: green for hope, white for faith, and red for charity, which are the three Christian theological virtues.
I first had this dish when my husband and I were just dating many years ago. I thought the different colors made for a lovely presentation. Whether in a single serve pasta bowl or on a large platter, it is very appealing. Sometimes, “pasta tricolore” refers to a kind of pasta, usually penne or rotini, which are colored green, white/uncolored, and red.
When serving on a platter, different shaped maccheroni (the Italian word used to reference all types macaroni pasta) may be used for an interesting combination. Even gnocchi may be used. I’ll teach you how to make gnocchi later. For this post I used cellentani, kind of a very loose rotini.
This dish calls for 3 kinds of sauces: Marinara, Pesto and Alfredo. The first two I taught you the past couple of weeks. The third one is super easy. You basically combine everything in a saucepan, stir and let thicken. The neat thing about this being so easy to make is that you can keep making more if your guests are still hungry and you’ve run out of the other two sauces!
When I served this dish to my family, my daughter remarked, “Oooh, fancy!” I encouraged everyone to get a small serving of each kind of sauce so they could compare and determine which they liked best. So although the marinara was good, it was the one left over. I did have to make a second mixture of pasta with the Alfredo sauce. I’m guessing their enthusiasm was because we don’t have pesto or Alfredo that often.
So what pasta shape or shapes will you use for this dish?
|Pesto alla Genovese|
|Basil, pine nuts, grated cheese, EVOO, garlic & salt|
|Garlic pulsed twice|
Pesto was born in Genoa, in the Liguria region of Italy. Genoa has a unique climate which basil and pine trees favor. Although there are many variations of pesto, this simple recipe captures the essence of the original.
Pesto alla Genovese
2 cloves garlic
6 cups fresh basil, packed loosely
1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of salt
1. Wash basil and dry thoroughly. Remove leaves from stems. Discard stems and flowers.
2. Place garlic cloves in food processor and pulse twice.
3. Add basil, pine nuts, grated cheese and salt to food processor. Process for about 5 seconds.
4. Continue processing while pouring olive oil into food processor bowl, about 10 seconds longer.
5. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
6. Pesto is ready for use. Or, transfer to a clean dry airtight container or jar. Pour extra virgin olive oil over pesto to cover by ¼”.
I first tasted pesto in a small trattoria over twenty years ago. I was transfixed! I had never heard of a green sauce for pasta! It was beautiful to look at for sure, but the taste was so unlike any other sauce I’ve had. Somehow I managed to find a packet of “pesto mix” at my local grocery store. The resulting sauce was just a shadow of what I had eaten at the restaurant. Sure, I could taste the cheese and the pine nuts. But nowhere was the bright taste or color of fresh basil. Then sun-dried tomatoes came into the scene and pervaded most of the dishes so pesto sort of fell off my radar. It wasn’t until the nineties when I acquired an Italian cookbook did I finally make my own pesto.
These days being into DIY projects, I usually only make pesto in the summer when I can get fresh basil from my backyard. Although traditionally made with a mortar and pestle (Italian: pestare, meaning to pound or crush), I employ a food processor which is quicker. I also think that since it is quicker, the basil doesn’t have time to bruise and thus retains its color better. Regardless of the method you use, it is still better to make your own. Store-bought stuff no matter how well known the brand just doesn’t measure up.
Some recipes call for grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grated Pecorino Romano, or a mixture of both. Actually, you may use any grated hard cheese you want such as Fiore Sardo or Grana Padano.
So the recipe calls for pine nuts. I have to tell you that pine nuts are expensive. They will run several dollars per ounce! So if you’re watching your budget, you may substitute them with almonds or walnuts. Try toasting them a little before grinding to intensify their flavor.
And finally, the olive oil. Using extra virgin olive oil is non-negotiable. Buy the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford because it is what will carry and blend all of the other flavors for you. Inferior olive oil “blends” or “pure” olive oil, or even some EVOO won’t have that greenish tinge or fruity flavor. Extra virgin olive oil should never be used for cooking. Its flavor is so delicate that cooking would destroy it. Use it as a condiment.
Salt? Kosher or sea salt. Period.
In Step #6 above, I said to put the pesto in an airtight jar if it won’t be used immediately. I also said to pour about ¼” of extra virgin olive over the top. This is to keep the basil from being exposed to air. Basil, like cut avocados, apples and pears will oxidize if exposed to air.
What to serve with it you ask? Any kind of pasta will work. As will gnocchi. Traditionally, pesto is served with potatoes, green beans and sun dried tomatoes added to the dish. But pesto isn’t just for pasta or gnocchi. You can spread it on sliced tomatoes or potatoes, pizza, sandwiches, bruschetta and crostini. You can use it as a dip for veggies or bread. You can also mix it into salads. You can use anywhere you want that rich herbaceous flavor.
So when are you going to make pesto?
|Ingredients for Polenta|
Adding grated cheese
Polenta pulling from the side of the pot
Polenta with Marinara Sauce
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups coarse polenta
½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Oil for sautéing
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
1. Bring water to a rapid boil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add salt and butter.
2. Pour polenta into the boiling water in a thin stream. Whisk or stir continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Turn heat down to low.
3. Switch to a long handled wooden spoon. Continue stirring the polenta. After about 15 minutes add the grated cheese. Continue to stir the polenta for another 15 minutes or until it pulls from the side of the pot. This process will take 25 – 50 minutes depending on the quantity being cooked and the coarseness of the polenta.
4. When the polenta is done, pour it into a loaf pan, baking pan, roasting pan or other similar container. Cover loosely and let cool, about 2 hours.
5. When ready to cook, unmold polenta onto a chopping board. Cut into ½” thick slices.
6. Prepare serving dish by spooning 4 tablespoons of marinara sauce on the bottom of the platter. Place in a 200°F oven.
7. Heat oil in a shallow skillet. Carefully place sliced polenta into hot oil and cook until golden. Turn and cook other side. Transfer slices to prepared platter. Return to oven to keep warm.
8. When all of the slices have been cooked and plated, spoon more marinara sauce over the polenta. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top of the dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced onions
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
2 bay leaves
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup basil chiffonade
1. Heat olive oil. Sauteé onions for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add bay leaves and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add crushed tomatoes with its juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add basil if using.
3. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
4. Ladle over polenta or pasta. Or, let cool and transfer to clean container or jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months.
Polenta is a grainy flour made from ground maize. Maize, or corn, was introduced to Italy from the New World in the 17th century and soon replaced most of the other local grains in use because polenta adapted very well to the regions’ dairy products. Generally, there are two kinds of polenta: fine and coarse. Fine polenta cooks faster but I prefer the coarse kind because it has a more interesting texture.
Polenta can be served plain which is just boiled in water, or it can be dressed up. I like to cook it with butter (prevents it from sticking to the pot) and cheese which makes it good enough to eat on its own. It can be served soft like porridge which is often accompanied with meat and gravy. It can also be poured into a mold, sliced, and fried or grilled.
I have served polenta in different ways. There was polenta with chipotle en adobo which was highly flavored and didn’t need a sauce. There was Polenta al Forno which is sliced and baked with chopped tomatoes and cheese. And then there is Polenta Elisa in honor of my daughter’s birthday, which is a 2-layer dish with sage and cheese. My father-in-law’s family hails from Casali in the Abruzzo region of Italy. He told me that Nana (his mother) always served polenta with pork sausages. And so this is how we eat polenta.
This marinara sauce recipe is something I came up with when I volunteered to bring a hot pasta dish for 40 people for lunch to my daughter’s Academic Decathlon competition. I must have been crazy to make this sauce from scratch when we had to leave the house at 6:00 in the morning to get to the competition which was 50 miles away! Or maybe, this is just how much I love to cook :-). You can multiply this recipe and store the leftovers. I froze mine which will be good for other pasta or polenta dishes.
I like using the canned crushed tomatoes because it is thick and is packed in its own juices. No, I wasn’t crazy enough to start with fresh San Marzano or Roma tomatoes! Onions and garlic added depth to the flavor. And of course, the basil added an herbaceous flavor which made this sauce transcendent. Overall, this marinara sauce was thick without being chunky. It clung to the pasta and bathed it with a majestic flavor. Best of all, it is easy to make and versatile to use.
So what are some of your family’s favorite dishes?
|Ingredients for Coq Au Vin|
|Chicken with bacon|
|Sauteed mushrooms and pearl onions|
|Flambeeing the chicken|
|Simmering the chicken in wine|
|Combining butter and flour|
|Coq Au Vin|
Coq Au Vin
4 oz bacon
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ½ - 3 lbs frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
¼ cup cognac
3 cups full bodied red wine
1-2 cups brown chicken stock, or canned beef bouillon
½ tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
12-24 pearl onions, peeled
½ lb mushrooms
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
Combine 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Place over high heat. When the butter foam starts to subside, add the mushrooms. Shake the pan for about 4 minutes. Remove mushrooms from the pan when they have browned lightly.
Combine 1 ½ tablespoons butter and 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the mixture starts to bubble, add onions to the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, gently rolling the onions so they will brown evenly.
This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Knopf 1976.
I made this dish because it is one of the most popular French dishes. I’ve made other French dishes so this was sort of a rite of passage for me. I felt that I couldn’t say I’ve cooked French food without having cooked Coq Au Vin!
I was excited to make this dish as I imagined how the chicken would taste after having been simmered in stock, cognac and wine. Yes, there’s that cognac waiting to be lit again! You’ll notice that the recipe calls for a whole frying chicken but my pictures show several chicken breasts. Like most recipes, it’s just a matter of preference: my family likes white meat, although I like dark. You’ll also notice that my bacon/lardons look quite lean. It’s because this is my homemade bacon which I cut on the thick side. I’ll teach you how to make bacon in a future post.
I learned something new with this recipe which is how to make beurre manié. This is what transforms the simmering stock and wine into a velvety sauce. It is similar to a roux in that they both contain wheat flour and fat, and are used as thickeners. However, a roux is made at the very start of a dish and oil or lard may be used for the fat, while a beurre manié is made with butter and is incorporated into the dish while it is cooking.
As I was making this dish I imagined Julia Child and her cohorts cooking at L’Ecole Des Trois Gourmandes. It must have been exhilarating to talk about, develop and test all sorts of classic French dishes. It must have also been neat to learn different cooking techniques from them. I was feeling a bit like a gourmande as I cooked the different parts of the dish and then set them aside, and then cook something else and set them aside, and so on. In the end when everything came together it was sublime!
For anyone who wants to learn how to cook French food, I highly recommend getting the book this recipe was based on. It’s not merely a collection of recipes but a cooking school in print. Sure there are cooking videos, but reading a recipe step-by-step recipe ensures you won’t miss anything there is to learn.
Merci Julia, Louisette et Simone!
|Ingredients for Spicy Persimmon & Ginger Beef Stir-Fry|
|Searing the beef|
|Colorful, mildly sweet and spicy beef|
Most of you know that I have been making jam for a little while now. This is something I learned from my awesome sister-in-law, Jeanne while visiting her up in Northern California. After getting down the basics, I decided to try making jam with uncommon fruits. Uncommon to jam-making , that is. Since my mother loves persimmons I chose that to be my first step in canning outside of the box.
I have gone beyond persimmons since then and I’ll share my adventures in future posts. This Spicy Persimmon & Ginger Beef Stir Fry is one of the first recipes my son, Toby, and I have collaborated on. Most of the ingredients as well as the technique are basic, but the addition of chile pepper flakes and persimmon jam gives this dish an updated exciting taste.
Spicy Persimmon & Ginger Beef Stir Fry
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, mince
½ teaspoon chile pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 lbs London broil or other lean cut of beef
3 medium carrots peeled, sliced diagonally
½ cup rice wine
1 leek, white and light green parts sliced ¼” horizontally
1 cup sliced green onions
8 tablespoons Hummingbird Hill Persimmon Jam
On high heat sauteé garlic, ginger and chile pepper flakes until fragrant. Add beef and let cook until just a little bit pink. Allow juices to evaporate, or remove with a spoon, leaving no more than 1 tablespoon. Add carrots and 1 ½ tablespoons rice wine. Stir fry until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add leeks and scallions. Add more rice wine if meat and vegetables begin sticking to pan. Add 8 tablespoons Hummingbird Hill Persimmon Jam and stir to coat beef slices. Cook another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
I used a cut of beef called London Broil because it is lean and uniform in size but any other lean cut will work. Placing the beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to slicing and using a very sharp knife aids in achieving thin slices. The essence of stir frying is to cook food very quickly over high heat. Thus it is imperative to have all the ingredients ready and prepped beforehand, and have them lined up close to the wok. As soon as the wok is very hot, pour a thin line of room temperature oil down the side of the wok. Sautéeing the dry aromatic ingredients like garlic, ginger and chile pepper flakes first infuses the oil which will later flavor the meat. Toby, in his artistic and perhaps Le Cordon Bleu-trained way laid the beef slices one by one flat against the wall of wok to sear them. Chinese cooks would probably toss the whole lot into the wok! When Toby saw that there seemed to be a lot of juice from the beef accumulating at the bottom of the wok, he removed most of it to prevent the meat from steaming. We want them seared after all!
You will notice that my carrots are crinkly. I use a crinkle cutter to add dimension and texture to my vegetables. The crevices are also a good place for the yummy sauce to cling to. Although this is a stir-fry, liquid is added to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the wok. Rather than using water, I use alcohol or broth to add flavor. And finally, the jam is added last to prevent it from caramelizing too much and burning in the hot wok.
None of the flavors overpowered each other; everything came together well. The persimmon jam’s sweetness is the first to hit your taste buds, followed by rich beefy flavor tempered by the sweet leeks, and then you get little (or a lot!) explosions from the chile pepper flakes. You calm your mouth down with steamed white rice, and then it craves more of that scrumptious flavor, and the cycle starts all over again.
Stay tuned to more recipes using our extraordinary jams.
What would you use Hummingbird Hill Persimmon Jam for?