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Pasta d’oro con fagioli

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This is an easy and delicious variation on the classic pasta dish, pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), which is often meatless but when it does contain meat it is usually pork. In this particular recipe I used smoked turkey which offers some of the smokiness of bacon or other pork products. I also added a healthy pinch of saffron, which gives it its lovely golden hue (hence the d’oro title). As usual, this recipe is not carved in stone and is just a suggestion; use whichever flavor combinations you like. And while this recipe is scaled to serve a crowd it can be halved (or quartered) and freezes well also. But something tells me that after a taste there will be no need to freeze it…

 

Golden Pasta with Beans and Smoked Turkey

(pasta d’oro con fagioli)

Makes about 6 quarts


1 pound dried white beans

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound smoked turkey, diced

1 small onion, diced

4 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon basil leaves

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 generous pinch saffron

6 plum tomatoes, diced

4 quarts chicken broth

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ditalini pasta

Parmesan cheese to serve


Rinse the beans, then place them in a pot or bowl with enough cool water to cover them by two inches. Soak the beans for a few hours, or overnight, then drain them and set aside. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot and add the turkey, browning it slightly. Remove the turkey and set aside. To the same hot pot, add the onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper. Saute the vegetables for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute. Stir in the basil, oregano, fennel, hot pepper, and saffron. Cook the herbs and spices for a minute or so to bring out their flavors. Add the soaked beans to the pot, along with the browned turkey, and the tomatoes, broth, and salt. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the beans for about an hour, or until very soft, stirring as needed. If too much liquid evaporates, a water or broth. When the beans are soft add the pasta to the pot and simmer about ten minutes.

Urban Simplicity.

This is way more fun than cutting a lawn…

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It has been more than ten years since I tore up my teeny front lawn and planted a teeny vegetable garden which yields big results. And over the years it–the garden–has spread to other areas around the house; the side and rear, mainly. But this year–because of various reasons–I have only planted the front yard garden…sort of getting back to basics. It’s doing well and tonight was the first significant haul of the season…broccoli. It is so satisfying picking the broccoli and cooking it just feet from where it grew and remembering when you planted it (I could go on). At any rate, I’ve posted this recipe numerous times prior but it is one f my favorite. It is simple, nutritious, and really easy to make. If you haven’t made this yet I hope you give it a try.

 

Penne alla aglio e olio con broccoli in brodo

(Penne with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

Yield: 4 servings
3/4 pound whole wheat penne
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked pasta, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Farfalline with Asparagus, Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Saffron, Garlic Confit, and Fontinella

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This is a continuation of a previous post regarding garlic confit…here’s an example of a recipe in which I used it. I made this for staff lunch at work yesterday. At first glance this may look complicated but it is really very simple…and really delicious. Other than the chicken broth this recipe is meatless but it would go really well with seafood or poultry. This is also a restaurant-quality recipe that can be made in your home kitchen for a fraction of the cost. If I were only allowed one word to describe this dish it would be: Flavor (and the accompanying sound would be: Mmmm…)

Farfallinewith Asparagus, Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Saffron, Garlic Confit, and Fontinella
Makes about 4 servings.
½ pound farfalline
1 cup chicken broth
1 pinch saffron
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, diced
4 cloves garlic confit
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shredded Fontinella cheese
Cook the pasta al dente in plenty of salted boiling water, then drain it and set aside. Bring the chicken broth to a boil, add the saffron, remove it from the heat and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook it for a couple minutes, then add the garlic confit, mashing the garlic with the back of a spoon. Add the tomatoes and then the saffron- chicken broth. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer the broth for a couple minutes, then add the asparagus and salt. Stir and cook the asparagus for a couple minutes, until just cooked, then stir in the pasta. Gently stir the pasta to coat and reheat it (if too much broth has evaporated add more). Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheese, gently folding and tossing it to coat evenly.

Verdure aglio e olio (due ricette)

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Okay. By now–if you’ve been to this blog before–you know that I like things cooked with olive oil and garlic. A lot. I could eat it in variation nearly every day…and I almost do. I posted a similar recipe about a month ago but this combo was too good not to share…whole wheat penne with broccoli aglio e olio, layered with spaghetti squash cooked in the same fashion. I also used extra garlic and hot pepper in the recipe and a liberal dousing of Parmesan to finish it. Yum. I just ate but I salivate at it’s remembrance. Anyhow, the recipe for the penne and broccoli is below (substitute penne for the spaghetti, and vegetable broth for the chicken broth if you want to keep it vegetarian). To see how to cook, shred, and saute a butternut squash in this fashion (with pics and step-by-step instructions), see this post. For multiple recipes on cooking nearly anything aglio e olio, click here.

 

Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

                                        Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pounds spaghetti

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups chopped broccoli florets 

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

A Really Simple (but Superbly Delicious) Homemade Chicken Soup Recipe with Homemade Whole Wheat Noodles

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What is it about chicken soup? Even when I go through one of my “very-little-meat” phases I still welcome and crave this simple food. It’s a sort of cultural phenomenon…every culture and nationality has their own version of this humble dish. One of my favorite names for this recipe is “Jewish Penicillin,” making reference to its supposed properties to cure the common cold. And historically speaking it is likely one of the oldest recipes…next to cooking over a live fire, putting things in a vessel and boiling them is one of the oldest known cooking methods. There are plenty of ways to make this dish, and a seemingly endless variety of ingredients one can use, but this is a version I made the other day. It is easy and delicious. The homemade noodles were an added bonus, but if you want to make the recipe and use store-bought (or none at all) it will be equally delicious. This is also a good Base recipe,” meaning one in which you can add or subtract flavorings or ingredients to make it your own. The addition of chilies would make this interesting, as would a bit of fresh ginger and soy for an Oriental flare. More garlic, a splash of lemon, and a few sprigs of cilantro (and a sprinkling of curry) would give it a distinctive Near East flavor. You get the picture. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have a second bowl of soup…

Chicken Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Egg Noodles


Makes about 5 quarts


For the soup:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat)

3 quarts chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped
For the noodles:

1½ cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten (optional)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons cold water

To Make the Soup:
Combine the chicken and chicken broth in a soup pot and bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, make the noodle dough.


Combine the whole wheat flour, gluten, eggs, and water in a bowl and mix until it begins to form a mass. Knead the dough—either by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook—until it is a smooth dough (about eight minutes with an electric mixer or 12 by hand). If the dough is too dry add another tablespoon or two of water. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Remove the chicken from the broth to a plate and allow it to cool a bit. Strain the broth and set aside; clean the pot to start the soup.


Heat the vegetable oil in the soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, carrot, and turnip. Cook the vegetables for about five minutes while stirring. Add the garlic, turmeric, and salt; cook another five minutes. Stir in the broth; bring to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Dice the cooked chicken and add it to the soup.


While the soup is simmering roll out the noodle dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough very thin as they tend to plump a little when they cook. Cut the noodles as thin or thick as you like, or in whatever shape that you like. Drop them into the simmering soup, shaking off any excess flour as you pick them up.


Simmer the noodles in the soup for 5-10 minutes, or until the noodles feel tender but are not falling apart. Just before removing the soup from the heat stir in the chopped parsley.

A Really Simple (but Superbly Delicious) Homemade Chicken Soup Recipe with Homemade Whole Wheat Noodles

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What is it about chicken soup? Even when I go through one of my “very-little-meat” phases I still welcome and crave this simple food. It’s a sort of cultural phenomenon…every culture and nationality has their own version of this humble dish. One of my favorite names for this recipe is “Jewish Penicillin,” making reference to its supposed properties to cure the common cold. And historically speaking it is likely one of the oldest recipes…next to cooking over a live fire, putting things in a vessel and boiling them is one of the oldest known cooking methods. There are plenty of ways to make this dish, and a seemingly endless variety of ingredients one can use, but this is a version I made the other day. It is easy and delicious. The homemade noodles were an added bonus, but if you want to make the recipe and use store-bought (or none at all) it will be equally delicious. This is also a good Base recipe,” meaning one in which you can add or subtract flavorings or ingredients to make it your own. The addition of chilies would make this interesting, as would a bit of fresh ginger and soy for an Oriental flare. More garlic, a splash of lemon, and a few sprigs of cilantro (and a sprinkling of curry) would give it a distinctive Near East flavor. You get the picture. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have a second bowl of soup…

Chicken Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Egg Noodles


Makes about 5 quarts


For the soup:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat)

3 quarts chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 bunch parsley, chopped
For the noodles:

1½ cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten (optional)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons cold water

To Make the Soup:
Combine the chicken and chicken broth in a soup pot and bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, make the noodle dough.


Combine the whole wheat flour, gluten, eggs, and water in a bowl and mix until it begins to form a mass. Knead the dough—either by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook—until it is a smooth dough (about eight minutes with an electric mixer or 12 by hand). If the dough is too dry add another tablespoon or two of water. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Remove the chicken from the broth to a plate and allow it to cool a bit. Strain the broth and set aside; clean the pot to start the soup.


Heat the vegetable oil in the soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, carrot, and turnip. Cook the vegetables for about five minutes while stirring. Add the garlic, turmeric, and salt; cook another five minutes. Stir in the broth; bring to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Dice the cooked chicken and add it to the soup.


While the soup is simmering roll out the noodle dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough very thin as they tend to plump a little when they cook. Cut the noodles as thin or thick as you like, or in whatever shape that you like. Drop them into the simmering soup, shaking off any excess flour as you pick them up.


Simmer the noodles in the soup for 5-10 minutes, or until the noodles feel tender but are not falling apart. Just before removing the soup from the heat stir in the chopped parsley.

Pasta Fra Diavolo

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Pasta with seafood…yum! It is one of my favorites. And Fra Diavolo is likely my all-time version of seafood pasta. It’s name–Fra Diavolo–translates from Italian to “Brother Devil,” and the dish has a somewhat interesting history (to read about it go to this post). This recipe can be made with nearly any seafood and any shape pasta, so long as the other ingredients are involved…tomato sauce (I still had a pint of sauce in my freezer from last summer’s tomatoes), hot peppers, anchovies (yes anchovies!), and red wine. The recipe listed below includes penne and halibut, but the one pictured–the one I ate for dinner tonight–was made with tilapia and ziti. This is delicious, healthy, and really easy to make. Anyhow, if you’d like to see additional pictures of (variations) of this being made, click here or here.

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate


Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.


Urban Simplicity.

Warm Weather and a Recipe…

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Okay, so as I type these words it is 4:00pm in the afternoon, December 3rd, and it is a balmy 55f/12c…and I am typing in Buffalo, NY, where we are known for our often harsh winters. I’m sure we’re going to get a taste of it soon enough (though last year it hardly snowed at all), but for now I’ll take this. And as nice as the weather is, I have to say that it is more than a bit disconcerting. It seems when I was a kid it was cold and snowy from November to March. Anyhow, I just snapped this picture…yes, I still have broccoli and a few other items growing in the backyard. One of my favorite broccoli preparations is to cook it simply with olive oil and garlic (and toss it with pasta). The recipe is below, but to see photos of it being prepared, click here.

Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

                                        Yield: 4 servings
3/4 pounds spaghetti
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chopped broccoli florets 
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.
 

Simple Pasta Recipe = Comfort Food

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I had mentioned in recent posts on how I am in a particularly stressful period right now at work. Crazy busy. Just one lunch and dinner after another. Today, at one point, I think I was making five different recipes simultaneously while I was also directing my staff. I’m not mentioning this to be a braggart–on the contrary–but just to illustrate the difference between cooking at work to cooking at home. At work I have to cook things simultaneously and in large batches…sauces by the gallon, soups in 20-30 gallon batches, entrees by the hundreds. And all the while barking out orders to the cooks. It’s a wonder I make it through the day sometimes. Really. Okay…sorry for being so whiny. My point is what a juxtaposition it is then to come home and cook dinner for myself. My son was not home this evening so it was just myself and my pugs. So after I fed the dogs I poured myself a glass of wine, put a pot of water on the stove to boil (for pasta), tuned into NPR on the radio, sat on a stool and waited for the water to boil while I sipped my wine. Quite a difference from the frantic cooking I did earlier in the day; without looking I knew the water was ready because I could hear it boiling. After I boiled and drained the pasta I made the following recipe. It’s one of my favorites and I have posted many variations of it on this blog. The recipe below uses spaghetti but tonight I made it with penne. Use whichever type of pasta you like and whichever vegetable you like. (For many other variations with better photos, click here.) And as I ate and listened to the radio I thought about how much I still love to cook–at home and at work (but not when it’s so busy)–and how good food tastes when you make it yourself. When I was almost done eating but had a little left on my plate, I fed it to my dogs (who had been sitting patiently and staring at me the entire while I cooked and ate), then I poured myself another glass of wine and turned up the radio a bit while I washed the dishes.


Spaghetti alla Aglio e Olio con Broccoli in Brodo

(Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

                                        Yield: 4 servings
3/4 pounds spaghetti
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chopped broccoli florets 
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook the spaghetti and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked spaghetti, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Penne Bolognese (senza latte o panna)

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Pasta with meat sauce. Mmm…I love it; easy to make and really delicious. But first I have to say that while I am most definitely not a vegetarian I do not eat a great deal of meat (for a variety of reasons). Sometimes I go days, even a week or so with out eating meat (as I have this past week…up until today), and then when I do eat it it tastes that much more special. And while I call this Bolognese I know that there are purists out there who will twist themselves in knots as they read the recipe, but this is my variation. I, for example, do not use milk or cream in the recipe (I cook far too much creamy stuff at my job) and I use olive oil in place of the butter. I also prefer pork instead of a combination of meats. Anyhow, this is how I make mine, and it’s really good (my teen-aged son ate three helpings); I hope you enjoy it.

Penne Bolognese

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet, then add ground pork and cook it until it begins to brown. If there is a lot of fat drain some of it, otherwise leave it as is. Add a diced onion, bell pepper, a couple cloves of minced garlic, a peeled and diced carrot, and a diced stalk of celery. Cook the vegetables another minute or so. Add a pinch of fennel seed, crushed hot pepper, basil, and oregano; stir it into the meat and vegetables, then add a glass or two of wine; white or red, whichever you prefer (I like red). Bring the wine to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two, then add enough tomato sauce to just cover the meat. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower it to a slow simmer; season it with salt and a pinch of black pepper. While the sauce cooks, boil your pasta. Cook the pasta al dente, then add it to the simmering sauce, gently stirring it in. Allow the pasta to cook in the sauce for a couple minutes to absorb flavors. Just before removing from the heat stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves (if you have it on hand). Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. 

Urban Simplicity.

Macaroni and Four Cheeses

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This is a variation of the classic American dish, Macaroni-and-Cheese. The variation from the classic recipe in this one is that I used four cheeses…cheddar, Parmesan, Fontinella, and Gorgonzola. It is–if I do say so myself–mouthwatering delicious. And while this may not be the heart-healthiest meal you can eat it is easy to make, versatile, and delicious (did I mention how delicious it is). The recipe is really simple. It’s basically a Bechamel sauce (milk sauce thickened with roux) into which one or more cheeses are added, and then it’s folded into cooked macaroni (or other pasta). It’s usually topped with something–I use a bit more cheese and breadcrumbs, but crushed crackers, potato chips, and even corn flakes are not uncommon–then the whole concoction is baked in the oven until browned and bubbly. This is most often served as a side dish, but other ingredients can be added to make it more of a main meal. Vegetables will lighten it up a bit (fresh spinach and chopped broccoli are good choices), and more decadent options include–but are not limited to–foods such as ham, sausage, crab, shrimp, or even lobster. And if you want to reduce the artery-clogging cholesterol level of the recipe, some or all of the milk/cream may be replaced with chicken broth. Anyhow, this is really easy to make and way better than the all-to-common boxed variety…and you can make it in bulk and freeze it in increments (as pictured below).

Macaroni-and-Cheese
(with four cheeses)
Makes about four servings
8 ounces elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup shredded cheddar
¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola
¼ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup grated Fontinella
¾ cup breadcrumbs
Preheat and oven to 350F. Boil the macaroni in salted water, drain, and set aside. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan then add the flour, stirring to form a roux. Cook the roux over medium heat—while stirring—for a few minutes, then add the milk, cream, salt, and pepper. Using a wire whisk, stir the sauce over medium-high heat until smooth. Continue stirring until it is heated and thick. Cook the sauce for a minute or two then remove from the heat. Add the cheeses and stir until smooth. Add the cooked macaroni to the pot and gently fold into the cheese sauce. Transfer to a lightly oiled skillet or other oven-proof baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake the macaroni-and-cheese for about 20 minutes, or until it is hot throughout, bubbling, and golden.

This Year’s Garden Issue, and a quick tomato recipe

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Every year it seems there is a new “issue” in the garden. Such is life, right? I can’t imaging how difficult it must be for farmers who rely on their crops for their livelihood, or those who rely on the food they grow to sustain them entirely. A few years ago I had an army of city rabbits who chose to inhabit my tiny gardens each night, then I had giant tomato-eating slugs wreak havoc, and last year there was a hungry city raccoon that all but wiped out my small patch of corn and ate it in a nearby tree (no kidding). Well, this year it is not an animal or insect that is causing trouble, but the plants themselves. The tomatoes in the front of my house, while they look incredibly healthy, are inflicted with–what I’ve finally been able to identify–the not so technical sounding blossom end rot…and it quite literally does as the name describes, the blossom end, or the end that is not connected to the plant, rots. I’m still getting a few healthy tomatoes from the front, and the rear garden does not seem affected, but it’s still early and most of them are still green (the rot begins while they are still green). The tomatoes pictured above and below obviously were not affected, but I’ve been pulling and discarding at least a half-dozen black rotted tomatoes a day in hopes of slowing and halting the problem. From what I’ve read this is not an easy problem to overcome, but I’ll try (and there are far worse problems to have in this world today). If any gardeners out there in the blogosphere have had this problem and overcame it I would love to here about it. Thanks. Anyhow, on to the recipe.

This recipe is about as simple as it gets but is still bursting with nutrients and flavor. It’s really just another aglio e olio type recipe, but in this case the ingredients are turned into a sauce. The easy steps are below.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and add onion, peppers, and garlic (I used sweet and hot peppers)…cook them slowly until they begin to brown, forming a sort of sofrito. Add diced tomato. Any type will do, I used two types of red tomatoes plus a couple yellow cherry tomatoes with seeds and skins intact. Cook the tomatoes for a couple minutes to release and evaporate some of their juices. Then add chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian) and a bit of seas salt. Bring the sauce to a boil then lower it to a simmer; cook the sauce for a few minutes until it reduces and thickens. Meanwhile boil whatever pasta you prefer. When the sauce is to your liking (in consistency and flavor) it can be pureed or left chunky, which is what I did. Add a few chopped basil leaves and then the cooked pasta. Toss or gently stir the pasta into the sauce allowing it to soak up flavors.

Urban Simplicity.

"Tis the Season…

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Beautiful isn’t it? The first tomato of the season. Within two weeks I’ll have a bushel of them. And the season seems especially early this year. Like much of the nation, Western New York State has been sweltering this summer and the garden plants are loving it. We–WNY–have a relatively short growing season, but I anticipate a longer one this year. And the efforts of planting a garden–in the front and rear lawns, or what once were lawns–is paying off…I shouldn’t have to purchase vegetables until the fall.

It is such an excellent feeling to walk out my front or rear door with a plate in one hand (and often a glass of wine in the other) and pick food for dinner. The last few nights I have been eating pasta in my favorite style of preparation…aglio e olio. And given the heat I’ve been cooking my dinner in my makeshift outdoor kitchen in the back yard and eating it under a grapevine. There is something really special about eating food in the very spot that you grew it. Anyhow, here’s a few photos and a basic recipe.

Pasta and Vegetables with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Chicken Broth 
(Old School Style)

Dice any vegetables that you have at hand, keeping onions, peppers, and others that you want to caramelize (brown) separate from the softer or more delicate ones. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for which to cook pasta. Heat a liberal amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add any vegetables to brown, such as onions, peppers, carrots, or zucchini. Cook for a few minutes, tossing and turning in the oil until they begin to brown. Add a clove or two of minced garlic and a pinch of hot pepper if you like; continue to cook for a couple minutes. Add a cup or so of chicken broth to the pan  and allow the vegetables to cook and soften as the broth reduces and concentrates. Meanwhile cook whatever pasta you like in the boiling water (slightly under cook it). Add softer vegetables to the pan–those that you don’t wish to caramelize–such as broccoli, green beans, spinach, tomatoes. Add a small addition of broth if necessary, along with a pinch of salt. When the vegetables are cooked and soft, and the broth has reduced and made a flavorful sauce, drain the past and add it to the vegetables. Gently shake the pan to toss the vegetables, broth, and pasta together. Allow the past to finish cooking and absorb some of the broth and flavors. Just before remove the pan from the heat stir in coarsely chopped basil leaves and grated Parmesan cheese.

Urban Simplicity.

I Ate My Front Yard for Dinner…at least some of it

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As many of you know from reading this blog, about 10 years ago I tore op my teeny front lawn to plant vegetables and have never looked back. It gets the best sun and I realized that I would much rather grow and pick vegetables than I would grow and cut grass. I eventually started a small garden in the back of the house as well but the front garden always seems to do a little better. And this year I am surprised–but mostly pleased–at how well both gardens are doing  (I re-fertilized the soil this year). It’s doing so well that some things have come to fruition already…not all but some. And so I picked some vegetables and cooked them in oil and garlic (aglio e olio) and tossed them with pasta. And while I was meandering through my tiny front yard garden–with glass of red wine in hand (the neighbors are used to me by now)–and lifting leaves to see whats under them, I couldn’t help but think of this article I read today and how ridiculous it is that some cities are not allowing a beautiful garden like this to exist. My mother, who came of age during WW II, told me that when she was young these city gardens–front and back–were called victory gardens. Growing your own food is a part of all of our past–whether you live in the city or country–and it’s likely part of our future. The catch phrase today seems to be eat or shop local. I’ll take it a step further and say this…grow it just outside your house and cook it where it grows. You can’t get any more local than that. I’ll get off my little vegetable crate now.

Urban Simplicity.

Pasta (e Pesce) Fra Diavolo

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If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I enjoy cooking and eating pasta, and just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean I’m not hindered. Tonight for dinner I made one of my favorites…Pasta Fra Diavolo. I cooked it in my outdoor kitchen in my backyard to alleviate heating my teeny indoor kitchen. For this version I used whitefish, but nearly any seafood can be incorporated. I also ate a side dish of cauliflower aglio e olio. The basic recipe for Fra Diavolo is below, but to learn more about it–including the etymology of it’s name and why there are specific ingredients in the recipe, click here. To learn to cook nearly anything aglio e olio, click here.

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut
Yield: 4 portions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups tomato purée
1 pound diced halibut
1/2 pound penne rigate
Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Twenty Minute Pasta with Beans and Greens Recipe

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This recipe–as I say about all the recipes that I post on this blog–is really easy to make, nutritious, and super delicious. And it only takes twenty minutes (or less) to prepare, granting you have your beans cooked and have good knife skills (in other words, if you can chop things fast). The only meat in the recipe is the chicken broth, but it can easily be vegetarian/vegan by using vegetable broth. If you do prefer to have animal protein in this recipe almost any poultry or meat (or even fish) would be good, as would a bit of ham, bacon, or smoked sausage. It would just take a little longer to cook. I also doused it with a liberal helping of Parmesan cheese (which is not listed in the recipe). Anyhow, here’s a few pictures of it being prepared; the recipe follows.

Beans and Greens
Serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon fennel seed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups cooked beans
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups (about 5oz) chopped fresh spinach
½ pound whole wheat pasta

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot and add the onion, green pepper, and garlic; saute for a couple minutes. Stir in the salt, paprika, hot pepper, basil, oregano, and fennel seed; stir and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the bean mixture for about 10 minutes, or until it reduces by 1/3 and start to thicken. Then stir in the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in plenty of boiled water. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans and spinach, allowing it to absorb some of it’s flavor. 

Spaghetti (grano intero) con Broccoli, Aglio e Olio

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If you’ve followed any of the recipes on this blog you know that two of my favorite ingredients are olive oil and garlic. I made this for staff lunch today…whole wheat spaghetti with broccoli, garlic, olive oil, and hot peppers. For pictures and recipes on how to cook nearly anything aglio e olio scroll through this link.

Urban Simplicity.

Pesce (e Pasta) Fra Diavolo

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I’ve mentioned it before but I have to again…this is without doubt my favorite pasta dish. It’s easy to make and super delicious (and you can use whatever seafood you like). The recipe is below, but if you would like more photos and info about this dish (including it’s history and etymology), click here. Now if you’ll excuse me I believe I’ll go have a second helping 🙂

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut
Makes 4 portions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups tomato purée
1 pound diced halibut
1/2 pound linguine
Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

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This is by far one of my favorite seafood/tomato sauce recipes. It’s easy to make and really delicious…and it has an interesting history also. To read more about it’s origins, the reason certain ingredients are included, or to see photos of it being prepared, click here. (And no, to some of the squeamish readers who may be afraid of anchovies, you don’t taste them in the sauce…they are more of a nuance–I personally love them and ate a few straight from the can–and yes, to the same group of readers, you can omit them from the recipe…but it’s not quite the same.)

ShrimpFra Diavolo 
Makes 4 portions
6tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2small onion, diced
2cloves garlic, minced
2anchovy filets
1teaspoon crushed red pepper
2teaspoons minced parsley
1/2teaspoon basil
1/2teaspoon salt
2/3cup red wine
2cups tomato purée
1/2pound linguine
1/2pound large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

Heat3 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepot. Add the onion andgarlic; sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the anchoviesand hot pepper; sauté for 1 minute, mashing the anchovies with awooden spoon. Stir in the parsley, basil, salt, and red wine. Simmerthe wine for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato puree. Simmerthe sauce slowly fore about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes toothick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boilthe pasta until aldente,rinse it and set aside.

Heatthe remaining 3 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Patthe shrimp dry and carefully add them to the skillet. Stir and tossthe shrimp in the hot oil for a minute or two, then add the sauce.Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the shrimp for just a coupleminutes. Make sure the pasta is drained well and add it to the sauce.Cook just long enough to reheat the pasta.

Handmade Pasta

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Homemade pasta is not only simple to make but also fun. And besides that I really believe it is one of the most brilliant foods there is. Think of it’s versatility, nearly every culture has a version of it, and its most basic form it is nothing more than a paste made with flour, and sometimes eggs. The word pasta is in fact the Italian word meaning “paste;” Spanish is the same, and in French it is often called pâte (paste) or pâtes à l’œuf (paste with eggs)…but it does sound more appealing to eat pasta than paste. When cooked with other meager ingredients, pasta becomes not only delicious but a delicious meal…the paste–or pasta–absorbs the flavor of whet it is cooked in. We made this for employee meal today for the simple reason that I enjoy making it, but more importantly, love eating it. Anyhow, I originally had the below text and recipes published in Artvoice some years ago, but I also posted on this blog previously (where you can see additional pictures of the dough being made).

On Making Dough


In today’s world that so often seems to be racing and spiraling out of control, and in a time when restaurant food performs gravity defying feats on a daily basis, there is no other therapeutic food to create with your hands than pasta. This is not to imply that pasta has curative properties, but rather, the act of making pasta can actually be a form of relaxation and meditative medium. It’s a humble and inexpensive food, and can easily be an entire meal; in its most basic form pasta is simply a paste of eggs and flour.

The art of making pasta dough by hand is one that should be relished—ditto for bread dough. But with the proliferation of mechanical means—fancy electric mixers, food processors, bread machines, etc.—the age-old process of producing silky smooth pasta by hand is often overlooked and forgotten. Though it would be untrue to state that pasta mixed manually was an easy task, once mastered the process is quite enjoyable. The dough has to be mixed enough to develop the gluten in the flour, and then kneaded further until it starts to break some of the gluten down to a certain extent and incorporate some air into the dough, which, in turn, will yield a perfectly smooth and workable dough. One should not approach this task in an anticipated state of drudgery, but hopefully, with appreciation.
 
For inspiration while cooking, I’ll often set before me the ingredients at hand, in the case of pasta this entails flour and eggs, and sometimes water, oil or salt. It’s interesting to look at these few items and visualize their origins, functions, how they change when combined with one another and what the resulting product will be. Try to imagine the grains of flour swelling to accept the liquid, and the proteins aligning and clinging to themselves, almost fighting against the force of your hands to create structure in the dough. Ultimately, the ingredients will not be distinct and separate any longer, but something new, one single component or mass: dough. And though, I’m sure, that all of these ingredients were harvested separately with the use of mechanics, when they are set out in their most simple and basic form, it often seems unsuitable to mix the dough with anything other than your hands.  

Pasta is, as its name suggests, a paste. The paste is most often made with flour and eggs, water sometimes replaces all or a portion of the eggs; vegetable purées can be added, and also salt, oil, herbs or spices. There is no need for special equipment; your hands are the best tools that you can ever own. The finished dough can be rolled and cut using a simple rolling pin and large knife, or with the aid of a hand-cranked pasta machine, the latter taking less effort and offering more consistent results.

There is no denying that for a beginner, to make pasta by hand takes practice—the making of the dough is actually very easy, it’s the kneading and rolling that takes quite a bit of effort. The incredibly inspirational writer and culinary educator Madeleine Kamman states the benefits of making pasta entirely by hand in her voluminous book The New Making of a Cook. One of the benefits, she says, is that you will be 1 or 2 pounds lighter in weight upon completing the task.

To make a basic egg dough begin by mounding an appropriate amount of flour on a counter or table, and make an indentation, or “well” in the center of the mound; crack eggs directly into the well. If you decide to use water, oil, salt or other flavorings, add these ingredients now. Using an ordinary dinner fork, start to beat the eggs as if you were scrambling them. As you do this, begin to

incorporate some of the flour into the eggs. When enough flour has been combined with the eggs to form a loose paste or batter, mix in the rest of the flour with your hands and bunch it together to form a crumbly ball. Begin to knead the dough by pushing and stretching it away from you with the heel of your hand, then fold it and pull it back towards you with your fingers. In a very short while you will have before you a homogenous ball of dough, that’s the easy part. The more difficult process is to knead it for another 15 minutes. What you have to do is develop the gluten in the dough which will give it strength, and then knead it beyond that point until it starts to break some of this gluten down, which will make a smooth dough that is easy to work with. Eventually, after a sufficient amount of kneading, you’ll note a change in the dough—it will become much smoother, slightly lighter in color and more pliable. Wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside for 30 minutes, the gluten needs to relax.

After the pasta has rested it can be rolled out to a desired thickness (roll it thinner than actually needed as it will swell when boiled). This done, it can be cut into any number of shapes, or used for lasagna, ravioli or tortellini. Raw sheets of dough can also be floured and layered between sheets of parchment then frozen for future use.

Cooking fresh pasta takes a fraction of the time as dried. It needs only 3 or 4 minutes to thoroughly cook in rapidly boiling water; stuffed pasta takes longer to cook for obvious reasons.

The next time you’ve time on your hands and are searching for culinary inspiration, make pasta by hand. It will be good for you.

Basic Pasta Dough
Yield: 6 portions

   3 cups all purpose flour
   4 large eggs
   1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place 2-1/2 cups of the flour in a mound on a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, water and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes while working in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.
                       

Roast Red Pepper Pasta Dough
4 portions

      1 large red pepper
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      2 large eggs
  1/4 teaspoon salt

Roast the pepper by placing it directly over an open flame, either on stove indoors, or for a smokier flavor, over an outdoor grill. Cook the pepper until the skin is almost entirely black, then place it in a paper bag. After the pepper has been resting in the bag for 5 minutes, remove it from the bag and rinse it under cold running water and rub the charred skin away. Gently tear open the pepper and remove and discard the seeds and stem. Purée the pepper in a blender until it is perfectly smooth, then pour the purée into a measuring cup. The purée should measure 1/2 cup, if it does not, add enough water to compensate. On the other hand, if the purée is greater than 1/2 cup, remove the excess portion and reserve for future use.  

Mound the flour on a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, pepper purée and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.

Whole Wheat Pasta Dough
Yield: 6 portions

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
      4 large eggs
      3 tablespoons cold water
  1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the flours together in a small bowl, then mound 2-1/2 cups of the mixed flours onto a worktable and make a well in the center. In the well, place the eggs, water and salt. Using a fork, beat the liquids and slowly incorporate the flour.

When the liquids are fully incorporated into the flour begin to knead the dough. Knead the pasta dough for 15 minutes while working in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.

Urban Simplicity


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