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Saturday
Feb262011

"Grown up" Spaghetti with Anchovies


When I was growing up, my mother would reluctantly make my father Spaghetti with Anchovies as a special treat.  Or should I say, she would cook the pasta, heat the oil and leave the rest to him -- including putting the anchovy fillets into the hot oil.  This was definately not food that she grew up on and who would want to eat this stuff anyway?

I don't know why, but I have been thinking about this dish lately.  Actually, craving it. So I started to wonder, how can I improve on my mother's reluctant recipe?

A quick tour of the internet quickly turned up multiple recipes for Pasta with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs (Spaghetti con Acciughe e Mollica), a very common Southern Italian dish. Some recipes call for fresh, or salted anchovies, but most use oil packed fillets -- which are a staple in my pantry.  Garlic is also commonly used, along with olive oil and flat leaf parsly. Beyond that, I saw many variations on the theme, including the addition of onion, hot pepper flakes, and walnuts (in lieu of the bread crumbs).

The last time I purchased anchovies packed in olive oil, they were in a 4.2 oz jar, rather than the standard 2 oz tin.  There are typically 7-10 anchovies in a 2 oz tin, so I added 8 coursely chopped fillets to the hot olive oil.  I then added 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic, a small finely chopped shallot and aproximatley one Tablespoon of hot pepper flakes.  

As a word of caution, be very careful when you add the anchovies to the skillet, because they will sizzle and the oil will splash. (I now understand why my mother handed this step over to my father!).  It took me 3 minutes to make the sauce, and 10 minutes to clean the stove top.

For the breadcrumbs, I used 2 oz of stale bread, which I lightly toasted and then coursely ground it in a mini chopper.  I then added a teaspon of finely chopped fresh rosemary (no parsely in the house), salt, pepper and one Tablespoon of olive oil to the crumbs.

Most recipes recommend serving this dish with pecorino cheese.  I was initially reluctant to add cheese to a fish dish, but in the end, I did.  It was actually a very nice addition.

I was very pleased with how this dish came out.  When (not if) I make it again, I will increase the number of anchovy fillets to 12 and substitute 4 oz of chopped walnuts for the bread crumbs.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Here is the recipe.

 

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Tuesday
Feb222011

Tarte au Citron

Is there a more quintessential French desert than Tarte au Citron? I have not made one in years, but was inspired to bake one last weekend after buying some meyer lemons at the fruit market.

I have used Martha Stewart's recipe in the past. But for a change of pace, I decided to try a recipe by David Lebovitz this time around. (I was also intrigued by this recipe, submitted in 2004 to Gourmet Magazine by Thomas Keller. I have it on my list to try at a later time.)

This recipe definately produces a lemon curd on the tart side. If you like a sweet lemon curd, I would recommend adding a little more sugar.  I did not decrease the amount of sugar, despite using meyer lemon juice, and the curd was still a bit tart.

This recipe is very straight forward.  The lemon juice, sugar and butter are placed in a heavy sauce pan to heat.  After the butter is melted, the egg/egg yolk mixture is added to the pan.  The mixture is then cooked over low heat until it is thickened.

David recommended passing the curd through a fine metal strainer, before placing it into the cooked tart shell.  I omitted this step because the recipe produced a curd that was smooth and silky.  To set the curd, I placed the tart in a 350 degree oven for five minutes.

I was extremely happy with the way that the tart came out.  This recipe is definately a keeper! (Click here for a printable version of the recipe.)

Monday
Feb212011

Sunday Night Dinner


No matter how crazy the week is around here (and believe me, it can get really crazy), Sunday night dinner is a given in my house.  I find it an extremely relaxing way to end the weekend, and as an added bonus, it stocks the refrigerator with leftovers for the coming week.

I typically plan the menu in advance, so that when the big day rolls around, I am prepared. The menu for this week was going to be simple: broiled salmon, salad and broccoli .  

But the menu took a turn on Sunday afternoon, when I realized that I had a small pastry shell in my refrigerator that needed to be used up. (Normally, I don't have pastry shells just lying around.  But after baking tarts earlier in the day, I had a small piece of leftover dough which I couldn't bear to waste.)

A quick survey of the refrigerator subsequently turned up a small piece of gruyere cheese, a shallot, a scant 8 oz of cream, 3 eggs and the afore mentioned broccoli.  Did someone say broccoli quiche?

Before putting the quiche together, I blanched the broccoli for about one minute, and then rough chopped it. 

I assembled the quiche by putting half of the grated cheese on the bottom (which I find prevents the crust from getting soggy) and then layered the vegetables, custard and remaining cheese.  

As you can imagine, this recipe works well with a variety of green vegetables and cheeses. When using green leafy vegetables, I typically sauté the greens with garlic for a little extra flavor.

I served the quiche as a side dish, but it makes a wonderful main course (served with a salad) if you want something light.  This dish is a particular favorite of mine in the summer, when I have access to fresh eggs and goat cheese at the Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, NY and a buttery (barrel aged) Chardonnay from Marcari Vineyards in Mattituck, NY.

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Saturday
Feb052011

Swiss Chard meets Artisanal Bacon

I have to confess, I am completely blown away by the artisanal bacon sold at Eataly.  The bacon is sourced from a small farm in Wisconsin, and puts store bought bacon to shame.  As you can see from the picture above, it is extremely lean and its' rendered fat has a light, silky consistency to it.

I purchased a small piece several weeks ago and was waiting (patiently) for the right opportunity to cash in on the calories.  The right opportunity finally presented itself last Saturday, when I picked up 2 beautiful bunches of swiss chard at the vegetable market.

I only recently "discovered" this versatile green, and now I can't get enough of it.  It is widely available all year round, and very reasonably priced.  Many recipes and videos (see below) recommend throwing away the stem, claiming it is too tough or bitter to eat. This is nonsense.  If the swiss chard is young and fresh, the stems are delicious and add a lovely texture and color to any dish. They just need to cook a little longer than the chards.

Swiss chard leaves are deep greeen, but the stems vary in color. The most common varieties have red and white stems, but there are also varieties which have bright yellow stems.  Like fresh spinach, swiss chard collects alot of sand and dirt, so be sure to wash it thoroughly before using it.

If you do not have bacon (or want to avoid the extra calories), you can use olive oil to sauté the greens.

I originally planned to have this as a side dish, but ended up eating it as a main course with some yellow rice.  The leftovers stayed well in the refrigerator for a few days, and the dish was just as delicious the second time around

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