Monday, June 29, 2009

Testing 1-2-3

Since my personal cheffing days, I have been on the list of home recipe testers for a national food magazine. You know the one that deconstructs all of the recipes in order to reproduce them in painstaking detail. Sometimes helpful, other times boring.

This weekend I was testing a recipe for Cacio e Pepe, that quintessential Roman pasta dish. The problem for me in testing recipes is that one must make recipes exactly as written for obvious reasons--even if you don't agree with the methods or ingredients. But I do it for fun. I certainly don't receive any remuneration--not even a subscription to the magazine or website.

So I called L and J, with whom we have shared two trips to Rome and countless bowls of pasta, and asked them to come for dinner to help me test this recipe. I prepared the recipe as written, even though the method was awkward and additional ingredients were unnecessary. But all in all the taste was good and the Frascati served with it complementary.

In my humble opinion there are only four ingredients needed to make an outstanding Cacio e Pepe. They are authentic aged pecorino romano sheep's milk cheese; fresh, coarsely ground black pepper; good quality spaghetti; and pasta water.

My Recipe for Cacio e Pepe

While bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, crush or coarsely grind 2 tablespoons fresh black peppercorns.

Ladle some hot water into your mixing/serving bowl to warm it, drain.

Cook 1 pound spaghetti until it is al dente. Lift the spaghetti from the pot with tongs or strainer and drop into the warm serving dish.

Quickly scatter about 1 cup of grated pecorino cheese over the pasta and most of the ground pepper, and toss quickly. As you toss, sprinkle in a ladle or two of hot pasta water to moisten and amalgamate all of the ingredients. You may need more water to make this happen. Add more cheese or pepper to taste.

Note: Some like to put about 1 cup of hot water in the serving dish whisking in the cheese and pepper then adding the hot pasta and tossing to coat thoroughly. Add more cheese and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main dish

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Rantings of a Mad Woman

When our friend G was here for dinner the other night, he casually mentioned that he was trying to look up the grammatical rule for using a singular or plural verb with the word none. Now that may sound very boring to most--but I perked up. Unbeknownst to G is that I have an odd interest in grammar. He knows now. His research left him confused and with no real answer.

What I had learned, and always abided by, is that a singular noun takes a singular verb. A plural noun takes a plural verb. So far so good. I had also learned that the word none is singular. Not so fast. Evidently the rules have changed. What?

According to Jane Ruby at ,the writers of grammar books have finally decided to change the rule to match the way most writers and speakers use the word. They actually decided that the word none can be plural or singular in a sentence depending on the word it refers to. She says, "The way to correctly use none in a sentence today is to determine what word it is referring to, determine whether that word is plural or singular, and then make the verb plural or singular to match, like this:

None of the apples are ripe.
None of this apple is edible."

Oh no! Another example of the dumbing down of America. Look, I don't claim to have perfect grammar, but I strive to write and speak correctly. So, if I've got this right, because writers and speakers don't feel they need to follow the rule, let's change it! Makes perfect sense to me.

Well, in case all of your apples are ripe, try this wonderful recipe for Apple Crostata.

Apple Crostata adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

For The Pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound very cold unsalted butter, diced
2-4 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

1 1/2 pounds apples for baking
1/4 teaspon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12-15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add 2 tablespoons ice water--adding more if needed-- until dough just begins to come together. Turn dough out on floured board and form a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour while you prepare filling

Preheat oven to 450.

When ready to make tart, roll pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

For filling, peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Pour mixture into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly over apples. Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle. (Center of tart will not be covered with dough.)

Bake the crostata for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer to wire rack to cool.

Makes 1 tart

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Day In Food

My usual breakfast of Greek yogurt, fruit, toasted walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

My lunch of sorts.

Dinner of roasted shrimp with red peppers and lemon.

And a salad.


1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Fresh thyme, to taste
4 scallions, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 pound peeled large shrimp
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

In large bowl, toss the bell pepper, lemon, thyme, scallions, crushed red pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, reserving the bowl.

Add shrimp to bowl and toss with paprika and remaining tablespoon of olive oil and salt and black pepper to taste. Nestle the shrimp in the bell pepper mixture on baking sheet. Roast until shrimp are cooked through and bell peppers are tender, approximately 10 minutes. May be served over rice.
Serves 4

Broiled Shrimp on Foodista

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Day At Home

It was a busy weekend, so today it's nice to have a day at home to play catch up.

Friday night was typical for us with T&G here for pizza and martinis. We particularly liked the caramelized onion pizza sprinkled with thyme, Kalamata olives and dusted with grated Parmagiana.

On Saturday, after a long week of rain, the sun finally came out and L suggested we have a play date at the Storm King Arts Center. Storm King is a magnificent 500- acre sculpture park located one hour away in the Hudson River Valley of Orange County, NY.

Lest we should go hungry, she and J thoughtfully packed a picnic lunch. After parking near the picnic grove, we unpacked the picnic basket straight away. There were various salumi, an assortment of cheeses, olives, bread, grapes and a hearty Zinfandel. Perfect to sustain us on our way.

Walking through this park was a treat. Storm King houses a permanent collection of sculpture ranging from 1945 to the present. These massive and some not so massive works are set among the rolling hills, fields and woodlands of the Hudson River Valley. The placement of each sculpture takes maximum advantage of this setting and becomes an integral part of the overall effect. We amused ourselves while walking by trying to guess what the artist had named the sculptures. Believe me our imaginations were not challenged. For example, one huge sculptue of steel tubes was named something like Weathered Steel Tubes! You get it. It is impossible to see the entire park in one visit, and we look forward to our return.

Sunday, our son and his girlfiend came for dinner. We enjoyed a dinner of grilled loin lamb chops, roasted asparagus, grilled sweet potatoes and a tossed green salad with a shallot and sherry vinaigrette. For dessert we had a lemon ricotta cream topped with raspberries and blackberries. Nice day.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Was Much Younger Then

I met a long-time friend for lunch the other day. If you have read this blog, you have figured out that all of my relationships have some connection to food. So it will come as no surprise to learn that I met J at a cooking class in 1977. Thirty-two years ago? My apologies to Bob Dylan, but I was so much younger then; I'm older than that now.

I am not particularly an out-going or friendly person, but J and I had an instant connection. We became fast friends and formed, for lack of a better name, a gourmet group. Four couples would get together about six times a year cooking our way through the cuisines of various countries or themes. Some of our dinners were great successes; and just a few--not so much.

There was the night we celebrated Greek cuisine. Each course incorporated phyllo dough as an ingredient. After that disaster, we began to coordinate our courses more carefully. We cooked, we laughed, we ate. And through the years we became accomplished cooks as well as good friends.

But as usual, life happens and families grow and change; new people come into our lives as others leave. After our gourmet group ended, J and I remained close friends. She even was a guest one evening at my present gourmet group. We don't see each other nearly as much as I would like, but at lunch the other day we did not lack for anything to talk about. And I vow to be better about keeping in touch. But if I'm not, I will think of J every time I make her white pizza recipe. Try it for your friends.


This makes enough topping for 2 10-12" pizzas

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. fontina or gruyere cheese, grated

Process all ingredients except cheese in food processor until paste forms. Spread on pizza dough and sprinkle with cheese. Bake.

Note: I don't usually have dried basil or parsley on hand. Topping is fine without them.

Check out this link