Tag Archives: pasta

Aubergines, Part 1

Eggplants always seem like the little lost vegetables of summer.  People dream about biting into a homegrown tomato, but I never hear anyone longingly wish for an eggplant.

I feel like if I started putting up a sign that said “aubergines” instead of “eggplant” at the farmers market, we might sell more of them.  It’s more romantic, right?

So, my goal today is to convince you to love eggplant.

First:

Have you seen all the specialty varieties of eggplant seeds that you can find these days?  The beautiful shades of dark purple to white and pale green are so enchanting.  I especially like this Listada de Gandia variety from Baker Creek Seeds:

(…true, I would probably buy a dead squirrel if it were advertised as having “lovely purple and white stripes.”)

Eggplants are so simple to grow, too.  Just make sure to start your seeds really early, with the tomatoes, and then give them good soil and nice spot in full sun.

And now, a recipe:

This is hands down, the best pasta sauce that I know how to make.  My mom made a slightly different version for me every year on my birthday when I grew up.  My parents had referred to this dish by a different name, a family friend who had given them the original recipe, and it was only when I was older that I realized that my favorite pasta sauce was pasta “puttanesca”…. which translates to “whore’s pasta.”  Which is amazing, and makes me think of renaming some of my other favorite dishes with more colorful language.

I’m not sure what the official story is behind the name- I’ve heard that it has to do with how quick and easy the dish is to throw together, since the ladies had to work at night and couldn’t spend forever working on dinner.  I’ve also heard that it’s because the smell of the sauce was so wonderful that it would entice the men who smelled it into the woman’s house. Whatever the story, this pasta’s delicious, and a great way to use up eggplant.

(This is the pasta after we already ate some for dinner and it sat in the fridge and then we ate some more after that.  I could have plated it nicely and taken a pretty picture, but, you know, I was busy eating it and didn’t).

PASTA PUTTANESCA

Even people who hate eggplant will like this sauce, since the eggplant melts into the tomato sauce to make this luscious, silky texture.  I like using Paul Robeson tomatoes for this sauce- their bold, spicy flavor goes really nicely with the capers. You can easily make this vegan by omitting the sausage and adding some extra olive oil.  

Cook Time: a couple hours

Feeds: a lot. 8? or 2 people with many days of leftovers (which are happily eaten)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb.  Italian sausage links, sliced into 1″ sections
  • 6 c. diced eggplant, any variety, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 6 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes,* cored and cut in half
  • 2 cans of black olives, drained
  • 1 5oz. jar of capers, drained and 1/2 of the brine reserved
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped parsley
  • salt & pepper

In a large, wide bottomed pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onions, and sausage, and saute till the sausage is starting to brown.  Turn the heat down a little bit. and add the eggplant and saute until the sausage is browned on the outside and the eggplant is also starting to look slightly browned.  Add extra oil if necessary, to prevent sticking.

Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and reserved caper brine, and parsley. Stir everything together.  Turn the heat to low and cook for a couple hours.  The eggplant will completely fall apart and the sauce will thicken and reduce by about half.  You’ll need to stir the tomatoes a bit at first while they release their juices, and then you can walk away and stop paying attention to the sauce for awhile.  When the liquid has reduced off and the sauce is almost done, you’ll need to stand next to the pot and stir it to make sure it the tomatoes don’t burn on the bottom of the pot.

Taste the sauce, and then season with some salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta.  The leftovers only get better in the fridge.

A note about tomatoes:  We mostly grow thin-skinned, juicy heirlooms, so that’s what I usually cook with.  I don’t peel them because it takes forever and the skins don’t bother me.  If you’re motivated to blanch and peel yours, more power to you.

A note about eggplant: I don’t bother sweating eggplant with salt prior to cooking.  It tastes delicious without that step, and I am all about working less and sitting around more.  Maybe for something like eggplant parmesan it would matter, but not here, where the eggplant melts into the sauce anyway.

and one last P.P.S: I am a fiend for black olives.  If you’re not as excited about them as me, feel free to reduce the amount of them in the recipe.

(coming soon: my favorite recipe for preserving eggplant in jars…. stay tuned)

Cook it! 2012: The Great Pasta Round-Up

The first resolution of the new year is officially complete: pasta has been made, cross that baby off the list. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the food that everyone made.

I know that making pasta can be one of those projects that, midway through, you start swearing and wondering why you thought it would be a good idea to attempt something so labor intensive.  I am so happy that all of you kept at it and made such delicious looking food!  I want to say some kind of cheesy food bloggy thing, something like “oooh that lasagna looks so good I can practically taste it through the computer screen” but that’s total crap. Looking at it doesn’t cut it at all, I wanna eat it!

Here are a few of the highlights, gathered together from all of the posts:

Here are the links to all the posts:

Lasagna, from Grow and Resist: reading this post made me upset, because it just made me really want lasagna, but not my stupid lasagna — I want Meg’s lasagna with those beautiful homemade noodles. Save me a plate, please.

Orecchiette al Sugo con le Polpetine, from The Wholesome Epicure: that sauce, oh my goodness….  This post also has the internet’s cutest picture of a sweet little kid making playdoh orecchiette.  Future chefs in training!

Orecchiette Bolognese, from the Kitchen Ninja: at this point, I’m basically just drooling all over my laptop.  Who doesn’t love a good bolognese sauce?

Ramen Noodles, from Oh, Briggsy: a dream bowl of ramen with all the toppings, all from scratch, all at home, no epic culinary pilgrimage to Momofuku required.  So impressive!

Rosemary Linguini with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts & Blue Cheese, from My Pantry Shelf: proves that you don’t need a pasta machine to make your own pasta from scratch.  Sage, rosemary, bay leaves, white wine, blue cheese = my kind of dish, for sure.

Ravioli, from Snowflake Kitchen: Kate, I am 100% sold on the ravioli mold, those look absolutely perfect. Also, I love the emphasis on fresh eggs, I completely agree.

Spaghetti & Meatballs, from Grow it Cook it Can it

Spätzle, from Homemade Trade: this post made me really want to visit Germany again…. or maybe just make the journey down to San Francisco and beg Aimee to make me some of her delicious-looking spätzle.  (When do we get the recipe for your mom’s goulasch? I want it! I am a junky for Recipes That Someone’s Mom Has Been Making For Their Birthday Forever.)

Stuffed Shells, from Homesprout: brilliant! with fresh eggs from backyard chickens and homemade fresh ricotta cheese.  Fancy restaurants wish they had stuff this good on the menu.

(Writing this post meant putting in nine billion links and pictures from different sites, actually reading e-mails and checking my inbox, and a bunch more… so please, if for some reason I’ve forgotten someone or messed up a link, or messed up giving someone credit somewhere, please tell me right away and I’ll fix it.)

Thanks everyone for cooking along.  Don’t forget, the February Cook it Resolution is all about bread making…. I made a couple loaves of sandwich bread but I’ve gotten my hands on a sourdough starter that one of my baker friends gave me, and there are all sorts of cookbooks spread out in the kitchen with different recipes I’m looking at and working on.  (Pinterest is all well and good, but what’s the point of bookmarking cool stuff if you can’t trash your house while you do it?)

If you’re just reading about Cook it! 2012 and want to join in the fun…. send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com.

Happy baking!

Cook It 2012: January Resolution

About a week ago, I wrote a post about making kitchen resolutions to learn new skills and techniques during 2012, along with an invitation for any other inspired cooks out there to join me in doing the projects.  After many interested e-mails, I’m happy to officially commit to 12 months of kitchen resolutions, nicknamed Cook it! 2012.

So here’s the plan:

Every month is a new project.  I have little or no experience in some of the techniques I’m going to focus on, but I really like eating all of the foods I’ve jotted down on my list, so I’m hoping to learn how to cook all of these things at home.  There are a couple techniques that I’ve got on the list that I already have experience doing, but I want to get to a more advanced level with them.

At the beginning of the month, I’ll announce what the project is, and post recipes, pictures, and instructions I’ve found helpful.  If you want to cook along with me, you’ll have one month to tackle the resolution in your own kitchen.   Cook something in the same category that I’ve made, but not the same exact dish.  If you have a blog, write a post detailing what you made along with any pictures and recipes you want to share.  Before the deadline, e-mail me (thejamgirl@gmail.com) a link to your post and I’ll write a little roundup of everything.  If you don’t have a blog, you are absolutely, 100% still invited to participate.  Instead of e-mailing me a link to a post, just e-mail me a picture of what you made and I’ll put together a photo gallery of everybody’s work.

There’s no need to cook every single project if you don’t have time, so no stress about that.  Just have fun.
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If you’re going to participate, e-mail me with your blog url (if you have one, or e-mail address if you don’t) at thejamgirl@gmail.com by January 31st to join.  The deadline for this project will be February 15 at 12:00 PM (PST).

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All that being said, I think it’s about time to get to it.

COOK IT! 2012 JANUARY RESOLUTION: MAKE PASTA FROM SCRATCH

So, you know that stupid face that so many of the cooking show hosts make when they finally taste what they’ve been making? The face that’s like “…oh, yeah baby, eating this grilled chicken makes me feel like I’m licking Ryan Goslings abs!” It’s ridiculous.  And usually what they’re tasting is something really mundane that definitely doesn’t look like it should be inspiring those fluttering eyelashes and throaty moans.

I’m really embarrassed to say it, but when I tasted my finished project, I totally made that stupid face.  I think I may have, um…. I think I grunted.  It was something like, “uuummmghhhpffohhhhgod,” with my mouth still full of noodles, of course.  It was the pasta of my dreams.When I was plating everything up, my first reaction was more along the lines of “I’m glad this worked since I want to really want to write about it on the internet” but then I had a bite, and … oh god…  It was so good.  Drop-everything-you’re-doing-immediately-good, the kind of taste that, in the blink of an eye, makes you evaluate your culinary career thus far and rethink what direction you want it to head in (namely, one involving more fresh pasta).   The texture of the fresh spaghetti, made with only semolina flour, eggs from our hens, salt and a little spring water, is mind blowing.  Using pastured eggs gave the noodles this buttery, velvety richness that I’ve never found in any other pasta, including “fresh” ones from the grocery store and even farmers markets, (and I’m not just speaking in food-blog-hyperbole, where every bite of food is the most delicious thing ever cooked in the history of cooking.)

I’ve been wanting to learn how to make pasta forever, and really just needed to spring for the pasta machine.  I was worried that it would just be another appliance that sat around the kitchen gathering dust, but after that first bite of noodle glory, I can guarantee that it will see plenty of use.  The machine I got is an Atlas, which worked like a charm. There are a variety of pasta-makers on the market, and this is on the lower end of the price range, around $60.  (I don’t have any opinions on other models since I haven’t used them).  They seem to come in all shapes and sizes, including really fancy ones that attach to kitchen-aid mixers so you don’t have to do any of the hand-cranking that this model requires.  Most of the machines follow the same pattern, where you make the dough first and the machine does most of the actual work of kneading, stretching and cutting the noodles.

Pastured Egg Pasta Dough Recipe

This is adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which has a really helpful section about making fresh pasta.

Makes: about 1 lb. of pasta

Cook time: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. semolina flour
  • 2 extra large eggs (or the biggest eggs your hens have laid that day), at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • about 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Make a well on the counter with the semolina flour.  Put the eggs, oil, and salt into the hole in the middle of the flour.  Use a fork to break up the yolks and start stirring everything together, gradually pulling in the flour from the edges of the well.  Bring in as much flour as you can with the fork, and then start kneading together everything with your hands.  If the dough is dry and won’t come together, add in a teaspoon of water at a time and keep kneading until it forms a ball. If the dough is too wet, add some flour.  Once the dough forms a ball, knead it for another 3-4 minutes.  Cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Continue according to the package instructions with whichever machine you use.

For more visual people: Use a fork to break up the yolks and start combining the flour into the egg mixture.  It helps, after mixing with the fork, to stick your hands right in the flour and egg mix to gather everything together.  This was the point in my recipe where I realized that farm eggs don’t always come in the traditional “extra-large” sizes that recipes often call for.  There definitely wasn’t enough moisture from my Medium-Largish size eggs, and my dough was quite dry and crumbly.  I just added a lot more water than the recipe called for in this next step, which didn’t seem to matter.  Next time, I’m going to try adding an extra egg so I don’t have to use as much water.   To get the dough into a ball, just keep kneading it together with your hands.  (It should be fairly dry and not stick to your fingers at all. Add some flour if it does.)Knead the dough for a few minutes to make it pretty smooth, then form it into a ball and let it rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Once it’s done resting, roll the dough out a little to help it fit into the pasta maker.After this, it’s just a matter of following the instructions for whatever pasta maker you have.  The Atlas that I own has you repeatedly feed the dough through an opening that flattens and thins it out into a long sheet.   My dough wanted to fall apart a little bit when I first started, but I just kept folding the sheet in half or thirds and feeding it through the machine.  After a few turns through the rollers, it started holding together nicely. Eventually, the dough gets to the proper thickness for the noodles.  Cut the long strip of dough into 10″ lengths.  Use a knife to cut wider noodles like pappardelle or tagliatelle, or use the cutting attachment on the machine for thinner ones. Hang the noodles to dry for an hour or two.  I used hangers instead of a real pasta drying rack, but you have to cut them on one side with wire-cutters so the pasta slides off without breaking.  To go with the spaghetti, I fancied up some canned tomato sauce from our summer garden and made meatballs vaguely inspired by Saveur’s recipe here.

Spaghetti and Meatballs 

serves: 4

cook time: (not including making the pasta) 45 minutes

Ingredients:

for the sauce-

  • 2 quarts of canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the meatballs -

  • a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • about 1/3 lb. ground beef
  • about 2/3 lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbs. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder

1 lb. fresh spaghetti

For serving: 1/2 c. chopped parsley, 1/2 c. parmesan cheese

First, make the sauce.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until they’re translucent.  Turn the heat up to high and get the pan really hot, then pour in the red wine.  Add the crushed tomatoes, parsley and bay leaf to the pot and bring everything to a simmer.  Turn the heat to low and cook until thickened.  If you like smoother sauce, puree with whatever appliance you own to puree things like this- blender, food processor, immersion blender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now, make the meatballs. Combine all of the meatball ingredients except the olive oil in a mixing bowl.  Gently work everything together.  Form the meat into whatever size balls makes you happy.  Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and simmer for about 30 minutes to cook the meat all the way through.

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of liberally salted boiling water.  The fresh spaghetti cooks up in a matter of minutes, so make sure not to overcook it.  Drain, and combine with the sauce and meatballs.  Garnish with cheese and parsley and serve immediately. One last note:  If you want to do this month’s resolution, you don’t necessarily have to buy a pasta maker. There are a lot of recipes that don’t use a pasta maker that I have bookmarked to try, like the Roasted Garlic Orechiette from Well Preserved, Pumpkin Gnocchi from Local Kitchen , or maybe these homemade egg noodles topped with beef stew or a mushroom stroganoff.  I still remember the späetzle I ate in Munich thirteen years ago, and you definitely don’t need a pasta maker for those.  (Drenched in a rich, meaty brown gravy, this might be the recipe I need to recreate at home next. They were amazing).  Happy Cooking! Remember, carbs don’t count if they’re completely from scratch.

Do it! Projects for 2012

I was just writing out some kitchen resolutions for 2012: things I want to learn how to do, things I want to get better at doing, and things that I really enjoy and want to make sure that I keep doing. I realized I have a perfect year of cooking laid out, with one big project for every month, things like…. learning how to make fresh pasta (I’ve only done it a handful of times in the past) and learning how to make cheese (never done it!).  It’s a year of from-scratch-do-it-yourself-local-fresh-inspired-homestead-kitchen skills.

In 2010, I loved reading the Hungry Tigress’ Can Jam, and learning how to make bacon with the Charcutepalooza last year was absolutely spectacular.  I want to continue challenging myself to tackle new projects and skills, keep my cooking inspired, and my kitchen and pantry filled with amazing treats.

Instead of focusing on one specific technique for a year, I’m planning a year of twelve different skills, mainly centered around making foods from scratch that I may not currently be doing, or that I want to do more of, especially thinking about those last few ingredients that I still buy at a store, even though we supply most of our own vegetables, canned goods and fresh eggs.  I’ll be posting the results here, with recipes and photos like usual, but some tutorials for people who may have little or no experience with that particular area of cooking.

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If you’re interested in turning this into more of a group project, e-mail me by January 15, 2012 at thejamgirl@gmail.com and I’ll get something organized.

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I’m not interested in spending a lot of money on fancy equipment and ingredients or doing work that doesn’t make me all warm and fuzzy inside.  It should be fun.  These ideas are also about consciously budgeting time to do things I enjoy, so that in October, I don’t look in the pantry and wistfully think about how I wish I’d made some time to pick blackberries for jam.

P.S. Grow it Cook it Can it turns one year old today, and it’s so much fun looking back at the cooking projects from this year.  Thanks you for reading and I’m excited for another year of flowers, jam, tomatoes, prosciutto, pickles, chickens and all that other stuff that’s so much fun.

Fusilli With Artichokes and Chevre

I’ve been up to my elbows in jam, getting ready for the Taste Of Mendocino event in San Francisco on Monday.   You should come! hell, even if you live in Kansas, it’s not too late! There are going to be so many amazing vineyards there doing wine tasting that the booze alone should make it worthwhile. Plus there will be meat, cheese, eggs, jams, and so much more.

Anyway, yesterday I got home from the kitchen, essentially covered head to toe in sugary goop.  I wanted real food that was totally devoid of anything sweet.  This lovely little dish is easy to throw together if your feet hurt and you’re really hungry, and tangy lemon, olives, artichokes and white wine will make you forget all about any intense sugar experiences that you may have had recently.

Fusilli With Artichokes And Chevre

As with most of my recipes, the point is not to hunt down specific ingredients but to make use of items in the pantry and the garden. Any olives or capers would be great in this recipe. Feel free to toss in some chicken or shrimp if you have some that needs using.  Roasted red peppers would work well too, but it’s not quite far enough into the summer for us to have peppers lying around.

Serves: 4 entree portions

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 small spring onions, sliced very thinly (about the size of a shallot or a pearl onion)
  • 1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 2 tbs. spring onion tops, sliced thinly
  • 1 large asian mustard leaf, sliced into 1/2″ strips*
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 quart of chunky tomato sauce**
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 c. herbed chevre, crumbled (or whatever your favorite type of chevre is will be fine)
  • 1/4. c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

2. While the water comes to a boil, cook the sauce in a large saute pan: Heat the butter on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and artichoke hearts and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add lemon juice, white wine, dill, onion tops, and asian mustard greens and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Pour in tomato sauce and olives and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. If it is too thick, add a splash of white wine. If it’s too thin, cook for another 4-5 minutes.

3. Cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain, and return to the pot. Pour the artichoke mixture over the noodles and gently stir everything together. Top with crumbled chevre, parmesan and a few sliced onion tops. (Optional: If you’re feeling motivated, put the pasta in a small casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes to melt the cheese).

*Click here to see the greens that I’m referring to; I know this is a slightly obscure ingredient. Use any quick-cooking greens that you have around, like spinach or young kale leaves.

**We have lots of canned tomato sauce from last summer. If you don’t have it in your pantry, you can substitute any type of chunky tomato sauce that catches your eye in the grocery store.

Basil-Walnut Pesto

It’s been an aggravating week.  Normally I like to have my head in the clouds, thinking brilliant things like “strawberries are really pretty and taste good” and “i like flowers.” Yup. It is a conscious choice that I made…  if  my brain sounds like something that a second-grader might write as a caption for a picture drawn with crayons, it tends to mean that life is pretty damn good. (What this means about me as a person is something that I will worry about some other day).

Unfortunately this week has been an extravaganza of real-world headaches. It’s almost time to get the gardens planted, I have a pile of bills to sort through, and I need to get into the kitchen and make some spring jams for the farmers market. It’s the kind of week where, when I decide to cook something for the blog, my camera stops working and I almost burn out the motor on the blender.  Insert expletives here.

The solution? Fresh pasta, with a ton of cheese and olive oil.  Nothing like some carbs and a bottle of wine to cheer a girl up.

Basil-Walnut Pesto 

This pasta is also great on days when you’re not totally overwhelmed with life.  It’s actually really delicious pretty much all the time, even cold as leftovers. Pair it with some grilled chicken and an heirloom tomato salad and you’ve got yourself a summer dinner party. The key to this pesto pasta being so amazing is that is uses a ridiculous amount of cheese, with plenty in the pesto sauce but then a huge amount stirred in while the pasta is still hot.

Makes: about 1 1/2 pints (I use half for one meal and freeze the rest- this recipe makes about enough to coat 2 lbs. of fresh pasta).

Cook Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 c. filted water
  • 1/2 c. walnuts (or pine-nuts, for tradition pesto)
  • 8 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded (4 oz. to go in the pesto, 4 oz. to stir into the cooked pasta when it’s hot off the stove)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh spaghetti noodles, for serving (although dry spaghetti is fine too- I just bought fresh spaghetti at the farmers market the other day and I wanted to use it)

1. Wash basil and remove leaves from the stems. Combine basil leaves, olive oil, water, walnuts, 4 oz. parmesan cheese, garlic, and pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Scrape down the sides a few time to make sure everything is adequately blended together.

2. Cook spaghetti in salted water. Drain, and return to the pot while still hot. Pour half the pesto sauce over the noodles. Add in remaining 4 oz. cheese. Gently fold everything together with a spatula to combine.  Add a crack of black pepper and sprinkle of cheese if you want. 

3. Pour a glass of wine, eat noodles, and stop thinking about stressful things.


By the way, if you make this and want to save the other half of the pesto sauce, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of it so that it doesn’t turn brown. It will keep in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months. It might last longer than that, but I love pesto so it doesn’t really survive that long in our house.