Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Roasting for Jesus

March 24, 2008

Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
– Doobie Brothers

Religiously speaking, I am godless. I am a gluttonous heathen, afterall. If hard pressed, I suppose I would say I’m a non-practicing Buddhist, but that’s only because my dad makes me pray to his little shrine whenever I go to his house. But I refuse to chant during yoga- it annoys the hell out of me (they never tell you what you’re saying, or what exactly it’s for. It’s just nonsense).

However, deep down, I have a soft spot for all things Roman Catholic. Majestic cathedrals, Pope Jean-Paul II (I saw him once!), the Spanish Inquisition, Dante’s Inferno and Jesus all fascinate me to no end. It’s so bizarre- and I feel bad cause Catholicism has traumatized many of my friends.

So of course I was excited about celebrating the Jesus resurrection on Sunday. Easter means ham, hard boiled eggs, and springtime. Gotta love it. But my plans derailed when Troy and Kumiko called to cancel Easter dinner because they were sick. I sorta panicked, but Fumiko said she would come over, so I cooked dinner for the two of us. Those in disgruntled relationships, ponder this: being single means possibly eating Easter dinner ALONE. It’s a crapshoot.

I didn’t have any big meat item, but I did my usual vegetable roasting. I love roasting vegetables- not only because they taste so good, but mostly because I am lazy, and it’s the easiest thing ever. Here are my ingredients:

Right next to the garlic is a little stick of chorizo. They sell it at Blue Apron in Park Slope for $1.50!!! What a steal! It’s great cause it will hold in the fridge forever, and it’s something different from the same old bacon.

I am relatively new to the cauliflower phenomenon- Aya introduced me to it a few months ago. I’m pretty hooked though. For this, I just chopped up the cauliflower, the zucchini, the chorizo, a few cloves of garlic and peeled the red onions. Preheat oven to 400.

Disclaimer: it took me FOREVER to peel these little fuckers, which is not fun for lazy people. I will use shallots next time.
Put everything in a baking pan, drizzle olive oil all over it, add some salt, grind some pepper. I also added a few bay leaves, cause I had some. I love all the colors here:
Stir occasionally, and take out after about 30 minutes. That’s it!!!
Shave a ton of romano over it, then mix it around.
I obviously needed something else with the meal, so I just made some pasta. I sauteed an onion with a fresh sausage, and boiled fresh pasta that I randomly had in the fridge.

Put some tomato sauce with all of that, et voila! Also, fresh parsley is so necessary.
Here is our meal- Jesus Resurrection 2008. Sadly, the corner wine store was closed, so we couldn’t consume the blood of Christ. Fumiko said we drink the blood all the time, so it was no big deal- we just settled for beer. Would that be Jesus pee? OMG I’m totally going to hell.

PS- the chorizo adds a nice crunch to the soft vegetables. Fumi liked it. Give it a whirl.

A Night Out at Babbo, Pt. II

March 19, 2008

A Night Out at Babbo
California Soul: Osteria Mozza (LA)

To celebrate Christi’s bday the other night, we went to Babbo. I would be too embarrassed to blog this–regularly patronizing such the hype machine that Batali is–but the food was just too good not to share with you.

We walked in without a reservation- figured we would get there around 6:30 and take our chances. The guy at the front, who was there the last time I went, is a gentile fellow, and told us to wait for seats at the bar. Fine. We ordered drinks, we waited. “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” blasted in the background. Oh, Mario and his music. We loved the Mode though. Violator!

It’s really cramped when you walk in, between the bar and the dining room. Servers taking orders, delivering food. Some drunk asshole totally fell into Christi. It was kinda funny. Anyway, standing there in the middle of all this commotion is not fun. But you gotta suck it up for the ultimate prize.

Just about an hour later, we actually got a TABLE! Right by the bar, tucked into a corner. It was romantic. The world doesn’t need another Babbo review (or a second one from me- you’re over it), but just let me show you the pics.

Babbo salumi: assorted meats cured in-house. Marinated onions (sweet) and olives. This was better than the Armandino salumi I got last time. Christi liked the veal (?) tongue. The “fatback” pictured below, is just cured pork fat! Like white sheets blowing in the wind. It was super intense- like nothing I have ever tasted. It was good with the onions.

Grilled octopus with “Borlotti Marinati”: this was pretty awesome. Better than what I had at Mozza. Drizzled with this limoncello vinagrette, and sprinkled with some candied orange rind or something, on a bed of white beans. SO GOOD. It was too “oceany” for Christi though. I loved the tentacles.

Our server was super great- Travis. Props to this guy. He totally arranged the order of our dishes and suggested good, cheap wines. We asked him for his recommendation of a pasta, and he suggested the black pasta. BINGO. This was definitely my highlight of the meal. (At this point I was pretty boozy, and abandoned my camera inhibitions and started shooting with flash. Tacky!). They are also nice about splitting the orders for you.

Black spaghetti with rock shrimp, spicy salami calabrese and green chile: I have nothing to say except GET THIS DISH.

Mint love letters: just as good as the first time. Surprisingly hearty. A good way to end a meal.
When all is over, this is my side of the table, vs. Christi’s side. Basically, you can’t take me anywhere.

But then, this guy comes and magically puts a napkin over the table to make all my spills disappear.

So it’s official- I am obsessed with Mario Batali’s food. All the hype… well, it’s all true. Batali is an ace. Classic and straightforward. Consistent. Casual and reasonably affordable considering it’s a white table cloth joint. Our meal, all of this, plus 2 quarter things of wine, 2 glasses of sparkling wine, and a bottle of fizzy water was $140 total. You could spend as much at Lupa, his even more casual joint around the corner (I am not a fan of Lupa). You would no doubt spend even more in the shithole tourist traps in Little Italy.

As someone who spends her entire income on eating in NY (after rent), I’m telling you: surrender to the hype. Splurge a little. Wait an hour for a table.

110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011

Get Directions
T: 212.777.0303

Mangiamo 2007: Da Enzo

February 24, 2008

In Rome we stayed in Trastevere, which is a hip, bohemian hotspot on the other side of the Tiber, near Vatican City. It’s a great neighborhood, sorta Williamsburgish, lively at all hours of the night- lots of bars, clubs and restaurants.

For my last supper in Italy, I wanted a typical Roman meal- and Trastevere is as good as place as any to get it. The place we had read about in some guidebook had a long wait, so we decided on this place instead. It turned out much better this way. Da Enzo was really unintimidating, with its tables and chairs out front, and kid’s crayon drawings covering the walls of the interior.

We snagged an outdoor table- it was a cool night, but always a treat to sit outside. I remember our waiter was a jolly dude- Romano to the core, as was the food here. No frills, really robust, simple but delicious.

We started with sundried tomatoes. Assuming it’s a roman thing to serve them this way, drenched in olive oil. Bittman would dig it.

Grilled veggies
This was pretty awesome- carbonara, but with huge bucatini pasta, instead of spaghetti. Also, this had guanciale, not pancetta, which really makes the dish more porcine. So good!

Matt got the pasta all’amatriciana, which we didn’t get a picture of, but is pasta with tomato sauce with guanciale, hot pepper flakes and onions. The pasta dishes were definitely only lightly sauced, letting the ingredients really flavor the dishes.

Dessert was vanilla gelato with little tiny strawberry-like berries. Again, simple but delicious:

Da Enzo was on the corner of Via dei Salumi! Street of Cured Meats! I want that address.

Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere- it’s a gem.
Here’s a great post about Da Enzo that I just found from the blog At Home in Rome (she lives in Trastevere, lucky lady). Next time I’ll definitely need to get the fried artichoke!

Da Enzo
Via dei Vascellari 29 (Trastevere)

Tel. 06 581 83 55

Mangiamo 2007: Enoteca Corsi

February 21, 2008

For not really having any premeditative restaurant agenda, Matt and I did really well in Rome. The city’s such a maze, that it’s best not to have your heart set on any one restaurant- you’d just get frustrated going around in circles looking for it. We were walking around towards the Pantheon in the afternoon and stumbled upon Enoteca Corsi randomly. This place was so neat!

You walk in, and it’s just a big bustling room filled with local regulars and when you go in the back, it’s this huge garage-like room with shelves full of wine (hence “enoteca”, or wine store).

Copies of the menu were handwritten with the daily offerings. It was Friday I think, so there were lots of seafood options (some Catholic thing about not eating meat on Fridays- what is that called? Fasting? Kidding).

To start off, Matt got the chick pea soup

I got the linguine with tuna (of course, you know I can’t say no to tuna)

As our secondi, Matt got the roasted veal with potatoes
I got this soupy concoction of squid with beans and escarole. It’s not quite what I had in mind, but it was heartwarming nonetheless
For dessert, we got some tart, and the proprietor came out next to us alongside the counter and just handed us this bottle of Vin Santo and two glasses. Love it! Romans really remind me of NYers- gritty, fierce, but really just good people who want to show you a good time.
Red and white wine on tap!

This meal only cost us like $25 each. It was definitely one of the more memorable meals we had.

Enoteca Corsi
Via del Gesu, 87-88
00186 Roma
Near Il Gesu church, right off Via V. Emmanuele

Purple Cabbage Pasta

February 14, 2008

Last week at the farmer’s market, I accidentally bought a purple cabbage, mistaking it for radicchio. DUH!

So what to do with a head of purple CABBAGE? I recalled Bittman’s coleslaw piece from a few weeks back, but who wants to make coleslaw in the middle of winter? HELL-O!

I needed something to last me all week- for lunches and late nights. I decided to whip me up some pasta with purple cabbage – have you ever heard of such a thing? Bizarre, right? I looked for anything complimentary to cabbage in the fridge- I came up with a can of tuna, romano, frozen peas and garlic. That’s it!

Ok, so this is the easiest thing ever. Just sautee garlic in olive oil, add the cut cabbage, stir in the pan till it is cooked, but still crispy. Grind some fresh pepper, salt, and sprinkle over some red pepper flakes if you fancy. Add the tuna, sautee for a few minutes. Then add the peas for color–purple and green together is delightful! I’ve been obsessed with peas since Babbo’s pea/mint raviolis, and put it in all my pasta dishes now.

Then stir in the pasta. Doesn’t matter what kind of pasta, but for the sake of leftovers, I chose fusilli.

Shave some romano on top, et voila! Purple cabbage pasta. And yes, the pasta will turn a slight shade of purple- but it’s kinda fun. The cabbage is so nice and sweet, and the crunch is crucial.

I tweaked the version the other night- for all you tuna non-believers. This time with sausage instead of tuna, and orecchiette. Plus I had some grape tomatoes in the fridge, so I added that as well. I tried caramelizing onions for it and my poor Ruby (my prized Les Creuset pot) burned to hell. Shit, shit shit!!! Can someone please teach me how to caramelize onions?

This dish was good, but I let the cabbage cook for too long so it didn’t have the crunch that makes this dish special. The caramelized onions added a nice sweetness though, and the tomatoes a tartness.

So now you know what to do when you accidentally buy a head of purple cabbage!

PS- De Cecco Orecchiette is my new fave pasta. Try it!

Mangiamo 2007: A Night in Assisi

February 11, 2008

Ok, I know this is ridiculous– even though it’s been months since I went to Italy, I still feel the need to finish blogging my fantastic eats (my computer with all my Italy pics died a few months ago, but we’re back!).

Probably one of my best meals ever in 2007 was in Assisi, at a little place called Taverna dei Consoli. I went on a pilgrimage to Assisi to see the Giottos in the Cathedral (mindblowing), and found this place tucked behind the main Piazza.

I went for dinner, then lunch the next day. Why fuck with a good thing? The night I went, the place was pretty empty, and they were about to shut down but took me in any way. Both chefs and waiter eagerly came to talk about why their food is the best in Assisi.

Fresh house-made pasta with tomatoes and artichokes. Fresh pasta really makes a difference!:

Pork chop with prune reduction- this was THE BEST. Tangy, vinegary and perfectly cooked. The meat was so tender! No joke people, I still remember this, 4 months later :

Next day lunch- I sat on the terrace overlooking the Piazza. It was a romantic lunch by myself:
Fresh pasta with mushrooms.

One of the chefs. He loved talking to customers!
Love for St. Francis- the Bay Area’s patron saint!

Next time you’re in Italia, don’t just make a pilgrimage to Assisi for St. Francis (or the Giottos, or Cimabues)- make one for the pasta.

Tavola dei Consoli
Vc. Fortezza 1
06081 – Assisi (PG)
Tel: (+39) 075 812516

A Night Out at Babbo

January 12, 2008

This post is dedicated to my lady Christi.

So this post defies my rule of “not writing about a restaurant unless I’ve been to it at least twice” (traveling not included), but this reservation was too hard to get, and this place being so acclaimed and all, I figure that this meal can be exempt from my rule.

Babbo only takes reservations one month in advance, to the numerical date (this is much easier to figure out than Gramercy Tavern’s silly 28 days). To make a long story very short, I spent about 2 hours of my life making this reservation for Christmas Eve (lots of calling/ hanging up/ redialing– an all out warzone). But I scored a table at 7:45pm! UNBELIEVABLE!!!

So anyhow, Matt and I were VERY excited about this. We both even started reading Heat to prepare for the meal. We had endless discussions about whether we would get the pasta tasting or the regular tasting meal. Blah blah blah- this is about the only thing we talked about for a week.

We walked in, and the place was PACKED. The restaurant is actually set up really awkwardly, but that may have had to do with the gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of the restaurant. Tis was the season. Oh, and who is that in the corner booth? Only Jake Gyllenhaal and the entire fam– Maggie, baby, Peter, mom, dad, and some other people who don’t matter.

Ok so they made us wait almost 30 minutes for a table to open up– I swear they were letting in A-listers in before us, despite their “fairness” mantra. Bullshit. By the time we got a table upstairs (MUCH airier and nicer than downstairs), we were starving and kinda drunk.

So these pics aren’t so great, but they will have to do- I’m no Erin Gleeson, ok??? After all of the hype about the tasting menu, we decided to go a la carte so we could sample their more signature dishes (that we read about in Heat– roll eyes here). Honestly, we got a bottle of wine and I don’t really remember anything towards the end of the meal. Bad food blogger!

Armandino’s Salumi– maybe this is from Batali’s dad’s place in Seattle. The more pricier of the two salumi plates on the menu. Prosciutto and salami- both mouthmelting.

Lobster claws with chives and fennel– This was on the tasting menu but we were able to order it a la carte. Huge chunks of lobster meat, complimented by a nice crunch of the fennel. The chives gave the combination a nice garlic-y kick.

Mint Love Letters: These are worth the hype- they are divine. Mint, pea and sausage stuffed raviolis- what a great idea!

Chianti Stained Papardelle: These I think were Matt’s favorite- with wild boar ragu. I can not emphasize enough how delicious the pasta at Babbo is– really like what you would eat in Italy. These super thick noodles were perfectly al dente, and as the dish’s title suggests, just lightly coated with the sauce. As Buford observed in Heat, it’s all about the pasta, less about the sauce here. Right on.

Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads: OMG this is by far my favorite, and most memorable dish of the entire meal– just thinking about it stimulates my saliva glands. FAT pieces of sweet breads lightly battered and fried, then glazed with vinegar and tossed with onions and duck bacon. Jesus this was just amazing- the vinegar cut through any sort of gamey-ness of the sweetbreads and just left you with a pillowy cotton-like texture in your mouth.

Eel Livornese: This was on the special menu, and entirely forgettable. The eels are stewed with tomato sauce- it would be more of a comfort dish I think in Italy. But it was an interesting way to cook eel- there were even bones in it still (very spiky suckers). My mom thinks this is a certain kind of eel that you eat when they are still babies, as opposed to how you would eat it in Japan.

At this point I have no recollection of these desserts, which could mean that I was: a) too drunk or b) the dishes were not up to snuff

Saffron Panna Cotta: with Quince, Pink Peppercorn and Quince Sorbetto

Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo???

Petit fours on the house??

Overall, I would say that Babbo definitely lives up to the hype, and a great spot for a special occasion, or if you just have an inkling for some good pasta. It’s a good balance between casualness and seriousness–my two biggest complaints is that the Radiohead was too loud and self-conscious to be natural, and our waiter was a robotic prick.

Needless to say, I will definitely go back.

110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011

Get Directions
(212) 777-0303

Saucing Pasta

October 18, 2007

There seems to be a war brewing (and if there isn’t I’ll gladly be the instigator). In one corner, we have Mario Batali, holding down the traditional Italian line that Americans drown their pasta in too much sauce, and in the other, Mark Bittman, who asserts that, Poppycock! that’s an old way of thinking, coming from the days when Italians were too poor to drown their pasta in sauce (I love the image of a family hanging up a herring and each member of the family taking turns rubbing their piece of bread on it for flavor).

I must admit, Bittman has a point (though I’d scarf down Batali’s pasta anyday over Bittman’s fairly lame-looking butternut squash and tomato dish). Do we need all those carbs? Shouldn’t we be eating more veggies rather than less? I also recently read in The Paleolithic Diet (I like any proof that eating meat is good for you) that uncooked flour (ie, al dente) is “poisonous.”

I also appreciate Batali’s position from a cultural standpoint: the Italians are probably referring to the fact that most people in America a) overcook their pasta and b) drown it in Chef Boyardee, Ragu, or even Classico (which was my fave back in the day), ie, sauces from a jar. Not a good look. Or taste.

So…are you ready for a revolution? Are you ready to have some pasta with your sauce?

Finding Baby Creatures

September 8, 2007

Cafe Nid is a little cafe in Omotesando serving mainly Italian dishes. It’s a cozy little spot with some tasty finds. Last night – we were lucky enough to snag a seat on a Friday night (probably because of the typhoon).

Anyhow, we ordered karasumi pasta among other things. It was really delicious – morsels of savory karasumi perfectly distributed along the pasta, tossed with sauteed crunchy slices of celery. Mmmm. But the revelation of this pasta were the four little guys hanging out tangled within. I took a portrait of one of them (second picture).

The Manifold Path to Lasagne Enlightenment

May 17, 2007

It all started with this recipe in 101cookbooks, which I love, but whose hype I had never succumbed to until one day last weekend, when I decided to make Aya a bon voyage lasagne (my girl loves her some lasagne) before her trip to Wiener-ville.

It’s a masochistic lasagne, a fact we learned later in the making of it, and perfect for me, as I tend to believe that pain is what makes pleasure possible, heightens it in the right mindset even. Of course, much of the pain I brought onto myself (and poor Aya, who was assisting me in this endeavor) as I ignored with impunity one critical direction, which I will tell you soon enough.

“This isn’t a lasagne path for the faint-hearted. Making a dish of this magnitude takes commitment and patience – and time. Plenty of it.”

See, it wasn’t just a recipe for lasagne. No, dear readers. This was a lasagne path.

It began with a question: How thin can the pasta be for lasagne? Clearly it has to be sturdy enough to hold the sauce and the cheese, but if you think about it, it’s not really holding anything. The truth is, those thick, bulky slabs we are used to in the archetypal lasagne are that thick to save the ordinary cook his sanity. Sure it’s easier when the pasta’s thicker. Easier to boil, easier to handle, fewer layers to build.

But what if you rolled out each sheet of pasta in a pasta machine, thin as a ribbon, as thin as angel hair before its filamentation? Then each bite would be light and fluffy, giving the sauce a chance to shine against the fat white cheeses. Imagine that! A light lasagne!

(Miss Heidi recommended buying the pasta fresh instead of making it yourself, and I agree. I also now would reiterate her point that it be freshly made, since the older it is, the drier and more crumbly and hard it becomes. Cracks will form and grow into massive fissures that will tear many otherwise beautiful pieces to shreds during the boiling and construction phase.)

My mistake? Ignoring this little hint: “I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting.” See, my pasta machine doesn’t go to 9. It goes to 6, and, well, 5 sounds a long way from 8, so I decided to do one more pass to make it the thinnest it could possibly be. “The sheets should almost be translucent,” she continues. Translucent, yes…even more reason to put it through at the thinnest setting. Right?

Ooh, translucent (and already tearing)

A lavishly buttered dish and the first layer of sauce

Butter the dish, and ye shall be rewarded.
You can’t make too much sauce.
San Marzano tomatoes. Period.

The scene of a terrible battle, where so many were lost

Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length.”
D’oh. Oh well…

The final creation

Trust me. It’s surprisingly light.

At the intersection of Cheese Grove and Tomato Lane.

Fat cutters
Baby arugula with shave parmesan and red onions, Basalmic and olive oil

Wait, are you blogging this?

Oh. Mygod. It’s, like, so surprisingly light!