Saturday, April 19, 2008

step from the road to the sea to the sky

So the laptop is back home again, virus-free and with freshly-vacuumed hardware. I therefore have access to my food pictures, which may or may not be interesting to you, but... I have no real knitting news, so cooking will have to do.

Ben and I made fresh pasta last Sunday, inspired by Brandon's birthday party fun, and made possible by Lola's generous donation of her pasta machine. (Thank you!) We ate half of it on Sunday, and it was... just okay, which was disappointing. I didn't help matters with the sauce I had made, which was not my finest effort, and the texture of the pasta was sort of soft and rubbery and blah. Which was kind of a bummer after spending two hours preparing it. But! We made the rest of the batch on Thursday with an alfredo-type sauce, and it was fantastic - either the pasta seasoned itself in the fridge a little, or we kept a closer eye on the cooking of it or something, but it was very satisfying and something we will definitely do again. We also made garlic cheese bread, more or less on the fly, and that also turned out very well. So, for your culinary enjoyment, some recipes:

Almost Guilt-Free Cream Sauce (no, really):
1. Make a roux: melt 1-2 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir in 1-2 tbsp flour. Cook with more-or-less continuous stirring, until a paste forms, and keep cooking for at least 3-5 minutes, so the flour won't taste raw. (The paste may thin out some as it cooks, but that's fine.)
2. Season the roux: for a plain alfredo-type sauce, I like to use white pepper (just for the lack of black specks, but black pepper is fine), a dash of salt and about 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
3. Gradually stir in about 1.5 cups milk (I usually use 1%) and keep stirring until well-blended, making sure you stir/whisk out any lumps from the roux. Keep stirring over medium heat until almost ready to serve.
4. Just before serving, add 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, and stir until well combined. Remove from heat and toss over cooked pasta.

This sauce actually takes almost no time to make (I usually put the pasta water on to boil and then start the sauce, and it's done well before the pasta is) and, given the small amount of butter and the lowfat milk, it's actually not that bad for you - certainly an improvement over the traditional "equal parts butter, heavy cream and parmesan cheese" alfredo sauce recipes. We've used it as is, and we've also added to it - cooked chopped spinach and diced dried tomatoes are a tasty addition. We've also made a southwest-inspired pasta dish using this as a base, and adding chili and chipotle powder to the sauce, and tossing the pasta with black beans and sauteed diced peppers and onions. Anyway, it's one of our staple, easy weeknight meals, and I thought I'd pass it along.

Garlic Cheese Bread
1. Slice 1/2 baguette lengthwise, completely separating the halves. (We used the Stone Oven's Pugliese baguette, which is of course consistently delicious).
2. Mince 3 large cloves garlic and place in small microwavable bowl/ramekin with 1 1/2 tbsp butter, maybe 1 tsp Italian seasoning and black pepper to taste. (We also added a tsp or two of Trader Joe's crushed garlic, because we seriously love garlic in this household.)
3. Microwave on high for 10-15 seconds. Stir and microwave for another 10 sec or so, until the butter is all melted and the garlic a bit cooked, so it loses that acrid, raw-garlic taste.
4. Stir in about 1 tbsp olive oil to the mix, and spread on both cut sides of the bread. (I usually use a spoon to drop the butter-and-garlic mixture on, then spread it around with the back of the spoon - I've found this works better for me than a brush.)
5. Season further with Italian seasoning or pepper if it needs it. (I'm obsessive and fill in the spots with inadequate spice coverage.)
6. Top breads with maybe 4 oz total grated mozzarella cheese (NOT fresh unless you really squeeze the life out of it, as it will be too watery. TJ's "fresh" mozzarella is actually a good compromise)
7. Bake in preheated 375 deg F oven until cheese is melted and browned.

This one isn't maybe all that good for you, but it did turn out to be very, very tasty.

Culinary exploits planned for this weekend include learning how to brew beer from a friend who brews and making strawberry jam from the pounds of strawberries that tempted us in Costco. And maybe some strawberry-blueberry jam, as I still have some of last summer's blueberries frozen in the fridge. (I really need to start trusting that I've frozen enough fruit, and eat this stuff in December, too.)

We were going to make pesto, but the basil that Zagara's had on Thursday disappeared by the time I went back Friday afternoon, so that will have to wait a few weeks. (I think I scared the poor guy in Zagara's, asking him where their basil comes from and what the season is like, and when will I be able to buy 10 bunches, and if I call and ask, will someone know if it's in yet? Last summer's pesto ran out a month ago, and we're going through withdrawal.)

I thought I had pictures of the bread I baked a few weeks ago, but I can't seem to find them. Maybe I'll have to do some baking this weekend, too.

title from "Snow [Hey, Oh]", Red Hot Chili Peppers

1 comment:

KJ said...

Very similar recipe to my on-the-fly cream sauce. It's still pretty disappointing to see it gel up when refrigerated, but knowing that there isn't cream hanging around does make my arteries happier.