Tag Archives: pasta

Fideua: Spanish Pasta with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp

I had an urge to make paella — but not the more traditional kind made with rice — and now that I think of it, if rice isn’t in it, then it’s probably not called paella.  No, I’d seen a recipe featured in Saveur some time ago which used thin, short pieces of pasta resembling spaghetti broken to bits, and it’s taken me until recently to give it a go.  I haven’t made paella for years thinking that having a best friend who’s a pro at whipping out her four foot diameter authentic paella pan whenever anyone mentions “party” has kept me lazy.  I don’t have a paella pan, but can manage a batch in a large skillet on my stove instead of a wood fueled fire on the patio which could incite neighbors to call 911 because they think the house is on fire.

The intrigue of the pasta or fideos based paella is the cooking process.  It’s very similar to a rice-based recipe, but pasta absorbs the liquid more quickly, and there’s less a worry about whether or not to stir the rice you’re not supposed to stir so it can develop a nice crust.  That isn’t the case with the pasta version, but it’s a challenge to keep from stirring it when you’ve got an impetuous stirrer in residence.

A basic paella requires a good pan which is not so thick, heat that will be distributed evenly across the pan, a short-grained rice that will absorb liquid without making the rice gummy, and liquid.  The finished product should be moist, but unlike risotto, contain separate pieces of tender rice.  Since I was foregoing rice for the recipe I chose, and because the original recipe was relatively easy, I decided to make my own fish stock — because.

Picture me at the Asian market in front of the fish case scanning several varieties of fish heads.  Large fish heads.  Inexpensive fish heads —  all under $4/lb.  A perky young man behind the counter asks whether he can help me and I tell him while pointing to a white fish, “I’m making fish stock,” to which he responds pointing to the salmon, “It better for you.”  I know this, but also know it’s very oily.  Should I mention that no matter how good salmon is for me, I am not one of its biggest fans?  He continues, “You want me clean it up for you?”  And I say that I’m happy to do it myself, but he grins and says, “I do it better for you.  You too busy.”

I am so not busy and loving every second of it.  Any busyness in my life now is self-generated.

But he certainly was correct about doing it better than I could, because after I removed the brown paper wrapping at home, I had to admire an extremely clean,  perfectly sectioned salmon head.  What had I been thinking before?  Had I insisted on taking care of it myself, I would have had to wrestle with it without the correct type of knife, then smell like the village fish monger for my trouble.  A not very busy fish monger, but still.

I was still concerned about making broth with salmon so had to do some research before choosing a recipe.  Evidently, it’s a matter of opinion.

Have you ever made any kind of fish stock before?

If you aren’t in the mood to tackle that, there are other options, but if you’re a paella lover, try this version of Fideua for a change.  Or, if you’ve always wondered about paella but haven’t tried it, start with this.

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Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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Little Italy Mercato: Fresh Pappardelle with Sausage and a Salad

Farmer's Market Little Italy, San Diego
Mother’s Day weekend found us enjoying a relaxing two days filled with food this year.  Big surprise, right?  To be fair, it all began with a visit to Little Italy’s Mercato — more for a Saturday morning downtown than the possibility of what we might purchase.  And purchase we did.  The sole market bag we brought didn’t quite hold what we ended up with — most of it chosen for either dinner that night, or breakfast the next day.

We don’t often venture downtown, but when we do, we’re left questioning why we don’t go more frequently.  It’s fairly quiet on the weekends, and with more and more residents occupying the high-rise condominiums, the sidewalks are dotted with dog-walkers, those who have stopped to have a latte with the morning paper, and lots of farmer’s market shoppers holding bunches of flowers and bags overflowing with weekend cooking possibilities.

In much the same way we do when traveling, we pause in front of a real estate office and scan the photos of “For Sale” properties in the area, imagining ourselves living there instead of where we currently live.  It’s a pleasant pastime we’ve entertained ourselves with seemingly forever — especially in the years when we could barely afford to dream.  What is it about being able to walk just about everywhere one needs to go in a day’s time?  Could we actually get along with only one car?  Might we adjust to living without much of what we own, trading it in for a spectacular view and convenience?

Maybe — but it’s all a game of wondering that takes second fiddle to the marvelous array of fresh offerings we sampled and purchased that day.  The jacarandas were in bloom, the weather was perfect, so why not relax and enjoy the possibilities.

Pasta and a salad?  Or maybe stuffed French toast.

What about all three?

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Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil Oil

<alt img="Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil"/>

Organic heirloom tomatoes have begun to show their lovely colorful faces around here, and when they do, I can’t resist them.  I love tomatoes regardless of their size or shape as long as they haven’t been sitting in a cold storage box somewhere, rendering them flavorless. When the odd looking heirlooms are available, I have to have them. Deciding what to make with them once they’re sitting on my kitchen counter is an afterthought most of the time unless the sun has been shining and warm weather food is on my mind.  Then I know what I’ll make.  In fact I’m somewhat wired to think about a particular recipe whenever I see tomatoes like this.

Because I have this tomato addiction, I’m going to try to grow my own this year.  Of course I’ve grown my own tomatoes before, but as as much as I can mention that the sun shines and shines here most of the year, the position of our house and the height of our neighbor’s trees provide me precious little sunlight to plant vegetables in.  The space I do have is covered with flagstones, so the tomatoes I plant will have to love growing in pots and climbing like vines.

I saw gorgeous fresh San Marzanos at open air markets when we were in Rome last summer and then packages of seeds in several Sorrento shops, but I was too skeptical to buy them and then lose them in customs on our way back home.  I promised myself I’d have some before this next summer had passed so I just bought the seeds here.  Hopefully they won’t mind sharing space with a few heirlooms.  Then I’ll have homemade tomato sauce and lots of pasta with fresh veggies.

This recipe has a no-cook chunky tomato sauce with fresh basil oil if you’re inclined to make your own.  It’s one of my favorite recipes.

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Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Tomatoes

It's been just about as cold as it ever gets here, hovering around 50 or so, and although the sun is bright, I'm freezing, so that means dinnertime is all about comfort food.

Comfort food warms me just thinking about it.  It comes in large pots or big casseroles, isn't always as complicated as it may first seem if I'm trying a new recipe, and is challenging to keep from helping myself to just one small serving.  What's best about comfort food is that time in the fridge over night improves the flavor.  And since I'm the one who gets to enjoy it for lunch, that matters quite a bit.

While my sister's family was here for the holidays, I made several dishes I'd say fit this bill — which provides yet another characteristic of comfort foods:  They can feed a big group, and if you're not sure whether everyone will be able to sit down to dinner at the same time, they're nearly always something that can be made ahead, and heated up.

I'm sure we all have our favorites, but one of mine is Macaroni and Cheese.  It probably tops my list.  In the last few months, I've sampled a variety of recipes, not so much trying to find the one we like best, but more to see just what each recipe can do with an old classic.

This version is similar to Ina Garten's, but I've included some thick bacon and parsley, and cut back on the cheese.  Not quite a Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato Mac-a-Cheese, but the idea was there. 

Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Tomatoes

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