Tag Archives: pasta

Almost Cochignano’s Meatballs with Marinara & Papardelle

In less than 30 days, we’re leaving for Italy.  It hasn’t quite set in yet, even though I’ve been swamped with securing lodging, booking reservations for the busier sights, and familiarizing myself with three very different cities for our 12-day vacation.  I’ve found a cute apartment (with a kitchen I’m planning on using) in Rome a couple of blocks from the Piazza Campo de Fiori (which has an outdoor morning market) where we’ll be for four nights.  Then we’re off to Sorrento near the Amalfi Coast for three nights so the menfolk can wallow in all that’s Pompeii & Vesuvius and I can oogle over the vistas with some limoncello.  We’ll finish up in Florence, or right outside of Florence in an old, old  farmhouse.

Yours truly is our travel agent, and let me tell you, it’s a lot of work!

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So how are we getting ready for all of this?  With food, of course.  Italian food.  And although I’m attempting to find recipes that are related to the cuisine we may find in each of the areas we’ll be visiting, as long as it’s Italian, we’re fine.  It will be truly interesting once we’re there to compare authentic Italian cuisine with what we’ve always thought it’s been and know we’re in for some surprises.

In celebration of that, I’m starting with a recipe I found recently for Spaghetti & Meatballs.  It seemed appropriate to begin with something so many are familiar with, and with a recipe that varies from one  family to the next, each with its own secret ingredients. 

My family is not Italian — at least not that I know of, but there are a few skeletons in our many closets!  The spaghetti we had for dinner when I was growing up was looked forward to even though it was made from ground beef, a can of tomato paste, a package of Shilling’s spaghetti mix, and some water.  We’d ask for spaghetti noodles, but most often ended up with penne or ziti, my mother not especially wanting to deal with the mess we’d have made slurping long, tomato sauced pieces of pasta. 

When I saw Angelo "Squatty" Coschignano’s Meatballs with Billy’s Sauce in the April issue of Gourmet,  I couldn’t pass up the recipe. And true to my sorry form, I hadn’t planned it in advance, but was able to pull it off with what I had on hand.  Okay, so not exactly the recipe, but good enough for me to imagine what the real deal must taste like.

To die for.

Angelo Coschignano & Billy — whoever you are, thanks.  Thanks very much!

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Papardelle & Meatballs

For the Sauce
2 1/2 c. water
1-1/2 tsp. good chicken bouillon
1/2 oz. dried porcinis
                        
                   
1/2 lb. piece top round (whole)
chicken parts (neck, gizzard, liver, heart)
1/3 c. olive oil
                        
                   
5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
                        
                   
  2 lg. onions, coarsely chopped
                        
                   
1/2 c.
coarsely chopped fresh basil
                        
                   
1/4 c. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
                        
                   
4
garlic cloves, smashed
                        
                   
2
(28-oz) cans diced tomatoes in juice
                        
                   
14 oz. marinara sauce (jar)
                        
                   
1/4
c. dry red wine
                        
                   
2 T sugar
1/4  c.  grated Parmesan

Hydrate the porcinis with 1 c. of very hot water and let sit for about 20 minutes.  (You may need to filter the water to remove sediment before using it.) Heat the remaining 1-1/2 c. water and add the bouillon, stirring until dissolved.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pot, and when hot, saute chicken parts and piece of sirloin until beginning to brown.  Add bacon and continue to fry until soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add the onions and saute about 7-8 minutes, until soft and golden.

Add the basil, parsley, and garlic, stirring it in, about 3 minutes.

Stir in all the tomatoes and sauce, then add the wine, sugar, mushrooms, and their water, as well as the chicken bouillon and mix well, cooking until it reaches a simmer.  Add the parmesan all at once and stir it in.

Let sauce simmer over a very low flame for about 2 hours until very thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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For the Balls
1 lg. garlic clove, chopped
3/4 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. Sweet Italian sausage
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 c. grated fresh Parmesan
1/3 c. Italian seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
1 lg. egg
1/2 c. olive oil

1 lb. papardelle

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

About half way through the sauce simmer time:

Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl.  Use your hands to squeeze everything through your fingers making sure all is incorporated.  Dampen your hands, and make about 18-20 nicely rounded balls.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil until very hot and brown the balls in small batches until browned on all sides. 

Place the browned balls in a large baking dish and cover them with 1 qt. of the tomato sauce.  Cover the dish with foil and bake about 30 minutes until the balls are cooked through.

Pour over cooked papardelle and sprinkle on some parmesan.

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Notes: Okay, so I have no idea where to get veal neck bones, which is what the original recipe called for.  I don’t exactly keep those things in my freezer. Not only do they make me feel a bit squiggy around the edges, but there’s just no way I’d end up with them left over from something else.   I do, however usually have other less squiggy odds and ends in my freezer for any number of reasons, and decided that a chunk of top round and some chicken parts I would work just fine. 

And the mushrooms?  Well, the original recipe called for porcini bouillon, and I spent about two seconds marveling over the idea that such a thing existed before I remembered that I had a packet of dried porcinis in my cupboard.  You know what they say about a well-stocked pantry, right?  Well.  Actually, I purchased these in Virginia while visiting my sister last Christmas and wasn’t about to leave them there.  There’s no way she’d use them ever, and how sad is that?  So I packed them up and brought them home and see how handy they were? 

Other substitutions?  Oh yes. The top round.  Instead of chopping it, I decided it was all about the flavor, so cooked it and the chicken parts in the sauce and then removed them.  All that nice caramelly brown stuff on the bottom of the pan was able to flavor the sauce just fine.  As much as I can say that the beef was very nicely cooked and shredded easily after simmering in that lovely tomato sauce(the menfolk picked at it until it was gone), there was no way I was going to leave it in the sauce since the sauce was destined for meatballs.  Who ever heard of pouring a meat sauce over meatballs?  Okay, I’m sure someone out there has, so the line forms at the left and you can set me straight.

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What else?  Well.  The original called for day old Italian bread soaked in 1-1/2 cups of milk, squeezed, then the milk tossed.  Not only did I not have Italian bread, I couldn’t bring myself to even use a stale loaf of sliced bread and then throw out all that milk.  Sorry.  No criticism on the original recipe, because I have soaked dried bread before, but the liquid went in the sauce.

I know there’s something else…OH!  The tomato paste.  I actually didn’t have any.  So much for my well-stocked pantry, right?  But I did have half a jar of very good marinara, and so used that instead figuring that the intensity of the flavor would be a somewhat decent substitute. 

So the outcome?  The sauce was very good.  It was thick, and a pleasant combination of tomato tartness, mellowed to a rich, bacony lusciousness.  The balls?  The jury said they weren’t juicy enough, but the outspoken part of that jury was my mother, and she thinks everything needs a ton of fat in it.  I am wondering what the bread would have added to these, thinking it may have lightened them up a bit.

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The sauce recipe makes about 2 quarts, so you’ll have lots of leftovers to experiment with.

Like one of the grilled pizzas we had a few days later.  Mmmmmm…..

Taste & Create: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Peppers

What a completely exhausting weekend.  Fun, but butt whoopin’ exhausting.  It’s all my fault.  I should know by now when the alarms go off several days in a row (in my head) that I need to NOT do what I’ve planned to do.  Especially with Thanksgiving looming in the near distance.  Jeez.

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Friday, I was going to have a leisurely time in the kitchen preparing a dish as a part of Taste & Create, a blogging event hosted by Nicole at For the Love of Food.  But I got such a late start, I had to put that fun off until Sunday.  So much for dinner on Friday.  *sigh* I was able to prepare the layers of a cake I was going to take to a dinner party on Saturday.  Then Saturday, I would take care of the latest Daring Baker Challenge.  Finally, I’d frost the cake and be off to the dinner party.  At the crack o’ dawn on Sunday, I was going to get up and have some fun with cyber baking buddies on Yahoo Messenger while we cooked.  Uh…..Nope.  Software, Beta versions, PC’s vs. Macs…You name it and it all conspired to keep us apart.  So very sad since I was really looking forward to seeing just how gunked up my keyboard would get cooking and IMing.

But  few weeks ago, I discovered ustream.tv, so I figured at least I could broadcast myself while I was cooking and maybe a few buddies could text while they were laughing their butts off over my "show."  More on that some other time.  Suffice it to say it was a lot of fun, but totally the reason I’m tired.  I made some cinnamon rolls, and finally, the feature of this post: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Bell Peppers & Brown Butter, the dish I was supposed to have for dinner Friday.  I was so out of time considering I had to make it, eat it and post about it by the end of today!  Nothing like being seriously late.  It’s not the first time, however.

Katie of Other People’s Food was matched with me for the Taste & Create event I mentioned above.  If I remember correctly, Katie won the very first blogging event I entered: Hay, Hay, It’s Donna Day where we all had to make chocolate mousse.  That was back in April of this year.  Goodness, how time flies!

So for Taste & Create, Katie and I had to peruse each other’s archives, choose a dish, cook it, and create a post about it.  All in all, a pretty great idea.  I chose the Ravioli linked above from her archives because I love the combination of the flavors.  Katie’s homemade ravioli are so cute perched atop the colorful peppers with just the perfect sprinkle of fresh parmesan. Since I’d never made my own pasta, I thought, "Sure!"  Uh-huh.  Right.  A couple of funny things happened on the way to the completion…

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Outside of talking to those people who tuned into my ustream.tv broadcast, and dealing with cinnamon rolls, rolling pasta was, erm…challenging.  I don’t have an attachment…SANTA!!!!!!!! so couldn’t quite get it thin enough.  How did people do this without all the nifty gadgets that now exist?

Img_4813 I don’t want to hear anyone say anything about what this reminds them of.  Like my husbink just did.  This is a FOOD blog.

The consensus from my huzbink and middle son after tasting the completed dish was that the ravioli needed to be cooked longer. (Think chewy…) And last but not least, while I was yammering away on ustream.tv, I guess I picked up my salt container and confused it with the measured amount of salt I’d set aside for the pasta.  Thankfully, it wasn’t that much more, but it did cause my pasta to be more salty than we like. *cough — water!*

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Fortunately, I also made a few of the ravioli with won ton wrappers which is what the original recipe called for.  These turned out very nicely flavorwise. *whew*  And they were definitely easier to make since I lacked the pasta experience.

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The roasted pepper tomato sauce was excellent.  It would be fabulous on regular pasta.  The richness of the peppers combined with the cheese and fresh herbs (rosemary, chives, oregano, sage, thyme) in the ravioli is quite pleasant.  The bit of chopped nicoise olives and toasted pinones were a very nice touch as well.  (I will confess I added a roasted Green Chili to the pepper mixture.  I couldn’t resist, as I love the flavor and heat. And I had one sitting in my veggie bowl just waiting to be used…)  Here’s Katie’s recipe if you missed it above.

The moral to this story is, don’t bite off more than you can chew!  Not a new lesson, is it?  Still, I’m learning that with time and planning, there are excellent recipes to be tried from other’s blogs simply because they’ve tried it themselves and can share their learning.  Another no brainer, Kelly.  D.U.H. 

I think there’s a bathtub and some bubbles upstairs with my name on it.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow.  And then the Thanksgiving prep begins….Oh. My. Goodness.

Thanks, Katie, for the recipe!  I will be using the pepper & tomato combo as well as the cheese & herb mix for bruschetta in the near future.  It will be totally scrumptious, don’t you think?

And thanks, Nicole, for a fun event.  Expect to see me again!

Macaroni & Cheese: The Ultimate Comfort Food

I grew up eating basic food:  no frills, no hidden ingredients, all good taste and comfort.  My mom’s macaroni & cheese was the best.  None of the recipes she made are written anywhere, but I remember them all.  Her macaroni & cheese, or "mac-a-cheese" as we’ve come to call it, was always made of elbow macaroni pieces — the large ones.  She’d make a skillet full of white sauce, grate cheddar cheese, layer all three and then pour some milk over it all for good measure.  Once in a while, she’d throw in some canned tomatoes, too, and I loved their tart flavor with the cheese.

Curious person that I am, occasionally, a mac-a-cheese recipe will catch my eye, and I’ll give it a try, just to consider that there may be another recipe out there that isn’t just about more steps or ingredients.  And it’s your lucky day, because I have found two that are pretty good, even if there are more steps, more ingredients, and heck-of-a-lot more calories.  Like we need those, right?

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I found the first recipe in a magazine last year.  You’re thinking, what a shocker, right?  It accompanied an advertisement for Tillamook cheese (which is mysteriously absent in my photo above), which is being run again this year.  "Penne Rigate Macaroni and Cheese baked with Truffle Essence" is what I would call the elegant version of mac-a-cheese.  No question about it.  Pricey, too.  But I had to try it out and see what that smoked cheddar and black truffle oil did to a classic comfort dish.  Evidently, most black truffle contains no black truffle.  Instead, a synthetic flavoring agent is used to give it a flavor thought to be similar to the real thing.  I did make sure I had the real thing.  My bottle’s ingredients read:  "extra virgin olive oil, black truffle (tuber melanosporum), natural flavoring."  No artificial anything.  Of course, it set me back $18 for 1.86 oz., too.

More recently, I came across "Mac & Cheese for Grown-ups" in fresh magazine which is affiliated with The Best of fine Cooking magazine.  This recipe caught my eye because it contains four types of cheese, one of which is blue cheese, and I immediately wondered if there could be too much of a good thing.  I don’t know how blue cheese can’t overpower every other flavor in this dish.  My husband loves Four Cheese Pasta, and Four Cheese Pizza, but this was something all together different.  Not exactly conducive to low fat eating, either.  I guess both recipes at least meet the qualifications of mac-a-cheese and comfort food, though.

Penne Rigate Macaroni and Cheese baked with Truffle Essence

Ingredients
3 T kosher salt
8 oz. penne rigate pasta, dry
1 T black truffle oil
2 T shallots, minced
3 oz. applewood smoked bacon, minced
1 T garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
2 T all purpose flour
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
1 T minced basil
1/4 tsp. minced thyme
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
3 c. white extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. pecan quarters
1 c. smoked medium cheddar, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bring 1-gallon water to rapid boil with kosher salt in an 8-qt. pot.  Add pasta to water and stir.  Boil for 5-6 minutes total.  Pasta should be slightly undercooked.  Drain off all water through a colander, sit one minute and toss in a bowl with the black truffle oil.  Reserve.

Combine shallots, bacon, garlic, and olive oil in  4-qt. pot and cook slowly for 10 minutes using low heat.  Add the flour, raise heat to medium and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Temper in the heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes on low.  Add in the herbs and seasonings.  Stir in 3 c. of White Cheddar until smooth.  Add in the truffle scented pasta and stir until evenly combined.  Divide into individual shallow baking dishes (welsh rarebits) and top with the pecans and the shredded medium cheddar.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

Serves 4.

Before…
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And after…
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Notes:  I made this dish sometime early last spring.  Clearly, I was still in my "yellow stage" with my little camera.  Good thing we learn a bit as we proceed, isn’t it?  Moving right along, I used a convection setting, and used yellow sharp cheddar instead of white.  Also, the medium cheddar was apple smoked.  I figured the bacon was, so why not?  And I also omitted the bread crumbs.  I’m not much of a fan of bread crumbs on the top of baked food for some reason.  It never really seems to add very much, and if the addition is about adding color, cheese dishes always brown nicely, so I don’t see the point.  This recipe was not bad.  The truffle oil was highly noticeable, and I would have wondered what the flavor was had I not known.  I haven’t eaten truffles often enough to be able to adequately describe their flavor.  Even now, it reminds me more of garlic, and I think that must be one of the "natural" flavorings in my bottle of oil.  I wonder if I made the recipe again with garlic oil instead of truffle oil what the difference would be.  The smoked cheddar flavor also stands out in this recipe, but the flavors work well together.  I did not use the pecans called for, although after eating it, know that I would have liked them in this dish.  People enjoyed this dish, but there were no raves.

Luxurious Four-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients
kosher salt
3 c. whole milk
4 T unsalted butter
1 med onion, finely diced (about 1 c.)
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce; more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. Gruyere, coarsely grated (about 1-3/4 c. lightly packed)
1/2 lb. blue cheese (such as Maytag Blue), crumbled
1 lb. dried penne rigate pasta
1 T finely grated lemon zest
11 oz. Monterey Jack, cut into 1/2-in. dice (2 c.)
1/2 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T fresh thyme leaves
2-1/2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated (scant 1 c.)
3/4 c. fresh bread crumbs

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over med-low heat to just below a simmer.  Remove from the heat and cover to keep hot.  Melt the butter in a med saucepan over med-low heat.  Add the onion and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the hot milk, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until thickened and smooth.  Season with 1 tsp. salt, the nutmeg, the Tabasco, and pepper to taste.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the Gruyere and blue cheese.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water to al dente, following the package directions.  Drain well and return to the pot.  Toss the lemon zest and half of the Monterey Jack into the pasta while it’s still hot; add the cheese sauce and quickly toss to combine.  Stir in the parsley and thyme and transfer half of the pasta to a large (3-qt.) shallow casserole or lasagna pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining Monterey Jack and half of the Parmigiano; top with the remaining pasta.  Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and the breadcrumbs.  Bake until bubbling and golden, 50 to 60 minutes.  Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

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Notes: This obviously was an incredibly rich dish.  I began to have difficulty when it came to adding the last cheese — the Jack at 11 oz.  Although I estimated that amount in cubes and was prepared to put it in the dish, I ended up only adding half the amount.  The blue cheese stood out the most.  I wasn’t surprised.  And although good, I ended up confirming overkill on the cheese in this recipe.  The parmesan wasn’t the least bit noticed.  The recipe is huge and would server more than eight in my opinion.  It is so rich, a smaller serving was perfect — a lot of flavor goes a long way.  Serve it with a good salad and you’ll be fine.

Conclusion?  The biggest difference between these two versions of mac-a-cheese is the whole cheese sauce component.  In the second recipe, it’s quite the undertaking and I began to wonder if it would all fit in the pan!  It’s fun to try a spin on a dish that is an old family favorite, but it just isn’t my mom’s mac-a-cheese.  These dishes are both worth trying, and each is good enough to consider as something a bit more fancy than usual.  But cut back on the size of the second recipe.  It goes a very long way.  Your arteries will thank you.

Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth


I grew up eating very simple meals that were repeated often in the course of a month. It was good food, but never complicated, and very little seafood was prepared — that is except for the flounder my mother purchased in somewhat thin, brick-like frozen packages.  The flounder was thawed, the fillets pulled apart, then floured and fried.  It wasn’t an unpleasant meal, it just wasn’t anything special and I rarely looked forward to those meals.  It must have made an impression on me, because I don’t believe I’ve ever fried flounder for my family.  Not that I have anything against flounder; I’m just aware of so many more possibilities with respect to seafood.  I also believe the choices are more abundant for the home cook which makes cooking and eating far more pleasurable than ever before.

My boys have grown up trying just about everything imaginable — especially my youngest, now 15.  That is most likely because I’m not afraid to try new types of cuisine, new flavors, and trust that if a recipe has been published, it has at least a fighting chance of being “good.”

Many summers ago, my husband, youngest son and I traveled up the California coast to Monterey, one of our favorite places.  Along the trip, we stopped in Santa Barbara for the day, and had lunch at a pleasant Italian restaurant.  Surprisingly, my son, who must have been only eight at the time ordered mussels.  I do remember that they sounded delicious with garlic, white wine, and basil being a few of the ingredients, but I’d never made mussels before.  And to my knowledge, we’d not ordered them in a restaurant with my son along.  So, order we did!  He truly enjoyed them, and we enjoyed watching him eat them.  No sooner than we’d arrived in Monterey, he ordered more, and to our continued surprise, made comments about liking the mussels he’d ordered in Santa Barbara more.

To some extent, I’d like to take some credit for this.  Only one of us has serious food allergies, so meal time at our house has always been an adventure, and clearly my boys (and husband) have grown from the experience.

After returning home from our vacation, I began to look around for recipes to emulate the dishes my son had tried.  There was just something about cooking my own shell fish I wasn’t too comfortable about.  Maybe admonishment from experts on freshness, and concerns about resulting illness could have been a factor.  Possibly, but not nearly as much as walking past the local chain grocer’s “fish” counter and smelling the pungent odor of ammonia mixed with fish clearly anything but fresh was more of a deterrent.  And the selection?  Pathetic if at all existent, and not something I’d consider.  Ever.  Completely disgusting.  Truly fresh fish rarely smells fishy.

That was about the time I discovered Whole Foods and sea food that was refreshingly sans the fishy odor.  I then found a recipe that is probably the one I’ve made more than any other recipe (remember I have that problem of rarely making a recipe more than once — ever):  Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Parsley, and Lemon.  I found it in an issue of Bon Appetit I still have and cherish — one of the issues that focuses on a particular region’s food, and in the case of this recipe, the citrus from the isle of Capri off the coast of Italy.  And wouldn’t I absolutely love to travel there some day…*sigh*  I have served it in enormous platters at parties to the oohs and ahs of guests, as a main dish with pasta, as the original recipe calls for, and as a starter to a nice dinner.  I’ve used mussels — black and green lip, which are completely gorgeous, by the way — a variety of clams, and a mixture of both.  I’ve used basil instead of parsley, added chopped tomatoes, and dolloped goat’s cheese to sharpen the broth.  Any way this recipe has been made has delivered very pleasing results.  If given a choice, my husband prefers clams, and my son, mussels.  I don’t care, because both are excellent as long as I have a thick chunk of bread to soak up the broth remaining in my bowl.
So the days of avoiding fish at the chain market and denying ourselves a meal of delicious seafood are over.  Not too far from our house, El Pescador sells fresh seafood.  It’s a small store packed with mouth-watering possibilities. It’s also a restaurant, and from the looks of the menu, one that serves quite tasty fare. I’ve not been there often, but have discovered that if I purchase my clams there, I won’t fill my basket with the other lovely items that find their way onto my shopping bill at Whole Foods.  So I’ve added another trip, but it’s worth it, because El Pescador sells lovely, fresh seafood.  Perfect for summertime.

The original recipe  for this Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth is linked above.  I’ve included my revisions in the recipe below.

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Pasta with Grilled Sausage, Chicken, and Vegetables

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Ah…how soon the lovliness of vacation dissapates…and reality smacks you back.

And how how completely pissed off can one be after nearly completing a post and then when working to link a recipe from epicurious a very strange window popped up in the corner of the monitor that looked very official (like a normal software upgrade notice) saying something about a hard drive clearing to protect my marriage and keep us from viewing all the "adult" sites visited on our computer.  Huh?

So of course I DID NOT click it.  I cancelled it.  Of course, that initiated the download, which I then stopped by closing all the tabs.  Excuse me for asking, but while I was away on vacation, did someone replace all the cockroaches in the world with spammers?  What is up with those guys?  They are seriously out of control right now.  How can there be such L-O-S-E-R-S in the world?

And my post.  Shhhheeee—iiiiiiiitttt.  Yes, it was closed as well.  Unsaved, of course because I was working on it.

I am so NOT inspired to write it all again.  At least not the one I was writing.  It was one of those doozies where you throw a bit of this and a tad ‘o that, and it ends up being totally mouth-watering scrumptious. The recipe.  Not my writing. *sigh*   

Well, maybe I’ll write it.  But not the way it was.  This will be the fast version.  You’re on the edge of your seat, right?  Aren’t you so glad I’m back?  Seriously. 

Take Two On:  What to do with all the food you didn’t eat on vacation on your last night there… (it already sounds delicious, huh?)  Bwah-hahahahaha.  But it was because I only cook perfect food.  Of course, there were more than four cooks with their hands in this meal of pasta, salad, grilled garlic bread, and Baked Berry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.  No.  I’m so not writing about all the recipes.  You’ll just have to get over it.  Ahem.

The pasta idea probably came about because we (the two groups of friends we went on vacation with) were salivating over recent issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet before leaving for Lake Tahoe.  Or maybe it was just myself doing the salivating.  Anyway, I had tagged a bunch of recipes and emailed the others to divvy up cooking responsibilities.  We took some food from our own kitchens with us (die hard foodies, doncha think?), we shopped a bit after arriving (uh..two or three times), and borrowed some ingredients from the pantry in the house. 

All said and done, by the time the last day rolled around, we had TONS of food left — even though 11 people had been porking out all week.  So, after scanning the tagged recipes, we concocted a smashing pasta dish that we all enjoyed and can’t wait to try again, tweaking a bit here and there, depending on what we have in the house when we decide to make it again.  Make sense?

Okay, hold your shorts, because my fingers are aflyin’ about now.

The original recipe for the base of the pasta was  "Fresh Tomato-Olive Sauce" by Michael Chiarello whom I love, love, love.  And then, we probably borrowed a bit of this recipe, too, because we sort of had it in our heads.  Or sausage on the brain or something.  And my Berry Crisp was kind of based on this recipe, because we had left over blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, but I didn’t measure anything exactly.  On Vacation?  Come on.  Get a grip.  The salad?  The usual mediterranean chop:  romaine, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, feta, avocado, kalamatas, green garlic stuffed olives, tomatoes, capers…like that.  With a balsamic vinaigrette tossed in.

Back to the pasta: Img_3041

So we grilled some large sausages, chicken thighs (I think we used six of each) salted and peppered lightly, then chopped them after they were done.  No, I’m not the one who threw them on the grill.  Nor am I the one who left them to burst into flames.  Of course when the rescue operation was in full gear, a couple of pieces hit the deck and we saved them on account of the 30 second rule. No one complained of grit at dinner, so we were good. The deck wasn’t, though, greasy morsels that those pieces o’ meat were.  We sprayed and scrubbed, and sweat, and worried a lot about what the home owners would say (not the rental owners — but my friend’s parents who graciously allowed us to enjoy their home for the evening while they were away).  Jeez.  You’d have thought we were a bunch of slobs by looking at those grease spots on that very clean deck.  Stressful!  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes…We also grilled red peppers, zucchini, and quartered onions.  I’m sure there was some garlic in there somewhere, too.  Oh, and we grilled four lemon halves until they were caramelized and squeezed the juice over the veggies and tossed.  This alone is quite delicious if you haven’t ever tried it.

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The most interesting ingredient was the mushrooms. The mushrooms that were left in the kitchen sink of the rental that my huzbink offered to drive back and get so we could use them. But my friend’s daughter went instead because they forgot to bring the ice cream for the dessert.  My friend recently returned from a business trip to China and brought back the cutest little dried mushroom caps.  So she hydrated them, and sauteed them in garlic, butter, and olive oil.  My goodness we we drooling over the aroma of those while they were cooking.  Are you confused yet?  This was sounding kind of Italian or something, right?  Wot Up with the Chinese mushrooms, you say?  We were emptying the larder for our return trip, remember?  Everything goes.

So here’s how the pasta comes together:

Make the tomato-olive sauce a couple of hours before you eat to let it juice up.  Cook two pounds of pasta (if you’re feeding as many as we were) and make sure it’s al dente.  None of that mushy pasta thing going on. Put the drained pasta in a very large serving bowl.  Add the chopped sausage and chicken, sauteed mushrooms, grilled veggies, and tomato-olive sauce.  Img_3044
Mix well and sprinkle on lots and lots of freshly grated parmesan.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.

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It’s completely tasty.  Even better the next day.  Except…I think there was  something missing.  I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I’m thinking the artichoke hearts should have gone into the pasta instead of the salad which was also excellent.  Basil?  Not sure.  But I’ll give it another go before summer’s over and I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and here are the gratuitous Berry Crunch photos for those of you who can’t live without dessert.

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I can’t remember who licked the bowl, but there wasn’t a crumb left.  Not bad for not having a recipe.  Not bad at all.

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