Pasta Shapes. Pasta Perfection.

March 24th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

HG respects the Italian belief that there is the right pasta for every sauce: Linguine (or spaghettini) with clam sauce; pappardelle with ragu; orecchiette with broccoli, etc., etc.. Ordinarily flexible, Italians are quite firm about this pasta point. Last night, BSK followed Mario Batali’s recipe (from Food and Wine Magazine) for rigatoni alla amatriciana. BSK used Delallo brand rigatoni (these are short, round pasta shapes with ridged surfaces ideal for hearty sauces). Amatriciana is a sauce of bacon, olive oil, bacon fat, onions, tomato paste, tomatoes, parsley, parmesan cheese and (in a BSK twist) plenty of Mexican chile powder and Aleppo pepper for earthy heat. The pasta shape and the sauce were a happy marriage. Not a dish lauded by cardiologists but a splendid once-in-a-while indulgence. HG/BSK’s guests knocked off the pasta with gusto and asked for seconds. This was preceded by appetizers of white anchovies with peppers and olives and surprisingly good shrimp ceviche produced by Pojoauque Super Market (a grocer near HG/BSK’s New Mexico home). Meal ended with a sprightly salad of butter lettuce and Belgian endive. No dessert. Everyone too full. However, snifters of grappa provided a nice Italian apres meal touch.

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Ompa Lomps

November 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Ompa Lomps. Yes, that’s what cute little HG called lamb chops when he was a wee, wee lad. Okay. No more cloying baby talk. HG loved lamb chops back then and still loves them. Best lamb chops in the world were served at the Coach House, Leon Lianides’s legendary restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. (The space is now occupied by Mario Batali’s Babbo). The Coach House chops were about two inches thick and incredibly juicy and succulent. Lianides said the secret of his great chops and racks of lamb was to cut away all of the fat. That’s what BSK does when pan broiling delicious little chops from Trader Joe’s. TJ’s chops are from the Atkins Ranch in faraway New Zealand. The logistics of getting them from that distant land to HG’s knife and fork boggles the mind. Last night, BSK broiled last of the season heirloom tomatoes. Grilled tiny Japanese eggplants. Boiled fingerling potatoes. HG mixed Greek yogurt with lots of crushed garlic, some olive oil and a dash of Spanish smoked paprika. (Love to dip potatoes in that mix). All splendid accompaniments to the pink chops. And, where there is lamb there is fruit forward California cabernet sauvignon. Happy dining indeed.

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Meet The Mistos

August 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The Italian word “misto” means “mixed”. As it relates to food there is bollito misto and frito (fried) misto. Bollito misto is an epic dish for epic gluttons (like HG). HG first encountered the dish at Bologna’s venerable Ristorante Diana, a mirrored old school landmark. HG remembers the meal with salivating fondness. HG started with a bowl of buttery tagiatelle lavishly covered with thin shavings of white truffle. Heady aroma. Sublime taste. Went beautifully with some red Sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna. HG questioned whether the HG appetite could encompass the oncoming bollito misto. Not to worry. A very large, dignified man wheeled a cart to the table; lifted lids from silver servers and presented HG with a stimulating sight: Luscious boiled beef, pork and tongue. Plus two robust poached sausages: cotechino and zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter). Appetite in excellent shape, HG accepted thick slices of each plus helpings of condiments: tangy mostarda di frutta, salsa verde and salsa rosso. Wow. Bollito misto is almost never found on American-Italian menus. Mario Batali once served it at his loftily priced restaurant, Del Posto, but HG noted that it is no longer on the menu. Frito misto, on the other hand, is omnipresent. It is a plate of deep fried seafood morsels with calamari predominating. HG has always found it disappointing (both in Italy and the United States). It is much inferior to Japanese tempura. HG may be spoiled. Here on Prince Edward Island, Exquisite Maiko selects the freshest fish, scallops and shrimp and does her tempura magic. HG’s joy is unrestrained.

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Skinny Pastas

March 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In a recent New York Times piece, chef/restaurateur Mario Batali noted that a favorite dish is “Spicy vermicelli with anchovies, hot pepper and bread crumbs.” BSK made a variation of this dish last night. BSK got rid of the bread crumbs and added garlic plus flash-fried squid. Substituted capellini (“angel hair”) fot the thicker vermicelli. BSK and HG like this skinny pasta and (slightly thicker) fedelini. Be forewarned, this pasta cooks in a flash. If serving at room temperature, douse the cooked pasta with cold water and drain thoroughly to stop it from over-cooking.

Room temperature or chilled vermicelli is a standard accompaniment to many Asian dishes. BSK often serves it (with a shot of sesame oil and a dab of sambal oelek or a squirt of sriracha) with Mapo Tofu or alongside sauteed bok choy and steamed mustard greens. BSK also makes Taiwanese Oyster Soup (google the recipe) with gently poached oysters, vermicelli, stock, rice wine, soy sauce, etc. Chinese noodle soup with a skinny twist.

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Coach House

June 22nd, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

The best American food in New York used to be served by an elegant Greek gentleman, Leon Lianides at his Coach House Restaurant at 110 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village. The restaurant closed in 1993 (the site is now occupied by Mario Batali’s Babbo, an excellent restaurant that introduced a new type of Italian cuisine).

Upon being seated at Coach House, diners were served warm corn sticks. Celestial cornbread. Perfect accompaniment to the black bean soup (which was enriched by a hint of Madeira). There were wonderful crab cakes. Just juicy hunks of the best Chesapeake lump crab meat held together by the merest bit of bread crumbs and seasoning. Lamb ruled at Coach House in the form of triple thick lamb chops or racks of lamb. Greedy HG always had dessert: Pecan pie (not too sweet) that had the right proportion of whole pecans and filling.

Mr. Lianides did not forsake his Greek heritage. He sometimes offered chosen customers (like HG) a taste of Tarama Salata, the salty Greek fish spread to accompany their icy pre-dinner Martini (click here for a link to Leon’s recipe for that Tarama Salata). He also gave HG an excellent cooking tip: Cut away every scrap of fat from lamb chops or lamb racks before roasting or broiling. Lamb fat does not enhance flavor. HG agrees…(SJ does not!)

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