Friday, January 30, 2015

Master a few things.

Pasta is easy to cook and dress.
Think of it as a hot salad.
The dressing can change as you try new stuff.
And the result, to your liking.

This pasta and peas has a a creamy oil and garlic sauce.
Collect all the ingredients you'll need and organize them in front of you in the order you will need them. This will take you fifteen minutes to cook! Yeah!

First, put a pot of water to boil with two tablespoons of salt.
While that happens, you begin the sauce in a large saucepan.
Saute' garlic, four cloves, mashed and chopped, in two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter for a minute. Add some hot pepper flakes at the end. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add peas and turn the heat off.

Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package minus two minutes!
Take a ladle and scoop out 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Add this water to the sauce you have made.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce.

Add some grated cheese to the pasta and sauce and toss it around to coat everything. Let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce. Taste. Add some chopped fresh parsley if you have it, or a dash of dried herbs you like. If the sauce is too thin, add a bit of milk and more cheese.

The pasta should taste "al dente", just soft enough. With practice, you'll get it just the way you like it.
Buon Appetito!

Friday, January 16, 2015

You and fire.

If you think cooking is complicated, it's all because you use recipes to prepare anything.
Here, we learn a couple of techniques, and learn to respect your ingredients.
Respect, as in "do as little as possible to change your ingredients".

If you start with greens, you are starting with the second food your ancestors tasted. Greens, most greens you pick up at the supermarket have been cultivated to be sweet and tender. So, for you, broccoli and cauliflower, even garlic and onions on your plate are the "designer" variety.  They have been modified (yes, genetically so) to travel distances without wilting, to grow fast and to produce a very mild flavor.

So, most vegetables are bland.
They need assistance to pop in your mouth.
There is reason we roast or saute' vegetables instead of eating them fresh.
Fire adds a certain softness to the crunch; it adds a caramel tint too.

To saute' vegetables, you need a bit of fat, a bit of liquid, some accompanying flavors and washed, trimmed vegetables. ( As you trim your vegetables, save those tough stocks, btw, for our soup recipe.)

Fats: oil, butter, bacon bits.
Liquid: water, juices, stock. (We are definitely going to make stocks)
Flavors: onions, garlic, herbs like thyme. You can also use ginger, chili, seeds like fennel, coriander.

Start the fire at medium with a tablespoon or two of fat.
Get these things ready, one chopped small onion,two cloves of mashed garlic and one other item of your choice to get the taste of that item to be identifiable. Later, you can add two items, say ginger and chili, and see how you like that taste.

Start cooking with the onions  until they begin to look transparent, then add garlic and the vegetables. Keep stirring, coating the vegetables until they begin to absorb the oil. Add the extra item, say chili. Stir quickly, then cover and turn off the heat.
If vegetables still too raw for your taste,  add a Tablespoon of liquid and return to the fire until your vegetables appear cooked enough.
Turn off the heat and taste. Now is the time to add salt and pepper to taste. A few grains at a time.

Try to pull your vegetables out before they are total mush. They should taste a lot like fresh vegetables, so keep experimenting with the time and the amount of liquid.

There, a wonderful bunch of vegetables with a different taste than those you made in the microwave! Each time you add a new flavoring, say, toasted fennel seeds at the beginning when you are sweating your onions, you will add new layers of flavors.

Add them to sandwiches, or over pasta with grated cheese and you have a meal.