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Showing posts with label pasta sauce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pasta sauce. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anchovies and Chicken Livers Make a Home with Pasta

Surf and turf with penne pasta with caramelized chicken livers and anchovies. Credit: David Latt
For Zester Daily, I wrote about two ingredients I love: anchovies and chicken livers.  Not every one likes both (or either, for that matter). As with so many foods in our lives, dishes served when we are young put strong imprints on our adult palates. Most nights when my father came home from work, he would settle into his leather recliner and watch wrestling on TV. While my sister and I set the table, my mother would serve him an appetizer plate and his cocktail of choice, a 7&7 (Seagrams & 7-Up). His favorite appetizers reflected his Russian Jewish background. There would be plates of pickled herring with sour cream, chopped chicken liver, pickled beets and onions, anchovy fillets and pumpernickel bread that he ordered from a mail-order outlet in New York. 
Wanting a father-son moment with my father, who was decidedly old school and not much into father-son moments, I would sit next to him and share the appetizers (and steal a sip of his 7&7 when he wasn't looking). I definitely developed a taste for the anchovies and chicken livers but not for the pickled herring with sour cream! 
One day, with very little in the refrigerator, I wanted a lunch with a lot of flavor that wouldn't take much effort to create. With a box of pasta, a couple of chicken livers, a tin of anchovies, an assortment of aromatics and a few other ingredients, I put two and two together and made a dish that was light and delicious.  I wonder if my dad would have liked it?
In many Italian, Spanish and French dishes, anchovy filets supply a deeply nuanced umami that turns the ordinary into the passionately delicious. Italian puttanesca, Tuscan chicken liver paté and French tapenade are but a few examples that come to mind. Without anchovies they are good. With anchovies they are delicious. Combine skinless anchovy filets with caramelized chicken livers, toss with pasta and dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and surf dances with turf in the most beautiful way.
Pasta is wonderful and infinitely variable. Pasta can be complex or simple. For many cooks, the best pasta dish is one that allows the ingredients to shine through with a minimum of sauce. Toss penne with fresh English peas, a bit of oil and garlic, a dusting of cayenne and a fresh grating of Romano and all that is necessary to complete the meal is a crisp Fumè Blanc, a farm-fresh green salad and a dessert of fresh fruit with a nice selection of cheeses.
Chicken livers and anchovies are as different as can be. When cooked properly with a charred exterior and an interior still moist and pink, chicken livers are creamy and earthy with a hint of sweetness.
Anchovies on the other hand have a sharper impact on the palate — salty, raspy and tangy. Combined, they bring out the best in one another.
As with any simple recipe, this dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients. Whenever possible, buy organic chicken livers to avoid the chemicals and antibiotics that can accumulate in birds that are raised in industrial coops. Skinless anchovies packed in olive oil are not overly salty. Because the fish are caught all over the world, experimenting with different brands will lead you to the one you like the best.
Spanish and Italian anchovies are especially good, whether packed in glass jars or in tins. The price can vary from an affordable $2 a tin to well over $15 for a glass jar of the same weight.

Pasta with Chicken Livers and Anchovies

Before using chicken livers, wash and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut away any fat, sinews or veins and discard. Separate the two lobes. Cut each lobe in half, making bite-sized pieces to facilitate even cooking of the livers.
Serves 4
Ingredients
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ to 1 pound pasta (penne, ziti, spaghetti or angel hair)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, washed, stemmed and skin removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
4 to 8 anchovy filets (the number depends on how much you enjoy anchovies)
1 pound chicken livers, washed, lobes separated, each lobe cut in half
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
⅛ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon olives, pitted, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered (optional)
Directions
1. In a 2-gallon pot, fill with water to within 3 inches of the top. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Put in pasta and stir well. Allow to boil 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Taste and when al dente, place a small heat-proof cup in the sink next to a colander and drain the pasta, capturing 1 cup of pasta water in the process. Return the pasta to the warm pot and set aside.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic and Italian parsley until lightly browned. Using a fork, add the anchovies, dragging them along the bottom so they break apart. Stir well with the aromatics.
4. Add the chicken livers to the pan, using a large spoon to move them around the pan so they lightly brown all over. Be careful not to overcook and dry out the livers.
5. At this point you have some options. You can season with cayenne for heat, add chopped olives for another layer of flavor, stir in quartered cherry tomatoes to contribute liquid and a bit of acid to the sauce and sweet butter for creaminess.
6. Or keep it simple and do one, some or none of the above. In any case, add ¼ cup of pasta water to the frying pan and stir well.
7. Just before serving, add cooked pasta to the frying pan over a medium flame and toss well until heated. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and serve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Caramelized Vegetable Pasta

If you can't get your kids to eat vegetables, try caramelizing them to bring out their natural sweetness. It's as easy as tossing them in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and pepper, sauteing, grilling, or roasting them in the oven.

For a quick, affordable, nutritious meal, add pasta, leave a little broth in the bottom of the bowl, top with grated cheese and they'll come back for seconds.

Caramelized Vegetable Pasta

Yield: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion or 3 shallots, washed, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 pound mushrooms, shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, thin sliced
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup corn off the cob during the summer
1 cup broccoli stems or florets, washed, roughly chopped
1 pound pasta, preferably De Cecca, spaghetti, gnocchi pasta, penne, ziti or whatever you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Saute all the vegetables in 1 tablespoon olive oil until softened. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Boil a large pot of water. Add the Kosher salt. Add the pasta. To prevent sticking, stir well throughout the cooking, about 10 minutes. Put a heat-proof cup or a Pyrex measuring cup that can hold 1 1/2 cups into the sink next to the strainer. When you drain the pasta, capture 1 1/2 cups of pasta water. Set aside.

Put the pasta back into the pot. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the pasta. Toss well. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss. To keep the pasta warm, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pot but do not seal. Set aside.

Put the sauteed vegetables back on a medium flame. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the sweet butter and reduce over a medium flame for 15 minutes. Toss the vegetables to coat. Add the pasta and another 1/2 cup of pasta water. Toss the pasta and vegetables to mix well. If you need more liquid, add more of the pasta water.

Just before serving, pour the pasta, broth and vegetables into a large bowl. Serve with the grated cheese alongside.

Variations

To add heat, put 1/4 teaspoon of tabasco or a pinch of cayenne when you're sauteing the vegetables.
Add 2 cups sliced cooked chicken breast.

Add 1 cup raw shrimp, washed, deveined, roughly chopped to the vegetables when you add the pasta water.

In addition to the vegetables in the recipe, add others you enjoy, like peppers, asparagus, zucchini, celery, chopped tomatoes, even cooked potatoes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cherry Tomatoes and Pasta Go Hand in Hand

I only grow cherry tomatoes. Which doesn't mean I don't enjoy eating heirlooms like Brandywines, Cherokee Purples, or Green Zebras. Because we have large, beautiful trees in the backyard, we only get partial sun in the garden. Our house stays cool even during the hottest days and that's good news, but larger tomatoes don't grow well without full sun. I'm not complaining though.

The cherry tomatoes are sweet like candy.

At this time of year, cherry tomatoes are plentiful. Not just in our garden, which has gone kind of cherry-tomato-crazy, but in the farmers' markets as well. Big baskets of perfectly ripe tomatoes are selling for $1.00/basket. They're perfect for salads and skewering. With a plentiful supply, they also make a delicious pasta sauce.

Pasta alla Checca

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound pasta, penne, gnocchi style, fussili, or spaghetti
1 basket farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed, quartered
1 bunch basil, washed, stems removed
1 garlic clove, skin removed, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method

Put the quartered tomatoes into a large bowl, season with sea salt and pepper, add the olive oil,minced garlic, and toss. Do this a few minutes before you cook the pasta.

Add the kosher salt to a large pot with a gallon of water, heat to boiling, add the pasta, and stir well. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. After 10 minutes sample a piece of pasta. When it's cooked to your taste, strain, and put the pasta into the bowl with the seasoned tomatoes.

Toss well. Chop or tear by hand the basil leaves and add to the pasta. Top with grated cheese and serve immediately.

Variations

Over an open flame, char the garlic clove with the skin still on. Remove the blackened skin, mince the garlic

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives, cracked green or black

Add 2 anchovies, minced

Add 1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped or cut into thin rings

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cooked into a sauce, cherry tomatoes have a flavor that is different from their large-bodied cousins. One basket makes enough sauce to serve 4 people, so the price-break is good.

If you want, the sauce can be made ahead, frozen, and used weeks later with little loss of flavor.

Yield 4 servings

Time 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 baskets farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, minced
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, skin removed, washed, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Toss the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, half of the minced garlic, season with sea salt and pepper, place on a baking tray that has been lined with a Silpat or parchment sheet. Bake 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Reserve the seasoned olive oil in the bowl and use to saute the remaining garlic, parsley, onion, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Set aside.

Put the roasted tomatoes, including all the liquid on the baking tray, through a food mill. Add the tomato sauce and pulp to the saute pan.

Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet butter, taste, and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Toss with pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Use the tomato sauce without the vegetable saute

With the vegetables, saute 1 cup smoked sausage or Italian sausage, finely chopped, until lightly browned

Use fresh basil instead of the Italian parsley

Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the saute

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

See Pasta Run

It's been a long day. All you want to do is get home but traffic is terrible. Finally you're home, ready for dinner. You thought about stopping for take out or picking up something from the prepared food section at Whole Foods but you didn't want to be around people. What you needed was to take off your clothes, slip into your PJs, sit in front of the TV, and watch the Daily Show and then Colbert. Now all you have to do is deal with the fact that you're starving.

You open the refrigerator and stare at a chaos of jars, bottles, and plastic bags. The only thing that looks immediately edible is a week old bagel. You could slather on some butter and call it a night but that would be depressing. The magnetic sticker on the refrigerator has Domino's phone number. A large pizza with pepperoni is a phone call away. And then you have an epiphany--untold generations of Italians are sending psychic waves through the ether--Eat Pasta.

Pasta cooks in 10 minutes, the sauce, in another 10, make a salad and in 30 minutes you can be eating a meal that's reviving, healthy, and inexpensive. A basic sauce has only a few ingredients: olive oil, garlic, onions, sea salt, pepper, and cheese. Add chicken and broccoli. Or, shrimp and spinach. Black kale, bacon, and leeks. Roasted tomatoes and meatballs. Pasta is infinitely variable.

For dinner tonight we had fusilli with Italian sausages, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and red peppers. Very basic, very delicious.

Fusilli with Sausages and Red Peppers

The vegetarian version leaves out the sausages and chicken stock. Grilling or sautéing the sausages puts a crust on the outside. The red pepper can be raw or grilled. For the sauce, chicken stock works well but pasta water is good too.

Yield: serves 4
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 box De Cecco fusilli
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sweet butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
6 mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, dried, thin sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper, raw or grilled
2 Italian sausages, washed, grilled or sautéed, cut into 1/4" rounds
1 cup pasta water or chicken stock
Sea salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated cheese, Romano or Parmesan

Method

Make the pasta first. Boil a gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, add the fusilli, stir frequently, and cook until al dente. Turn off the flame. Strain the pasta. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot, add the butter and stir.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the garlic, onions, mushrooms, and red peppers, stir and cook until lightly browned. Add the sausages and deglaze the pan with the pasta water or stock. Stir frequently over a medium flame to thicken the sauce. After 5 minutes, add the cooked pasta and continue reducing the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta.

Serve with the grated cheese.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

To Market, To Market to Buy Everything Fresh

Sundays in the Palisades, Wednesdays and Saturdays in Santa Monica, these are good days because that's when we go to the local farmers' markets. Most neighborhoods in LA have a farmers' market one day of the week. Southern California is blessed with a climate that allows us to enjoy dozens of varieties of fresh flowers and a wide selection of vegetables all year long.

My first experience with non-Southern California produce happened when I moved to Rhode Island. At the local supermarket, the produce section looked like a science experiment. The tomatoes were the worst. Most of them were pale green and trapped under a tightly sealed plastic wrap. I picked ones that had a reddish tinge, thinking they were more ripe. My friend informed me, knowingly, that the tomatoes were red because they'd been gassed. I was happy when I moved back to LA.

The summer will always have the best tasting produce, but what I saw at our local farmers' market this week looked great. For the easiest meal, winter or summer, lunch or dinner, nothing beats grilled vegetables, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Because vegetables take so little work to prepare, a feast is easily within reach: roasted tomatoes, grilled broccoli, carrots, eggplant and corn on the cob in the summer, steamed artichokes with melted butter. There is no more satisfying meal.

Grilled Vegetables

Cut the broccoli into bite sized pieces. Peel the carrots and cut them into slabs ½" x 1". Slice the egg plants in half. Husk and clean the corn on the cob, but leave them whole. For all the vegetables, the recipe is the same: drizzle them with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper, put them on a grill, and turn frequently.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Steamed Artichokes

Delicious as an appetizer or a side dish, artichokes are healthy and easy to make.

2 large artichokes, washed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ cup sweet (unsalted) butter, melted

Trim the stem and snip off the sharp ends of each leaf with kitchen shears or household scissors. Put 2" of water into the bottom of a large pot. Put the artichokes in the pot on top of a steamer. Cover and cook on a high flame. After 30 minutes, use tongs to pull a leaf off one of the artichokes, and taste to see if it's done. If not, add 2 cups of water and cook for another 10 minutes, taste another leaf, and continue cooking until done.

Serve with melted butter and sea salt.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 30-50 minutes.

Oven Roasted Whole Tomatoes

At the farmers' markets there are always vendors who want to sell their over-ripe tomatoes at half price, so you can buy a lot.

4-5 lbs. whole tomatoes, washed, stems and blemishes removed
4 garlic cloves, peeled, julienned
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat sheet, parchment paper, or tin foil. Put several garlic slivers in the top of each tomato. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

1 tomato serves 1 person as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts, Italian sausages, or a steak.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 1 hour.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Peel off the skins and discard. If you want to use the tomatoes in a stew or as pieces added to pasta, tear them apart with your hands, collecting everything in a bowl. Save the liquid in the roasting pan. Some of that is the olive oil, but most of it is a flavorful, clear liquid given off by the tomatoes as they cook. Add the liquid to the bowl.

If you want a smooth, thick sauce, run the tomatoes through a food mill. You'll have a quart of high-quality tomato sauce.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes.

Pasta Sauce

To make a good pasta sauce, the liquid has to be reduced and flavor has to be added.

1 quart roasted tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
6 mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thinly sliced
½ cup bacon, finely chopped (optional)
2 cups homemade chicken stock (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, washed, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the garlic, onion, parsley, mushrooms, and bacon (optional) until lightly browned. Add the tomato sauce, oregano, and cayenne. The chicken stock adds a sweetness and another layer of flavor, but if you want to stay meat-free, the chicken stock is optional.

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the sauce from burning. Taste and adjust the flavor by seasoning with sea salt. Use the sugar if the sauce is too acidic. Stir and simmer another 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight. Reduced, you should have 2 pints of sauce. When reheated, taste and adjust the flavors again.

The sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator or weeks in the freezer.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 75 minutes.