Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chick Peas and Beet Greens Pasta

Chick Peas and Beet Greens Pasta
Serves 2
I have a general dislike for the chickpea, however I recently found these amazing Italian chickpeas from the Mecca of all good things Italian: the Italian Food Center in the Chelsea Market. The chickpeas have a cryovac - like packaging where all the air has been sucked out of the package and the plastic sticks to it like jeans on a 14-year-old mother. These have a wonderful toasty flavor, something almost invisible in the average chickpea! I simmered them in some water for an hour or so before using them and without soaking them beforehand. You can also use canned chickpeas

3 cups extra short ziti or whichever pasta you choose
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh shelled peas or frozen
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 loosely packed cups beet greens
juice of one lemon
5 large basil leaves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
very fine extra virgin olive oil, optional but recommended

Boil the pasta in salted water until very al dente, or just a bit undercooked. Before draining it, reserve one cup of the cooking liquid, set aside, and drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium saucepot over medium low heat. Add onions, sauté until they begin to turn translucent (about 3 minutes), add garlic and sauté until the edges are tinged light brown. Add red pepper flakes, peas, chickpeas, and white wine. Crank the heat to high and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, (about 3 minutes).

Add the beet greens, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the cooked pasta. Simmer on high until greens are wilted and pasta is heated through. Stir in the basil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle generously with fine extra virgin olive oil.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Caramelized Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese is lovely, and one of my favorite quickie meals. It's even better with a crunch layer of caramel on the outside. The bitterness of the caramel cuts the rich flavors of the cheese providing a great counterpoint.

2 thick slices of crusty rustic raisin bread
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/2 teaspoon green peppercorn mustard
4 slices fontina
3 slices parmesan
1 tablespoon crumbled fiori de sardo cheese
good grind of pepper,
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salted great quality butter

Spread one slice of the bread with honey and the other with mustard. Cover the mustard side with cheeses, grind pepper on top. Top the cheese with the honeyed bread, honey side out.

Heat a small cast iron pan over medium low heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once butter has melted, add the sandwich, honey side down. Place a weight like a foil covered brick or another pan on top of the sandwich to press it down a bit. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the honey on the bread has caramelized. Flip the sandwich, cook 5 minutes more, the other side will have caramelized now too. Cut in quick decisive chops so the sandwich doesn't fall apart.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

(Pot) Brownies

I have a friend who is sick and nauseous from chemotherapy. I thought some exceptional brownies might cheer her up. These can be made according to the directions I give, without the marijuana and the brownies will be delicious with a fudgy center. If you have a friend who needs some medical marijuana, chop it super fine, add it to the butter, melt it together, and leave it over night at room temperature to leach out the THC. I didn’t strain out the solids, though I'm sure it would work if you chose to.

I have no idea how much marijuana to tell you to use. I ended up using two very finely chopped tablespoons. The strength of the drugs in the brownies depends on the strength of the medical marijuana. The flavors in the brownie should be strong enough to cover up the flavor of herbs. This recipe makes the equivalent of 2 pans of brownies. No one ever feels satisfied with just one tray. Okay, okay, if you would just feel fine about one pan, cut the recipe in half. It still bakes for about 40 minutes.
One full recipe makes 36 brownies

2 tablespoons fine dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fine unsalted European butter
1 pound high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liquer, such as Cointreau
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
extra butter and fine cocoa powder for the pan

Butter one 13 x 9 inch pan or two 8-inch square pans. Line the bottoms and two ends with one piece of waxed paper or parchment. This will help ease the brownies out of the pan. Butter parchment paper. Dust with cocoa, tap out excess. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients, set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate in a mixing bowl over gently simmering hot water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth(if you did put marijuana in the butter, there will be a little texture). Remove from heat and set aside. Beat in the sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, being sure each one is fully combined before adding another. Beat in extract and liquer. Gently stir in flour mixture until just combined. Spread batter evenly in pan, bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few wet crumbs on it. Let cool 5 minutes on a wire rack. Invert to release, gently tug at parchment paper to help. Remove parchment.

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