spicy calabrian cauliflower carbonara

A while back (a long, long while…) I was paying a visit to California wine country.  I was exploring the town of Yountville one afternoon, and wandered into a NapaStyle store. Right there in the middle of the place was Michael Chiarello himself, working the room like the smooth guy he is. He was wearing an immaculate lavender-colored oxford shirt, slim Italian-tailored trousers and his megawatt Food Network smile.

Feeling a tiny bit starstruck, I went over to say hello. I don’t remember what we chatted about, but I do remember him handing me a jar of hot chili pepper sauce, telling me it was from his family’s hometown in Calabria and that I couldn’t leave the store without it. Okay! He didn’t have to work that sales angle too hard.  [Read more…]

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

chili chickpea brodo with chorizo and greens
Chickpeas, garbanzos, ceci — by whatever name you choose, I love them.

Last week, as I was lying face down on a mat focusing on my breath and the sorry state of my pedicure, I misheard my yoga teacher ask that we take a moment to look into our inner beans.

And so I found myself asking this eternal question, one that can only be answered after a sweaty yoga class and a few minutes of peaceful contemplation – what is my inner bean?

chili chickpeas, chorizo and greens

I emerged from that brief meditation certain that my inner bean was a cannellini; earthy, velvety soft and creamy at the core. A bowl of warm cannellini beans drizzled with delicious green olive oil, strewn with tiny slivers of chopped fresh rosemary and some Parmigiano grated over is one of the most comforting foods I can think of.

However, I came to the conclusion that if I am truly a cannellini being at the core, then the outer being must be all chickpea. I eat them almost every day!

I’d gotten into the habit of using canned chickpeas after many frustrated hours trying to cook dried ones that more often than not were old and stale. But now that diet trends veer toward the Gluten Free Vegan Cave Dweller, chickpeas are a very popular protein choice for many people, which translates into faster turnover and fresher dried beans.

I fell for a method of cooking garbanzos I found in Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook , which is genius because the cooking water becomes a fabulous light broth – or brodo – that is so tasty I keep the chickpeas in it and build a soup meal along with some smoky, slightly spicy chorizo and dark greens.

I find the combination of sharp cheeses with chile peppers hard to resist. Coach Farms was kind to send me a sample of their Grating Stick, an aged goat cheese that my Microplane turned into savory dust on my chickpeas – yum. But lacking that, a good sharp and salty sheep’s milk Pecorino or even feta would be perfect substitutes.

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

Serving Size: 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  2. 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  3. 1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 dried chile de arbol, crumbled (or 1 or 2 teaspoons crushed red chile pepper)
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 1 teaspoon paprika
  7. Kosher salt
  8. 8 ounces short tubular pasta, such as ditallini or tubetti
  9. 4 ounces cooked chorizo, cut into cubes
  10. 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and sliced
  11. A few handfuls of washed mixed leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.) stems trimmed; torn into bite-sized pieces
  12. Aged sharp cheese, such as Pecorino or Provolone or dry goat

Instructions

  1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put into a 3 or 4 quart heavy saucepan along with the garlic, shallot, chiles, bay leaf and paprika. Pour over enough water to cover by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and loosely cover. Cook an hour or so, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until chickpeas are tender - 30 minutes or more depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  3. Just before serving, warm the chickpeas and broth over low heat. Stir the pasta, chorizo, roasted red pepper and greens into the pot and taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls and grate cheese over the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2014/01/chile-chickpea-brodo-chorizo-and-greens/

midnight pasta, pecorino and olio santo

midnight pasta, hot chili oil and pecorino

Hunger cravings seem to strike at times other than midnight. Especially for me. In my current rock-and-roll lifestyle, I tend to be ready-for-bed by 10 o’clock, fast asleep by the time the clock strikes twelve.

With the exception of those nights I’m out on the town listening to ear-pounding live music and drinking cheap cava until the wee hours, my need for quick hunger fixes will haunt me most often after a day of cooking for a client; a long day spent cooking; tasting and smelling everything but never stopping for a break to nourish myself.

We all have some kind of personal go-to meal that feeds an empty stomach and brings body and soul back together. And whether after a day of debauchery, hard work or world travel, I’m willing to bet that those foods contain lots of carbs, salt and spice.

olio santo - hot chili oil dried chili peppers
midnight spaghetti with pecorino and hot chile pil

An Italian-style midnight snack – la spaghettata di mezzanotte – completes my appetite for all of the above. I’ve enjoyed versions with anchovies, bread crumbs and chopped up fresh tomatoes, but the core of the plate has to be pasta – preferably spaghetti for the satisfying slurp factor; and lots of garlic, olive oil and chili.

Olio santo is hot chili oil from Calabria. There are worse things to be addicted to, which I guess is a good thing because this stuff has found its way into my everyday life and I l-o-v-e  it. A little drizzle on homemade popcorn, a garnish on toasted bread strewn with arugula..it works.

spaghetti a mezzanotte with pecorino and hot chili oil

I recommend making your chili oil in advance so that you might experience this holy trinity of delicousness; chili, pecorino and pasta.

My recipe is inspired by both Lynn Rosseto Kasper and a recipe from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.

midnight pasta with pecorino and olio santo

Serving Size: 1 or 2

It's worth making the olio santo separately ahead of time, just to have on hand for that spontaneous midnight craving. Of course, you can make this pasta without it; just add a bigger pinch of crushed red pepper.

Ingredients

  1. For the hot chili oil (olio santo):
  2. 3 medium-hot fresh red chili peppers, such as Fresno; coarsely chopped
  3. 3 or 4 dried red chili peppers, such as chile de árbol; crumbled
  4. 1 cup pure olive oil
  5. For pasta:
  6. Salt
  7. ½ pound dried spaghetti or other pasta shape
  8. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  9. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  10. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  11. Freshly ground black pepper
  12. ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  13. Chopped Italian parsley
  14. Hot chili oil
  15. Dried crushed red pepper (I like Aleppo pepper)

Instructions

  1. To make the chili oil, puree all the chilies and oil in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil; simmer 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat to cool and infuse the oil.
  2. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup. For clearer oil, avoid pressing down on the solids; if the mix starts to move slowly through the strainer, stir gently with a spoon and/or lift out some of the solids. Line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the oil through one more time.
  3. Transfer the oil to an airtight jar or bottle; store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  4. To make the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the spaghetti or pasta of your choice.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the onion, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle; scoop out ½ cup of the boiling pasta water and add to the pan. Cover, lower heat and cook 5 minutes or until the onion and garlic are very tender.
  6. If there’s any water left in the pan, let it bubble away in the uncovered pan until reduced to a tablespoon or so.
  7. Once the pasta is just about done, drain and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water in a small bowl.
  8. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan over low heat, along with ½ cup of the cheese; stir enough water to blend with the cheese to coat the pasta.
  9. Serve in bowls drizzled with some parsley, hot chili oil, crushed red pepper and additional cheese to taste.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/midnight-pasta-pecorino-and-olio-santo/