spaghetti with squid and cherry tomatoes

This is one of my favorite ways to cook squid, using a method I often use when I want to simplify things — one-pan roasting. The beauty of it (aside from cleaning up fewer pans) is that the tomatoes and squid cook quickly, at the same time, and create a delicious garlic and chili-scented pan sauce for the pasta.

The toasted breadcrumb topping is key: as much as I love (and crave) pasta showered with cheese, the contrast here between the crunchy crumbs, al dente pasta and springy squid rings is really wonderful. It’s super traditional — almost verboten — for Italians to serve seafood with an aged cheese like Parmigiano or Pecorino, because its salty sharpness can overwhelm the delicate nature of fish or shellfish. Although I tend to push the rules a bit when I cook, in this case tradition wins.

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cast iron chicken diavola

I’ve been roasting chicken in a cast iron skillet a lot over the past few months. Sometimes I season a bird with grainy Dijon mustard mixed with some chopped tarragon, making sure to smear plenty of the mixture under the skin. Other times I keep it simple with just salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. The skillet goes from stovetop to oven (and straight to the table, sometimes) which simplifies things even more.

You can easily find pre-seasoned cast iron pans now, but when I bought mine oh-so-many-years ago that wasn’t an option. Those pans are treasured tools in my kitchen for sure, with a patina that bears witness to half my lifetime of cooking. I’ve made everything from pancakes to frittatas to deep-dish pizzas in them, and when I was first learning to cook, my 10-inch pan was the only thing I cooked in aside from a pasta pot. [Read more…]

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…]