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

For the hot chili oil (olio santo):

3 medium-hot fresh red chili peppers, such as Fresno; coarsely chopped

3 or 4 dried red chili peppers, such as chile de árbol; crumbled

1 cup pure olive oil

For pasta:

Salt

½ pound dried spaghetti or other pasta shape

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Hot chili oil

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/

olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

olive oil and lemon pots de creme

I was going to call this post Little Vanilla Custards, but due to a frisson brought on by the food media I’ve been indulging in lately, I had to change course a bit. It started with the food-celebrity crush I have on Rachel Khoo. Have you seen her show Little Paris Kitchen?

My almost-sixteen year old daughter and I were having some girl time; lazing around on a Sunday afternoon and finally getting caught up on episodes of the show I’d recorded a while back on The Cooking Channel.

“Oh! Look how cute she is, mom! Can I have bangs like that, and red lipstick, and pouty lips, and that little apartment in Paris? And can I draw those fun pictures with watercolors and talk with her accent?” I won’t lie; part of me knew exactly how she felt.

The word “darling” makes rare appearances in my vocabulary, but that’s the one that describes Rachel Khoo and her adventures cooking on two gas rings, in a charming old Paris kitchen hardly bigger than a pack of Gauloises.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

I just got The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook in the mail. There’s no recipe for little vanilla custards - pots de creme en Francais – in there, but that’s what came to mind while I flipped through it. The book is as appealing as the show, and I’m sure it will inspire more little French food for me to cook. Rachel trained in patisserie so there’s lots of sweet, simple recipes in the dessert chapter.

The other twist in today’s recipe story comes from Nigella. I’ve also managed to acquire her new book Nigelissima, and I really like it. I believe Nigella when she says “It was when I was sixteen or seventeen that I decided to be Italian.”

I was browsing through it, hearing her dusky Nigella voice as I read through the recipe introductions. I’d already planned to make my vanilla custards, but got caught up in the photo and description of a drop-dead gorgeous, mascarpone whipped-cream layered, pomegranate and pistachio-strewn Italian Christmas Pudding Cake on page 250. Nigella soaks panettone slices for the cake in Tuaca, the Italian vanilla liqueur which she says seems “panettone in alcohol form.”

tuaca Italian vanilla liqueur vanilla  bean

Hmmmmm. Okay. I think the last time I sampled Tuaca was back in the 1980′s, while on a date with a guy who drank amaretto sours. But I could see how that brandied-buttery-vanilla-citrus flavor sensation that is Tuaca would work in a rich custard just as well as in the creamy filling of Nigella’s spectacular cake.

I had to go on an extended journey to find Tuaca, which turns out is not available in just any old grocery store, or even three (booze is sold in food stores where I live), but required, finally, a visit to the liquor mega-mart in the suburb one over from mine.

Good thing, too. Because damn if that liquid panettone doesn’t taste like a beautiful thing in these little vanilla custards.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

My choice to drizzle olive oil over this smooth-as-silk custard concoction came about because I heard someone whisper “olive oil gelato” in my ear as I was falling asleep one night. No, not really.

I am enticed by the idea of olive oil gelato and will get around to making it soon. I just wanted to add a tiny bit more luscious mouthfeel.

I was sent some olive oil to sample from The Village Press, a New Zealand boutique producer. They have an innovative way of packaging their cold-pressed oil; it’s date-stamped and sealed both in a bag and a black box to protect it from light and oxidation. The oil is golden and tastes buttery and peppery, like an estate oil from Tuscany. It’s pretty special and I will be using this as a finishing oil while it lasts.

If you’re interested in trying Village Press estate oil it’s available at their Amazon store.

olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

You can use 8 espresso cups (3 - ounce capacity) if you have them. Otherwise bake the pots de creme in 6 (4-ounce) ramekins.

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon Tuaca liqueur or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean

Extra-virgin olive oil, the best you have

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place custard or espresso cups in a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold them so they don't touch . Bring a kettle full of water to a boil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.
  4. Very gradually, dribble the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking at the same time. Stir in the Tuaca or vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small, sharp knife; slide the dull edge of the knife along the bean to scrape out the seeds and add them to the bowl. Pour through a mesh strainer into a 3 or 4 cup measuring cup.
  5. Divide the custard among the cups and put the pan on middle oven rack; pour enough boiling water around the cups to come 2/3 of the way up the sides. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the edges are set and centers are a little quivery when you jiggle the cups.
  6. Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and cool on a rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Just before serving, drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over each pots de crème.

Notes

Based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/olive-oil-and-vanilla-pots-de-creme/

cream of roasted tomato soup

cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup

My resolution to make more soup slacked a little; I haven’t made soup since the egg drop soup I posted last month.

Well, I take that back; I did add some Chinese noodles to a bowl of hot chicken broth last week when my kids had a sore throat, but that’s about it. For a few seconds there I felt my own self heading toward the flu, and joined them on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket.

That down time felt good, and it worked too. I finally added Downton Abbey to my Netflix queue and got all caught up with the first season during a marathon session – something I hardly ever let myself do.

I’m not a great television person. It’s hard to sit passively for what seems to me like time wasted; I find myself thinking of lists to write, books I need to read and some random details of daily life I think I forgot to do.

Letting all that stuff go once in a while is obviously good for the soul. And how lucky for me that since I’ve missed the first 2 seasons of a show that every person I know seems to be talking about, I now have LOTS to catch up on.

Don’t tell me what happened during last week’s episode – I know there was enough drama to cause sobbing in front of the television, but I’m not there yet!

cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup-recipe

I made a batch of this creamy tomato soup and my kids and I finished it off when they came home from school. When I make it again, I will double the portions to have a little leftover for lunch the next day.

Instead of milk, I used fresh bread as a thickener; thinking of the creamy version of Campbell’s soup my mom would make for me.

cream of roasted tomato soup

Serving Size: makes 2 - 4 servings

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ large white or yellow onion, sliced

2 pounds small vine-ripened tomatoes, such as Campari, sliced in half

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste

½ teaspoon sugar

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

2 or 3 thick slices peasant-style bread, crusts trimmed

3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan

1 – 2 cups cup vegetable broth or water

Crostini, soft goat cheese or ricotta and chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme or basil)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a baking dish or pan that will hold the tomatoes snugly (I used a 14-inch cast iron skillet); scatter the onion evenly over the bottom.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up over the onion and sprinkle with the salt and sugar.
  4. Roast 20 minutes; then scatter the garlic over the tomatoes and roast for about 10 more minutes – the tomatoes and onion should be soft and golden and their juices bubbling. Season the tomatoes with the black pepper to taste and cool 10 or 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender or food processor. Tear the bread slices into small chunks and add to the tomatoes (one half at a time if blending in 2 batches) along with the cheese. Add enough broth or water to barely cover the tomatoes – it will depend on how juicy the tomatoes are after roasting.
  6. Puree until smooth, in batches if necessary, adding more bread and/or liquid to achieve a consistency you like. I prefer the soup with a little body rather than very brothy. Taste for seasoning. Spread the crostini with some goat cheese and sprinkle with herbs to and place one in each bowl of soup.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup/