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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spinach, chicken and pasta al forno

One day just last week when the high temperature was hovering around 19 degrees, I heard birds singing outside my window, sounding so cheerfully oblivious to the words “Polar” and  “Vortex.” I figured they knew something I didn’t. It picked up my mood to think that despite what’s going on with the weather, spring IS going to happen, come hell or high water. And yes, there will be high water after the snow pack melts, but let’s try not to worry about that right now.

We are starting to thaw. However, there’s still enough of a chill in my house that cooking things in the oven seems like a good idea. I usually roast a chicken at least once a week, throughout the year and into the summer when instead of heating up the house the bird goes outside on the grill.

The whole bird is usually eaten in one sitting in our family, but this time we had leftovers. My kids don’t go near cold roast chicken, but – HA! – they do when it’s baked into this creamy, cheesy mixture I told my son was Pasta Pot Pie. Just for the record, he didn’t go for it (he’s 13, and still suspicious of any green vegetable that isn’t broccoli or green beans), but my daughter was all over it. [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…]