Thursday, June 28, 2007

spring garlic and dill pesto

dill pesto

There comes a time, in every pantry’s life, when you have to manage your resources. It’s almost shameful to be a cook and let your food spoil. KS, at heart, is a functional, practical, resource-allocating cook. I, on the other hand, have my head in the clouds, dreaming of dinners in the afternoon and compiling a mental check list of food stuffs to pick up en route home. It mostly works out well, as we balance each other out, me with my flights of fancy, and him with a practical approach to our crisper. The Swiss chard, among other vegetables thanks him for it.

But sometimes, I too exhibit practical, creative thoughts when it comes to resource management with our perishables. I look at our ingredients in need of attention et voilà, a dish is born. This time, I think I did quite well – not to pat myself on the back!

little bowties

From my farmers market trip on Saturday, our fridge still held among other things, half a bunch of dill, some green onions and the spring garlic that I simply cannot get enough of. The spring garlic came with long, exotic looking greens that looked beautiful enough to use as flowers in a large vase, if only I didn’t have plans for them of the kitchen variety. I stared at these ingredients long enough to realize I had half a cup of pine nuts sitting around. And suddenly it all came together – a dill pesto with green onions and spring garlic greens!

verdant

Growing up, I used to joke that if my mother could make cupcakes out of dill, she would. Of course, that which we mock when we’re young comes to afflict us when we grow up. Surely enough, I am as much of a dill fanatic, if not more so, than my mother, and I bet she’s having the last laugh now. The pesto, a summery twist on a classic, came out beautifully, with a delicate summer flavor and a pungent garlic bite that gave the perfect dressing for our bow-tie pasta, which, I am ashamed to admit; we bought, and did not make. And I am certain that as I ate my bow-ties by the spoonfuls, I heard the pasta machine whimper in the pantry.

Continue reading spring garlic and dill pesto.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

thousand layer lasagna

mille feuille - with pasta

Sometime I lunge head first into a recipe without really considering what the process will entail. I’ll all but skim the ingredients list, look at the picture, consult my flippant cravings and then jump in. Most of the time it’s worked fine for me, but at times, I find myself in the middle of something not quite what I expected. And then the only thing to do is just soldier on.

When I read about this thousand-layer lasagna, I was instantly hooked. Layers and layers of almost translucent pasta, delicate in texture, yet intensely flavored. How could I possibly resist? I saw pictures on Heidi’s site, and then Deb wrote about it, and I knew it was a matter of time before I would succumb to the delicate pasta call.

It helped that our pasta machine wasn’t getting much use lately and we were feeling like we have to justify its purchase somehow. I was going on and on about how I wanted a mandoline and KS gently reminded me that before we buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment, we had to use the ones we had. I couldn’t really argue with him, practical boy that he is.

And so while he and his friend played tennis one afternoon, I got to work. I rolled my dough and let it sit. And that’s when I decided to read the instructions more carefully. Boy, was I in for a challenge. Not so much a process challenge, but a space challenge. You know how New York kitchens are, and if you’re not a New Yorker, I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Tiny spaces lacking counterspace, they are not friendly places for laying out layers and layers of pasta, and that’s what you kind of have to do. Heidi’s warning was well-noted – I did need all the counter space I could get my hands on, and then some. I laid out fresh kitchen towels everywhere the eye could see.

perhaps it needed more sauce and cheese

I rolled and rolled until the sheets were so thin, they were almost torn, going to 8, but not quite to 9. And then into the boiling bath they went, and then into the cold bath, and finally to the towels to rest. It. Was. A. Process. While not technically challenging, it took awhile. And it was very step intensive. But I was in the middle of it and when a recipe and I start playing chicken, I always win.

The layering part was the easiest and most fun. I will change things a bit next time though. I will use thin sheets of cheese instead of chunks as they tend to melt better and prettier that way. And secondly, I would love to do this with a nice, thick Bolognese sauce. But in the end, it was incredible. Everything I wanted and imagined this lasagna to be. Each square was like a savory mille-feuille, layer upon layer of pasta with tomato sauce and cheese. Undoubtedly to be made again. And again. And again. A thousand times over.

Continue reading thousand layer lasagna.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

watermelon sorbet

watermelon sorbet

When I get an idea in my head, I might as well drop everything and just get it out of my system, or else. If I am craving mango, suddenly a dozen mango-centric recipes pop in my head. If I’m sugar-deprived, I think of making cookies, and it makes the work day unbearable, because as much as I love what I do, I would much rather hide in the kitchen measuring out flour and softening butter. In fact, I often find myself midday, thinking of what I want to cook and strangely, it motivates me to get all my work done on time, so that I could rush home and make that meal.

Last week, I’ve found myself watermelon-obsessed, and while, it’s not the fruit that is in season in June, I don’t care, because I find that when it is in season, either the weather has cooled off considerably, or I’ve gotten used to the heat. Besides, being on a David Lebovitz kick, armed with a dangerous book that is being held responsible for expanding waistlines and wide grins across the globe, I found a recipe for watermelon sorbet and it was pretty much all I could talk about it until I made it.

so good - even without chocolate pieces

And afterwards, it was still pretty much all I could talk about. Only this time I was talking about how delicious it was. Incredibly enough, it tasted so much like fresh watermelon (imagine that!), but it had a bit more sweetness and was colder! I know, it sounds crazy to be amazed that when you make food from scratch, it actually tastes like the food you used to make it. I guess it’s sad how we’ve arrived to this point in our consumption – when we think it a luxury to find something that’s a derivative, resembling its underlying ingredient!

In any case, I made a few slight changes with David’s recipe. I confess being a bit too lazy and lacking ample time, so I didn’t bother with picking out the seeds. I also omitted the chocolate because, while the aesthetic of it pleased and intrigued me, I didn’t want to taste chocolate with my watermelon. I guess it was the purist in me, but I wanted the sheer simplicity of the fruit – nothing else. Finally, I didn’t do much straining and in the end, am glad to have done so. I liked tasting the little watermelon fibers with each bite – it made me think of the actual fruit that much more.

I loved the taste of it. LOVED it. But of course, in my doubting fashion, wondered if it should be tarter. KS, who generously volunteered to consume the great majority of the batch, said that it was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I should feel free to make more. Soon.

I suppose I should feel better about myself having made a fat-free frozen treat. With minimal sugar, this was almost like biting into the watermelon itself. I wonder how long I’ll last before I start dipping into the French custards – that’s really the only problem with David’s book – I cannot decide which ice cream to make next, and equipped only with once ice cream maker at home, this might be a difficult conundrum facing me in the next few days. Oh decisions, decisions!

Continue reading watermelon sorbet.