December 10, 2015 · 10:18 am
Our daughter, Carol, has been visiting us for a few days without her family. For her it has been a relaxing time with no chauffeuring duties to swimming, school meetings, the morning school rush, and cooking. She has been doing some work from her office, but she has also found time to sleep a little late, to shop, and to eat out.
Carol has her own big library of cookbooks, but it is different from my collection, so she has spent time leafing through some of my newer acquisitions. She also enjoys working in the kitchen with Susan and me, and we enjoy that, too. We agreed to cook together on a recipe that appealed to her. She found a recipe in Flour + Water (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2014), the eponymous cookbook from the San Francisco restaurant owned by Thomas McNaughton, a friend of Sarah and Evan.
The recipe she chose was entitled, “Corzetti with Sausage, Clams, and Fennel”, page 186. It involved making pasta – which sounded like fun. The challenge was to re-create the corzetti. Oretta Zanini de Vita (Encyclopedia of Pasta, translated by Maureen B. Fant, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009) describes the pasta dating back to the thirteenth century and consisting of a bit of pasta dough with two thumb indentations to resemble an “8”. That shape was apparently for commoners because by the Renaissance the pasta was often pressed with special wooden stamps that included coats of arms and other designs. These days you can buy corzetti stamps on the Internet. They are designed to cut the pasta into circles with an imprint on both sides. The little devices are often made of exotic woods and quite beautiful. Trouble is, you have to make a lot of corzetti to justify the purchase as the stamps run $60 or more.
We made do with what I had: a 1½ inch ring from my nest of pastry cutters and a wooden mold that I use for butter and springerle cookies. Carol and I wound up imprinting only one side of the pasta, but that was effort enough for two cooks. The finished pasta, though, cooked beautifully, and the sauce was delicious. It all turned out to be a perfect meal with a nice Italian red, a tossed salad, and a fresh baguette. Pistachio gelatto finished it off. This recipe should serve four generously.
Note: Fennel “pollen” is a common ingredient on the West Coast as wild fennel grows prolifically along the roadsides from south of Big Sur to north of the Bay Area. The yellow “pollen” (I think it is actually the flowers and seeds) is often foraged by chefs from the Bay Area. Ground toasted fennel seeds will make an adequate substitute.
Make a flour well
Eggs and egg yolks added to the flour well
Kneading the pasta dough
Atlas pasta machine at the ready
Sheet of pasta
Nest of pastry cutters
Pasta sheet cut into circles
Wooden butter/springerle mold
Pasta circles stamped with the wooden mold
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- Heap the flour in the middle of a large, flat, clean surface. Form a well in the middle. Add the salt
- Add the eggs, egg yolks, and olive oil to the well, and with a fork, combine the eggs and oil, being careful not to incorporate any of the flour. When the eggs are combined, gradually pull bits of the flour into the mixture until it is completely incorporated. Sprinkle in a few drops of water if you cannot incorporate all of the flour.
- Draw the mixture into a ball. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny. Add a few more drops of water if necessary. Wrap with plastic film and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- When you are ready to roll out the pasta, cut the dough in fourths, working with one piece at a time and rewrapping the remaining pieces.
- Pat the piece of dough into a flattened, elongated piece and run it through the pasta machine rollers at the widest setting. Fold in thirds and run through the rollers once more. Repeat the process one more time. Then run the dough through the rollers, decreasing the setting by steps until you have reached the thickness you desire. (Different machines will have different settings.) You shouldn’t need to flour the dough, but if it is too sticky, lightly dust it while you roll it out.
- Place the rolled dough under a clean kitchen towel while you roll out the remaining pieces of dough.
- With a 1½ inch circular pastry cutter, cut the sheets of pasta. Then, using a stamp of the same diameter, press firmly on each dough circle to form an imprint. Separate the imprinted circles from the remaining dough (Save that for some other use.) and let rest until you are ready to boil it.
Sausage and Clam Sauce
- 3 pounds Little Neck clams
- 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for sautéing the sausage
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 2 cups + ½ cup white wine
- 8 ounces bulk pork sausage
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon fennel pollen (if you can’t harvest your own fennel pollen, dry-toast fennel seeds and grind finely in a spice grinder. Substitute ½ teaspoon of the ground fennel
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- juice of ½ lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon snipped chives
- grated Romano cheese (optional)
- Scrub the clams and let them stand in cold water in a colander for a few minutes to give up their sand. Drain.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a high flame. Stir in the shallot and cook until translucent. Add the sliced garlic, 2 cups of white wine, and the washed clams. Cover and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Remove the clams and continue to boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Cool the liquid completely.
- Remove the clams from their shells and return to the cooled liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Wipe the sauté pan clean and return to high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Then stir in the sausage and brown on all sides, breaking it up as you cook it. Stir in the red onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the fennel and minced garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic is lightly browned (Do not burn!). Add ½ cup of white wine and boil until it has almost completely evaporated.
- Add the chicken stock, the clams, and their cooking liquid. Bring to the simmer.
The finished dish
Served with a crisp baguette, butter, and an optional grating of Romano
- Cook the pasta by adding it to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Be careful not to overcook.
- Drain the pasta and add to the sausage and clam sauce. Simmer the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Divide the pasta and sauce between four plates, top with parsley and chives, and serve immediately. Top with optional grated Romano cheese.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants
Tagged as Carol, clams, corzetti, Evan, fennel, fennel pollen, Flour+Water, San Francisco, Sarah Rich, sausage, Thomas McNaughton
September 8, 2014 · 10:02 am
Zucchini season, and the bounty keeps rolling in. We do not have any squash plants in our garden patch, but there is an abundance at the farmers market and from our neighbors. It is a common situation. Many folks this time of year are experiencing zucchini burn-out. Squash blossoms are delicious, but they require immediate attention to maintain their freshness. Sautéed squash begins to get a bit boring, and so the search of the web and a shelf of cookbooks begins. Deborah Madison, the Santa Fe-based vegetarian cookbook author has numerous suggestions in her collections. I especially recommend her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, New York) and The Savory Way (Broadway Books, New York) for all sorts of suggestions.
One of my favorite ways to cook zucchini is to grate it with a box grater, sauté it along with some scallions and sliced mushrooms in olive oil, drain any excess oil, stir in some sour cream and fresh lemon juice, and serve. So simple that no recipe is needed
Today, though, I am going to write about stuffed zucchini. The first time I ever had a stuffed squash was years ago at the home of a colleague from Greece who stuffed the tender fruits with feta, Cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. This version is a little more complicated but still not difficult.
Zucchini with flesh and seeds removed
Zucchini stuffed with sausage mixture
Sausage stuffing topped with tomato slices
Stuffed zucchini topped with grated Swiss cheese and dotted with butter
Out of the oven
Ready to eat
- 3 firm, medium zucchini (make certain they are not too big)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- 4 medium crimini mushrooms, washed and chopped
- ½ pound bulk breakfast sausage (mild or hot, your preference)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup almond flour (use all-purpose flour if you prefer)
- 1 egg, beaten slightly
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly (or enough to cover the zucchini)
- ½ pound Swiss cheese, grated
- cooking spray
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon or sharp paring knife, hollow out the squash with about ¼ inch of a rim remaining. Try not to pierce the skin of the squash.
- In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent but not browned. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, and cook until they give up their liquid and the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the sausage, breaking it up with a cooking spoon so that it is completely crumbled.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the cream cheese so it is completely incorporated. Stir in the almond flour and egg. Set aside until you are ready to stuff the zucchini.
- Choose a baking pan that is large enough to hold all of the squash, or use two dishes, and spray generously with baking spray.
- Arrange the zucchini in the pan, and spray them lightly with baking spray.
- Fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the sausage mixture.
- Top with tomato slices seasoned with more salt and pepper, and cover with the grated Swiss cheese.
- Dot with butter, and bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350° F for 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the zucchini is tender.
- Serve immediately.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as almond flour, baked stuffed tomatoes, Broadway Books, Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, Deborah Madison, mushrooms, olive oil, sausage, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, yellow onion, zucchini
November 22, 2011 · 3:20 pm
Thanksgiving for nearly every American family is a special holiday where grandparents, parents, children and often more distant relatives and friends gather around a bounteous table to share fellowship and a delicious traditional meal. The meal has become almost ritual, and each family table is filled with particular foods that absolutely must be there. There is usually the roasted turkey, although in recent years more and more families are substituting roast beef, ham or some other protein. Then there are mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with miniature marshmallows on top, dressing or stuffing as the case may be, gravy, cranberry relish, and green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup and canned fried onion rings. All of this is followed with both pumpkin and pecan pie with lots of whipped cream. (How can one possibly choose – so of course you need “a little sliver” of both!)
One of our family traditions is creamed onions. No one eats them, but the whole family complains if the onions are not on the table. What nobody complains about is the bread dressing. The recipe came from Susan’s aunt who used to visit the family around Thanksgiving-time and always brought good food and new recipes from Delaware. Her dressing has been an all-time hit so that we always double and usually triple the recipe to have plenty to eat with leftover turkey the next day. I suspect that she got her recipe out of a newspaper or magazine, because I have seen a lot of similar though not identical recipes since then. Still, this is a family heirloom which has to be made exactly the same every year.
Our family Thanksgivings have been both days of joy and family happiness (There are three birthdays in November) as well as days of sadness when one of the clan has been diagnosed with a serious illness or when a loved one is no longer at the table. The day can also be one of discouragement for the cook or cooks who have been baking and preparing for days ahead. They often arise before dawn on the big day to put the finishing touches on the meal. Hours of hard work, sweat over a hot stove, and attention to details all seem to be for nothing when everyone sits down, only to have the meal disappear in a few minutes. That’s so folks won’t miss a minute of the football games on television or conversations around the fire. Mountains of dishes still have to be done by the kitchen crew.
Cubed French bread
Crumbled corn bread
This year we are doing things differently. We will be going to the dining room of a local hotel where they will serve a traditional turkey dinner ending with a huge buffet of desserts. When everyone has eaten his or her fill, the leftovers get packaged up to take home for the next day. No hot work in the kitchen and no dishes to clean up. Everyone seems happy including the usual cooks.
Ready to eat
Still, we will miss AA’s all-time best bread dressing. We might even make some beforehand to make sure we have it on Friday.
AA’s All-Time Best Bread Dressing
5 Cups cubed French bread
5 Cups crumbled cornbread
1/2 Cup butter
3/4 Cup minced onion
1/2 Cup minced green pepper
1/2 Cup minced celery
1 chicken bouillon cube
2/3 Cup hot water
1/2 pound bulk sausage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3/4 Cup chopped pecans
- The day before, cut French bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread them out to dry overnight. In a separate pan, crumble the cornbread and spread it to dry overnight.
- In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onion, green pepper, and celery in the butter until tender.
- Place the bread cubes and crumbled corn bread in a very large container. Dissolve the bouillon cube in the hot water and sprinkle over the dried breads. Stir in the sautéed vegetables.
- Using the same skillet, saute the sausage until browned and finely divided. Set aside.
- Add the salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, eggs, and pecans to the crumb mixture. Stir in the sausage and pan drippings and mix well.
- Bake in a large greased pan, covered, at 325 for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.
Yield: Enough for 6 to 8 with no leftovers