Tag Archives: spaghetti

ASPARAGUS SOUP AND SPAGHETTI WITH PEAS

This last weekend turned out to be a good family gathering. Sarah drove from San Francisco with her two boys. We spent the days enjoying some of the attractions of Southern California even though it was cold and overcast. Sarah was disappointed that Bay Area weather followed her. The boys swam – shivering – in the unheated pool. There were walks along the seaside cliffs and among the yellow waves of flowering mustard. Everyone is on a diet. Mine is medically prescribed, Carol’s is more casual, and Sarah’s is a crash strict vegetarian regimen. For a few hours we were fairly conscientious. Our first evening’s meal was a green salad with shredded rotisserie chicken and various vegetable additions. Dessert was fruit salad, actually a mixed fruit and berry compote. On that I gained two pounds! What???

Dying eggs, filling Easter baskets, and trying out an antique Easter bunny chocolate mold that Sarah found in Petaluma were all subliminal messages to relax our diet ambitions…and so we did.

After dress-up church, Carol came home for a brief walk before she launched into preparation of a delicious feast that set back my weight-loss ambitions by several days. We enjoyed a Southern California evening with drinks and snacks on the patio. The weather had a change of heart that made it possible.. Then Carol began the cavalcade of food with tiny glass cups of chilled creamed asparagus soup topped off with a dollop of lemon cream and a bit of asparagus tip.  We sipped the delicious amuse bouche and watched for the green light as the sun dipped below the ocean horizon. As always, we did not see it.

Carol often makes a chilled mushroom soup that she serves as a first course, but because it’s spring and Easter, and because it is high season for asparagus, she changed her menu. The lemon cream was a good foil for the vegetal soup. In preparing the soup, the final step is to puree the soup mixture. Just be aware that a regular blender will not work. Carol used a Vita-Mix for several minutes to get the velvety texture. I guess you could also pass the mixture through a tamis, but that sounds like a lot of work to me.

Chilled asparagus soup with lemon cream

At Carol’s request, Sarah made “Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese and Duck Fat” from Rich Table, pages 129-131. The dish was a popular favorite when the restaurant first opened. It has been off the menu for a while, but it is featured in the cookbook. Sarah brought her own supply of fresh green peas and pea tendrils from San Francisco, but I am sure that Los Angeles peas would have worked. You can probably find your own pea tendrils in a little plastic clamshell at a store like Whole Foods. Who would think that green peas and spaghetti are a delicious combination? Clearly, goat cheese and duck fat contribute to  the rush of flavors, but the finished product is both beautiful and delicious.

Sarah heads to New York City after her visit here for the James Beard writing awards. The cookbook is a finalist for best cookbook in the restaurant and professional category. Good luck, Sarah.

Spaghetti with peas, lime, goat cheese, and duck fat

Add to that  a beautiful glazed Japanese-style ham with honey-glazed carrots and hard rolls and the feast was complete…

EXCEPT

You can’t have a feast like that without dessert. And so Carol made a three-layer spice cake filled with berries, topped with cream cheese frosting along with fresh blackberries. Ice cream on request. So long to any last remnants of a diet.

Spice cake with mixed fresh berries

But there’s always Monday.

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SLOW COOKER CHICKEN SPAGHETTI

Our stove is still unrepaired so I continue using my daughter’s slow cooker. I hope that she doesn’t ask for it back any time soon as we’re still uncertain about how much longer the stove will be out of commission.  The rotisserie chicken for Sunday dinner turned out well. I had done two chickens so there were lots of leftovers for us and for Carol. I tried to think of how I could use the chicken in some slow cooker recipe. Soup immediately came to mind, but it seemed too hot outside for soup. I couldn’t figure out how to make chicken pot pie or chicken and dumplings without a stove. Old-fashioned chicken spaghetti sounded like a good option. We ate chicken spaghetti at the East Texas farm for as far back as I can remember. The recipe was a treasure of Susan’s mother and included a generous amount of Velveeta. I suspect the original recipe came from a Velveeta box and that it has been copied onto 3 x 5 cards in many families. This is not the authentic recipe. I used sharp Cheddar instead of Velveeta. I also wound up cleaning out the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator along with using up all of the leftover chicken.  Since the leftover chicken had been topped with garlic butter, I did not add garlic, but you could if you like. The slow cooker was the perfect utensil for the project.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • leftover roasted chicken, bones and skin removed, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Sweat onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes with slow cooker set on High. Add pepper, celery, and optional garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes. Then add chicken stock and cook for 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Break the spaghetti into pieces that will fit into the slow cooker and stir into the pot. Cook for 20 minutes on High or until the spaghetti is just al dente.
  3. Reduce the heat to Low. Stir in the grated cheese until it is melted. Add the chicken and cook just long enough to warm it thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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BOGUS BOLOGNESE

I’ve been home alone for several days. Times like that call for lots of restaurant visits or eating out of cans and making a lot of popcorn. They are also times to toss together whatever leftovers there are in the refrigerator before it’s time to toss them out permanently. This recipe is inspired by that latter need. It turned out to be a fair approximation of the real thing, but I am certain that Marcella Hazan is looking down and howling with disdain. This recipe should serve one or two persons.

RECIPE

Bogus Spaghetti Bolognese

Bogus spaghetti Bolognese

Bogus spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 8 peeled “baby” carrots, cut crosswise in thin coins
  • 4 medium crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup packaged diced boneless ham
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1 cup mixed vegetable juice (V-8 or equivalent)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • good pinch of sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound of dry spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent but not browned. Stir in the celery and carrots. Sauté for another 5 minutes. Then stir in the mushroom and ham, continuing to cook until the mushrooms are soft.
  2. Stir in the milk and bring to a low boil. Cook until the milk has been almost completely reduced, but be careful not to burn. Stir in the vermouth and simmer until the wine has almost completely reduced.
  3. Stir in the tomato juice and tomatoes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the nutmeg and sugar. Simmer for another 15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and slightly falling apart. If needed, add more liquid.
  4. While the tomatoes are simmering, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook to al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. With tongs or a spaghetti tool, transfer the strands of cooked spaghetti directly into the sauce, mixing thoroughly until the ratio of sauce and pasta is to your taste.
  5. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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GARLIC SCAPE FRITTATA

The season has come – and probably gone – for garlic scapes at the farmers market. This is the time of year when the garlic growers trim the tops of their green garlic plants to force growth into the maturing bulbs. The tops have a wonderful curl as well as a pale head that will mature into tiny little garlics if you don’t cut it off. The head and the pointed stem above it are often woody, but the curly shoots below are tender with  a mild flavor of garlic. I usually chop them up and make them into a green garlic soup that seems perfect for a springtime lunch on the patio.

This year, I decided to try something different. I made a frittata of un-chopped scapes along with other ingredients from the farmers market including feta cheese from The Old Windmill Dairy. Along the way, I added some leftover spaghetti.

RECIPE

Garlic Scape Frittata

Ingredients

  • butter
  • about 1 pound garlic scapes (2 generous handfuls)
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 snacking-sized sweet peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 3 cups cooked spaghetti
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups cream or 1 cup cream and 1 cup whole milk
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Generously butter a 9-inch pie plate and set aside
  2. Wash the scapes; remove the heads and tops. Cut the remaining stalks into pieces that will fit easily into the pie plate
  3. Arrange half of the scapes, sliced mushrooms, and sliced peppers in the bottom of the buttered pie plate.
  4. Arrange half of the spaghetti on the vegetable bed and top with half of the crumbled feta.
  5. Top with the remaining spaghetti, and then the remaining scapes, mushrooms, peppers and feta cheese
  6. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until well mixed. Combine with the cream or cream and milk seasoned with grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the assembled pie.
  8. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 45 minutes or until the mixture is set and the top is lightly browned
  9. Cut into wedges and serve while still warm.

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MOM’S SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

We had a chance to help my son celebrate his birthday this year. I agreed to cook, and I wrestled with the menu. We often have steaks when we visit the family, and while they are not vegetarians, they do try to limit their meat intake. On top of that the girls are in the finicky stage of growing up so there are lots of foods they won’t eat, even with encouragement from their mom and dad.

That challenge made me think of spaghetti and meatballs. That way, if someone didn’t want meat – for whatever reason – he or she could forego the meatballs. Similarly, if the girls wanted only plain pasta, that would work, too. I thought of my mother’s homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs. I guess the sauce could be called a marinara, but to me it is much richer than marinaras at restaurants or in stores. Mom learned to make the sauce at my father’s pleading when we were living in a basement apartment within a compound of a big Italian family. I remember Mom going upstairs to take daily cooking lessons – there was always a pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove – until she thought that she had mastered the recipe. Over the years, she and I have cut corners (no longer fresh tomatoes, carrots, etc.), but I think the recipe is still a good one.

The meatballs are another matter. I am not particularly fond of most meatballs. They are usually dry and not, IMHO, very flavorful. I think this recipe has cracked the code, and the recipe makes enough for lots of leftovers. After the birthday party in Silicon Valley, I brought some sauce and meatballs back to San Francisco so that my daughter and son-in-law could have a midnight snack when they got back home on the late flight from New York City. There was nothing left in the morning but the dirty dishes.

RECIPES

Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, trimmed and mashed
  • 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 cremino mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • juice of ½ fresh lemon
  • more salt and pepper as needed

Method

  1. Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil and stir in the onions. Cover to sweat the onions until they are soft and translucent. Be careful not to let them brown.
  2. Add the garlic and stir for another minute or so, being careful not to brown the garlic.
  3. Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth and red wine. Bring to the boil and then reduce to the simmer.
  4. Cook, covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add water if the sauce become too thick.
  5. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and herb seasoning. Simmer for another hour, uncovered, stirring and adding water as needed.
  6. Add the sugar and lemon.
  7. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Add the browned meatballs (see below)  and simmer for another hour or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot according to your taste)
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (about) fresh bread crumbs

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, and eggs. Use your hands (freshly washed of course) to mix the ingredients thoroughly
  2. Mix in the herb seasoning, salt, and pepper . Make sure they are thoroughly combined
  3. Stir in the bread crumbs. Hold back a few to make sure the mixture is not too dry. Then add them if needed. Add more bread crumbs if the mixture is still too moist.
  4. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes so that the bread crumbs absorb moisture from the eggs. Then roll a bit of the mixture – slightly larger than a golf ball –  between your palms until it forms a round, smooth meatball. Repeat the process until you have used up all of the meat mixture. You should be able to make about two dozen meatballs
  5. Working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet. When all of the meatballs are browned, add them to the spaghetti sauce and cook everything over medium low heat for another hour.
  6. Serve over cooked spaghetti or other pasta of your choice with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

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