Friday Night Pasta

I spent a very frustrating day Friday, during which I was wrestling unsuccessfully with the idiosyncrasies of iTunes on my Mac — attempting to transfer a Playlist and the accompanying 290 songs to my new iPhone.  By 7:00 PM I was fed up, so I retreated to the kitchen to make dinner.  Barbara was out the the evening, so I went to my comfort food — pasta.

Unsure of where I was going, I started by gathering ingredients I wanted or needed to use, and began to cook.

  • partially used package of spaghetti — take out 130 gm.
  • red onion, garlic, and leek — sliced into small chunks
  • less than 1 cup of leftover, cooked Rancho Gordo Vallarta beans
  • 8 medium sized white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. truffle/mushroom sauce in a jar (from Eataly)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
  • 1/2 tsp. hot chili flakes, from a Small-Farm dried hot pepper (seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 chunk of Marsalino Pecorino with Truffles, for grating on the cooked pasta

Things came together pretty quickly:

  1. bring large pot full of water to a boil, add Kosher salt, then add pasta, cooing until just al dente, reserving up to one cup of pasta water.
  2. sauté leek and onion in olive oil, then add garlic and hot pepper when vegetables are tender, cook another 4-5 minutes, add Vallarta beans and heat through, then set asside
  3. in another skillet add more olive oil, and sauté mushrooms until medium brown in color.  add white wine, then boil it off, adding salt and pepper when mostly evaporated.
  4. combine mushrooms with onion mixture, then add cooked spaghetti to the skillet.
  5. finish the spaghetti sauce with the addition of the basil and truffle/mushroom sauce,  followed by the pasta water
  6. serve in pasta bowl, adding the grated cheese and 1-2 Tbs. of a fruity Sicilian olive oil

The wine was a 2012 Ancarani Centisimino, from Jan D’Amore’s marvelous portfolio.  The earthiness and warm fruit were a superb complement for the onion-mushroom-bean sauce.  By the end of the meal, I was smiling again, so I called Jan to thank him and at least share the photos with him.

Best of all, I was invigorated enough to schedule a 1/2 hour with a very effective Apple representative (very much better than the one I spoke to in the afternoon), and we solved my iTunes problem.  Thank you, James.

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Inventing New Pasta Dishes

This has been an interesting food month so far.  We still are getting late summer vegetables from Small Farm, including excellent tomatoes and corn.  It’s also a time I go exploring in the city for wine, cheese, bread, fresh pasta, and specialty items.

There are two newly-created pasta dishes I wanted to share with you.  Tonight I made a Baked Fettuccine with Tomatoes, Lentils, Burratina, and Gaeta Black Olives.  Somehow, the texture of the lentils, the sweetness of the tomato sauce, and the contrasts of the cheeses and olives worked beautifully.  The fresh tomato fettuccine from Monica’s pasta shop on Richmond Street in Boston’s North End was also excellent, as was the Burratina imported from Puglia by that same shop.

The second pasta dish was inspired by a recent purchase of littleneck clams.  I had not been attracted to these wonderful bi-valves for several months, which is probably good, but now it was time again to enjoy them.  I called the dish Clams and Pasta in the Style of the Amalfi Coast, although I might be hard-pressed to document that title’s authenticity.  Anyway, I love the region, its food and wines, so that’s what I will call it.

The final dish I wanted to tell you about was a salad: Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Tomatoes.  I wanted to do something with Black-Eyed Peas.  I had some lovely dried Portuguese black-eyed peas that I bought along with terrific Chickpeas at a local Portuguese grocer, so here was my chance.  On a recent Sunday afternoon I cooked the beans.  While they were in process, a little online research produced a good-looking recipe, so I used that as a model and adapted it to what I had available.  Here’s the recipe online:

I had no fennel, but most everything else, including top-notch farm-fresh tomatoes, dill, and good Greek Feta cheese.  I also had some sweet red peppers I had previously roasted and peeled, so I added them in to the dish.  Color and flavor were all I could hope for, and I got 2 or 3 lunches out of the effort.  If I recall correctly, a 2017 Muscadet Les Houx was an effective pairing.

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Farmers Markets, Whole Grain Rye Levain, Bulgarian Cheese, and Italian Wine

Two weekends ago I was able to delight in fresh vegetables from nearby sustainable farms, bake some fresh breads, and drink favorite wines from Italy.  What could be better than that?

Here is some of my haul from the farmers:

Yellow Zucchine, white turnip, and rare red eggplant (Melanzane Rosse di Rotonda)

For bread I made two loaves of  my Whole Grain Rye Levain.  This went beautifully underneath slices of Kashkaval, a sheep’s milk Bulgarian cheese.  The wine is a Calabrian red, Savuto by Odoardi.

Since I had extra levain to play with, I decided to experiment with a sourdough flatbread a day later.  Man, it was sour!  The sheep cheese smoothed it out a little, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Andrea Fendi did a nice job. as well.

Pan-Grilled Sourdough Flatbread with Kashkaval


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Food Conversations with My Body

Some days I wake up with the knowledge that today will not be all vegan or vegetarian.  Fortunately, my body and I have a good relationship after all these years.  Therefore, we have conversations like this:

” How do you feel about a little prosciutto today?”

“Is it the good stuff?”

“Yes, you know me.  Barbara bought a small number of slices from the ends of the prosciutto, but it’s from Parma; none of that domestic product.”

“OK, just keep the quantities small.”

“I think the twinge I felt in my side yesterday was a response to a surfeit of beets recently; am I reading that right?”

“Very likely”

“Great.  I’m planning to make Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Fresh Tomato Sauce.  The tomatoes are from Karl & Elena’s Small-Farm, and they are terrific.  The recipe calls for cooking the prosciutto slowly in 8 Tbs. of butter.  Do you think you can manage if I cut it back to 3 Tbs.?”

“That will work.”

“Cool.  I will make my own fresh Fettuccine.  My master recipe now is 200 gm. flour, 2 eggs, salt, and a little olive oil.  To make it interesting, I am using 135 gm. of Double-Zero flour and I just milled 65 gm. of Triticale for texture and sweetness.  I’ll show you the photos later.  Thanks.”


I rarely eat meat now, and I almost never cook prosciutto when I do eat it.  However, this particular recipe from Cucina Rustica has been one of my favorites for more than 25 years.  It’s a classical example of simple and great Italian cooking: a small number of excellent ingredients plus simple, straightforward preparation.

My old friend, Atlas, for handmade pasta

Fettuccine, from 65% “00” flour and 35% Triticale

trimming prosciutto into small pieces

Peeled, chopped, and drained farm-fresh tomatoes

Pasta in the bowl

Since I can easily imagine the pasta as a dish from Emiglia-Romagna, I chose the wine from that same region, Tollara — a Malvasia di Candia, from importer Nick Mucci.  It was perfect.

I had the time on Sunday, so I steamed some beets, and I also prepared a large version of a baked vegetable dish for Monday’s meals.  The dish is called Tourlou apparently in Turkey, and it is a version of Briam in Greece.

Tourlou Tourlou


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Quick Lunch from Components

When our son was a teenager, he was always hungry (as are most teenagers).   He would stride into the kitchen, day or night, and shuffle the contents around, looking for quick meals (cold pizza, leftover mac ‘n cheese, burgers, etc.).  Usually, he came away empty handed or partially-disappointed.  One day he announced in frustration: “there’s nothing in here but ingredients“, as he stormed out of the kitchen.

That was 20 years ago, and now that he is an accomplished chef, things have changed with him (on rare occasions when he comes home).  The refrigerator, however, is much the same.  The contents are still ingredients, with a fair supply of leftovers as well.  Today I had 25 minutes to make a lunch, and I decided to do something creative with what I could find.  There were a variety of ingredients — some raw, some prepared — plus leftovers I could strip to make an ad hoc salad.  I think I will rename these food elements “components“, since you can configure them flexibly in a variety of ways to make a meal.

Here’s today’s salad concoction:

  • one small raw parsnip, already peeled (and not very crunchy anymore).  I cut it into fine julienne strips.
  • one leftover grilled Portabello mushroom, with roasted Napa Cabbage pieces and garlic slivers on top.  I cut this into 1/2″ cubes.
  • one slice of leftover eggplant in saor, marinated in cooked onions and vinegar, Venetian-style.  This was chopped up and added to the salad bowl.
  • one tablespoon of “sofrito” base for pasta sauce or soup, made from finely-diced onion, carrot, celery, and tomato
  • 3 tablespoons of roasted and peeled, green Hatch (NM) roasted chile peppers.  Usually these come from a can, but Whole Foods had some fresh ones, so several days earlier, I had roasted them on the grill, peeled and chopped them, and covered with olive oil.
  • 2 tablespoons of a Spanish tomato-garlic-cumin vinaigrette I made the previous night
  • olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper

Spanish tomato-garlic-cumin vinaigrette

Quick Lunch from “Components”

This unlikely mélange turned out to be a tasty, healthy, and easy lunch.  Even the parsnip pieces tasted good.

No wine today for lunch.  Had an appointment in the afternoon, so no time for the old-man-with-wine-at lunch nap.




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Short, Sweet, and Delicious…

That describes tonight’s post.  Barbara was inspired and made what is probably the best meal of the summer tonight, a Layered Vegetable Casserole.  I held myself back after only 3 servings (not wanting to overdo it…).

Here’s her hand-written recipe.  One of these days I will re-type it so it’s clearer and less ambiguous, but for now, it’s good exercise for our readers to make the dish as described.

Baked in the oven and then finished briefly under the broiler, it was tender, crispy, fragrant, and sensuous.

The wine was an unusual but very appropriate choice, a 2015 Sachino from the country of Georgia.  It’s a smooth, medium-bodied blend of Saperavi and Rkatsiteli grapes, the first is red, the second, white.  I know relatively little about Georgian wines, except that their wine history is probably the oldest in the world, their indigenous grapes are amazing, and they often age their wines in qvevri — earthenware vessels used for fermentation, ageing, and storage of wines.  This is not a qvervi wine, but it is inexpensive, easy to drink and goes with a wide variety of summer dishes.  It comes from the Kakheti region.

If you are curious and want to know more, Alice Feiring has written an excellent book about Georgia, the culture, the people, and the remarkable wines: For the Love of Wine.  I recommend it highly.

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Ever since I read two articles about the longevity and healthy eating on the Greek isle of Ikaria, I have been attracted to their style of life and food.  Over the last six years, I’ve made several of those vegetarian dishes, and I always enjoyed them.  On Sunday I tried another one — Soufico — from the book Country Cooking of Greece, by Diane Kochilas.  Her description of the dish is below the photo of her book.


Soufico is really an ideal dish for this time of year.  The bounty of fabulous fresh vegetables at local farm stands is all around us.  I made a small version of the recipe, for just the two of us.  Here is the recipe, followed by the photos, including the eggplant which was our own, from a plant we keep on the deck.

Waterlogue version of the Ingredients

I removed the peppers after cooking them with the stew; I then add them to my plate, since Barbara can’t eat them.

For wine, I had the last glass from the 2014 Odoardi Savuto, which was opened a few days before, when I made a richly-flavored Penne Pasta with Italian Summer Vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onion, leek, tomato, capers and peppers) for myself:



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