Lobster Spaghetti

There are so many things that I could write right now. I know that you do not want to read any of them. In the world of Facebook and Twitter and other social networks not yet explored by yours truly, you have no doubt been exposed to everyone in the world’s good wishes for next year, good riddance to last year (except for a very few who had a good year) and what, where and how you should live your life for the foreseeable future. I only offer you this: live well, love yourself and everything else will come your way. Bon Appetit!

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Lobster Tails (3-6 Oz)
  • 8 oz Spaghetti (1/2 pack)
  • 1 Stick Butter (It’s New Years!)
  • 2 Lemons, zested
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Large Shallot, finely chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
  • 1 Tablespoon Brandy
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Large Pot
  • Large Saute Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grater
  • Oven Proof (Pyrex) Pan
  1. Pre Heat oven to 350.
  2. Wash and pat dry the lobster tails.
  3. Salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon and place a sliver of butter on top of each tail.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup white wine in the bottom of the pan.
  5. Put water for pasta on to boil.
  6. Bake lobsters for about 15 minutes. You want them to be red but not overcooked.
  7. Remove and let cool to the touch.
  8. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute pan.
  9. Add shallots and gently sauté.
  10. When water is boiling salt and add pasta. Cook until al dente.
  11. Add the rest of the wine to the sauté pan.
  12. Let reduce by about a third.
  13. Add most of the chives, lemon zest, tarragon and the rest of the butter and simmer.
  14. Remove the lobster tails from their shells, reserving the liquid.
  15. Chop lobster into bite sized pieces and pour the left over liquid into the pan.
  16. Add the lobster to the pan and cook for a minute or two.
  17. Remove from flame and add brandy.
  18. Drain pasta and mix into the sauce.
  19. Add the rest of the chives and serve.
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Lemon Pasta with Caviar

I have gone back through the 364 posts and would like to share a few highlights with you.

First of all, I am very upset about the news that Beyonce has signed a deal with Pepsi Co. for 50 million dollars. Since it is reported that she already has 300 million, I am not feeling that she needs the money and the message that she is sending to the young girls that look up to her is now quite confused. Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and this is especially true in minority neighborhoods. Here is part of a piece from Jan. 3:

We have a serious health issue in childhood obesity. There was an article in the LA Times recently outlining the disparity between an affluent beach community and a Latino community.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-obesity-gap-20111228,0,6940998.story

While parental nutrition plays a major role in keeping our children healthy, I’m sure that the children of Manhattan Beach are not staying slim by drinking their mother’s diet soda. The jury is still out on whether Aspartame (the sweetener used in most diet drinks) is safe, but regardless of whether it is “safe” your children should not be drinking it. I’m pretty sure neither should you. Substituting one bad habit for another is never a great solution.

The eating and drinking habits established early in life are very hard to reverse. Hats off to all of the school systems that have eliminated sugary drinks from vending machines. We are moving in the right direction. Please be vigilant about eliminating ALL of the sugary drinks around your house. They are empty calories and cause a myriad of health issues.

My early thoughts on vegetarianism:

I have become somewhat of a weekday vegetarian. Like many, I have been influenced by “Knifes over Forks” and the overwhelming evidence that is out there about the benefits of a plant based, whole food diet. If you are not yet considering changes in your eating lifestyle you might enjoy Mark Bittman’s Ted Talk as food for thought:

http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bittman_on_what_s_wrong_with_what_we_eat.html

On Shopping:

Shopping with me at the supermarket can be an interesting experience. The first thing that one would notice is that I never go into the center isles (unless it’s for beer). There is nothing eatable between the toilet paper and the light bulbs. All of the fresh food is on the parameter. So, that means that I don’t go into the frozen food, cans, bread, or any of the other profit centers that specialize in packaged, processed food. There hasn’t been a reason to by frozen food since the 60′s.

On Protein:

We live in a country driven by supply and demand. The reason that there are so many cows being raised the way they now is not because some big corporation said so; it’s because we as consumers are demanding more and more meat, chicken and pork. This is not sustainable, healthy or necessary. You do not need to eat meat products, period! Protein is not meat. It is a nutrient that is in almost all foods. Vegans who eat no meat products at all do not lack this essential nutrient in their diet. In fact, the average American eats far more than the needed amount of protein to maintain a healthy, growing body. If you want to read more, check out the best food writer on the internet, Marion Nestle. http://www.foodpolitics.com/2012/01/peevish-about-protein/

And on Government:

Another article in The Los Angeles Times today was about the Food Stamp program and how states are starting to try to regulate the types of food that can be purchased. Already one cannot buy alcohol, tobacco or “hot food”. Both of these topics bring to light the same quandary. Do you want  government involved in food? I welcome protection from mad cow disease, e.coli, botulism and a whole other host of risks associated with malfeasance on the part of greedy, or at least sloppy, suppliers of our food. I want my tax dollars used to keep tabs on and make laws about the safety of the food I feed my children.

And that was just highlights from January. I hope you enjoyed reading my rants, opinions and references to others in the food movement. I have tried to be fair and informative without just stating opinions that were not backed up with at least a modicum of research. There are so many events and actions regarding our food that it is hard to keep up. I hope you found my underlining of some of the issues useful. I feel that it is important to keep as well informed as possible on these subjects. Our food is at stake which means that our lives are at stake. It is no small matter.

I wish you a prosperous new year. There will be something here but not a recipe a day. The transition will be announced soon. I hope you come back. Tomorrow will be my last recipe.

Today, I give you an idea that originated from Ida Garten. This is a dish very similar to the one she enjoys on New Years Eve in Paris (the lucky gal).

Ingredients

  • 1 Package of Dried Fettuccini (16oz)
  • 1/2 Cup Meyer Lemon Juice
  • Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • Handful Fresh Chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • As Much Black Caviar as you can afford

Tools

  • Large Sauce Pan
  • Large Saute Pan
  • Fine Grater
  • Measuring Cup
  • Hand Juicer
  • Whisk
  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
  2. When boiling, add salt then pasta and cook as long as package indicates, or until al dente.
  3. Zest two lemons. The meyer lemon skin is thinner than a regular lemon and therefore produces less zest.
  4. Squeeze 1/4 cup juice, careful not to include any seeds.
  5. Whisk in olive oil. Taste to make sure it has the right acidity. The lemons will vary and might require more or less oil.
  6. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the olive oil/lemon mixture and cheese to it and stir together. Turn off flame.
  7. When the pasta is done, strain into sauté pan.
  8. Toss with a little pepper, lemon zest and the chives.
  9. Serve in bowls with a dollop of caviar on each. If you can find it, try the American Paddlefish roe. Only your wallet will know the difference.

Whipped Cream

Tonight starts the preparations for Thanksgiving. My son comes home from college tomorrow officially marking the beginning of the holiday week. My wife calls it the twelve days of Thanksgiving. I thought I would ease you in with something that you will surely need.

You may think that I have lost my mind giving you a recipe for whipped cream, but contrary to popular belief whipped cream does not come in a can or, worse yet, a tub. The process actually involves cream and, wait for it, you actually whip it. Here is exactly how.

6-8 Servings (Dollop each on top of your choice)

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)

Tools

  • Stand Mixer with Wire Whip or
  • Hand Mixer with Glass or Pottery Bowl
  1. Chill the bowl. This is the most important step. If you are having to use a hand mixer make sure that you are using a bowl that can get cold. Copper or Aluminum would be great, but a glass or ceramic bowl will work as well. Plastic is not so great.
  2. Add the cream and beat on high for about one minute or until you have soft peeks. Do not over beat or you will end up with butter.
  3. Add the grand mariner and beat for another 10 seconds or so. You can add sugar instead but I would not recommend it. I would rather just have whipped cream plain. Bourbon is also a nice add, depending on the final goal.

Welcome to the holidays. Enjoy every moment and walk a lot in between meals. You won’t burn many calories but you will feel better about sitting down to your next meal.

Butternut Squash and Chestnut Pasta

I have been attacked by a few right wing nut jobs who claim some conspiracy about the lack of help being doled out on the east coast after the recent hurricane that struck. Disasters earn their name and this one is no different. Regardless of people sitting on their duffs hundreds of miles from the action, the people at the site still need help. The various government organizations are all doing what they can and the NGOs are as well. The power and heat and housing are problems that are horrible but are not something that most of us can do anything about. Food is quite another issue.

Before the hurricane, the food banks in these areas were already stressed. The economic collapse on top of the already serious problem of homelessness and the working poor overwhelmed an underfunded system. If you want to make a difference you can do two things: you can give to the Red Cross, which is the most effective NGO on the ground there, and you can give to your food bank. If you happen to live in NY or NJ then your efforts will help those directly effected. If not, your effort will help your local food bank which is always a good idea.

If you roast a whole squash you will not use it all for this recipe. Reserve it for other dishes.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Roasted Butternut Squash
  • 1 Cup Roasted Chestnuts (See recipe)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shitake Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4  Lb. Pancetta, diced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • Stick of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 lb. Bow Tie Pasta
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Sage, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Tools

  • Oven Proof Pan
  • Large Pot for pasta
  • Large Sauté Pan
  • Sauce Pan
  • Grater
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Pre heat oven to 425.
  2. Peel and chop the squash into cubes.
  3. Place squash into ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper.
  4. Put squash in oven with chestnuts. They both take about 30 minutes to roast.
  5. Let both cool.
  6. Put a big pot of water on to boil.
  7. In the sauté pan heat a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon).
  8. Sauté the pancetta until slightly crispy.
  9. Add two tablespoons of the butter and let melt.
  10. Add garlic and mushrooms to the pan.
  11. The water should be boiling. Salt liberally at this point.
  12. Add the pasta and stir occasionally.
  13. In a separate sauce pan, warm the cream, the rest of the butter and gorgonzola. Let melt but not boil.
  14. Add the chestnuts and squash to the mushroom mixture.
  15. Stir in the cream mixture.
  16. The pasta should be cooked. Strain and add to sauce.
  17. Toss with grated parmesan (to taste).

 

 

 

Orecchetti with Rapini and Sausage

I have a long list of recipes for the approaching holidays but I will spare you the sugar and spice for a few more days. The weather is cool and sometimes cold in Southern California right now and heartiness has returned to the kitchen. The fall vegetables are so meaty and sumptuous that I cannot resist big platters full of dark greens, squash, potatoes, carrots and the like. Filling meats, slow cooked and penetrating the house with the smell of years gone by ease the strain and tension of everyday life. Even when life is a struggle, a warm hearth and full glass make things tolerable. If you lock the doors and embrace your family, even the hardest of times can actually become enjoyable.

This is Sunday and this afternoon my lovely wife returns from a brief trip to New York. I can’t wait. Our ever dynamic family will be small this evening but our hearts and bellies will be filled with love and comforting goodness. I may make a version of this pasta tonight. I have made this many times and have had many variations at restaurants including one last night that reminded me of this classic. I have written about rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, and I love it. My old friend Michael was wild for it and whenever we would find a restaurant that had it, he would return over and over to enjoy the oddly bitter and hearty vegetable. This reminds me of him, God rest his soul.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Orecchetti or other shaped pasta
  • 1 Bunch Rapini, finely chopped, removing the large stems (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Spicy Italian Sausages, removed from the casing
  • 1 Cup Pecorino Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Large Pot for pasta
  • Large Sauté Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Grater
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Remove the sausages from their casing and crumble into fine pieces into the pan with a little olive oil.
  3. Cook sausages until brown and completely cooked (if previously uncooked). If you can’t find spicy sausages add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  4. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon.
  5. The water should be boiling. Salt it well then add the pasta, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and the rapini. Add salt and pepper.
  7. Cook rapini until it is wilted and bright green. About 10 minutes.
  8. Add the sausage back to the rapini and the pecorino.
  9. Turn the heat off and drizzle with more good olive oil and toss.
  10. The pasta should be done. Combine with the sauce.
  11. Serve with another drizzle of olive oil and a generous grating of parmesan.

Nothing In The Cupboard Pasta

In my book, I encourage people to take a brief inventory before going to the store. Have a look in the cupboard, the fridge, under the bed and in the trunk of the car before you head to Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery. My wife has never heeded this advice. Currently, we have 5 tubs of cream cheese and 4 jars of olives. Until yesterday we had 6 cartons of Half and Half, and she is the only one that uses it. However, there are a few staples that I feel you can never have enough of.

I don’t like to indulge in expensive ingredients unless it’s a special occasion. I make a few exceptions. Parmesan cheese is one of them. Whenever possible, I buy a big hunk of really, really good parmesan. We use it often and I have never had it go bad; it doesn’t hang around that long. I also buy good butter, really good olive oil and, when I use it, really good Italian cured meats. These things do not have to be expensive; they just need to be well sourced. We have an amazing meat shop near us in New York that has the very best prosciutto and it’s not expensive at all. In fact, the prosciutto at Whole Foods is twice the price and half as good. Keep your eyes peeled for good sources and keep plenty of your favorites on hand.

 

This recipe is all about making a quick and easy meal when you have virtually nothing in the cupboard. Since I always keep dried pasta, butter, olive oil and really good parmesan on hand, I can always eat. I hope you do the same.

Serves One

Ingredients

  • Handful of Penne or whatever you have
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter and or Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and Pepper

 

 

Tools

  • Large Pan or Pot
  • Grater

 

  1. Boil enough water to cook the pasta.
  2. Salt the water once it is boiling.
  3. Drop a large handful of pasta and stir occasionally until al dente.
  4. Drain and place in bowl.
  5. Melt the butter and/or drizzle with olive oil and grate the parmesan and toss.
  6. Pepper liberally and have with a simple salad.

Variations can include a little Italian parsley chopped on top, some red chili flakes or some oregano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penne With Sausage and Fennel

I still love a steaming hot dog from a street vendor or a beer and a brat at Oktoberfest. But there is more to sausage than the “tube steak” that we loved as kids. The ground, seasoned and cased meat is inexpensive, nutritious and has endless possibilities in the kitchen.

Today I offer up a quick and inexpensive pasta. It is power packed with flavor and nutrition. Once you learn to make this you can apply the techniques to a wealth of creative variations.

Keep an eye out for sausages sold individually. This usually means that they are made on the premises and therefore don’t have anything that you can’t pronounce in them. Sausages should only have ground meat and spices. Make sure you always ask if they are locally made, what’s in them and if they are pre-cooked. When they are not at the meat counter, sausages often come 5 or 6 to a package. This is not the end of the world. You can cook them all and refrigerate the unused ones for later. I have been known to snack on one right out of the fridge. You can also freeze them.

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 Sweet or Spicy Sausages
  • 1 Fennel Bulb
  • 1 Red, Orange or Yellow Pepper
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Slices of Pancetta
  • Penne Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • Heavy Cream (or Half and Half)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Parsley (optional)

Tools

  • Slotted Spoon or Tongs
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Chopping Board
  • Large Pot
  • Sauté Pan
  • Grater
  1. Dice the pancetta into ¼ inch cubes. I have seen pancetta that comes already diced. This is only a good choice if it is inexpensive. Pancetta is usually sold by weight and you can request as much or as little as you need.
  2. Mince the garlic.
  3. Chop the pepper into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Clean and chop the fennel, removing the tough core and the top. Reserve a few of the fronds (those wispy, green things sticking off the top).
  5. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a good size pan.
  6. While the pan is heating, fill a 4-5 quart pot with enough water (about 5 cups) to cook a couple of handfuls of pasta. Set the heat to high.
  7. In the saucepan, add the sausages. Brown them on all sides.
  8. After they are browned add a splash of water and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Cooking sausages takes some getting used to because the length of time needed will depend on the size and ingredients. When in doubt, cut into the middle of one. Turkey or pork sausages should not be pink.
  9. Set them aside to cool.
  10. 10. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine. The idea is to get the stuck bits from the sausages dislodged.
  11. 11. Add a little more olive oil and the pancetta. Cook until slightly crispy. Keep it moving so it doesn’t stick.
  12. 12. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic.
  13. 13. Once this becomes fragrant add the vegetables and stir occasionally.
  14. 14. Cut the sausages into bit sized pieces. Add those back to the pan.
  15. 15. The water should be boiling by now. Liberally salt it and add a couple of handfuls of penne pasta. The great thing about dried pasta is that it keeps and you can cook just as much as you are going to eat. Stir the pasta occasionally.
  16. 16. The sauce should take about the same amount of time as the pasta, about 10-12 minutes.
  17. 17. Turn the heat off of the sauce and add a good splash of heavy cream. You can use half and half if you don’t want to bother with the cream.
  18. 18. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon or tongs and add it to the sauce. You might also want a splash or two of the pasta water if the concoction doesn’t seem “saucy” enough.

Serve in a bowl with grated parmesan (not the green can, please) and some chopped Italian parsley.