Friday, August 31, 2007

Pantry pasta: linguine with garlic and olive oil

If I could only eat one type of food it would definitely be pasta. I love all shapes and textures and the endless variety of sauces from basic to sophisticated. My favorite pasta of all time is the simplest: linguine with olive oil and garlic. It’s pantry pasta: it can be whipped up in a few minutes with ingredients you probably already have on hand. It’s great for dinner and the leftovers are also delicious cold the next day (or the next several days!). The only tricky thing about my favorite recipe, which is from Cook's Illustrated, is watching the garlic. Cook it for too long and you have unpleasant burnt garlic. Under-cook it and you have garlic that’s too strong and raw. The trick is to stand at the stove watching it while it cooks and remove it as soon as it starts to turn golden, remembering that it will continue to cook for a little bit once you remove it from the heat. My cookbook is dog-eared and splattered with olive oil on this recipe's page as I have made it so many times.

Spaghetti (or linguine which I prefer) with Garlic and Olive Oil from Cook's Illustrated's The Best Recipe

The garlic is quickly and easily pureed with a garlic press. Alternatively, you can mince it with a chef’s knife, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and continue to mince to a paste, but be sure to reduce the amount of salt cooked with the oil and garlic to 1/2 teaspoon. Diluting the garlic with a bit of water before sautéing ensures a mild, even garlic flavor and helps to prevent burning. Although not a pantry item, parsley adds a fresh herbal flavor and should be used if you have some on hand. If you like, cook 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste) along with the garlic and oil.

Serves 4

4 medium cloves garlic , peeled, processed through garlic press, and mixed with 1 teaspoon water (see note)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)
Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil, garlic, optional pepper flakes, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic turns golden but not brown, about 5 minutes; remove pan from heat.

2. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid, drain pasta and return to pot. Add garlic mixture, reserved pasta cooking liquid, and optional parsley; toss well to coat. Adjust seasoning with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moist and marbled coffee cake

I love a good coffee cake. And to be honest, I’m not really that picky. I’ll take most anything you throw my way. I love all varieties: the crumble-on-the-top kind, the gooey-on-the-inside kind, the cake-y kind. Lately, I’ve followed a reliable recipe for a very-moist-chocolate-coffee-swirl on the inside kind. It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s simple and fairly quick and is made in a bundt pan that always makes cakes taste better. And then there’s that very pleasing swirl on the inside . . . I think this recipe would be fun in individual mini bundt pans too.

Aunt Patty's coffee cake (from Martha Stewart Living)

For the filling:

3 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ teaspoons instant coffee granules
4 ½ teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

For the batter:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Make the filling: stir together sugar, coffee and cocoa powder in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Butter a 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Dust with flour, and tap out excess. Make the batter: whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream. Add vanilla, and mix 1 minute.

3. Spread one-third of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half the filling. Spread another third of the batter on top, followed by the remaining filling. Spread remaining batter over top. Run a thin knife through batter to marbleize.

4. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 38 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a plate

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Roadside burritos

What’s better than an unexpected roadside find on a road trip? R and I spent time in the Hudson River Valley this summer. We tried to take advantage of as much of the local farms, farmer’s markets and culinary fare (much by graduates of the local Culinary Institute of America) as we could. This involved multiple trips to “pick your own” at Greig Farm and Mead Orchards in Red Hook (near Rhinebeck). On our way to pick peaches, we happened upon a vegetarian burrito stand in a trailer on the side of the road adjacent to the Montgomery Place farm market (9G & 199). Toasted tortillas stuffed with fresh vegetables, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Were we just really hungry or were these the freshest, most flavorful burritos we have ever had? We will admit the kitschy cute stand only enhanced the experience. A quick Google search revealed that the owners split their time between the Red Hook roadside stand and their café in Mexico (and that we are not the only fans). Definitely worth a stop if you are driving through the area.

Bubby's Burritos
4283 9G
Red Hook, NY 12572