Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After a long break - another Last Supper: #19 Mario Batali

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Four months until Christmas and I already have one thing on my list. Melanie Dunea is publishing a sequel to My Last Supper. A few years ago, my boss gave me a copy for Christmas which inspired me to start Project Last Supper. Sadly, it went by the wayside. But recently, my husband asked me what ever happened to my little pet project. An innocent question turned into my new personal challenge: bring life back to project last supper... and maybe, just maybe, start a sequel when the new book comes out.

I flipped though my notes from what I'd done and what chefs I had left. Could it be that I had neglected to prepare the last supper of Mario Batali?? His wish list numbered 8 items - I chose 3 to make it a reasonable meal. I did his very own recipe for mozzarella en carozza, his grilled lobster with limoncello vinaigrette and this one: Flat pasta with shrimp and zucchini. It's as pretty as it is tasty. I took advantage of the season and used yellow zucchini from my local farmer's market and purple basil from my own yard. Add the green of the basil in the pasta and the gorgeous pink shrimp and this dish is a beauty.

We'll see if I can keep making progress. If I do, perhaps a copy of Dunea's new book should be my reward (smile!)



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Flat pasta with shrimp and zucchini
Adapted from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali

DOUGH
2 bunches basil
4 cups cake flour
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

CONDIMENT
Salt
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick half-moons (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cups dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound rock shrimp, or medium shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper


MAKE THE DOUGH
Bring a pot of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice cubes and water. Blanch the basil in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then refresh in the ice water. Drain and chop finely; you should have 1/4 cup. Make a mound of the flour, then make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well, pour the milk over and add the basil. Using a fork, stir the egg mixture slowly into the four ingredients to form a wet dough. Add the grated cheese and, working now with your hands, bring the dough together and knead for 8 to 10 minutes to form a smooth dough. Allow to rest for 15 minutes covered with plastic wrap.

Set up a pasta rolling machine and cut off a piece of pasta dough the size of a tennis ball. Roll the pasta through the rollers on the widest setting, then fold it in thirds and run it through again on the same setting. Repeat this three times, being careful to add very little flour, as it will dry out the pasta. Run the pasta through the next two thinner settings. It should be quite thick.

Lay a sheet of pasta onto a floured cutting board and use a knife to cut crosswise into 1/3-inch strips. Lay the cut noodles on a kitchen towel and cover with another towel. Roll and cut the remaining pasta the same way.

MAKE THE CONDIMENT
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat 6 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic over medium heat until the garlic is light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini pieces and cook until just soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, wine and butter, then bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and remove from the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender, yet al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain and toss into the pan with the shrimp and cook over high heat until the shrimp are just done, about 1 minute, and pasta and sauce are well combined. Add the parsley and toss in the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil. Pour into a heated bowl and serve with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rizogalo: Greek rice pudding

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I love Greek food, so I was naturally excited when our new team intern at the office instituted a monthly international lunch and the theme for the inaugural event was Greek. The concept was simple: each month we'd designate a cuisine and everyone would bring in a dish representative of that cuisine to share for a team lunch. I immediately thought of about a dozen dishes, but then cold, stark reality set in. See, many of my teammates do not share my willingness to try just about anything you set in front of me (cross off grilled baby octopus salad). In fact, we have 2 vegetarians (cross off chicken souvlaki), and some other limitations as well. Plus, the lunch was on a Friday and I had a late meeting the evening before...
Oh and perhaps the most limiting: the only means of heating food in the office is a MICROWAVE!?!

I mean, come on, spanikopita in a microwave? (Somebody's little Greek grandmother just turned over in her grave at the very mention of it.)

So I needed something new... something I could make with ingredients I already had, in a limited amount of time and that would not need reheating... Thus, my quest led me to Rizogalo, or Greek rice pudding. I made a modified version of a recipe I found on Food for the Thoughtless. I scanned the ingredients and yes, I had all of them!

I don't really like rice pudding - or at least I thought I didn't, but this is GOOD. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon and a few toasted almonds. Delish!

The lunch was a hit - we had stuffed grape leaves, lots of hummus, a couple of Greek salads, olives, cheeses... and rice pudding for dessert!

Next month we've chosen Italian... So we'll have to see what I come up with for that one... In the meantime, give this a whirl and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Rizogalo: Greek rice pudidng

Ingredients:
4 ½ cups whole milk
3/4 cups arborio rice
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more to taste)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Cinnamon  and toasted almonds for garnish

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, then let simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add rice and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently (think of it as a very loose risotto– you want to release the rice starch).

Temper the egg yolks with some of the hot milk, then add the yolk/milk mixture to the simmering rice. Stir in sugar. Continue to cook, stirring frequently (almost constantly) until you can draw a line in the custardy sauce on the back of a wooden spoon.  Add Vanilla extract. If you like your rice pudding loose and very creamy, stop cooking now. If you like it firmer and drier, continue to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Pour out into a large bowl to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, garnish with cinnamon and toasted almonds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime and Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy

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My little eclair has gone mobile. No, no cell phone yet - not that kind of mobile. She started crawling (and is quickly bumping and bruising her way to walking). So when did this all begin? Oh, round about the time of my last post. (Moms reading this post are smiling right now with a note of recognition.) So instead of cooking and blogging, I've been chasing - and what fun it is. I simply adore that little tush crawling around the house - right through anything in her way.

It's taken awhile, but we're adjusting. Cabinets are locked, gates abound. She recently discovered that the handle on the oven makes a fabulous monkey bar. (Off I went to Babies R Us for an oven lock). But the kitchen's heating up as everything else settles down.

As is usually the case at this time of year in the Northeast, lobster prices are right about the same level as deli meat. So we had our share of steamed lobster and then I ventured out to try a few new recipes... This one is pretty simple to prepare and tastes great. We added more cayenne and salt and I switched the original shitake mushrooms to oyster mushrooms (hubby hates shitakes). The original calls for 6 lobsters, but I cut it down to two and kept the broth proportions about the same - that likely accounts for the lack of saltiness...

Ah and word to the wise - the veg stock used here is made from fennel, celery and onion with parsley and thyme. So don't think you can skate through with store bought stock...

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime and Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy
adapted from Fresh from the Market by Laurent Tourondel



2 live lobsters, 2 pounds each
1/2 cup Chablis or another dry white wine
3 cups Vegetable Stock (see below)
6-8 oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger
11/2 tablespoons ginger juice (see below)
6 baby bok choy
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Zest of 2 limes
Pinch of cayenne pepper

To make the ginger juice, grate a 5-inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger onto a piece of cheese cloth, then squeeze the juice into a small dish.

Vegetable stock
1 onion, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bunch parsley stems
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Directions
Combine the onion, celery, fennel, thyme, parsley stems, and peppercorns in a medium pot along with 2 tablespoons water and place over medium heat. Sweat the vegetables just until they begin to wilt, making sure they do not develop any color. Add 6 cups of cold water and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the top as necessary with a ladle or spoon.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl set over a bowl of ice water to cool. Discard the solids. Once the stock has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or several weeks in the freezer.


Prepare the broth
Holding the lobster body in 1 hand and the tail in the other hand, twist the lobster until the body and tail separate. Repeat with the remaining lobster. Using the back of a chef’s knife, crack the claws off the lobster bodies just below the knuckles. Reserve the bodies for making lobster stock or freeze them for another use.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lobster claws and cook until the shells become bright red and the claw meat is just barely cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer the claws to a bowl of ice water.

Once cool, remove the claw meat from the shells.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the lobster tails in half lengthwise and discard any intestines that may be clinging to the tail.

Leave the meat in the shells. Bring the Chablis to boil in a large saucepan. Add the lobster tails, flesh side down, and the vegetable stock. Cover and cook until the lobster meat is just barely cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the tails from the broth.
Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the broth into a clean medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add the shitake mushrooms, ginger, and ginger juice to the broth and simmer until the ginger is soft, about 3 minutes. Strain the broth again through a fine-mesh strainer and into a large saucepan, reserving the mushrooms and ginger.

Finish the broth
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Immediately transfer the bok choy to a bowl of ice water and allow to cool.

Using an immersion blender, blend the cold butter into the strained broth until emulsified.

Return the reserved mushrooms and ginger, lobster claw meat, and blanched bok choy to the broth along with the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and cayenne and continue to cook over low heat for 2 minutes.

To serve
Divide the lobster tails among 6 large shallow bowls. Arrange the claw meat and 1 bok choy over each lobster tail. Spoon the sauce and vegetables over the lobster tails and claws and serve.
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