Crunchy Rigatoni with Rosemary, Garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano

RECIPE: Crunchy Rigatoni with Rosemary, Garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano
Crunchy Rigatoni with Rosemary

Crunchy Rigatoni with Rosemary

You know when there’s no food in the house? You’re working all the time and didn’t get a chance to go grocery shopping. Here in London, supermarkets are only open for a handful of hours, which I, being from New York, have forgotten every weekend since moving here 51 weekends ago.

Instead of going hungry this week, I did what all the TV chefs tell me to do: dive into that “well-stocked” pantry of mine. I recommend the challenge. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, only you get to eat the puzzle at the end.

Found: pasta, breadcrumbs, almonds, garlic, Parmesan, and rosemary, which grows on my windowsill.

I blitzed together the crumbs, garlic, rosemary, Parmesan, and almonds, with a bit of butter and toasted them in a pan. Together, they made this dry, crisp, super-fragrant delicious thing. I set them aside, and boiled up the rigatoni, reserving some pasta water after draining for an old French cooking school trick: a sauce called monté au beurre. Just put a cup of pasta water, full of salt and starch, back in the pan over high heat, and whisk in some cold butter. It creates a light, but milky, sauce, which perfectly contrasting the dryness of those crumbs.

Then it was time to toss the rigatoni into the light butter sauce and top with the crumbs and a bit of extra Parm (of course) and torn rosemary leaves.

Talk about a Frankenstein creation. But it is so good, different, and proof that unless you’re one of those people who keep only mustard in their fridge (which I totally get, by the way), it’s always possible to cobble together something great.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Crunchy Rigatoni with Rosemary, Garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano
serves 2 to 4

Crunchy Rigatoni with RosemaryINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably fresh
  • 1 clove garlic
  • The leaves from 1 stem of rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 pound rigatoni

PROCEDURE

In the food processor, blitz together the breadcrumbs, garlic, rosemary, almonds, Parmigiano Reggiano, and salt and pepper until everything is equally combined.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter, and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed into the crumbs (just don’t over blitz it, or it will turn into a ball).  Place the mixture in a sauté pan over medium heat, and toast, stirring often, until the crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni according to package directions in a bit pot of salted water.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking water before draining the al dente pasta.  Add the water back to the empty pasta pot, and bring to a simmer.  Cube the remaining cold butter, and whisk it in a little at a time, to create a milky emulsion.  Immediately take off the heat once all the butter is incorporated.  Stir in the rigatoni and season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a serving bowl, and top with the breadcrumb mixture, extra Parmigiano Reggiano, and torn rosemary leaves.

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Amazing Creamy, Crispy Fennel Gratin Dauphinoise

RECIPE: Amazing Fennel Gratin
Fennel Gratin Dauphinoise 2

Fennel Gratin Dauphinoise

I have not forgotten the first time I, as a six year old vegetarian, stuffed my first bite of potato gratin Dauphinoise into my mouth at La Duchesse Anne near Woodstock, New York.  So memorable was the occasion, that I continued ordering the side dish as a main course for the next twenty-three years.  But now that I know how to cook for myself, and it’s been almost twenty-five years, I thought it might be time to brush up the old classic and give it a bit of edge.

This is not a hard dish–not nearly as hard to get right as the original potato version.  But it’s different, and I like that.  Instead of potatoes, start with anise-scented, crisp, bright fennel, thinly sliced.  Heat that briefly in cream thinned slightly with water, and cover under a snug blanket of breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, and herbs.  Bake until the fennel is soft and mellow, the cream is bubbling, and the topping is a crispy crust.

Fresh from the oven, this dish is not as heavy as the original scalloped potato.  Light, complex, still comforting.  I can only describe it as delightful.  The perfect side next to a grilled steak, or, in my childhood fashion, as the main event accompanied by a fresh green salad.

Fennel Gratin Tray

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app! Continue reading

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Sesame Seared Tuna with Soy Lime Noodles and Veggies for Two

RECIPE: Sesame Seared Tuna with Soy Lime Noodles and Veggies
Sesame Tuna with Soy Lime Noodles

Sesame Tuna with Soy Lime Noodles

This is quickly winning over the coveted place in my heart for Best Dinner for Two.  It has all the criteria: Superman speed, phenomenal taste, and it’s pretty guiltless.

Just buy some good tuna and coat it with sesame seeds (I use a combination of white and black because I have them on-hand, but use either, or you could even omit them).  Give it a quick sear in the pan, followed by a bunch of asparagus.  My supermarket sells ready-cooked Asian egg noodles in the produce section.  I just toss them with some soy sauce, some lime juice, and some water–so light and savory and refreshing–along with the asparagus, chopped green onion, and fresh cilantro.  Then, the tuna is placed on top, the crowning glory–pink on the inside and crisp from sesame coating.

It’s take-out done right, in less time, for less money, and for a lot fewer calories.  Mr. English and I took it outside to soak up the last of the London summer.  This is a once-a-week meal; it just hits the spot.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Sesame Seared Tuna with Soy Lime Noodles and Veggies
serves 2

Sesame Tuna with Soy Lime NoodlesINGREDIENTS

  • 2 4- to 5-ounce tuna steaks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Oil for searing
  • 1 12-ounce bunch of asparagus, trimmed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 14-ounce pack of cooked egg noodles
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1-ounce small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

PROCEDURE

Pat the tune dry with paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Pour the sesame seeds onto a wide plate, and coat the tuna on both sides with the seeds.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the tuna one minute on each side for medium doneness (30 seconds each side for rare, 90 seconds to 2 minutes per side for well done).  Remove the tuna and set aside.  Add the asparagus to the pan and cook just until charred, about 3 minutes.  Just before removing the asparagus, add any sesame seeds from the plate that didn’t stick to the tuna to the pan to toast.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the soy sauce, water, and lime juice.  Add the noodles, scallions, cilantro, and asparagus and toasted sesame seeds, and toss to combine.  Plate the noodles.  Cut each tuna steak in half, and perch on the noodles.  Serve!

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Crisp Haricots Verts Salad with Fresh Tomatoes and Garlic for a Meatless Monday

RECIPE: Crisp Haricots Verts Salad with Fresh Tomatoes and Garlic
Haricots Verts, Tomato, and Garlic Salad

Haricots Verts, Tomato, and Garlic Salad

My Mémé, my grandmother, makes the most amazing green beans.  In France, traditionally, vegetables are “well done”–soft, supple.  And Mémé’s green beans are the same–stewed with garlic and tomatoes à la Provençal until the green beans start to split at the seams and collapse into their own juices.  They are glorious.
But last weekend in London, the sun was blazing and the heat was soaring.  I wanted a summer version of Mémé’s classic that wouldn’t turn my kitchen into one of the inner circles of Hell.  I quickly blanched some skinny haricots verts so they were crisp and still vibrantly, verdantly green.  As they drained, I singed some finely sliced garlic in olive oil, and quickly blitzed some sweet tomatoes to a rubble.  I tossed the haricots verts with the now garlicky oil, and topped them with the fresh tomatoes.  It was perfectly light, refreshing, and still decidedly punchy.  All I needed was a hunk of bread, and I was good to go.  My version of Mémé’s perfect green beans.  I wonder how she’ll take it…

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Happy Meatless Monday! Continue reading

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Easy Killer Swedish Meatballs and Smashed Potatoes with Gravy for Two

RECIPE: Easy Killer Swedish Meatballs with Smashed Potatoes and Gravy
Easy Killer Swedish Meatballs with Smashed Potatoes and Gravy

Easy Killer Swedish Meatballs with Smashed Potatoes and Gravy

Mr. English and I are still in what I call the Ikea phase of our lives—style without heavy investment—and we celebrate our home improvements with full Swedish meatball dinners whenever we hit the shop. Yes, I often do break down and buy the huge sack of frozen meatballs, but I thought there had to be a fresher and almost as easy way of making killer Swedish meatballs. And there is!

The secret is to buy sausage: good, sweet pork sausage. It’s already full of flavor and seasoning, so to make the perfect Swedish meatball, all you have to do is take it out of its casing, mash it up with some breadcrumbs, milk, and a pinch of nutmeg or allspice, and roll it into little balls. Forget about filling meatballs with herbs, onions, garlic, and all that. It’s already in the sausage!

All I do is brown the meatballs in a pot, pour over a slug of beef broth (I used the concentrate stuff you stir into hot water from the pantry) and a glug of sour cream. I just smash up some potatoes, and pour these creamy, meaty little babies over them. They are light, coated in that thick tangy gravy, with that Scandinavian zip of the warmth of allspice. You can serve it with some Ikea Lingonberry jam if you’ve got it.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday! Continue reading

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Whole Roast Trout Dinner with Potatoes and Asparagus for Two

RECIPE: One-Tray Roast Trout with Potatoes, Asparagus, and Herbs
Whole Roast Trout with Potatoes and Asparagus

Whole Roast Trout with Potatoes and Asparagus

In the summer, my family always grills whole fish stuffed with lemons and herbs until they’re charred and smoky and flaky and perfect. We serve them along with asparagus that’s crisped on the corner of the grill, and some boiled potatoes or corn. It’s my family’s version of the perfect summer barbecue, light but hearty, and just so happy and comforting.

Back at work in London, I wanted to find a way to recreate the summer grilled fish magic for me and Mr. English. My oven-roasted version is the ultimate easy weeknight feast stand-in. I stuff two whole rainbow trout with olive oil, huge bundles of mossy lemon thyme, and windowpanes of sliced lemon. I roast them on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with a mess of baby new potatoes and asparagus. Just leave them all together in the oven for 25 minutes and come back to crisp potatoes, charred asparagus, and juicy, flaky, herbaceous trout.

Two nights ago, as Mr. English sat down at the table, I put a plate with a whole fish and a garden of vegetables in front of him. He told me to bring my plate and he’d split it with me. When I told him it was all his and that I had my own, he was disarmingly thrilled. It’s a feast full of healthy, easy, fast, and hearty flavor. Continue reading

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Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou for a Meatless Monday

RECIPE: Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou
Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou

Fresh Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou

In the south of France, everything is tagliatelle. I will never forget the first time I had this dish: June, a handful of years ago, outside at a table tucked away down a side alley in the little seaside town of Cassis. A breeze billowing through a humble tablecloth. The sky still lit, but casting only shadows. We had been travelling all day. I wanted something authentic, Provençal, but still familiar.

Out came a tangle of soft, flat pasta, wafting the scent of garlic like a cloud, flavored with smashed basil, oozing Parmesan, and the sweet, chewy tang of the plethora of Provençal sun-dried tomatoes that makes Provençal pistou what it is, and so different from the pestos we’ve come to know. It was humble and simple, but representative of the place where everything is tangled in garlic and tomatoes and herbs. For me, this dish is forever summer in Provence.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Happy Meatless Monday!

Tagliatelle with Provençal Red Pistou
serves 4 to 6

Tagliatelle with Provençal Red PistouINGREDIENTS

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 20 sundried tomatoes (a full half cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound fresh tagliatelle

PROCEDURE

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While the water is heating, make the pistou.  Add the garlic to the food processor, and blitz it to smithereens.  Add the basil, sundried tomato, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Blitz in the food processor until you have the consistency of a pesto, scraping down the sides of the bowl once to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Salt the boiling water, and cook the tagliatelle for just about 4 minutes, until just cooked.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.  Toss the tagliatelle with the pistou, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian