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Friday
Mar072008

Penne with Salmon in Vodka Sauce


I think I've reached the cracking point. The high for the next couple of days here is still only going to be in the twenties.  This has been the longest, coldest, snowiest (we broke a record in February for snow) winter. Then Cookiecrumb over at I'm Mad and I Eat had the nerve to post a picture of a daffodil blooming in her yard. That really did me in. My back yard, on the other hand, looks like this:


  


So last night I cooked a friend a birthday dinner.  I knew she liked pasta and salmon, so this was a perfect dish for her.  We started off, however, with these:




Limoncello cocktails.  Simply a shot of limoncello, topped off with champagne (actually, we used an Italian Prosecco) and a slice of lemon.  No ice, because you keep the limoncello in the freezer and ice would only dilute the drink.

Penne with Salmon in Vodka Sauce
serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 15 oz can pureed or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 salmon fillets, chopped
  • chopped dill
  • fresh thyme
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
Instructions:
Boil pasta in salted water until al dente.  
While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.  Saute shallot in olive oil in skillet.  Add tomatoes and vodka and cook for 2 minutes.  Add chicken broth and herbs.  Add salmon and gently cook for five minutes.  Stir in cream.   Add cooked pasta to skillet and coat with sauce.



 

Thursday
Mar062008

Stuffed Peppers


I love stuffing vegetables. I love to stuff tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. When you bake peppers like this, you can make a stuffing out of a lot of things - a rice pilaf, risotto, any kind of tiny pasta or even quinoa. These are stuffed with Israeli Couscous, sometimes called pearl pasta. And that's exactly what it is - little pasta. They are fairly bland, so you have to give them a little saute first and deliver some flavor to them before you stuff and bake. Did you know red bell peppers have more Vitamin C than orange juice?


 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 bell peppers, two red, two yellow
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup wine
  • chopped parsley
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

Instructions:

Cut the peppers in half. Clean the insides, removing all seeds. Lay the peppers in a baking dish, cut side up. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the red onion for a few minutes and then add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the wine and let this cook off. Add the chicken stock and let this cook off. Turn off the heat. Add some chopped parsley and grated cheese. Stuff peppers with mixture.

Cover baking dish with foil tightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until the peppers are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Grate extra cheese on top and chopped parsley.

 


 

Tuesday
Mar042008

Polenta

Throw out all your polenta recipes and just follow Bill Buford's instructions in Heat. Really. What he learned about polenta at Babbo is the real deal (and it's a darn funny read). Polenta takes more liquid than any recipe out there says (I hope Marcella Hazan doesn't read food blogs!) and it really is better the longer you cook it. Oh, and by the way, even though Mario recommends instant polenta (gag) in his cookbooks, he never uses it in his restaurants!  Thanks a lot, Mario!  

So for good polenta, you want to use the coarse kind. It's very easy to find now. You need a good heavy pot, a whisk and a spatula. The amount of liquid doesn't matter, because you are going to keep adding it until the polenta doesn't take any more (remember my pizza dough post?).

Ingredients:

  • start out with about 6 cups water
  • 1.5 cups polenta
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons butter (yes, butter - are you really still eating margarine?)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Bring the water to a simmer. Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream into the pot and whisk as you add it. Whisk for a couple of minutes and then let the polenta do its thing. Keep it at a low simmer. It may pop out at you, so be aware. Switch to your rubber spatula and give the polenta a good stir every now and then. When it absorbs all the water, add more water. And more. And keep stirring. And add more water. After about an hour, the polenta will be done. The granules will have become creamy and soft. Take it off the heat, add the butter and parmesan. You can serve it at this point with grilled meat or even put a nice bolognese sauce over it. That makes a great meal.

I took mine and poured it into an 8x8 baking dish. I chilled it for several hours in the fridge, cut into circles with a biscuit cutter and grilled it. I did add chopped fresh basil on top and more parmesan cheese.

Tip: If you want a richer flavor, you can also add some chicken stock instead of some of the water.
Tip: If you are grilling it, take the pan out of the fridge a good hour beforehand and cut the polenta into the shapes you want and then let them come to room temp. Putting this recipe in an 8x8 pan makes very thick polenta servings and grilling them will not heat them all the way through.
Final Tip: Don't even bother to wash the pot. Fill it with soap and water and let it sit for a couple of hours. Then the polenta on the bottom comes right out.

Polenta used: Bob's Red Mill Coarse Grind Polenta