What's so gross about sea urchin? Even some of the most adventurous eaters I know will make the most horrific faces when the topic comes up.
I asked my husband who generally recoils when I suggest that we share a pair of nigiri at the sushi bar, and he offered that it's a textural thing. Some people say it resembles phlegm (or worse), and I heard one person characterize the briny bits as "little orange tongues" (although, let's face it: the truth of what uni is may actually be harder to stomach!). But a lot of these same people will tell me that the flavor doesn't bother them; in fact, they find it quite pleasant.
So when my BFF told me about a sea urchin pasta she makes for dinner parties, I found a way to sneak uni back into the palettes of the unsuspecting (just a word of caution to anyone who's invited to my house for dinner). This recipe is based upon Eric Ripert's On the Line which means that it is insanely decadent, topping a first course-size portion of sea urchin linguine with Iranian osetra caviar. My girlfriend uses ikura (salmon roe) which also provides a nice, salty punch to the velvety sauce at a much more reasonable price (my nearby Japanese market sells it for $2 per ounce versus $200 for the osetra). I managed to find an ounce of domestic Hackleback caviar for $50, and it was plenty for four servings. And my uni-shy husband? He licked his bowl clean. Read on for the recipe.
I believe there are two types of pasta sauce people: those who gravitate toward tomato-based sauces, and those who fiend for butter and dairy. You may spike your sauce with something special, be it some chili flakes in arrabiata, olives in puttanesca, or pancetta in carbonara, but if you are a serious carb-loader, I'm pretty sure that you'll fall into one of the two camps. As surely as I am left-handed, I belong to Team Dairy. This affiliation can often be inconvenent in light of my lactose intolerance, but as easy as it was to give up ice cream, it has been impossible to say goodbye to cheese. Some nights when I am eating alone, I will boil up some spaghetti, sizzle a few fresh sage leaves in butter and olive oil, and toss it all together with Parmesan. If I'm feeling particularly daring, I'll fry up an egg to give my pasta a happy little party hat. But I've been looking for a new recipe to turn that quick weeknight staple into an elegant meal for two.
Recently, I uncovered this gem on Food52, a recipe site with a collection of truly amazing user-submitted, editor-curated recipes. Not only does this one contain the holy trinity of butter, cheese, and yolky eggs, it's topped with a lemony rosemary-breadcrumb crunch and a sprinkle of capers to make you pucker. I've upped Rhonda's recipe to feed four (or, in this household, two), but it's also easy enough to make on my nights alone! For the recipe, read on.
Recently, I got to pretend to be a member of the ladies-who-lunch set with a partner in crime. Jess and I tried out Cotogna over a late lunch and cocktails, and in between the kale sformato, halibut tartare, and sea urchin-and-cauliflower pizza, we had a delicious plate of braised rabbit pappardelle. The plump chunks of rabbit just melted in your mouth and contrasted nicely with the just-chewiness of the fresh pasta. YUM.
It reminded me of a recipe I found via Epicurious for duck ragù, so with a quick trip to Molly Stone, dinner was underway. It's actually remarkably simple; it just takes a while because you have to let the duck breast render some of that amazing fat in to the pan and then simmer all of the ingredients together to infuse it throughout. The recipe calls for a heavy skillet, but I like to use my Le Creuset 5 qt. Dutch oven to retain all the moisture and flavor. For the recipe, read on.
Today I was in Hillsborough for lunch with a friend and her two kids, so by the time I made it back to the City and finished running errands, I knew I would need to come up with something fast and simple for dinner. I had absolutely no plan when I walked into Molly Stone's, but they had a heaping mound of good-looking lemons on display, so I grabbed a few and let that choice guide the rest of the meal. Pasta tends to be my dish of choice for quick and easy, so after picking out my favorite spaghettini, I asked for a half-pound of large shrimp at the meat counter, found a bag of frozen artichoke hearts (one of those conveniences like pre-made frozen gyoza that I heartily support), and trotted home to start cooking. For the recipe, read more.
Another straight-from-Food Network find is this mac and cheese recipe, courtesy of Barefoot Contessa. I pretty much love anything Ina Garten concocts, but there are certain classics -- such as roasted chickens, salad dressings, soups, and baked pastas -- where you really can't go wrong with her recipes. This mac and cheese recipe is one such example. Aside from burning your roux, I don't think there is a single thing you can do to ruin this dish, and there are so many iterations: throw in some chicken, cooked broccoli or spinach, Spam (yes, I love the stuff), bacon, or anything else you have lying around your fridge, and you have a complete meal. Here, I prepared it as a side dish to sauteed pork chops, so I kept it simple with just a topping of tomatoes and bread crumbs.
In preparation for last night's dinner of our new favorite pasta, I asked Dave to stop by the grocery store on his way home to pick up prosciutto and cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Molly Stone's ran out of the 4-oz. packs of deli meat and pint-sized containers of tomatoes, so we ended up with a pound and two pounds, respectively! So to make sure that it didn't go to waste, I whipped up another pasta using some of the leftovers. Now if I can just figure out what to do with the other 8 oz. of prosciutto...
For the recipe, keep reading.
In the world of pasta, there are wonderful, long-simmered, meaty or tomato-y sauces and creamy, silky roux-based sauces. But sometimes I just want a quick, comforting bowl of pasta without the work. And my fail-proof recipes always seem to involve cheese, butter, eggs, and cured meat. With that combination, how can you possibly go wrong?
Read on for the recipe.
If I have all day to spend in the kitchen, I will while away the hours creating some slow-cooked Asian or Mexican concoction: a niu rou mian stew or slow boiled-then-fried carnitas. But for quick dinners at home, my never-fail meal is pasta. A linguine con vongole can be whipped up in under an hour from prep to plate, and even a carbonara is quick if you fry the pancetta while cooking the pasta.
Tonight we tried a new recipe: spaghettini with sweet dungeness crab meat, salty prosciutto and tangy lemon. It was perfect with a rustic sourdough and arugula salad on the side. Read on for the full recipe.