Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Having a bounty of basil in the backyard gives me more of an excuse to eat pesto. I love the stuff on almost anything. Here as a pasta sauce for cauliflower. I was hoping to make some fresh pasta for this dish, but on a Tuesday in a busy week, I had no time. First, I par-boiled the cauliflower. Then it went in a pan with olive oil, onions and garlic while I boiled the pasta, Penne in this case.
For the sauce I mixed pesto with homemade ricotta, minced garlic and parmesan cheese. When the pasta was done and the cauliflower fully cooked, sweet and starting to brown I tossed everything in a large bowl and mixed in some lemon zest for good measure. The addition of the lemon zest was a spur of the moment thing, but it really made a big difference and transformed a good dish to an excellent one. I served it with chilli flakes, more grated parmesan and olive oil toasted breadcrumbs.
If it sounds a bit odd that I add toasted breadcrumbs to the pasta, let me write a couple of lines of background. It is not something I made up or thought of myself. First time I read about it was in one of Jamie Oliver’s books. It’s correct name is Pangriata or Pangritata and it’s origin goes back to poorer Italian cooks who used it as a substitute to the more expensive grated cheese topping. It really is a wonderful way to add crunch and extra flavor to pastas and risottos especially. Anything can be mixed in it too, like maybe some herbs or chilli flakes.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
This is the first risotto I made without using chicken stock. Instead if the customary butter in there I also used olive oil. The result was quiet good, but I did miss the goodness of a rich stock in there. Instead, I used some fresh vegetable stock to cook the risotto.
The process is classic. The onions and some celery get sautéed in fat (in this case olive oil), then in goes the risotto rice (Arborio in my case). I make sure the grains are well coated with oil and after a minute or two they get a bit translucent around the edges. At that point I throw in some white wine and let it cook until evaporated. Now, hot stock gets added in ladlefuls until the rice is cooked. That’s a basic risotto and it can be flavored a hundred different ways. The most basic flavor is butter and Parm cheese added after the heat is turned off and allowed to mingle for a few minutes.
In this summery version, I added diced zucchini, peeled and chopped tomatoes and roasted red peppers. I also finished it up with Parmigiano cheese.
To serve it I topped the risotto with homemade ricotta cheese and almond-basil pesto. I have a bunch of basil in my garden, so pesto was a no-brainer. I had no pine nuts on hand so I used almonds instead in it. I bashed the herbs and nuts with garlic and salt in my mortar until fairly smooth, then mixed in olive oil, Parm cheese, and a touch of lemon juice. The sharp and deliciously fragrant pesto really made this dish perfect. I counter-balanced the sweetness of the peppers and the blandness of the zucchini perfectly.