Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zucchini & Linguine

I haven't seen the sun for weeks. This lack of spring, compared with last year's abundance of warmth and that glow from the biggest star in the sky, has started to piss me off. In an effort to entice the spring from its hiding place, I offer this dish that requires photosynthesis to grow its main ingredient. That's not the linguine, in case you slept through science class.

This is a very quick meal that will yield a leftover or two, a green salad and a hunk of crusty bread would be nice accompaniments. So would a glass of vin.

As much as I like to make fun of vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, pollotarians, and pescetarians, it's hard to argue the health benefits. So every now and then, a meatless meal is quite nice.

Zucchini and Linguine
3-4 servings

2 small-medium or 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4" coins
1/2 C AP flour
pinch garlic powder
pinch onion powder
pinch smoked paprika, or regular
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 C pasta water
1 C parm reg
3/4 lb linguine
parm regg
freshly cracked black pepper

In a baking dish or similar, season the flour with a bit of S&P and some other stuff- I used a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, and some Hungarian smoked hot paprika. Coat the zucchini coins in flour, shaking off excess, then place on a sheet pan.

As your pasta water comes to a boil, heat up a large skillet over medium heat, you want the EVOO (1/4 C) just below the smoke point. Add the oil after a couple minutes of warming up the skillet. Fry the zucchini coins until golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side, which will also allow you the time to cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving a 1/2 C or so of the pasta cooking water. You might have to fry the zucchini in two batches- once all has cooked, drain all but a touch of fat from the pan, add a pinch chili flakes, garlic slivers and cook before they brown- about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. To the skillet return the zucchini, pasta, reserved water, and about 1 C parm-reg. Mix well but gently, serve up and finish with some more parm-reg, couple turns of the pepper mill, and a touch of your best extra-virgin olive oil.

April showers brings May hangovers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arancini Cakes

Travel. #1 when it comes to kitchen inspiration? To come home after a trip, I like to hit the grocery store before the bags are unpacked. Get back into the kitchen and knock off a dish or two, recall the time away, the weather, the location, the locals, the restaurant food and the street food, everything that you soak in while you are away, outside your normal. You'll find a bit of travel inspiration here, for example.

This is the best food ever to be plopped into my hand by a stranger, like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. Well, I had known her for all of about 45 minutes, less than halfway through a food tour she led through Greenwich Village on the isle of Manhattan. They were deep-fried arancini balls, about two golf ball size, perfectly round, perfectly golden-crisp and hotter than Prince. Super heavy for their size, they were gorgeous. Inside was an incredibly delish mixture of prosciutto and mozzarella, probably some parmigiano reggiano, and who knows what else- generations of Italians (probably Grandmothers) handing down their family's recipe.
Faicco's Italian Specialties

If you are having the boss over for dinner (no one does that anymore) you can deep fry them for perfect balls, or if you have the time, roll them around in your skillet. I don't have the time, so I press them into little cakes, like little hockey pucks, so they can just be flipped once. And I don't have a deep fryer, as that would be just like getting a motorcycle- not really good for my health.

Is this labor intensive? Yes, but you could make it easier and make the rice the day before. Even if you don't, is it worth it? Absofuckinlutely.

Arancini Cakes
about 12-14, 6 servings

3-4 C chicken stock, homemade preferred
2 TB butter
1 small-medium onion, diced
1 C arborio rice
pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 C dry white wine
3/4 C freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, plus 2 TB
1 TB chopped fresh parsley, basil, thyme, any herbs you got
3 eggs
1/4 C prosciutto, finely diced
1/4 C mozzarella, finely diced
1/2 C seasoned AP flour (flour with a pinch of S&P)
1 C bread crumbs
1 C vegetable oil, approx
3/4 C pasta sauce

To keep your stock warm, place into a medium pot and utilize low heat on a back burner.

In that large, heavy skillet melt the butter and then add the EVOO, over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, cook the onion for about 8 minutes, until nicely softened and smelling like onions cooking in butter smells like-heaven. Toss in a pinch of saffron if using. Add the rice and stir well to coat all sides of the grain with fat. Cook for about a minute, stirring a few times. Add the wine and stir well, scraping the bottom of the skillet, searching for any tasty bits that shouldn't be left behind. After a minute of reducing the wine, start adding the warm stock in 1/3 C increments. If you want to add less and stir more often, have at it. Some people don't like to make risotto because they think it needs to be constantly stirred for 20 minutes. Arborio rice isn't that needy, you just need to stir before and after each liquid addition, it can sit for a couple minutes untouched with a good simmer going. Depending on the aggressiveness of your simmer, cook time will be around 21 minutes, until tender yet with a slight bite, and creamy. Can be done the day before. Transfer to a large bowl and keep well covered in the fridge. To chill for immediate use, lay out with a spatula in large sheet pan and stash in the fridge until chilled. It's a surface area vs. time you want to make these tasty balls equation.

Breading station- in separate bowls you have the seasoned flour, bread crumbs, and 2 eggs lightly beaten.

Remove risotto from fridge and add 1 egg, mix thoroughly. Using a spoon or something, you want 3 TB size portions. Roll up into a ball, then using a spoon handle or similar, make a well in the center and stuff with equal amount of prosciutto and cheese. Cover the hole and return to ball form, ensuring no escape of tasty bits, flatten slightly into cakes.

In a large, deep skillet, you want about 1/2" of veg oil up to 360F.

Bread the cakes in the usual method- dredge in flour, shake, eggs, drip-dry, roll around in bread crumbs, place on sheet pan.

The cleanest and easiest way for the breading- one hand does the flour and egg, the other has the crumbs and wine glass.

When your oil is at temp, fry in batches about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. You can keep warm in a low oven, but not for too long as the high-moisture heat will soften that crust you just worked for.

Serve on a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce, sprinkle with some parm-reg, buon appetito!

Friday, April 15, 2011


In case you haven't noticed, and judging by the attendance, you haven't, BLT has taken a short hiatus....but will be back soon.

I wonder what would happen if I ate that 5 lb lobster?

And what the hell happened to my left pincher?