Category: Pasta + Noodles + Rice

Penne with Squash Blossoms

Summer came in late for us here in New York City. It’s already September and I’m only starting to see summer produce at the farmers’ markets. It was with some shock that I bought squash blossoms when I saw them at my Harlem’s produce stand one Tuesday morning while walking my dog Atticus.

olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
12 zucchini blossoms, halved; stems removed if hardy
6 saffron threads
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 egg yolk
penne pasta
Pecorino Romano, shaved

1. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat; this will be your pasta pot.
2. In the meantime, heat a splash of olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the red onion, celery, carrot, and parsley, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Add the zucchini blossoms, a pinch or two of salt, and the saffron, and stir gently to mix.
3. Add about 3/4 cup of broth, and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the rest of the broth a splash or two at a time, taking about 5 minutes to add it all. Stir frequently. Allow the sauce to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and only a thin film of thickened broth remains in the pan. Remove from the heat.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk slightly with a fork. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender but al dente. When the pasta is almost ready, place the zucchini blossom sauce back over medium heat. Use a small measuring cup to scoop up about 3 tbsps of pasta water and, whisking constantly with a fork, gradually add the hot water to the egg yolk: together, they should make a loose, pale yellow liquid. Pour this mixture into the sauce in the skillet, stirring well. Scoop some cooked pasta into a serving bowl, and toss with the sauce. Top with shaved cheese.

Soba Noodles with Miso-Pickled Ginger Dressing

For the pickled ginger in this recipe, you can buy the pre-packaged ones from your Asian market–it’s the kind you eat with your sushi–or easily make your own if you have a few extra hours to marinate. I’ve included that recipe below just in case.

When assembling the dish, I tossed all the vegetables with the dressing first before I folded them in with the soba noodles because I didn’t want the noodles to break and get soggy. Serve this cold and you’ll have a nice salad to eat for your Meatless Whatever-Day of the week.

For the pickled ginger:

1 large knob of ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 tsp salt

1. In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Then add the ginger and cook, stirring once or twice, to soften it, about 30 seconds. Drain the ginger in a strainer, separating the pieces with chopsticks so they drain well. Transfer the ginger to a bowl and let stand.
2. In another separate pot over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve, then increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Pour in the vinegar mixture to completely cover the ginger in the bowl. Let stand for a couple of hours, or overnight.

For the soba:

2 tbsps white miso paste
2 bundles of soba noodles
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
pickled ginger
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 sheet toasted nori, torn
2 tbsps toasted sesame seeds

1. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water, drain, and place in large colander.
2. Blend miso, sesame oil, rice vinegar, pickled ginger, and about 3 tbsps of water in a blender until smooth.
3. Pour in the miso-pickled ginger dressing in a large mixing bowl. Stir in carrots, radicchio, green onions, nori, and the sesame seeds until well-combined. Fold in the soba noodles and toss gently.

Pasta with Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar

It’s officially autumn in New York City! Even though bell peppers seem to be a summer vegetable, I used them in this pasta dish with balsamic vinegar to bring out a different flavor. I chose red, yellow, and orange and skipped the more raw green kind. With the vinegar, their colors seem more muted and fall-like rather than bright and summery.

I used penne here because it’s what I have handy, but feel free to use rigatoni so that the ridges hold the vinegar in for a more dramatic presentation. Parmesan cheese is the way to go, but again, I used what I had and that was a beautiful truffled cheese. I used it minimally because I didn’t want the truffle smell to overwhelm the fragrant peppers and vinegar.

3 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
salt, pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
a handful of grated truffled cheese
about 2 cups of penne

1. Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened.
2. In the meantime, cook the penne al dente and drain. Set aside until ready to assemble the dish.
3. Add the onion to the peppers and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and cook while tossing for about 3 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it sizzle away.
4. Add the cooked pasta and toss with the cheese and more parsley. Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil before serving.

Chicken Biryani

I live across the hall from a Pakistani family I’ve grown to know since I moved in the building 3 years ago. I know the wife stays at home because I always see some piece of furniture keeping their main door open whenever I leave or return home. It’s to keep the smell from staying in, she told me, when I peeked inside one time and called her name. I told her that I knew the purpose because I can smell the fragrant spices from the elevators.

When she was done cooking, I heard a knock on my door. It was her with a bowl of homemade chicken biryani for me. Ever since that first time, I’ve also been sharing some of the meals I’ve cooked and the goods I’ve baked with her family. I’d be stupid to break a Pakistani home-cooking connection.

Note that this is not her recipe. I found it online and made my own changes according to what I have in my pantry. I used to make my own ginger-garlic paste and freeze them in sheets, but ever since the Microplane Premium Classic zester came into my life, I just finely grate fresh ginger and garlic now and get the same result I would by using a food processor but without all the parts to wash afterwards. And with the spatula from GIR, or Gear That Gets It Right, I can easily scrape the paste from a bowl and spread it evenly on the chicken pieces.

1 tbsp cumin seeds, grounded
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander seeds, grounded
6 cardamom seeds, shelled
1/2 cup tomato purée
a large scoop plain yogurt
a small knob of ginger, peeled, grated
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 red onion, sliced
2 boneless chicken breasts, chopped
2 cups of basmati rice
a pinch of saffron
1/4 cup of milk
chicken broth
a handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

1. On a small frying pan, toast the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, half of the cardamom seeds and salt until they start to get fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a bowl, mix toasted spices with the tomato purée, yogurt, ginger and garlic with a spatula. Marinate the chicken with this mixture and keep aside for a few minutes, or up to 3 hours.
3. When ready to cook, heat oil in a pan. Fry the onions until golden brown. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 10 minutes.
4. In the meantime, set your rice cooker to cook the rice. Soak saffron threads in the milk while cooking the rice. When most of the water from the rice cooker has subsided, pour in the saffron-milk mixture and add the remaining cardamom seeds. Using the same spatula, mix everything when cooking is done.
5. Scoop the cooked rice onto the frying pan with the chicken. Mix well. If your biryani gets dry and thick, add some chicken broth at different intervals of cooking. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

Recommended tool/s:
Microplane Premium Classic Zester
The Spatula by GIR (Gear that Gets it Right)

Orecchiette with Shredded Pork and Greens

This isn’t a recipe for a new dish as much as it is a recipe for leftovers. I had made the Japanese buta no kakuni, or pork belly, two weekends ago and still had leftovers that kept pretty well in the fridge. When it came time for a home-cooked meal this week, I scooped some of the meat up together with the already-coagulated soy-flavored liquid and heated it in a wok before tossing in with some pasta and kailan, or Chinese broccoli. Almost any greens will do, but I prefer the sturdy bitter type. You can substitute shorter penne for the orecchiette, too, if that’s what you have in your pantry.

The sweet soy liquid that cooked down added to the sweetness of the meat and I didn’t have to season it with salt and pepper. Sometimes, the work you put ahead of time pays off much later–and in multiple meals. It’s like orecchiette with sausage and broccoli florets, only by your Asian grandmother.

4 handfuls of orecchiette pasta
cooked pork belly (see recipe for buta no kakuni below)
a handful of kailan, throughly washed, chopped
red chile flakes

1. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente, or about 20 minutes. Drain while reserving some of the pasta cooking water for later.
2. Heat a skillet and reheat the cooked pork belly. Prod the meat gently with a wooden spoon to shred it. Toss in greens and season with red chile flakes. Turn off the heat and add the pasta until well-combined.