The Pasta Friday Cookbook, book review

Pasta is a food near and dear to my heart.  (I’m sure many people feel the same.)  During my last year of college, my dinner on most nights was a big plate of pasta and red sauce.   It’s cheap.  It’s pantry friendly.  It’s amazing that I didn’t get sick of it by the end of the year. 

I don’t eat like that anymore.  I don’t make pasta very often, not even once a month.  (It’s not like I’ve cut out simple carbs, as rice and noodles are in regular rotation in my kitchen.)  Pasta tends to be “emergency cooking” for me.  Something to make when I should make something but don’t have a ton of time.  So, it just isn’t part of my regular rotation of dishes.  But for a pasta dish that feels inspiring?  I can get behind that.

“The Pasta Friday Cookbook” by Allison Arevalo is collection of recipes from the weekly gathering of the same name that Arevalo created back in 2017.  The purpose of Pasta Friday is to share a simple meal of pasta and salad with a large group of friends and family once a week. Her cookbook is a reflection of her mission.  It has 52 pasta recipes and 16 salad recipes, divided up by season. It’s almost an instruction book for holding your own Pasta Friday, but while Arevalo feeds 30+ people, the published recipes serves 4 to 6 or 6 to 8.

I like how the book mixes traditional and non-traditional recipes.  Here are the recipes that I’m most interested in:

  • Pam’s Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Peaches
  • Farfalloni with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Corn Sauce
  • Trofie with Pesto Cream, Potatoes, and Green Beans
  • Cucumber Basil Salad with Anchovies and Croutons
  • Cacio e Pepe with Pici and Mushrooms
  • Mafaldine with Porcini and Eggs
  • Crispy Cauliflower with Kale and Rotini
  • Strozzapreti with Sunday Pork Neck Ragu
  • Papparedelle with Roasted Pork and Mushrooms
  • Lentils with Buffalo Mozzarella and Roasted Peppers
  • Gnocchetti with Chorizo and Fried Lemon
  • Asparagus and Cannellini Beans with Mint and Grana Padano

 

For this review, I went with Dad’s Famous Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  Why? It has two of my favorite ingredients: roasted bell peppers and smoked paprika!  It also doesn’t hurt that this is a fairly easy recipe. The other ingredients are heavy cream, butter, roasted garlic, pepper, salt, and pasta.  You make the sauce. You boil the pasta. And then you finish the pasta in the sauce. Done.

Verdict?  I loved this.  I also love how Arevalo instructions you to add just enough cream to achieve a gold, orangey pink sauce.  It’s a perfect description, and the exact color I achieved.  The recipe instructs for a pound of cannolicchi pasta, but I went with penne. 

Every recipe in the book has pasta shape substitutions, and at least one of the substitutions will be one that is easy to find in any supermarket.  Every recipe also offers wine pairing suggestions, as well of what to serve the dish with.  In the case of the roasted red pepper sauce, the book says to serve with crispy/spicy prosciutto, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a medium-bodied and spicy California cabernet franc, or an unoaked and crispy French Chardonnay.  This information is especially useful if you decide to entertain guests and/or host your own Pasta Friday.

I think I’m going to want this sauce all the time. (But I’m also thinking about lightening up of the recipe to make it a little more waistline friendly.)

Is this book worth its salt?  Yes! I’m sold on the roasted red pepper sauce alone.  What can I say? I’m a simple girl. I’m not sure I’m about to holding Pasta Fridays at my house every week, but I can get behind the message of building a community face to face.  Spending more time with my favorite people can never be a bad thing, and I like cooking for them so perhaps I’ll make pasta and salad for them next time we’re all together.

Reference Links:

https://www.pastafriday.com/

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Andrews McMeel Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

that zucchini and pasta recipe, a Kitchen Conclusion

I did a silly thing.

I kept coming across Meghan Markle’s “zucchini bolognese” recipe on the internet recently.  To the point where I saw the Buzzfeed follow up on it, and was just like “EFF IT.  I’M TRYING IT MYSELF.”

I kept pretty close to the original recipe as posted by Delish, with the only change being a swap for Parmesan cheese with Grana Padano cheese, because it’s cheaper per pound and good enough for me.  (I’m a plebeian who sometimes prefers to be thrifty over being cultured.  Sorry not sorry.)   Oh, and one tiny eggplant found its way into the recipe because it was in my fridge and about a sneeze away from going bad (that’s a unit of measuring time, right?).  These aren’t huge changes in my opinion, but I’m sure someone out there is more than happy to disagree with me.  Anyway…

My personal experience:

  • It’s easy to make.
  • With a tightly fitting dutch oven, it’s hard to burn.  A good amount of liquid exuded from the veggies.  (FYI, I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset.)
  • It makes a lot, and is a great make-ahead option.
  • There is so much raw zucchini going in that I would not feel comfortable doubling this recipe unless I had access to a really large soup pot.

As for my feelings after cooking and upon consumption, the sauce was kind of “meh” to be honest.  It’s just good enough.  I certainly wasn’t impressed.  If I were to make it again in the future, I’d want to make changes.  Adding herbs is the first thing I can think of.  With some of my leftover sauce, I added fresh basil and marjoram.  Slightly better than without but not quite what I wanted.  Using dried herbs during the long cooking process might make the better choice.  And I’m half wondering what it would have been like had I added some ricotta just for extra depth and texture.

So, am I making this again?  Probably not.  Or at least not the printed version of the recipe.  I’m not against nor above altering it, sticking it in the slow cooker, and declaring it a great summer recipe.  (So that might happen in the future.  Maybe.  A very strong maybe.)

Reference Links:

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipes/a58228/zucchini-bolognese-recipe/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/michelleno/meghan-markle-zucchini-bolognese-recipe-real-life-test?utm_term=.uyz5Lr3vM#.bddQyl9qO

Previous Kitchen Conclusion Post:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/cardamom-and-loaf-pans-a-kitchen-conclusion/

Flavor Bombs by Adam Fleischman, a cookbook review

Sometimes I don’t know how to review a book.  You might be thinking “that’s stupid” or “you write reviews often, most of the time positive reviews, so just say something positive.”  There is truth to that last statement, but the reality is that I try to review books that I feel fairly certain I am going to instantly like.  

COVER_Flavor Bombs

My current conundrum is “Flavor Bombs: The Umami Ingredients That Make Taste Explode” by Adam Fleischman, with Tien Nguyen.  The premise of the book is to build up an “umami pantry” and cook delicious recipes with those ingredients. The book is broken down into these chapters:

  • The Basic Pantry
  • The Umami Pantry
  • Umami Sidekicks
  • Umami Master Recipes
  • Basics and Condiments
  • Apps and Little Meals
  • Soups and Salads
  • Mains
  • Sides
  • Drinks and Desserts

The good?  The chart with umami ingredients is useful.  I hadn’t realized that umami was broken down to glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate.  I thought it was just glutamate (hence, monosodium glutamate aka MSG).  And I like that the recipes themselves are varied.  Here are the recipes that I would love to eat:

  • Roasted fingerling potatoes stuffed with smoked trout mousse
  • Nontraditional umami-spiked chowder
  • Five minute pork-conquered salad
  • Koji-porcini resting sauce
  • Chicken confit with dirty farro
  • Puerto Rican mofongo
  • Fancy make-ahead restaurant sauce
  • Sweet and savory brisket
  • Umami’d fregola sarda
  • Matcha magic cake

The bad for me (but not necessarily for you)?  A lot of these recipe require making the master recipes ahead of time.  There are just three master recipes: umami master dust, umami master sauce, and umami ketchup.  But that does mean that I’m either doing some planning or doing a weekend project. I meal prep my meals on the weekend so I am less inclined to throw in a weekend cooking project on top of my regular meal prepping.  The other minor gripe I have is sourcing the ingredients, specifically powdered soy sauce, truffles, and truffle honey. I’d probably look for substitutions or skip altogether, which will change the flavor of the end product some.

(Oh, one last issue but this one is purely from an aesthetic standpoint.  The pages have a black background. It’s going to look grimy quickly if your hands are not dry and clean.  I’ve had this book for less than a week, and I can see fingerprints on a number of pages already. lol!)

As for recipe testing, I settled on making the midnight garlic noodles.  I felt that the recipe was a good representation of the book without feeling overwhelming.  The two items that needed prep ahead were fairly hands off: burnt miso and garlic confit. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to put together requiring noodles or pasta, shio koji (which I am weird enough to have), butter, black pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have it (which I am weird enough to not have).

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Garlic confit in progress

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How did it taste?  It was good.

Was it good enough to make the recipe as is again?  Eh, no, not really. I think if I make it again, I’ll take the lazy way out with regular ol’ miso and roasted garlic.  Or if I insist on the burnt miso, I can pop in a garlic head in the oven at the same time to make roasted garlic without using more effort or resources.  The burnt miso smelled fantastic as it baked, so I’m not hating it. (But I do feel bad for the parts of miso that burned as it’s not useable.  It seems like such a waste.)  And garlic confit can be used for other applications, so I am not necessarily hating on it either.  But as I said earlier, I’m mostly cooking to feed myself properly. I’m generally inclined prefer recipes that taste good without too much effort.  (P.S. I also served the sauce with some rotisserie chicken and plain asparagus on another night.  I think that was more interesting than serving it on noodles/pasta.)

So, in the end, if you’re more of a functional cook like me, you may not want this book.  If you’re a cooking enthusiast, I can recommend this book, and I think you’ll find it to be fun and adventurous.  

Disclaimer – I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

I wanted to make a pasta sauce that wasn’t a traditional pasta sauce.  Partly because I like being difficult, and partly because my right thumb has been swollen all day for reasons unknown.  So I was not inclined to do a lot of cutting or anything remotely similar.

So I came up with the recipe below.  I may fuss with it in the near future, but I was happy with it today.  It also happens to be vegan and nut free.

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted
  • 1 garlic clove (I cheated and used 1/4 tsp Penzey’s minced garlic)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Honestly, I used 1/2 of a lemon but that was too lemony)
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

 

Blitz everything in a high powered blender.  If you don’t have one, you could probably let everything soak for an hour in a standard blender before turning it on.

Makes about 2 cups.

Alden and Harlow, in pictures

Last week was the first time I dined at Alden and Harlow in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.  In sum, it was amazing.  The only thing not pictured that we ate was a plate of root beer glazed ribs (it was a special).  And it was the only plate that we felt did not live up to the deliciousness of all the other plates.  I’m not saying it was bad.  It just wasn’t stellar.  Everything in the following pictures though?  I WANT TO EAT IT ALL AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Alden & Harlow sign

Alden & Harlow sign

waiting for friends

waiting for friends

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

The turncoat cocktail and pickled green beans to nosh on

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Toscano, a restaurant review (Restaurant Week edition)

Winter Restaurant Week came to a close yesterday, here in the Boston area.  A couple of my friends have raved about Toscano over the last year, so we went there.  Our menu was:

Primi
Salmone Affumicato
Foley Smoked Salmon – Crostini – Lemon – Caperberries

Rigatoni Toscano
Double Smoked Bacon – Tomato Cream – Herbs

Tagliatelle Porcini
Sautéed Porcini Mushrooms – Herbs

Pasta e Fagioli
Puree of White Bean Soup – Tubettini Pasta

Insalata Cesare
Romaine Hearts – Focaccia Croutons – Classic Dressing

Caprese
Local Fresh Burrata – Beefsteak Tomatoes – Basil

Secondi
Risotto Granchio
Jumbo Lump Crabmeat – Tomato – Shellfish Stock

Pollo Pizzaiola
Oven Roasted Chicken Breast -Pomodoro Sauce – Fresh Mozzarella – Oregano – Patate al Forno

Scaloppini Limone
Sautéed Veal Scaloppini – White Wine – Lemon – Parsley – Patate al Forno

Bistecca alla Griglia
Wood Grilled Sirloin of Beef  – Patate al Forno

Gamberoni al Moscato
Sautéed Shrimp – Leeks – Moscato Wine – Patate al Forno

Salmone Asparagi
Grilled North Atlantic Salmon – Asparagus – Mustard Sauce

Dolce
Tiramisu
Toscano House Specialty “Budino Style”

Torta di Mirtilli
Blueberry – White Chocolate Tart

Gelato e Sorbeto
Del Giorno

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The tagliatelle?  I loved it.  The pasta had a nice bite to it, and it wasn’t too oily.  The mushroom flavor was very good.  It wasn’t an immediate “wow” for one of my table companions.  But the more she ate, the happier she was with her dish.  For half of my table, the favorite starter was the rigatoni.  I tried a bite of it.  The bacon flavor is without question the dominant flavor.  It was very delicious as long as you like your bacon, and maybe I’ll order it next time.  Then again, I love tagliatelle and mushrooms, so I’m hard press to say which of the two I’d pick if I had to.  One of the diners had the white bean soup, and she was happy with it. It had a much more delicate flavor than I was expecting.  I’m not sure I’ll ever order it in the future, but I highly suspect that it’s because I’m pro-pasta at Toscano.

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New Year’s Eve at Harvest, a review

Last night, instead of NYE dinner at The Red House, we changed things up a bit and went to Harvest.  Both restaurants are in Harvard Square, Cambridge, but they are pretty different.  Harvest is fancier, the portions generally smaller, but still every bit wonderful and delightful.

I adore Harvest, even though I don’t eat there too often.  I’ve never been disappointed by their seasonal menus.  Although, I think my opinion of the restaurant is slightly skewed.  I took a special one-time cooking class with Mary Dumont, who is Harvest’s executive chef.  The class had a bonus appearance by Brian Mercury, who is  Harvest’s executive pastry chef.  They were both lovely people with infectious personalities and an obvious love for what they do.  It’s hard to dislike food created by them.

Last year, I had kicked myself slightly for not doing NYE dinner at Harvest.  The menu sounded amazing.  As such, I had my heart set on NYE dinner this year at Harvest from the get-go.  And it did not disappoint.

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