Gadgets, Gizmos, and Bacon Pepper Pasta

lasagna noodles with bacon and peppers

“I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I’ve got who’s-its and what’s-its galore
You want thing-a-mabobs?
I’ve got twenty”

Yep, I’m quoting the Little Mermaid.  It’s that bad. We have boxes stacked in every corner, bubble wrap strewn across the floors, and today I had to reopen a box because I realized that I’d packed away the checkbook. 

When did I amass so much stuff?

kitcher utensilsIn packing up my kitchen for storage, I have discovered dozens of gadgets and gizmos.  We are moving to a furnished sublet complete with basic kitchen gear – pots, pans, knives etc. Last night, surrounded by melon ballers and cheese graters and meat thermometers and citrus zesters, I realized the only thing in my kitchen that I really need to bring with me is a single cast iron skillet. That’s it.  That’s all I need for sauteing or baking or, well, just about anything.  And as for the rest… I’ll make do. So what if my melon bits are not round? or if my lemons go unzested? And for that matter, I think I can manage a few months without a waffle iron or ice cream maker.  And for crying out loud, why on earth do we have something called a ‘quesadilla maker’?

lasagna noodles with bacon and peppersWhat happened to me?  I used to be the queen of making do!  I’m the girl who lived in a tiny NY apartment and baked cupcakes for 200 in a toaster-oven. I owned exactly three forks, two wine glasses, and one single fantastic French knife.  And tonight, when I made dinner with a handful of lingering ingredients and not a single gadget, I felt a bit like my old self. 

pastaThis dish came together out of nothing.  Our cupboards are bare, but we had some leftover bacon hiding in the back of the freezer, and a few lasagna noodles all alone in the pantry.  And with that, we had dinner.  A pretty awesome dinner, actually.  I was surprised to find that I loved the sliced lasagna noodles.  They had awesome texture, and were a perfect foil for the rich sauce.  The bits of noodle matched the bits of pepper and much to my surprise, the whole thing just worked. Of course, you could sub in any short pasta you like here, if hacking apart noodles is not your thing.  I think farfalle would work very well.

I’m excited for a few months of making do ahead of me.  But for the next week or two I won’t be spending much time in the kitchen.  Once we get settled in the new place, I promise I’ll be back!

creamy noodles with bacon and cubanelle

Make Do Bacon Pepper Pasta

Serves 2

4 strips bacon, chopped

4 ounces lasagna noodles (about 5 noodles)

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 cup thinly sliced cubanelle pepper (about 1 small pepper)

pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons cream

parmesan cheese for serving

In a large skillet, saute the bacon over medium heat until almost crisp, about 5-6 minutes.  Drain all but 2 teaspoons of bacon fat from the pan. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until just al dente. Don’t overcook. Drain the noodles and reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Add the onion and pepper to the bacon in the skillet and saute until the peppers are soft, about 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice the lasagna noodles into 1/2 inch strips. Add about 1/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid to the skillet, along with the red pepper flakes.  Stir in the cream. Add the sliced noodles to the pan and toss to combine.  Add more pasta cooking liquid if desired. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Comments (29)  
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Cherry Berry Crumble Pie

cherries

I first made this pie in the heat of a St. Louis summer, many years ago.   It was one of my early forays into baking with whole grains, and it was gobbled up in seconds by my hungry (college boys are always hungry) neighbors. It’s been years since I left that tiny St. Louis apartment, but I decided that this pie was just the thing for the Dedham Square Country Store’s Pie Contest. 

Dedham pie contest Most of the entries were double crust pies – peach, blueberry, apple.  Beautiful, flaky pies with rich, sweet fruit filling, perfect with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  But I think crumble adds such fun texture to pie, and I love mixing my dessert genres. There was one other crumble topped pie, an abundant apple creation.  Anyway, I figured (and I was right) that nobody else would be bringing a Cherry Berry Crumble Pie with a whole wheat crust. 

lemon thyme farmCherry Berry Crumble Pie is not too sweet, with a lovely earthiness from the honey.  The key here is to use good, flavorful honey.  I love the local honey from Lemon Thyme Farm that I buy at the Dedham Square Country Store. It’s amazingly floral and rich.  It pairs so well with the nuttiness of the whole wheat crust, and the salty-sweet crumble topping.  The crumble, though, is my favorite part since the oats make me feel less guilty eating pie for breakfast. It’s just as good with a dollop of greek yogurt as with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

cherry berry pie with crumble topping

Cherry Berry Crumble Pie

Crust

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chilled butter, cut in pieces

2 tablespoons cold water

Filling

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and quartered

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumble Topping

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the pie crust, pulse the flours and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse just a few times until mealy.  Add in the water slowly, pulsing just until the dough holds together (you may need an extra bit of water).  Turn the dough out and press into a ball.  Chill the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the cherries, blueberries, cranberries, honey, tablespoon of flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined. 

Roll out the crust on a floured surface and transfer to a pie plate.  Fill the unbaked crust with the fruit mixture.  Sprinkle the crumble over the top.  Bake for 40 minutes until filling is juicy and crumble topping is browned.

cherry berry pie in oven

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm  Comments (25)  
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Farmer’s Market Ratatouille

  

ratatouille 

It’s not very often that I get up enough chutzpah to contradict Julia Child, but in the case of ratatouille I really have to take a stand.  

zucchini

Photo by Joanna Hamblin

 

Child’s version of ratatouille requires the careful separate cooking of each vegetable, before layering the elements in a casserole for slow simmering.  Now, I have no doubt that this time-consuming stew is lovely, and full of exciting textures.  But if we’re going for authenticity, I have to point out that in all my time in France I never once met any home cook who made ratatouille in this way.  All of the French moms I know simply throw the veggies in a big pot, turn the heat to low, and stir every so often.  That’s it.  In fact, the word ratatouille apparently comes from the French touiller, which means “to stir”.  Yes, stir – not arrange in fussy little layers.  

dedham farmers market tomatoes

Photo by Joanna Hamblin

 

I love our local Dedham Farmer’s Market. Thanks to the farmer’s market manager, Joanna Hamblin (who happens to take some lovely photos), you can see how fantastic our market has been this summer.  The richness of the market is something of a blessing and a curse.  I get so excited about the overflowing stalls of veggies and fruits and jams and breads that I generally come home lugging so much more than Jeff and I can manage to eat in a week.  But ratataouille to the rescue!  I’ve been making huge batches of this stuff. We’ve been having ratatouille with dinner over grilled chicken or on swordfish kebabs, or for a simple lunch with warm pita.  Sometimes I toss it with pasta and a bit of goat cheese, or use it as a filling for omelets.  And lately I’ve been loving ramekins half-filled with ratatouille, topped with an egg, and baked until the white sets.  With a bit of baguette this is just about the best summer meal imaginable.  

farmers market

Photo by Joanna Hamblin

 

If you don’t have herbes de Provence on hand, feel free to use equal amounts of basil, savory, and fennel.  In fact, pretty much anything goes in this forgiving stew.  The recipe is not set in stone, but you can find my favorite version here in this month’s Cozy, Delicious column in the Dedham Transcript, on WickedLocal.com. 

ratatouille 

Guilt and a Rustic Blueberry Peach Tart

rustic berry peach tart

Kim Severson, one of my favorite food writers, recently published a book, Spoon FedThere is a hilarious chapter in which Severson describes cleansing her kitchen before a visit by the famed Alice Waters.  She tosses cans of soda in the trash and frets over frozen (albeit organic) chicken nuggets. Heaven forbid Ms. Waters catch a glimpse of processed food!

crostadaSometimes I feel like Severson.  I am cringing now as I admit that I used a store-bought pie crust for this rustic blueberry peach tart.  And while I’m airing the dirty laundry, I might as well let you know that I often use store-bought pie crust.  I know how to make pie crust, and from-scratch really does taste better, but sometimes convenience is key.  I had this tart in the oven in 10 minutes flat.  You can’t beat that!

So, then, why do I feel guilty?  I have drilled into my own head the superiority of everything homemade, but what’s wrong with convenience every now and then?  It’s not as though my grandmother, my culinary idol, never used a canned biscuit or boxed cake mix.  As a child she spent summers in her mother’s kitchen putting up fruits and vegetables for winter – out of necessity not nostalgia.  So as an adult she adored store-bought canned peaches and jarred tomato sauce. For her generation, convenience foods were a symbol of freedom and sophistication – not commercialism.  Instant rice and condensed soup allowed my grandmother time out of the kitchen, out of the house.

And refrigerated pie crust allowed me to produce a beautiful dessert in minutes.  Sweet, juicy berries and bright, fresh peaches make this simple dessert a sure crowd-pleaser.  Ideal after a  BBQ, the flavors of this rustic tart are pure summer.  And since almost any combination of fruits could work in a tart like this, if you keep pie crust on hand, it’s easy to throw together an impressive dessert in no time. I happen to like this rustic tart served with a scoop of honey ice cream, but it’s lovely all on its own too.

crostada

Rustic Blueberry Peach Tart

Serves 8

1 refrigerated pie crust

3 large peaches, thinly sliced

1/2 cup blueberry jam

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons cream

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the crust on a greased baking sheet.  Arrange the peaches in a concentric circle on the crust, starting about 2 inches in from the edge. Mix the jam and the cinnamon.  Spread the jam on the dough in the open center, in the middle of the peaches.  Mound the berries on the jam.  Fold the edges of the dough in over the peaches, pinching as you go to secure the crust. Brush the dough with the cream.  Sprinkle the entire tart with the sugar.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and the berries are bubbling.  Cool slightly before slicing.

tart

Published in: on August 7, 2010 at 7:54 pm  Comments (37)  
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