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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Egg Stuffed Red Pepper

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Red Pepper Surprise

Trying to decide what to make for dinner, I asked one of my roommates for suggestions. After hearing what ingredients I had to work with, he suggested jokingly “Cook an egg in a pepper.” And I did.

Despite its start as a joke, this was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. It was very flavorful and had a wide variety of flavors.

Recipe:

1. Beat two eggs with butter and shredded cheddar. Toss that with 2 slices of torn multigrain bread (crust removed), spinach, and onion. Add salt, pepper, and chipotle powder to taste.

2. Add this mixture into a cleaned, deribbed red bell pepper. Replace cap.

3. Cook in a (preheated) oven at 350 until pepper is tender and egg is cooked through, about 45 minutes. (It might help to place the pepper in a small, oven-proof bowl to help keep it upright while cooking.)

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100 Layer Lasagna

May 18, 2010 2 comments

Courtesy of Hannah Whitaker, New York Magazine

If you think you can make a lasagna, give this a whirl: a 100-layer lasagna, “50 practically transparent sheets of handmade pasta, alternating with 50 layers of sauce (Bolognese, besciamella, and marinara).”

Served by Chef Mark Ladner at his New York restaurant Del Posto, it is only available as part of the 7-course Del Posto Menu Tradizionale, which will set you back a cool $125 per person.

Read the Article on NYMag: 100-Layer Lasagna (via TheKitchn)

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Pasta Tangent

May 10, 2010 6 comments

Being a student in a foreign country with food much more pricey than what I’m used to at home (especially meats), I like to eat (relatively) cheap.  Why spend money on food when I can save it and go skydiving over glaciers?

Now, I will admit that I’m a bit of a food snob, so “cheap” to me is going to be entirely different than “cheap” for the college kid that eats Ramen noodles every night.  While I’m not going to pay the outrageous New Zealand prices for chicken (or, if I do, use it very sparingly), I’m fine paying a little more for the nicer brand of pasta and the artisan bread.

Regardless, pasta has become a staple for me these past two months, eating it at least 2 or 3 times a week.  I vary it up quite a bit, though, one day going with a traditional red sauce, the next an Alfredo, and maybe even blend them for a rosy cream sauce).

PastaTonight I was cooking an easy tomato sauce (with onion, garlic, capsicum, and ground meat).  I did what I normally did at the end, adding some of the pasta water to the sauce, and my flatmate questioned me on it.  “Why did you just add the pasta water to the sauce?”

To be honest, I didn’t really know.  I always thought it had to do with getting the flavors to mesh better, and I’d even heard that the starch in the water from the pasta helped to thicken the sauce.  I decided to investigate, and what I found was startling.

I’ve been cooking my pasta, something so simple, wrong all these years.

Fine Cooking has a great list of tips for cooking pasta, which I’ll summarize below:

How to Prepare the Water:

In general, the more water you can use, the better.  I always try and stick with tiny amounts of water so it will boil faster, but that justs makes the pasta crowded.  More water (often 4-5 quarts for a pound) allows the pasta to breath, the starch to dilute and get away from the pasta, and most importantly prevents the pasta from sticking together.

I’ve always added oil to my pasta water to help prevent noodles from sticking, but that too is a fallacy.  While it does help, it also makes the noodles so slippery that the sauce won’t stick to them, and you end up with almost two separate dishes: pasta on one side and sauce on the other.

Finally, you should nearly always salt the water.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not to allow the pasta to cook faster.  (In order to make a substantial difference in the cooking time, you’d have to empty at least half a cup of salt, probably more,  into the water.)  Instead, it’s used to flavor the pasta.  Pasta is much more keen to absorb the flavor of salt while cooking, and you’ll get a much more even flavor this way than waiting until after to salt.  (I’ve often heard “Salty like the sea.”)

pasta sauce

From Flickr user ginnerobot, licensed under the Creative Commons

Cooking the Pasta:

Since we’ve already ruled out oil, what’s the key to prevent pasta from sticking?  Make sure you stir often (especially in the first minute or two).  This is when the pasta is very starchy and the starch hasn’t had a chance to get away from the pasta, and this is when it’s most likely to stick.  If you use plenty of water and stir often, you can easily keep the pasta from sticking.

How long should you cook it?  Well, it really depends on the pasta and your tastes.  Pasta packages usually give a time (usually 6 minutes for very thin pasta and up to 15 for thicker pastas), but that should only be used as a rough guide.  When you’re nearing that time, taste the pasta every minute or so until it’s as done as you like it.  The traditional Italian way is “al dente,” which literally means “to the tooth”–basically cooked until firm but not hard.  Americans generally like their pasta chewier, and even an American who likes al dente pasta would probably find pasta in other parts of the world undercooked.

Combining with the Sauce:

Always remove the pasta from the water as soon as it’s done to prevent it from cooking further, even if the sauce isn’t ready.  (If you need to reheat pasta later, save the pasta water and keep it hot.  Dip the pasta back in the hot water for a few seconds until it gets hot again.)

Don’t rinse the pasta, and preferably add it to the sauce right away.  The quicker after cooking you combine them, the better the pasta will absorb the sauce, turning into one dish instead of two.  Or course, serve shortly thereafter or your pasta will continue to cook and get soggy again.

So What’s the Deal with the Pasta Water?

As it turns out, there’s quite a debate on this.  Fine Cooking, the site that I’ve linked above, suggests to use it to thicken.  On the other hand, Robert Wolke, a food writer for the Washington Post, suggests that there’s not enough starch in the water to make a difference and it will actually thin the sauce.  Wolke’s opinion, however, seems to be more common between (Internet) chefs, and also seems to fit common sense better.  As he says, “There’s nothing special about this hot water; it’s just a handy source of, well, hot water” that can be used to thin the sauce if it’s too thick.  (On the other hand, if the water was heavily salted, it will certainly enhance the flavor of the final dish.)

So what do you think?  Does adding pasta water to sauce make any difference, either positive or negative?

Monsoon Poon

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

A few times this semester, a group of us has gone out to dinner to explore some of the nicer places to eat in Wellington.  Now, when I say nice, I don’t mean super fancy, but nicer than the typical college student fare.  We try and stay in the $20-$30 dinner range (about $15-$25 back in the US).

Back on the North Island trip when I stayed the night at the YHA hostel in Taupo, a British couple was cooking chicken curry and Naan bread while I was cooking my dinner and it smelled amazing.  Since then, I’ve been craving Indian food like none other.  So, we decided to try Monsoon Poon, an Indian/Southeast Asian restaraunt that Lena found online.

Taken off their website

Looking on their website, you can tell instantly that it’s a bit playful, with the top of their menu printed with the phrase, “You hungry, we cook no.  Yes?” mocking Engrish.  When we got there, it was obvious that it wasn’t a traditional Asian restaraunt.  It seemed almost American in the way the decoration was overdone, trying to be creative but a little too obviously so.  It was a pretty big restaraunt, about the size of a TGI Friday’s (which is huge here).  Oh, and they were playing techno music.  Weird mix.

I ended up ordering the Chicken Tandoori Duo, chicken in tikka and korma spices, along with Garlic Naan and steamed rice.  The chicken was fantastic and just enough to fill me up, though I wasn’t quite as impressed with the Naan.  Though it was huge, it just didn’t have the taste I was hoping for.

John got a beefy dish that had a sweet flavor I couldn’t place.  Lena was hoping to order duck (since she’s never tried it), but, after finding out that it would be too spicy for her tastes, ordered a chicken and prawn dish called “Phoenix and Dragon.”  As the name might imply, it was more Asian than Indian and was a simple sweet and sour sauce–she wasn’t very impressed.

Regardless, dinner was a great success and we all left satisfied but craving something sweet.  We went into the Reading Theatre food court in search of dessert.  (Many movie theatres in New Zealand have large shopping centers inside them, almost like a mini-mall.  And when I say “many move theatres,” I’m basing that off of this one and the IMAX in Auckland, the only two I’ve ever seen.)  We found Wendy’s Supa Sundaes, a small ice cream shop (not to be confused with the red headed girl from the US).  This is the only stand-alone ice cream shop I’ve seen in Wellington, though, to be fair, I haven’t looked that hard.

As soon as we walked up, the girl behind the counter had three tasting spoons full of caramel-butterscotch-brownie ice cream.  It was very tasty (along with the other flavors I tasted).  I ended up ordering a two scoop, but got talked into topping up to three scoops for 60 cents.  My flavors were: caramel-butterscotch-brownie, Bailey’s Scorched Almond, and Hokey Pokey (a New Zealand favorite: vanilla ice cream with bits of sponge toffee).

I was so stuffed by the end of the night that I ended up with a cramp in my side trying to walk the stairs back up to my place.  That’s how you know it was a good night.

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