Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mako with Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce

In just a few month, I will be a broke student, so I have started to be a bit more thrifty when it comes to my food purchases.  The other day, I went to the fishmonger looking for a firm, meaty fish that I could serve with a sauce I intended to make with some fennel and cherry tomatoes I had on hand.  Swordfish seemed like the obvious choice, but when I saw mako, which the fishmonger's sign described as "similar to swordfish," for half the price, the budget-conscious half of my brain told me to give the shark a try.  While I'm not completely sold on mako—the texture of the meat is not quite as firm as that of swordfish nor is it as flavorful—the bright tomato and fennel sauce more than made up for it and made me thankful that I still had a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Mako with Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed
  • 2 6 oz. mako or swordfish fillets
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. 
  3. Add the onion, fennel, and fennel seeds to the saucepan and season with salt.  Cook until the onion and fennel soften, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Pour the vinegar into the saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Let the vinegar evaporate completely, about 1 minute. 
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes to the saucepan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes burst, 3 to 5 minutes.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and keep warm over low heat while you cook the fish.
  6. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fish and cook until they are golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes.  Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Put the skillet in the oven and cook until the fish is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Do not overcook the fish.
  9. Serve the fish immediately, topped with a generous amount of the fennel and tomato sauce.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bucatini with Pancetta, Fava Beans, and Tomato Sauce

Bucatini is my favorite dried pasta.  Nice and thick—about twice as thick as spaghetti—,it has a wonderful texture that allows a sauce coat each tube perfectly. Although bucatini can be difficult to track down, I was fortunate enough to spot some at Eataly.  The traditional method of serving the pasta i is all'Amatriciana, and I decided to go a similar route with the tomato sauce and pancetta, but it being the beginning of spring after a long, harsh winter, I couldn't resist tossing in some blanched fava beans for good measure.  The beans added wonderful texture and color to the buttery tomato sauce and al dente pasta.

Bucatini with Pancetta, Fava Beans, and Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

  • 2 lbs fava beans, shelled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup simple tomato sauce (I used Marcella Hazan's)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb bucatini
  • grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the fava beans and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the fava beans with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of ice water.  Once cool, peel off the skins of the beans and set aside.  Keep the water at a boil.
  2. Add the bucatini to the boiling water and cook for one minute less than the package suggests. 
  3. While the bucatini boils, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook until it begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let it cook until it is fragrant, about one minute.  Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the fava beans and taste for seasoning. 
  4. Drain the pasta and stir it into the simmering sauce.  Let the pasta and sauce cook for another minute, stirring to ensure that the pasta strands are coated by the sauce.
  5. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scallops with Fava Beans, Dandelion Greens, Ramps, and Pancetta

 This dish hardly requires a recipe, as it consists of little more than the ingredients listed in the title.  That's what I love about spring produce; it is so delicious on its own that gussying it up with any other ingredients usually does more harm than good.  In this case, I've paired seared jumbo sea scallops with blanched fava beans and dandelion greens, ramps, and crispy pancetta that I have sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  A drizzle of sherry vinegar, a few cracks of salt and pepper, and you have spring on a plate.

Scallops with Fava Beans, Dandelion Greens, Ramps, and Pancetta
Serves 2

  • 1 lb. fava beans, shelled
  • 2 tbsp
  • 1/4 lb. piece of pancetta, diced
  • 1 bunch of ramps, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens, cleaned and trimmed
  • 8 large sea scallops
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Sherry vinegar
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the shelled fava beans to the water and boil for 2 minutes.  Immediately drain the favas and add them to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Once cooled, peel each fava and place the beans in a bowl.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta begins to crisp.  Add the ramps and cook until some of the pieces begin to brown.  Add the dandelion greens and cook until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a bit of Sherry vinegar over the greens. 
  3. Meanwhile, as the dandelion pancetta cooks, prepare the scallops.  Pat them dry with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper.  Heat a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the scallops and cook, undisturbed, until they are well-browned on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip the scallops and cook on the other side until it is well-browned, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set the scallops aside on a plate.
  4. To plate the dish, divide the ramps and dandelion greens among two plates.  Quickly heat the fava beans in one of the skillets just until they are hot and surround the greens with the beans.  Top the greens with the scallops.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi

I made gnocchi once before, and while they weren't bad for a first attempt, they were not the light and fluffy pillows of pasta that I crave when I think about gnocchi.  Nearly two years later (time sure does fly, doesn't it!), I have made another attempt at gnocchi, and I think I finally figured it out this time around.  The key is to have extremely delicate touch when handling the dough.  As someone who has never been known for having a light touch—watch me do ten layups on a basketball hoop you'll see what I mean—I found this to be easier said than done. But just remind yourself every step of the way to have gentle hands, combining the ingredients of the dough just enough and rolling the dough as delicately as possible, and you will be well on your way to perfect gnocchi.  If my clumsy hands can do it, great gnocchi is certainly within anyone's reach.

Ricotta Gnocchi
Adapted from A16: Food + Wine
Serves 4

  • 2 cups fresh sheep milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup "00" pasta flour or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp salt.  Taste the mixture for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  It should be fairly salty since the flour will even out the salt level.  
  2. Stir the ricotta mixture until it is smooth in appearance, with no large curds visible.
  3. Stir in the egg yolk and half of the beaten egg and stir until just combined.
  4. Find a large, clean work surface and coat it with 1/2 a cup of the "00" pasta flour.  Spread the ricotta mixture on top of the flour, and top it with the remaining 1/2 cup of "00" pasta flour.
  5. Using your hands, gently fold the flour onto the ricotta mixture.  Continue to do so just until the dough comes together.  The dough should be slightly sticky, but should not stick to your fingers.  If it is too sticky, fold in a bit more flour.  
  6. Lightly dust a large cutting board or other large work surface with semolina flour.  
  7. Divide the gnocchi dough into 6 pieces.
  8. Take one piece of the gnocchi dough and, using a very gentle touch, roll it in the semolina flour until it forms a long long about a 1/2 inch in diameter.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  9. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each log of dough into 1-inch pieces.  At this point, the gnocchi can be cooked or frozen for a later use.
  10. To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi and wait for the pasta to float in the water, about two minutes; let the gnocchi cook for an additional minute after they float.  Using a mesh strainer, remove the gnocchi from pot.  Serve immediately with the sauce of your choice.  Pesto or a simple tomato sauce work particularly well.


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