Friday, April 30, 2010

Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers with Basil and Sundried Tomatoes

These are for the times when you want to eat 'healthy' but only in the not-calling-out-for-pizza sense of the word. Residual 1990's fat gram counting guilt aside, these are damned delicious. Pour yourself a glass of something cold and zingy and sit down to dinner.

As for you still-in-the-'90's set (you may recognize me - I visit from time to time), feel free to substitute chicken sausage for the pork. Just shake in a hefty pour of red pepper flakes as you mix up the filling and you won't be missing a thing.

Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers with Basil and Sundried Tomatoes
* These can be served as a main dish (two per person) or as an appetizer or side dish. Adjust your menu accordingly.

2 large bell peppers or 3 medium, cut in half lengthwise and cored and deseeded

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (part skim is fine)
pinch sea salt
few cracks fresh black pepper
zest of 1/2 large lemon (or whole small)

dash olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 hot Italian pork sausage links, skin removed and broken up with your fingers or spoon
pinch sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (or more if you really want that licorice tang)
grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped sundried tomatoes
handful of basil leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, mix the parmesan, ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat up a dash of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over low/medium heat. Add in the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add in the sausage, breaking up with your spoon or fingers as you add it in into large chunks. Season with salt and pepper and cook, continuing to gently break up as it browns into smaller bits (easier for stuffing) and adding in the dash of oil when the bottom of your pan dries out too much. After it's browned about halfway, add in the fennel seeds and nutmeg. Once brown, add in the minced garlic and cook an additional minute, stirring frequently to keep the delicate garlic from burning.

Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes, then add in the entire mixture to the cheese mixture. Add in the sundried tomatoes and basil and stir well.

Stuff the peppers, pushing down to make sure your getting into all the crevices. Once stuffed, drizzle lightly with a smidge of olive oil over the top, and bake for 22 minutes, or until the tops are just brown and the sides of the peppers have begun to wilt and soften.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Versatile Dill, Lemon and Balsamic Dressing

* This pic is actually of a roasted portabello stuffed with artichokes and fresh mozzarella that I served over an arugula salad. I didn't include the recipe because I thought the artichoke dominated the dish and made my wine taste like pee. Boo:(

Westville is a restaurant by my house in the West Village known for its down home cooking. While I'm partial to their turkey burger, my absolute favorite thing on their menu is the lemon dill balsamic vinaigrette (that I dunk my turkey burger into like it's running away from me.)

This is my attempt at a copycat version. It's not exactly like theirs but close enough for now (I will continue to tweak it and report back once satisfied.) Westville's isn't quite as 'green' tasting as mine which makes me wonder if they use dried dill? If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on fresh herbs versus dried in dressings, let me hear from you.

Another thing I love about this dressing is that it's so versatile. I love it tossed with salad (preferably arugula), as a dipping sauce for roasted meats and burgers, and oddly enough tossed with hot pasta. With this versatile vinaigrette, the world is your oyster.

Fresh Lemon, Dill and Balsamic Dressing

3 heaping tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (a couple dashes) balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1 small garlic clove minced (or 1/2 if you're garlic sensitive)
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the dill, balsamic, salt, pepper, honey, garlic, dijon and lemon juice in a blender. Turn on low for a minute or so to knock the fight out of them. Scrape down the sides to drown any disobedient bedfellows, then blend again for a few seconds. With the motor on low, remove the cap from the top and slowly drizzle in the olive oil so that it emulsifies as added. Taste for salt/pepper/honey making any adjustments necessary. If it's too tart, add another squeeze of honey. If it's bland, another pinch of salt and/or pepper. Usually all a 'blah' dressing needs is a bit more salt, but then again another slug of balsamic never hurt one either.

Toss with lettuce for a salad, use a dipping sauce for roasted meat, or toss with pasta.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pan Seared Pork Cutlets with Lemon Butter Caper Sauce and Parmesan Penne

Pan Seared Pork Cutlets with Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

4 thin boneless pork chop cutlets, seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup dry white wine (preferably Chardonnay)
1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon well drained capers
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 good squeeze honey

Heat up oil in a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is sauntering around the pan freely, add the seasoned chops, spacing evenly apart and letting cook about 4-5 minutes per side or until they've achieved a nice golden brown on the first side and release somewhat easily. Turn over and cook another 3-4 minutes or until golden on the other side. Transfer to a low, warm oven (250 or so) to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Kick the heat up to high on the pan and add the white wine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan while you bring to a boil. Let boil down for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by at least half, then add in the chicken stock. Boil for 1 more minute then lower the heat to low and add in the juice of a half lemon, capers, butter and honey. Stir until all is dissolved and melted in. Taste for salt/pepper/sweetness. If it's too tart, add in another squeeze honey and stir in. I can't imagine it wouldn't be piquant enough with all that tart lemon and salty capers, but you never know.

Remove the chops from the oven and add back to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Serve warm with the sauce and capers ladled over the pork.

Parmesan Penne

2 cups petite whole wheat penne
handful kosher or sea salt for pasta water
4 tablespoons Fresh Dill, Lemon and Balsamic Dressing, recipe follows
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or more if you like)
2 tablespoons lightly toasted slivered or sliced almonds

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in a handful of salt, let return to a boil, and add in your pasta. Cook for 6 minutes or JUST until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl (if you just drain it and return to the same pot, your cheese will get to hot when you stir it in and clump together instead of combining politely with the pasta.) Toss with the dressing then add in the cheese and toss again. You might want to throw a pinch of pepper in there and toss again. Just think about it. Serve with a scattering of toasted almonds over the top.

Fresh Dill, Lemon and Balsamic Dressing:

3 heaping tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (a couple dashes) balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1 small garlic clove minced (or 1/2 if you're garlic sensitive)
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the dill, balsamic, salt, pepper, honey, garlic, dijon and lemon juice in a blender. Turn on low for a minute or so to knock the fight out of them. Scrape down the sides to drown any disobedient bedfellows, then blend again for a few seconds. With the motor on low, remove the cap from the top and slowly drizzle in the olive oil so that it emulsifies as added. Taste for salt/pepper/honey making any adjustments necessary. If it's too tart, add another squeeze of honey. If it's bland, another pinch of salt and/or pepper. Usually all a 'blah' dressing needs is a bit more salt, but then again another slug of balsamic never hurt one either.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Martha Hall Foose's Vinegar 'Mopping' Sauce and Dry Rub

If you like to eat tasty food, cook tasty food, or ever ponder taking a road trip through the south to come head to head with the home of the blues (and incredible southern food) then go on Amazon this instant and buy 'Screen Doors and Sweet Tea' by Martha Hall Foose. And before you skip onto your next food blog or celeb gossip site thinking you have nothing in common with a woman cooking up southern food in Mississippi, think again. Martha got herself out of the deep South as soon as she possibly could flinging herself halfway across the world to Paris (where a bag of grits made her instant bff's with an artsy set that showed her parts of the city never seen by tourists.) And while she loved it, she eventually followed her heart back to that rich, culture-soaked Mississippi soil. Martha, it turns out, is proof that you can go home again after all.

The stories and recipes pull you in like quicksand but what I love most about the book are the deeply little southern things she introduces the reader to such as this vinegar-riddled 'mop' sauce. A mop sauce, it turns out, isn't like a BBQ or basting sauce exactly. It's meant to be thin and there's no need to boil it down for hours over the stove to thicken it. She includes it in her recipe for ribs (delicious) but I love it just as much basted over a double cut, bone-in pork chop or a whole chicken. It's an instant recipe booster as is her dry rub which I included below.

A final example of a southern wisdom from the book comes from a friend of Martha's on cleaning and prepping a turtle for turtle soup - "Drive it over to Louisiana and have someone do it for you."

Mopping Sauce:
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I halve this because I'm a wimp)
Shake vigoruusly and refrigerate overnight. Baste ribs, pork chops, steak, or chicken frequently over a hot grill.

Dry Rub:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon black pepper (she uses a whole tbsln)
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix all and store in an airtight container for up to a month. Pat thickly over cuts of meat (ideally the day before grilling) keeping wrapped in the fridge overnight to absorb the flavors.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lazy Man's Stir Fry - Sesame Hoisin Chicken, Shitakes and Broccoli

I heart this dish. It takes me back to exotic evenings out to dinner at our local chinese restaurant when I was little. It was on one of these special occasions that I was first introduced to Moo Shu Pork and more importantly to that sweet and rich Asian condiment called Hoisin Sauce. You could put it on an old shoe and it would taste good. It's the marijuana of condiments, in my opinion.

This recipe isn't quite as sweet as Moo Shu pork but you could always add more Hoisin over the veggies after you plate them (I do this in a swift and stealth move when no one's looking the way a dieter adds extra grated Parm over their Pasta Primavera. If no one sees you - it never happened.)

But my favorite part is that there's no stir frying at all. You make a marinade for the chicken, let it get to be friends for a few hours in the fridge, then dump it all into a greased pan to bake off. Add in the veg a little later with some liquid and you've got dinner.

Lazy Man's Stir Fry - Sesame Hoisin Chicken, Shitakes and Broccoli
* Marinade courtesy of Epicurious
* Serves 2

2 bone in, skin on chicken breasts (one whole breast, split)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)

1 bunch fresh broccoli, rinsed, dried and cut into florets (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 package sliced shitake mushrooms
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin

1/2 cup (or more) slivered red bell pepper
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (lightly toasted in a pan if you have the energy)

1/3 cup chopped green onions, for garnish

In a medium bowl, add in the hoisin, ginger, garlic, red pepper, oil, soy sauce and vinegar. Stir or whisk well and poor into a large ziploc bag. Add in the chicken, mushing around to be sure they're well coated, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove 20 minutes before cooking to take the chill off and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 (350 if your oven runs hot.) Spray a large glass or Pyrex baking dish with nonstick spray. Add the chicken and marinade to the dish, making sure the chicken is spaced evenly apart with its own room to cook. Cover with foil and cook for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add in the broccoli florets, scattering evenly around and in between the chicken. Repeat with the shitakes. In a small bowl, quickly mix the stock, soy sauce, and hoisin together until well blended. Pour over the veggies around the pan and return it to the oven (without the foil) to cook for another 20 minutes. Remove once again and scatter the bell pepper around the pan. Sprinkle the top of the chicken evenly with the sesame seeds and bake another 5-10 minutes. If the skin hasn't browned nicely yet (because of the early foil cover which was necessary to keep the sauce from burning) put your oven on broil and cook another 2 minutes until the skin begins to sizzle and crisp up and darken.

Remove, scatter the green onions over, and serve (just be sure to pluck out those garlic cloves and discard them first if have garlic haters in your family or else they'll be citing the incident for years to come in therapy.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quesadillas, at least in picture...

No time to post today. Been a crazy work week. But I'll get this recipe up over the weekend as well as a few others. Had some great meals in LA this week and am full of ideas! Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Urban Cowboy Pasta with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese

Did you know you could put cheddar cheese in pasta? It's really not that crazy when you think about it. A good sharp aged cheddar, which is what you want here, isn't that different in texture from Parmesan or Asiago. A ladle full of pasta water to help everything make friends and you're good to go. I particularly love the cheeseburger-iness of the flavors here. Salty sweet prosciutto, tender tomatoes, and a punch from the sharp cheddar and green onions added at the very end. It's worth noting that even though you fry up the pancetta to start with, it will lose its crispy texture after you introduce the tomatoes and splash of pasta water. If you'd like to keep it crunchy, remove it with a slotted spoon and add it back in at the very end.

Finally there's no real reason I called this Urban Cowboy pasta other than a somewhat tenuous link to it being both fancy (pancetta) and down to earth (cheddar cheese.) Honestly I just use any excuse I can find to plug the movie, an old favorite. I mean any film that can work in this description of cowboys - 'some of us got smarts real good' should be watched again and again.

Urban Cowboy Pasta with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese
Serves 4 cowboys or six ladies.

1 box (1 lb) spiral or tube shaped pasta
Dash of olive oil
4 oz diced/cubed pancetta (you can sub bacon)
1 (28 oz can) whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch sea salt
Dash garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper
2 1/2 cups extra sharp grated cheddar (white or yellow - I like to grate a block of 2% Cracker Barrel Sharp Yellow), plus extra for garnish
Ladle full of pasta water
1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus extra for garnish

Put a large pot of water over high heat to boil for your pasta. Once boiling, season with a handful of kosher or sea salt, and add your pasta cooking about 6-7 minutes or just until al dente.

Meanwhile, add a dash of olive oil to a large nonstick skillet and bring over medium heat. Add in the pancetta cubes and cook, stirring every other minute or so, until nice and crispy (about 5-6 minutes.)
Add in the drained tomatoes and season with a half teaspoon sugar, a small pinch of sea or kosher salt, dash of garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, breaking the tomatoes up gently with a wooden spoon. Bring the tomatoes mixture to a boil and let go for about 3 minutes, stirring once. Reduce the heat to low and season with a good grating of fresh nutmeg and fresh cracked pepper. Stir to incorporate. Add in the pasta using a spider or slotted spoon along with the 2 1/2 cups of cheddar. Stir to incorporate, then add in a ladle full of pasta water to help everything meld and stir again. Just before serving, stir in the chopped green onions.

Serve warm, garnishing with extra grated cheddar and green onions.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pile 'Em High Portabellos (Raw Picture Thursday)

I know rinsing mushrooms under water is considered a no-no among chefs, but for me biting into grit/dirt is like farting on a first date. I don't care how or why it happened - you're out (and yes I'd be just as harsh on myself if I were the culprit.) I'd happily risk a soggier mushroom in lieu of biting into dirt any day but to be honest I've never encountered this problem from rinsing them. A quick, brutal pounding under the faucet followed by an immediate pat down with paper towels and you're safe.

A final note - it's counter intuitive for me not to season every layer as I cook but it's the right call here. If I were to salt the portabellos before stuffing, they'd break down too quicky during cooking and lose their shape causing the filling to run amok. Besides the stuffing is seasoned enough I promise. And though I don't cook vegetarian all the time, when I do I'm always amazed by how satisfying veggies can be. Here the beans on top get a little crunchy while cooking and take on a whole new fabulous texture. More please!

Pile 'Em High Portabellos
* Pics are of unbaked stuffed mushrooms. Sadly they get less photogenic after cooking but luckily they're delicious!
Serves 2-3.

3 medium portabellos or 2 very large

2 oz goat cheese, preferably at room temp
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 tspn cumin
1/2 tspn coriander
1/2 teaspoon hot English mustard
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen), well drained and pressed lightly with a paper towel
3/4 of 1 (15oz) can red kidney beans, drained but not rinsed
2 minced green onions
2 tablespoons Panko
Black pepper or white for seasoning
1/8 tspn kosher salt
Drizzle olive oil - about 2 teaspoons

Preheat the oven to 375. Meanwhile, spray a medium rimmed skillet with nonstick spray (line it with aluminum foil beforehand for easy cleanup if desired.) Rinse your Portabellos, making sure you remove stems first, quickly under the tap flipping over to get both sides and brushing quickly and vigorously with the flat side of your fingers. Place immediately onto a bed of paper towels and pat gently but furiously to absorb any water that might already be sinking into the the spongy creatures. Set onto another dry set of towels while you make the filling.

Meanwhile in a medium sized bowl, mix the goat cheese through English mustard well with a fork. Add in the well drained diced tomatoes and stir again. Add in the drained beans, green onions, Panko, pepper and salt. Stir gently until all is mixed.

Place the mushrooms bottom-side down in the prepared pan spreading them out evenly. Using a spoon, gently stuff them filling the nooks and crannies and piling high making sure every Portabello is evenly stuffed. Drizzle each with olive oil, rubbing any extra around the sides of the mushroom.

Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes, just until the sides of the mushrooms have begun to cave, the tops are just golden, and the liquid from the shrooms has pooled around the pan. Let set for 3 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chicken with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce over Roast Asparagus and Tomato Farro

Cream cheese and I are old friends. Back in the day when I first started cooking, I discovered its magic in desserts like pound cakes and pastry crust. When I got confident enough to entertain with food, I put it in these fantastically white trash chicken pastry pockets (with chopped green onions and sauteed shallots - delish.) And today the relationship is as strong as ever, as the creamy, white-as-nun's-thighs paste continues to astound me with its versatility.

Case in point - this gorgonzola cream sauce. It cuts the sharpness of the cheese just enough to make it presentable to a variety of appetites (unless you're my father in law or Jon Marshall, a dear friend who redefines being a meat and potatoes man) but probably my favorite part of this meal is - you guessed it - the farro. When the extra sauce leaks over the chicken and onto those wheaty kernels and the roasted tomatoes and asparagus, you understand why Alice Waters started a veggie movement all those years ago.

Thank you Alice - this one's for you.

Chicken with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce over Roast Asparagus and Tomato Farro
* The farro should be soaked in water (enough to cover it by two inches) for several hours ahead of cooking, ideally. Otherwise you'll just need to increase the simmering time by 20 minutes or so. No biggie.
* If you have a good cast iron dutch oven, such as a Le Creuset, put the lid on it after making the farro and it should stay warm until everything else is ready.
* This serves 2-4 people, but you'll have lots of extra farro. Take it for lunch the next day or use it to stuff portabellos for a scrumptious vegetarian dinner.

• 20 asparagus spears, sliced into 1 inch chunks
• 1 bunch cherry tomatoes (from a plastic carton)
• Pinch salt and white pepper
• 1 teaspoon butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add in the asparagus and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and saute stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Transfer the veg to a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

A few hours before cooking, soak 1 cup of farro in a large pot of water. At cooking time, drain the farro then return to the pan covering with fresh water (enough to clear it by 3 inches.) Add a 1/2 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to simmer for 30 min. Drain. Rinse well. Return the farro to a warm pan. Add in:

• the roasted veggies
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• the juice of 1 lemon
• a handful of minced flat leaf parsley
• two handfuls of minced basil
• salt and white pepper, to taste

Set aside while you make the chicken (or if you're really on the ball, saute the chicken during the last half of the farro cooking time and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce for everything to time out.)

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same large pan from before and bring over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (seasoned with salt and pepper) to pan, cooking until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a low oven to keep warm while you make the sauce. Add another dash of oil and 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter to the pan over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add in:

• 3/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Saute, stirring occasionally until the onion is nice and soft - about 7 minutes. Add in 3/4 cup of dry white wine and bring to a boil. Cook down until the majority of the liquid gas evaporated, then lower the heat to low and stir in:

• 1 oz reduced fat cream cheese
• 2.5 oz gorgonzola
• 2 tablespoons low sodium chicken stock

Stir gently until all the cheese melts and you've got a nice smooth sauce. Serve the chicken over a heaping pile of the farro and top with a spoonful of sauce. Garnish with extra minced flat leaf parsley if desired.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spicy Turkey Tacos with Jalapeno, Sauteed Peppers, and Cilantro

Hi Loves. I will write more in-depth posts soon - I promise. In the meantime, Happy Spring to you and yours!

Spicy Turkey Tacos with Jalapeno, Sauteed Peppers, and Cilantro

1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips
1 garlic clove, minced

additional dash or two of oil
1.3 lbs ground turkey (93% lean - not 99%))
pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 jalapeno, minced and some seeds left (or 2 if you really like it hot)

Garnish with plenty of:
light sour cream
shredded cheddar
sliced avocado
fresh chopped cilantro

Wrap a big old mess of flour tortillas well in aluminum foil and place in a low oven to warm through (225 degrees or so) while you cook the taco filling.

For the filling, add a teaspoon of oil to a large nonstick pan and bring the heat to medium. Let the oil warm through for 30 seconds or so, then add the minced onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring once or twice. Add in the bell pepper and garlic and saute for about 5-7 minutes, until the pepper begins to soften a little. Scoot the veggies over to one side of the pan and add a dash of oil or two to the clean space for the turkey. Add the meat to the clear space, braking up with your wooden spoon. Season with an additional pinch of salt, and once it's begun to brown, you can stir it around the pan, mixing it in with the veggies to help the meat along. As it cooks, season everything with the ground coriander, cumin, and paprika.

After the meat is almost all browned, add in the minced jalapeno - as much as you like. I like the jalapeno to have just enough time in the pan to be slightly mellowed by the heat, but not so much so that it loses its crunch. Once the meat is cooked through, taste the mixture for salt and pepper, making any adjustments needed.

Serve in warm flour tortillas with plenty of shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado and cilantro for garnish.

Spring Pasta with Brie and Basil

Spring Pasta with Brie and Basil
* Keeping the brie cold before adding it to the pasta will help keep it from all melting/sticking together when you add it to the hot pan. It's also much easier to cut into cubes when chilled.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 medium shallots, finely minced
2 medium zuchinni, finely diced
sea or kosher salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
red pepper flakes

1 box (13.25 oz) wheat pasta
10 oz frozen peas, ideally but not imperatively thawed
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 pound cold brie (straight from the fridge) cut into small cubes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, or pistachios to drive officially go overboard on the green theme
teaspoon olive oil
sea salt
red pepper flakes

Put a large pot of water over high heat. While you wait for it to boil, you can get on with your veggies. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and half tablespoon of butter to a large, rimmed nonstick skillet and bring over medium heat. Give the fat a few seconds to heat through, then add the shallots, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, for two minutes. Add the zuchinni along with a teeny bit more salt and saute until soft and just beginning to brown - about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with a grating of fresh nutmeg, a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, and keep on low or turn off while you boil your pasta.

Meanwhile, season your boiling pasta water with a handful of salt, let return to a boil, and then add in the pasta. Cook for 6 minutes, then add the frozen peas, cooking just until they turn a bright, poppy green - about 2 minutes. At this point your pasta should be al dente, so using a spider or slotted spoon, strain and transfer it and the peas to your awaiting veggies, placing over low heat if not already on it. Stir gently to incorporate everything, adding in a ladle of pasta water if desired. Stir in the basil, cubed brie, and pine nuts. Drizzle with an additional teaspoon olive oil and taste for salt/red pepper flakes adding extra if necessary. Serve warm.