Outright Theft, But A Good Dish!

Otto is a great pizza joint with lots of other good food available, in addition to having an excellent bar and a fantastic wine list. To top it off, the bartenders are pros, and so are some of the waiters. Some guy named Batali runs the place, or at least wanders in occasionally, and obviously he knows what he is doing. Anyway, I have had a wonderful antipasto there that they call, simply, “Shrimp, Ceci, Chiles.” Great stuff, and almost as simple as it sounds. Tommy:Eats has written about it, breaking down the dish pretty damned well. So, I happily stole it and served it on Saturday night, to great fanfare and rejoicing. Now, Mario Batali stole it from someone, and Tommy stole it from Batali, and I have stolen it from Tommy. At some point it will enter the public domain, but don’t let that stop you from making it now. Thievery in the service of your palate is a noble thing. Continue reading “Outright Theft, But A Good Dish!”

Chipotle Marinade

I am not a big fan of strict recipes for things like marinades, because the thickness of the meat* (yes, meat! What else is there to marinate?) and the amount of water in it can affect how quickly the marinade flavors it. For instance, if I were marinating something very thick I would use more salt than if the meat were cut thinner. I speak from bitter…er, salty experience, most recently last night.

Anyway, I have a fallback marinade that works very well with pretty much everything, but because it seems like a summery mixture I tend to use it when I barbecue, and that is usually during the summer.  I love the flavor of chipotle, which is smoked jalapeños, usually found canned in an Continue reading “Chipotle Marinade”

I Love My Cast-Iron Skillet

You can easily spend $200 on a skillet. And a set of pots and pans made from some weird copper alloy sandwiched between stainless steel with a hi-tech coating will set you back the price of a used car. Before you shoot me horrible e-mails and comments about how I don’t appreciate the technological advances that have made cooking accessible for lots of people (ignoring the fact that most people can’t afford this stuff) and how I am a Luddite, I like fancy pots and pans just as much as the next guy.

But my Lodge cast-iron skillet cost me $25, and I use it almost as much as my fancy non-stick sauté pan. Continue reading “I Love My Cast-Iron Skillet”

Pasta With Fresh Mussels And Bay Scallops

This is an easy dish that can be prepared in advance. Just don’t add the spaghetti until you are ready to eat. Or do what I do when I am even more lazy than usual. Make the dish, stick it in the refrigerator, and then when you reheat it just toss some reserved pasta water in to smooth out the sauce. It’s great either way.


Pasta With Fresh Mussels And Bay Scallops

1 lb. Thin Spaghetti
2 lbs. Fresh Mussels
1 lb. Bay Scallops (I like scallops, but you can use less).
1 Small Tomato  (cored, seeded and finely diced),
or 4 ounces of canned, chopped tomatoes
2 Small Onions (chopped)
1 Garlic Clove (finely minced)
3 Tbls. Chopped Parsley
12 oz. White Wine
Olive Oil
Salt And Pepper to taste (Be careful. The scallops and the mussels are salty, so it doesn’t need much)

Sauté onions in a large heavy pot in two to three tablespoons of olive oil on low/medium heat until slightly caramelized  (about 20 minutes).

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti.

Place mussels in a colander and rinse them in cold water, checking for opened or broken mussels; allow the mussels to drain.

When onions are cooked, turn heat to high and add white wine and garlic. Reduce for a few minutes and then add the mussels. Cover and cook for two to three minutes, until all of the mussels are open. Remove from heat.

Heat a small sauce pan on medium/high heat for one minute. Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil and the tomatoes. If you used fresh tomato, toss them for a few minutes until they give up most of their liquid. Add the scallops and cook for two to three minutes, until the scallops are no longer translucent. Add the parsley and cook for about 15 more seconds.

Remove the mussels from their shells (use gloves; they will be hot), taking care not to discard any of the onions.

Add the tomato and scallop mixture to the pot with the mussels.

Cook the spaghetti until just al dente and drain, reserving some of the water.

Add the spaghetti to the mussels and toss until the spaghetti is coated liberally; add some pasta water if necessary.

Serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Pasta With Spicy Sausage And Spinach

This a great dish for a hearty, last-minute meal. I bought the sausage at a local market ( The Market Basket) that makes its own. The sausage is nicely spiced, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to do much in the way of thinking about flavors. If all you can find is commercial sausage, add a bit of bite with some extra red pepper flakes and maybe some anise. The butter and ½ & ½ smooth out the spiciness and the saltiness of the sausage, so even finicky eaters will like this dish.

Pasta With Spicy Sausage And Spinach

1.5 lbs. spicy Italian sausage, casing removed

2 oz. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced fine

6 oz. white wine

10 oz. fresh spinach, washed, and stems removed

6 oz. ½ & ½

1 oz. unsalted butter

4 oz. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb. pasta (I used shells, but any ½- to 1-inch shape would work well)

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Cut the sausage into ¼- to ½-inch pieces and then sauté until the sausage is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan, leaving the fat and the oil (now would be a good time to put the pasta in the boiling water). Turn the heat down and add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes and then add the wine. De-glaze the pan on high heat, making sure to scrape all of the little bits of sausage and garlic into the liquid. When it has reduced a bit, add the spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted completely. It won’t take long, so don’t walk away for another glass of wine. It is a little disconcerting how little spinach is left, but it is enough to flavor the dish. Turn the heat down to medium and add the ½ & ½ and the butter. Swirl the sauce around until it thickens a bit more and the butter is completely incorporated. Put the sausage back into the pan, and when it is reheated, dump it over the pasta. Toss the pasta into the sauce as you sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the whole thing, and serve hot.