Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cacio e Pepe

Italian food can be brilliant in its simplicity. That is when the finest ingredients shine. Take Italian spaghetti, sharp Pecorino Romano, smooth Grana Padana cheese and toss it together with coarsely, fresh ground pepper to create the sublime. Cacio e Pepe, simply pasta with cheese and pepper, is found on many menus in Rome. This can be deeply satisfying when started with tender, sweet vine ripened melon wrapped in thinly sliced, salty prosciutto. Finished with a gelato it is transporting. Or by itself, it's just simply delicious. I'll take it either way. It is a dish that chefs are measured by and stirs up heated discussions on nuances of the few ingredients. Some will never add butter and some will use only one type of cheese. Most agree on the method of preparation making a velvety sauce with the cheese and a little bit of pasta water. You can leave those variations up to personal taste. The important thing is to add the right amount of the pasta water to have the cheese turn into a sauce that just coats the pasta and no more. Use your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Right now I using an olive oil that I got in an open market in Rome. It is right around the corner from our hotel in a small piazza and is a market by morning and filled with tables by day and evening for dining. I take a short cut and skirt through a narrow opening by this ancient column.The olive oil has no label and only has a metal bottle cap to seal it. I don't think there is a middle man involved, it's straight from the countryside. The closer to the grower you are, the closer you are to your food. And this dish is like a close, warm hug. Buon Appetito!

Cacio e Pepe

8 ounces Italian spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Grana Padana cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons coarsely grated black pepper
pasta water
freshly grated cheese for serving

Boil the pasta until 2 minutes before it is al dente. It will cook a little further in the skillet.
While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the pepper and stir for about a minute or less, until the oils release from the pepper. Turn off heat and drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the cooked pasta into the skillet, being careful since the oil and water will spatter. Toss together and then add the cheese while still tossing. Gradually add pasta water a tablespoon at a time to make a light sauce that just coats the pasta, and no more. Finish by tossing the pasta with 1-2 tablespoons butter. The cheese is salty, but salt to taste if you want more. Divide into 4 pasta bowls and top with freshly grated cheese and even more pepper, if you want.

Serves 4.

Now, if I only had a little gelato!
Cutting board by Ann at Thibeault's Table.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paris Love Locks and Dinner at Louis Vins

It was an early fall day and we knew we were lucky. Soon chilly weather would come in, convincing the leaves to turn and the sunny days to get shorter. We had all been friends long enough to not take this time for granted. We knew a good day when we saw it! And we had plans. After coffee and a Croque Monsier, we started walking toward the footbridge, Pont des Arts. In recent years it has become the Love Lock Bridge, as lovers pledge amour with a lock of love. We were placing red heart locks on the metal grid along the bridge that glistened with promises of love. One of us had a recently married daughter, and another a soon to be married niece. One day they would come to Paris to discover the heart shaped lock with their names engraved on it. We placed the locks on, made a note of where they were and tucked away the keys being careful they didn't fall through the crevices of the time-worn wooden planks. Then we sat just to take in the day. I my friends! Crossing back over the bridge we had a little window shopping to do.We were meeting friends, who live in Paris, for cocktails and then dinner. It was hard to not stop and look at each window, and we had some time. Ahhh....I was eying this, until I saw the price.........back to window shopping. We wanted to stop at Lauduree, but it was time for cocktails....at Fish la Boissonnerie! A few toasts later we were all pretty hungry, so we made the short walk for dinner at Louis Vins at 8 for 8. It was a day of celebration of love, life and friends Cheers!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Valentine ♥

It was an annual event. The invitations went out and all of of the little girls arrived and circled our large mahogany dining table in their red flouncy dresses. Craft paper, markers, scissors and heart stickers were spread out. Heart-shaped cookies ready to decorate sat on the table, and sprinkles littered the floor. Red heart-shaped Jello Jigglers were always invited to the party along with the bestest of friends. Giggles and Jigglers....bows and curls. That little girl is now all grown up and wearing a different flouncy dress....with a soon-to-be wedding bouquet and a handsome man across from her. There is a different chapter now with different invitations and a new version of hearts. My little girl isn't nearby, but she is close. Every Valentines Day when treats take on that shape of love, I think of her.

This Valentine's Day I'm still icing my knee instead of cupcakes and cookies and I'm thinking of Valentines past. My daughter wants to make the Jigglers if she can get a heart shaped cutter in Korea, and my son and his girlfriend, Val, are making Truffles. Love is truly in the air. For me, I decided to re-post some ideas for your V-Day. Just click on the photo for a link to the post. XO

Stumble Upon Toolbar