Walnut Pesto with Fresh Tagliatelle

This is from Lidia’s Italy. On this episode, Lidia made fresh tagliatelle and featured two sauces to dress the pasta with. This one really struck me. I probably won’t be making fresh pasta anytime soon, but luckily I can get it in the refrigerated case at New Seasons from local pasta makers. Lidia stirred all the ingredients together in a big bowl while the pasta was cooking, then smoothed it over the bottom and up the sides a bit. She then lifted the pasta out of the boiling water and right into the bowl without draining, added a few pats of butter on top, and then tossed gently with two spoons. Lastly, she topped with very finely grated reggiano.

Walnut Pesto
Pesto di Noci

serves: 6 main courses

This uncooked dressing, enriched with ricotta and butter, is delicious and quite different from the herb-based pestos I’ve found in other regions. You can blend it together in a bowl while the pasta water is heating up and have a distinctive pasta appetizer or main course in minutes. To retain its vibrant, fresh flavors, it is important not to cook the pesto, just toss it with the pasta and serve.

For the Pesto
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups walnut halves, or pieces, toasted
1½ cups ricotta, preferably fresh
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons Grana Padano, freshly grated, or more for passing
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons butter, softened

For the Pasta
1 pound tagliatelle

Put the walnuts and garlic in the food processor, and pulse until the nuts are chopped into very tiny bits (but don’t grind them to a powder). Scrape the ground nut-garlic mixture into the large bowl, and stir in the ricotta, olive oil, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper, until thoroughly blended. When the pesto is ready and the water is boiling, drop all the pasta into the pot at once, and stir to loosen and separate the strands. Cover the pot, and over high heat return the water to a boil rapidly. Set the cover ajar, and cook the pasta until the tagliatelle are perfectly al dente. Working quickly, lift out the tagliatelle with a spider and tongs, and drop into the bowl with the dressing. Drop the soft butter in dollops on the hot pasta, and toss until all the strands are nicely coated with the pesto- if the dressing is too thick, loosen it with a bit of hot water from the pasta pot as you toss. Serve immediately in warm bowls, with more grated cheese at the table.

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Swiss Cheese Fondue

I just purchased my first fondue pot and I’m more than a little excited about the possibilities. The immediate excuse was wanting to make chocolate fondue for the friends we had over Friday night, (which did not turn out, sadly, so more research needed there), but my heart rejoices at the thought of the many lobster tails I’ll be dipping in simmering broth over the years. Adam has requested traditional cheese, however, as our inaugural entree, so here it is.

This is the cheese fondue I grew up eating. I don’t know where Mom got the recipe originally, but I have fond memories of the whole lot of us bent over one pot, eight forks vying for prominence. Mom usually gave us multigrain bread as the dipping agent, but due to ideas born courtesy of Blue Hour in Portland, I like to use green apples, blanched asparagus, and small steamed yukon potatoes as well.

1 clove garlic
¾ cup dry white wine
4 cups (1 lb.) shredded natural Swiss cheese
2 Tblsp flour
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
Dash pepper
1 – 2 Tblsp Kirsch, if desired (I’ve never used this)
1 loaf French bread

Rub inside of saucepan or fondue dish with cut clove of garlic. Add wine and heat until bubbly. Combine cheese, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add about ¼ cup of cheese mixture to wine; stir vigorously. Continue adding cheese in small amounts and stirring until all the cheese is melted and mixture is thoroughly blended. Stir in Kirsch, if using. Keep hot while serving with bite-sized pieces of bread to dip into fondue.

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart

1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice, such as a mixture of thyme and rosemary
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.

Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.

Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold. With a big green salad, for balance.

Savory Tart Shell

1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.

This dough can also be made a food processor, or in a stand mixer.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with a filling of your choice, no parbaking required.

From Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/06/blue-cheese-and-red-potato-tart/#more-6468

Croque Monsieur

On Monday I was having a grumpy day, so I indulged myself by renting a movie off my Comcast Movies on Demand. I ended up with Meryl Streep’s “It’s Complicated”, most notable (to me) for her character’s Alice Waters-like persona and all the scenes with and discussions of beautiful food. Watching her make Croque Monsieur at one point filled me with a flaming desire to eat same myself (and also got me reading my Alice Waters cookbook again), so here’s the recipe I’ve settled on. I haven’t actually made this yet, so feel free to deviate from the instructions if the Spirit leads. I might. Pair this with a salad of simple greens and vinaigrette and a cold white wine. I might add that in the movie, Meryl sets out homemade lavendar honey ice cream for dessert, so that may be next…

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot. Serves 4-8.

From Ina Garten’s 2004 Barefoot in Paris.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

1 cup cottage cheese
2 eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together the cheese, eggs, butter, and milk. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg, and blend lightly until just mixed. Grease a griddle with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Put a large scoop of batter on the griddle and use the back of a spoon to spread it out evenly. The pancake is ready to flip when you begin to see small air bubbles form, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or 2. Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes.

Per pancake: 97 calories, 5 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g fat (3 g saturated)