Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy World Pasta Day!

The entire world united in celebration today of one of the most delicious foods on the planet. I hope you enjoyed your favorite pasta, because today is World Pasta Day. Eat your pasta it's good for you, eat it with family and friends, eat it with a bunch of other wonderful foods like terrific salads and sauteed veges, have it with a nice glass of wine, eat it slowly, talk, laugh, and savor the flavors.

Pasta ala Laura (see previous blog)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pasta Ala Laura

This fabulous recipe will be my Pasta of Choice on October 25th for World Pasta Day! I slightly modified it (just a few tweaks like removing the extra dashings of salt as my taste buds can't do much salt) from a Laura's Best Recipe. (do go visit Laura's website for her recipe on Tagliatelle with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Mushrooms, she's awesome and available for "Liking" on FB!).

Use the meatiest best bacon you can find, applewood smoked bacon is out of this world wonderful. Do not even consider using the typical fatty breakfast bacon, this pasta is all about incredibly fantastic bacon.

If you are unfamiliar with Parmigiana Reggiano it is a great pungent cheese, in the manner of blue cheese only without the blue color. If you prefer milder cheese rather than one that bites back, use regular Parmigiana, it will be great anyway. 

Use any wide egg pasta, I used Pappardelle. When measuring any ingredient, remember YOUR personal taste buds rule. Feel free to go up or down with the amount of any ingredient. I cannot imagine this recipe without the bacon, but if you are a Vegetarian, go ahead and omit it and double up on the mushrooms.

Pasta Ala Laura 

Ingredients with variations on a bacon theme:

3 T olive oil
1/4 lb Applewood smoked bacon (ok, this is for the calorie minded individual, I really used about 1/2 a pound...or so and boy was it awesome)
2 small onions
1 lb cremini or portobello mushrooms (even my anti-mushroomed son enjoyed these caramelized delights!)
1/2 t dried rosemary (more if you love rosemary, up to 1 t)
4 t garlic
1 lb wide pasta noodle such as tagliatelle or pappardelle
approximately 2 1/2 cups lightly salted water reserved from cooking pasta
4 T butter
1/2 C fresh parsley
1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper

Optional: when you add the black pepper, add some crushed red pepper flakes. Most excellent, especially if you are not adding any salt beyond what is in the water and bacon.


Put the large tall sided skillet on the stove to which you add the olive oil. Fill a large pasta pot with cold water - never ever fill a pot with hot water as the sediments from your water heater are not delicious seasonings. Set out the Pappardelle.

Chop onion, slice of the excess fat from the bacon if needed and cut into 1 inch chunks, place both in a single bowl.

Rinse, dry, and slice the mushrooms and place in bowl with measured rosemary.

Mince the garlic and place in small bowl.

Cut four T butter and put on plate in the fridge.

Grate the Parmigiano Reggiano and place in bowl with the rinsed and chopped parsley, and fresh cracked black pepper.

Directions with extra notes of bacony goodness:

In a large skillet, heat 3 T of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add bacon and onions, cook about 15 minutes til the onions and bacon are a pretty brown but not fully caramelized - minimize the stirring to encourage browning. If you got the good meaty bacon you should not have to drain off fat. Otherwise, drain some, but not all of the cheap bacon fat (although if you are going to eat bacon don't get the cheap stuff). This recipe is not super low fat or vegetarian, but you can always pretend. Watch the pan for fat spittery. If it spits, you may need to lower the temperature.

Bring the large pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat while you set about finishing the veggies and make the sauce.

nicely browning
Add the mushrooms and rosemary to the bacon onion mixture and cook with minimal stirring until the mushrooms are caramelized. This part will take a while - at least 10-15 minutes. The time is shorter if you can keep your pan on medium high. When the mushrooms are caramelized, add the minced garlic and stir frequently but not ridiculously so for about a minute to release the aroma of the garlic. You stir more here so the garlic doesn't burn.

Season with pepper (salt if you salt stuff) and scrape the mushroom mix into a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.

 Don't wash the skillet, just set aside til it's time to make the sauce (near the end of the pasta cookery).

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water til it is nicely al dente - about 8 - 9 minutes depending on your pasta. After about 4-6 minutes of cooking time, remove one and one half cups pasta water and dump it into the unwashed skillet. Reserve another cup of pasta water and set aside for later use if needed. 

Add cold butter pieces and simmer over medium high heat til the liquid reduces to a bit and takes on a sauce-like consistency (about 6-8 minutes). It doesn't look like much, but the buttery goodness coats the pappardelle just beautifully.

Drain the pasta and place it in the bowl with the mushroom mixture. Pour in the hot butter sauce and mix well. Add the Parmigiana Reggiano, cracked black pepper and parsley, toss lightly and serve with more cheese. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.

Calorie Breakdown (assuming you did not do as I did and just start tossing in mountains of bacon).

Bacon on Foodista
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Garlic Oven Fries

French fries were one of the delicious reasons I needed to lose weight. They certainly do not fit into a mindful Michael Pollen style whole natural food diet that excludes eating any "food" that arrives through the window of your car. Yet, every now and then, I simply had to have french fries.

A little tinkering with this wonderful oven fry recipe from the BBC made it easy to give up consuming the thousand calories worth of fat that accompanied the take out fries. I can't even pretend that I need to give Mr. Ore Ida my money, as delicious home made garlic oven fries take even less time to prepare.
Made from peeled baking potatoes

Aren't they beautiful!!!

Garlic Oven Fries, Americanized version
(serves four) nutrition facts


2-3 large red potatoes
2 T olive oil (grapeseed also works very well)
1 t granulated garlic or to taste
pinch or so of cayenne pepper (optional)
Course ground sea salt and black pepper to taste


Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the potatoes and cut off any funky bits, but do not peel. Slice into wedges that are about the size of your forefinger. Put them in a large bowl and cover with cold tap water. Allow to set for 1 hour. Drain, rinse well, and pat dry with a tea towel. Dry the bowl. Soaking and rinsing removes some of the starch from the potato which lets moisture evaporate more quickly in baking so that the wedges crisp up nicer.

Return the potatoes to the dried bowl and mix with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Then sprinkle with a generous amount of garlic and salt to taste. Stir well. I find that the bit of cayenne finishes the flavors just perfectly. It's not spicy since there is only a tiny bit, it's just enough to add a peppery flavor in the background. Give it a try.

Line your largest baking dish (15x10 inches is great) with parchment paper and spread out the potato fingers. Do not crowd the fries or they will not crisp. 

Roast on the bottom rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven and gently turn each fry.

Return to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes or so. It will all depend upon how thickly you cut the wedges, gently turning over with a spatula after 20 minutes.

They are done when they turn a lovely golden brown. 

Use a spatula and remove the browned fries to a bowl and taste one (you are the cook and thus it is required that you taste to make sure all is well for your guests). Sprinkle with more sea salt or fresh cracked black pepper if you like.

If you use only 1 T of oil, there are only 143 calories in one serving. The processed reformed potato bits are simply no where near as lovely, low calorie, nutritious, or delicious as your very own. A mindful win!

***News Flash!!! I made Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries in addition to the regular potato fries last night and they were fabulous! I did not use the garlic or cayenne on the sweet potatoes, just salt and pepper. They cooked slightly faster than the regular potatoes so do them on a separate sheet.

The original recipe from the BBC used regular baking potatoes. They were fine (see the picture) and if you love that type of potato roast them using the same method.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms

Recently began putting my library into a cool website collective of book lovers called LibraryThing. I even made a widget for a page of this blog so you can see random books from my collection – if you click on a book that looks interesting it opens in to a bigger window where you will find more information about the book and a handy link to if you find you must have that book.

While I was entering the cook books into the database, I naturally thumbed through them and realized that I had been neglecting a number of wonderful recipes.  The following was inspired by a recipe in an old copy of the Pillsbury Kitchen Cookbook.

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms are amazingly healthy for you and if you eat three of these large beauties the calories are awesomely low!


12 larger button type mushrooms or good sized cremini  - rinse (I know some of you say “Egads!” but I don’t like to just brush the dirt off shrooms and it's my blog and recipe so...), pat dry.
Mushroom stems, diced
2 T butter
2 T diced onion
2 t chopped garlic
2 T finely chopped walnuts (easiest way - put some in a freezer quart bag and whack with the side of a meat tenderizer and you have smashed walnuts in a matter of seconds)
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Fresh cracked black pepper
Dashes of Tabasco sauce

Directions with variations depending upon the size of the mushrooms and the manner of presentation desired

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then sauté the diced mushroom stems, with onion and garlic til softened. Add the walnuts, parsley, black pepper, and Tabasco (two shakes minimum) and sauté another minute or so.

Preheat the broiler. Place caps gill side up on a Pam sprayed tray suitable for placing under a broiler. For small batches like this the toaster oven is just perfect. Using two small spoons (the only way I can do it without making a huge mess) divide the sauteed mixture among the caps, mounding carefully, picking up all the pieces that fall off (repeatedly) and placing them back again and again - until they remain in a somewhat mountainous form. If there is butter remaining in the skillet, drizzle it on top of the shrooms.

Broil til browned and the mushrooms cooked through. This doesn't take long so watch closely. The mushrooms will look all juicy when they are done.


Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your mushrooms. If they finish browning but the shrooms are still dry looking, switch from broil to 375 degrees baking to finish the cooking. The need to bake a bit is more likely to occur with the larger thicker shrooms. You may also need to remove a few little fellows from the oven if you have a variety of sizes.

The above ingredient list is for making big bite appetizer sized mushrooms, if you want, you can easily make a glorious and impressive side or main dish by increasing the ingredients and using portabello mushrooms. You could also try adding bits of bread crumbs if you are using the lovely and large portabello mushrooms to make sure there’s plenty of filling...or just increase the walnuts or chop up a couple regular mushrooms along with the stems.

Be creative, use this recipe as a template, and come up with a filling you just love.

Enjoy with friends!