Pasta

Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms over Fettuccine

This is not one of our traditional recipe reviews, we do from time to time create our own recipes and this is one of them. We came up with the idea for this recipe after visiting our local farmers market.  Every Friday from May 25th to October 26th, rain or shine, the town of Goshen hosts the Goshen Farmers Market.  It is located right in the center of town at 33 park place.  The market usually consists of farmers and vendors offering fruits, produce, baked goods and much more (click here for more info). 

While perusing the produce two weeks ago we stumbled upon Madura Farms. They were selling an array of mushrooms such as giant portobellos, hen of the woods and oyster mushrooms.  They were a bit expensive compared to traditional mushrooms, but they looked interesting and we decided to give them a try.  We bought what we thought were oyster mushrooms but after we got home we realized that they were Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  These two varieties are very similar in appearance.  Even with the mushroom mix up, we sautéed them in oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar and they were amazing.  We realized that they would be the perfect star in a simple pasta dish.  

When last Friday rolled around we headed back to Madura Farms to buy more Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  We were instantly disappointed to find out that they had sold out.  Apparently some chef came by and scooped up all of the Hen of the Woods mushrooms.  Fortunately they still had some yellow oyster mushrooms left and we decided that they would work just as well in the recipe we had envisioned.

Both the Hen of the Woods and Oyster mushrooms have a distinct shape that in each case either resembles the frilly back feathers of hen or the shape of an oyster. They both have a strong earthy but sweet flavor that will stand out in any dish.  It was the natural flavor of mushroom that convinced us that it would be the perfect topping for a fresh plate of pasta.  We knew that these mushroom sauteed in butter and served over pasta would be the perfect pair.  The only problem was that we had no actual recipe in mind and decided to wing it.   To see how it turned out keep reading.

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 - 1 pound fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine (can use boxed) 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (have extra on hand in case you need more)
  • 1 small shallot sliced thin
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions: 

  1. Place 3 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium heat
  2. Sauté shallots in pan until golden brown, season with salt and pepper
  3. Remove stems of mushrooms leaving only the caps
  4. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta, be sure to season water with a decent amount of salt.
  5. Remove pan with butter and shallots from heat while paste is made/cooked
  6. Be sure not to over cook pasta, removing it form water when it is al dente
  7. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from pasta pot before draining
  8. Rinse pasta well in cold water to stop the cooking process
  9. Warm butter and shallots up on medium heat
  10. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté for 2 minutes
  11. Add pasta to dish and continue to cook, adding 1 tbsp of butter and more if needed
  12. Add about 2 tbsp of cooking liquid to pan
  13. Top with freshly chopped parsley and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  14. Finish off each dish Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Results:

With simple quality ingredients it is hard to make a bad meal.  The mushrooms add a subtle but amazing earthy flavor to this dish, which is amazing considering they are competing with the intense flavors from the shallots and succulent flavor of the butter.  The mushrooms are clearly the star of the dish followed closely behind by the fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta simply makes any dish better, it is lighter than regular pasta and is the perfect choice for this type of sauce.  The shallots impart a nice onion/garlic flavor to the butter, which complements the flavor of the mushrooms.  The parsley gives this dish a bit of color and a hint of freshness that is a nice counter point to the saltiness of the sauce and cheese.  We only made enough for two bowls and were very upset to realize there were no seconds or leftovers.  Next time we plan to make a double batch.

Should or Should Not Eat:

This recipe creates a simple but flavorful dish that is easy and quick to make.  All it requires is that you allow the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients to be the focal point of the dish.  You are sure to wow anyone with this great combination of ingredients.  The recipe is most certainly a Should Eat and we highly recommend visiting the Goshen Farmers Market to get your hands on some of these great mushrooms from Madura Farms.  Be sure to also check out all of the other quality fruits, produce and hand crafted products available.  We hope to do a post about the farmers market in the upcoming weeks, so be on the look out.

Eggplant Timbale

When you are little, Mother's Day is always spent making your mom something nice.  It always seemed to be a hand drawn card, or an attempt at breakfast in bed.  Then you get a bit older and have some money to spend and you try to find that perfect gift.  After a few years of that you start to realize your mother has most of the things she wants, so what do you do then?  Yup, things come full circle and you revert back to making things.  For our mother we decided to do what we do best and make a nice meal.  It is still hard however to choose the right menu.  You want to cook something that is a bit more intricate to make than normal, something that takes some time and effort to complete.  It also needs to taste good, so choosing a new recipe is always a risk because you are never quite sure how it will turn out.  Forgoing our better judgment we decided to go with a new recipe. 

The recipe we found was for a Eggplant Timbale.  This recipe comes from the cookbook Giada's Kitchen by Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis.  Giada is famous for making tons of classic Italian dishes as well as creating new inventive ones.  We have made some of her recipes in the past so we were confident that it would turn out well, but we kept asking outselves what a Timbale was.  It turns out Timbale refers to the type of pan used to cook the dish.  The eggplant is layered in the bottom of the pan, then filled with pasta and meat and covered with eggplant to create this stuffed eggplant pie of Italian goodness.  We figured this would be challenging and interesting to make, so we went for it.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill. 
  2. Brush the eggplant slices with 1/3 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  3. Grill the eggplant until tender and colored with grill marks, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. 
  6. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. 
  7. Add the beef and pork, and brown the meat, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. 
  8. Add the Marsala and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. 
  9. Turn off the heat. Add the peas and marinara sauce and stir to combine. Add the cheeses, basil, and cooked pasta. Set aside.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the springform pan with the grilled eggplant. Be sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan. 
  11. Fill the pan with the pasta mixture, pressing down to make sure the pan is filling up evenly. 
  12. Fold the eggplant slices up over the top of the pasta and add a few more slices on top to completely enclose the timbale. 
  13. Bake the timbale until warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 30 minutes. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes to set.
  14. To serve, invert the timbale onto a serving plate and remove the springform pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese over the top. Slice and serve.

Results:

We were a bit intimidated at first when we saw this recipe in the book.  Turns out it is actually very simple, there are a bunch of components and steps but it all comes together to form an amazing meal.  The grilled eggplant helps to entomb all of the meat, pasta, cheese and sauce in this beautiful pie shape..  The eggplant was fresh and after being grilled it helped add a smoky flavor to the dish.  Once you cut into the timbale you are introduced to the gooey, pasta with meat sauce center.  The sauce of course can come from a jar, but any self respecting Italian knows it is just as easy to whip some up from scratch.  We always make our own, you can see our recipe here (Sauce Recipe).  The sauce is mixed together with the onion, beef and sausage mixture which has been cooked down in Marsala wine.  The meat and onions really soaked up the Marsala imparting this rich flavor.  When mixed together with the sauce, peas and cheese you end up with this extremely flavorful filling.  There are just layers upon layer of flavors hidden throughout this dish.  Everything works so well together and provides a unique eating experience.  

Should Or Should Not Eat:

This recipes is both a unique dish which will really surprise all of your guests.  It is not often you serve what appears to be eggplant pie.  It sounds much classier as an Eggplant Timbale and is a Should Eat.  This dish offers up huge flavors combined with classic Italian ingredients.  If you love  Eggplant and pasta, this dish is for you.

Pennette With Spicy Sicilian Pesto

We found this recipe browsing through some other food blogs. One of our favorite blogs is Serious Eats, where they have a section called Cook The Book.  This is where they help promote cook books by showing recipes from a newly released cook book.

This recipe comes from Mario Batali's latest cook book, Molto Batali.  Mario Batali is one of the most recognized and respected chefs working in America today. Mario has 11 restaurants located in New York City alone with others located in Las Vegas, California and even Singapore. One of his newest ventures is the gourmet market Eataly.  Eataly is the largest artisnal Italian food and wine marketplace in New York City.

We really enjoy pesto sauce, it is easy to make and has refreshing flavor thanks to the herbs.  The only thing is often times pesto sauces all tend to be basically the same. When we saw that it was a Spicy Pesto Sauce we knew instantly we were going to make it. We love spice and heat, but one other thing that caught our eye is that Batali used Almonds in the recipe.  Traditionally pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, so we were very interested to see how the Almonds would work.


 

Ingredients:

Yield: 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main, active time 15 minutes, total time 15 minutes

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed, washed and spun dry
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup sliced blanched almonds
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus ¼ cup
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Siciliano plus ¼ cup (Pecorino Ramano)

Directions:

  1. Bring 8 quarts water to boil in a large spaghetti pot and add 2 tablespoons salt.
  2. Place the basil, mint, garlic, Serrano chilis, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds and almonds in a food processor and pulse 3 times to start the chopping process.
  3. Add the ½ cup oil and pulse 4 or 5 times to create a thick paste, (not a thin oily sauce). Add cheese and pulse once to mix in, season with salt if it needs it and remove to a container with a lid. 
  4. Carefully pour ¼ cup more olive oil over to create hermetic “lid”, cover with seal tight lid and refrigerate. This pesto will hold in the fridge like this for 2 weeks. Makes 1½ cups.
  5. Place 1 cup of the pesto in a large warm salad bowl.
  6. Drop the pennette into the boiling water and cook to one minute less than the package instructions. Just before it is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water into the bowl with the pesto. 
  7. Drain the pasta in a colander and dump into the bowl with the pesto and the water. Toss gently like a salad about 30 seconds until nicely coated and serve with a scant dusting of the cheese over each portion.

Results:

Our first impressions of this dish was "woah that's spicy".  It was not an over powering heat, but it was certainly there. If you do not enjoy heat in your dishes we would suggest steering clear of this recipe, or just omit the peppers.

Since we do like heat we were very happy with this dish. Adding the cooking water to the pesto before mixing it with the pasta really helped to enhance the dish. It added a small amount of liquid to the pesto which helped the sauce mix together with the pasta. The fresh herbs really come through in this dish, especially the mint. We have never used mint in a pesto sauce before but it worked nicely.  The almonds added texture and crunch and paired well with the freshly grated cheese.

Another key to this dish is making sure your pasta is cooked al dente. The term "al dente" comes from Italian and means "to the tooth" or "to the bite", referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness. Pasta will continue to cook even after you remove it from the stove. Taking it off of the stove early ensures that your pasta will not end up over cooked.  It is also important to season your water with salt. It helps give the pasta added flavor.

We will be making this dish again for sure. It is a Should Eat and offers a perfect base meal for you to make your own additions such as grilled chicken or sweet Italian sausage.