One Pot Pantry Raid Pasta

Pantry Raid Pasta

Last night I had one of those nights where I didn’t really want to go out, nor did I want to buy more groceries, nor did I particularly care to be overly healthy. It was a night where the starving artist looks at what he has and figures something out: pantry raid.

As I stared forlornly at my cabinets I came across a ziplock bag full of bow tie pasta that had been sitting in there for roughly two years. I rarely eat pasta anymore, hence why it has been kicking around for so long. Of course I love it, but it’s just too easy. Too easy to cook an entire pound and eat all of it in one sitting. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I decided it was time – I was simply in the mood. And it turns out there was just enough pasta for one (three) servings. I was put even more in the mood when I realized I had grated Parmesan in my fridge. Destiny.

Here’s how it went. Boil 2 cups of pasta in heavily salted water according to package directions. I just used my two quart saucepan with lid. While the water heats up, use a strainer to rinse two cups of frozen peas under very hot tap water until they soften. Set the strainer over a bowl to let the peas dry off while the water boils. When the pasta is cooked, strain thoroughly, do not rinse, and return back to the hot pot you just boiled it in. Add two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pasta. Stir to melt the butter. Using a garlic press, mince one or two cloves of garlic directly into the pot along with the peas, 1 cup of grated Parmesan, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Add more cheese, butter, and pepper to taste. Devour immediately directly from the pot using the wooden spoon you used to stir the boiling pasta. Starving artist class.

There are of course 10000 variations you could do for this dish. And the best part is that I made it entirely from ingredients that were already in my kitchen. If you’re not in the habit of keeping frozen peas in your freezer, you should start. It is one of my top go-tos when making meals on the fly. And if you happen to have leftover chicken or sausage in your fridge that would send this quick humble little dish right over the top. And for you heat-lovers, try some crushed red pepper flakes mmmmm.

Raid your pantry. Tell me what you find.

Birthday Raviolis

Homemade RaviolisThose of you who know me know that April 24th was my 30th birthday (same birthday as Barbra – we’re bffs). If there’s one thing I’ve learned about birthdays, it’s that if you don’t make a big deal about it, no one will. And come on, it’s your DAY – why not make a big deal?

This year my parents came to visit, making the entire week a celebration… and lord did we celebrate. There’s so much I have to report from this week. Some of it you’ve already heard about from me. Like the ridiculous pancakes we had on Tuesday at the Griddle Cafe or the life-changing gnocchi for my birthday dinner at Osteria Mamma. And let’s not forget my favorite chocolate birthday cake. Some of it warrants separate blog entries, like the remarkable fish and chips with mushy peas I had in Santa Barbara or the unexpectedly delicious and refreshing Ahi Tuna Lettuce Wraps I ate in Palm Springs. Oh and there was the OTHER favorite birthday cake I had for the first time on my actual birthday. Dear god….

But today is not about cake or pancakes or fish and chips. Today is about raviolis. HOMEMADE raviolis. My grandmother Emma, god rest her soul, the one famous for her Easter Pie, was also famous for her incomprehensibly thin and delicate raviolis. Both of my parents learned from her and have continued the tradition with the rest of my family. They all gather and make them together, then freeze them and divvy them up amongst themselves. Shockingly, I had never been present for one of these parties and hence never had the opportunity to make them at all. Criminal! So of course when my parents were here I declared that this just needed to be fixed. And, being the only child birthday boy, it did. ::halo appears over my head::

Emma’s recipe is simple:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cap full of vegetable oil
  • warm water
Making Ravioli Dough
Mom kneads the ravioli dough.

On a clean, floured surface, one forms the flour into a pile with a well in the middle and cracks the eggs right in. After adding the vegetable oil, one scrambles the eggs with the fork and then begins to fold in the flour and mix it all together while another person begins to drizzle in warm water until a dough is formed. After 15 minutes of kneading, the dough sits for 30 minutes. During this time you make the filling, which is simply 1 large container of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper, all mixed together and refrigerated until ready to use. The rested dough is divided into four portions, then, using a well-floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface, one rolls out the dough until as thin as possible – borderline see-through. Then, one dollops the filling out in an equidistant line on the dough and folds it over. Using a glass, you cut out circles around the now covered dollops of filling and voila – raviolis.

For being such an impromptu session and with neither of my parents having made them in over a year, I say we did pretty damn good. The picture above shows them served with a butter sage sauce (just melted butter and fresh sage). You simply boil the raviolis until tender (about 3-4 minutes when fresh) then cover them in the sauce. Of course homemade red sauce would be equally divine, but the butter sage is simple, quick, and fresh. Nothing better. Emma was notorious for keeping count of the raviolis she made and would take a tally of everyone’s intake, making sure every single one was accounted for. We were not quite so ceremonious, but of course we joked about it. I tell ya, of all the eating and celebrating we did that week, this event was perhaps the most special, and clearly the most delicious. Food and love – what more could a starving artist ask for?

Now as mentioned above, usually the raviolis are made then immediately frozen for later use. Since we were looking to eat them right away, we cooked a batch of them fresh and froze the rest. Some of you might be raising your eyebrows at the thought of freezing fresh pasta. Let me tell you they are still equally delicious when boiled directly from the freezer. In fact, the ones that were in my freezer may already be gone….

Acorn Goodness

Roasted Acorn SquashThis time of year I’m seeing bins of acorn squash at all my local grocery stores. It’s perhaps a little off putting to see a vegetable in the shape of a giant hard acorn. I mean what the hell are you supposed to do with it, crack it? Plant it and see if a tree grows? But the truth is that when roasted properly, acorn squash makes a delicious and satisfying winter time dinner that will fill you up without deviating at all from your healthy regimen. Definitely Bootcamp friendly. ;-)

So here is what you do. Very easy. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your acorn squash in half against the grain. Scoop out the seeds and guts from the crevices and then trim the outer ends so that the squash will sit straight up with the crevices facing up. Coat the outside skin with a very thin layer of olive oil, then place them on a foil lined quarter sheet pan. Now for some flavor. In a small bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of clove
  • pince of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Mix thoroughly and spread evenly between the two halves. Rub mixture thoroughly over the flesh of the squash and drain any excess that pools into the bottom of the cavity back into the bowl and set aside. Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place a small pat of butter in each half of the squash. Put tray into the bottom half of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and the edges are crispy.

Eat directly from the squash, drizzling the remaining maple syrup mixture over each half and adding some extra butter as desired. Or, scoop out all the squash, place into a bowl and lightly mash together with the left over syrup, some extra butter, and an extra sprinkle of maple sugar. As I always tell you, do not run out to buy spices you don’t already have. Make up your own seasoning. Brown sugar can easily be substituted for maple sugar, but maple sugar is really great stuff.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Crispy Baked Panko Chicken

Well, friends, here it is, my first cooking show webisode. Crispy Baked Panko Chicken. Mmmm. As I say in the video, this is one of my favorite recipes, not only to make, but for everyone I cook for. It’s the kind of recipe that people get addicted to. Seriously. Before I filmed this back in November, I had the producer and director over for a demo meal and this chicken is what I fed to them (along with a couple other things). A few days later I get a call from the producer. I answer the phone and she says: “DAVE. I can’t stop thinking about that f*****g chicken!” I’m telling you, it’s the real deal.

As promised, here’s the recipe:
Crispy Baked Panko Chicken (Recipe PDF)

A few small notes from my video. First, since our budget was so low I used the aluminum pans I had sitting in my cabinet that I bought for Thanksgiving to mariante the chicken. It definitely works, but if you have a heavy duty plastic container with a lid, that will work even better and in fact is probably way easier to handle. Also, you should plan on 50-55 minutes for the chicken, not 45. This is all reflected in the recipe PDF.

Now you may be asking why I decided to make this. Well, first and foremost: because I wanted to. I found myself watching Food Network saying “I could totally do this”. Rather than just sitting around hoping Food Network would suddenly call me, I decided I needed to take action. Through friends of friends I found a producer/director team that was making cooking shows, so I pitched my idea and they went for it. We actually made a handful of episodes, so depending on how this one is received, I may be releasing more in the near future. It’s by no means a perfect product, but I think it’s a damn good start. Fingers crossed a big production company will take notice and scoop me up. Or perhaps just a nice tall man….

With that, hope you enjoy both the recipe and the video. Feedback is definitely welcome. Happy Friday!!

Quick Noodles and Peas

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Last night I was in the mood for two things: 1) a hot meal 2) spending little or no money. I found half a bag of whole wheat egg noodles and decided that noodles with butter, garlic, veggies, and cheese would be perfection. I always have peas in my freezer, I always have fresh garlic, always have an onion, and I usually have some kind of grated cheese shoved in the back of the fridge so that I forget about it and am not tempted to make red sauce. I decided that I wanted something more than peas in this dish, so I did go to the store and buy a $2.50 pack of sliced cremini mushrooms – my favorite. And I had all I needed.

Assembly is, as always with me, a total breeze. Get the water boiling and the noodles cooking. Place two cups of frozen peas in a small strainer and rinse them under hot tap water until the chill is gone and they have softened a bit. Set aside to drain. While the I got outmy large skillet and began to sautee the mushrooms in butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the mushrooms began to soften and darken, I added 1/2 cup of chopped red onion and let it simmer for another 2 minutes. Then came 2 cloves of finely minced garlic (or you can run it through a presser). Finally 2 cups of frozen peas that I rinsed under hot tap water for a minute and allowed to drain