Blue cheese, affectionately referred to as bleu at my house, is the starring ingredient in what has become a mainstay in our dinner repoirtoire: Fettuccine with gorgonzola.
The recipe that I have been using comes from this fabulous cookbook, a gift from my sister a couple of Christmases ago. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare and even ridiculously easier to eat. It’s a great meal for this crazy and hectic period in our lives between Christmas and New Year’s, the winter solstice and Boxing Day, cocktail parties, yoga classes, coffee dates and drinks at the bar… If you catch yourself at home and needing to fix dinner, give this one a try. I like to serve it with a salad of mixed greens, spinach and arugula with a simple vinagrette of stone ground mustard, freshly squeezed lemon and olive oil, and a baguette or hearty loaf from Madison Sourdough Co. Yum.
This receipe comes from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”
Fettuccine with Gorgonzola
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
8 ounces Gorgonzola, broken into chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream or milk
Salt and freshly milled pepper
12 ounces fettuccine
Start heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, set a large bowl with the garlic, cheese, butter and cream over the pot. As the water heats, the butter and cheese will soften. Don’t worry about lumps of cheese- the heat of the pasta will smooth everything out. When the water comes to a boil, remove the bowl and salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until done. Drain, add it to the cheese, and toss everything with a fork and sppon until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Taste for salt, season with pepper and serve on warmed pasta plates.
*Or two, if you are anything like Dan and me (hungry)
If you are a pork eater, you can find Dan’s list for Madison’s best meals featuring pork here. We’ve been invited to Merchant tonight so that Dan can try the pork pozole (I will be indulging in the golden beet borscht, thank you) so there may be an update to that list coming soon. I also discovered what surely will be my dad’s new favorite blog, a beautifully-photographed celebration of the day’s most important meal, breakfast.
I fully intend to indulge in a healthy breakfast tomorrow morning before my yoga class and coffee date, but only after my evening run, visit to Merchant and beers with my sister at Natt Spil. It’s a fun time of year.
After three weeks of feeling the love and staying optimistic about winning the fight against the soulless tyrant now ‘leading’ my state, Tuesday night I finally gave in to the anger and was mad as hell. I needed to bang some pots around, wield knives and curse in the kitchen. I needed a recipe to match my fiery mood. I present to you, ‘Mad-as-hell puttanesca.’ It’s salty, spicy, tangy and impossible to screw up too badly (this part is key, considering I was cooking with blind rage and not paying much attention to what I threw in the skillet).
I was first introduced to puttanesca by my friend Derek (the Packer owner). Derek told me that legend has it that Italian ‘women of the night’ would make a batch of spaghetti alla puttanesca to put on their windowsills to beckon suitors. I love to picture the open windows and curtains wafting in the breeze while a pot of spaghetti sits steaming on a dark Italian night. Derek makes a more traditional puttanesca sauce with anchovies and herbs (I always forget about those pesky herbs). I never follow a recipe when I make it, but always include a few essential ingredients: olives, capers, and tomatoes.
Between tirades delivered to Dan and the stove, a captive audience, this is what I cooked up the other night:
tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole)- I like Muir Glen organic
olives- cured black olives work well
red pepper flakes
wine (red or white)
whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or penne)
Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes- I like a lot of heat, so I add a lot. Depending on how many you are serving, add some canned tomatoes and the juice (I added half a can for the two of us). I had some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, so I added some of that, too. Pour in some wine- red or white works fine. To add a little color and up the health ante I added some kale that I tore into bite-sized pieces. Let this simmer and bubble for a while over low-medium heat. Boil water for the pasta. Rant and rave. Cry. Take a sip of beer. Chop olives, wave knife in air, curse. Heat oven for bread. Salt the boiling water. Add pasta. Take a breath. Add the olives and capers to the simmering sauce. Put bread in oven. Dress the salad. Stir pasta into the sauce. Take bread out of the oven. Serve the pasta in bowls with freshly shredded parmesan cheese from the state that is boiling with turmoil. Serve and attempt to enjoy.
The reason for my anger? After days and days of peaceful protests the governor illegally shutdown the Capitol to prepare for his budget address. For the first time there was an orange fence keeping protestors away from the state building in an attempt to keep the noise out of his lethal budget speech.
While we stood outside in the cold, the heartless and cowardly governor told a crowd of supporters (ushered secretly into the Captiol) inside that he plans to cut nearly $900 million dollars from Wisconsin’s public education system. He wants to take this money and give it to the people who fix roads. The same people who donated to his campaign and got him elected. On Tuesday I just couldn’t take it anymore and I erupted with sadness and rage. But now I’m back to feeling optimistic because, in retrospect, the governor is scared. I’m still mad as hell, but I also realize that the governor is working so hard to silence the voices of dissent because he knows that he is doing something wrong. I will continue to fight. And I hope you will join me.
With Dan on the road with Clovis Mann this weekend, I found myself cooking for one. When this happens I always think about my mom’s cookbook from the 1960s entitled, ‘Saucepans and the Single Girl.’ I have always thought that this is one of the all-time greatest cookbook titles. While the inspiration for the book was to bait bachelors with downhome cooking (think beef stroganoff), I just wanted to make myself a healthy and delicious meal that would go well with the bottle of red wine (“Wisconsites love Malbec,” I was told) that I had just picked up at Star Liquor. Not able to get enough of roasted cauliflower lately, I whipped a pasta dish that featured this delicious vegetable, along with my old favorite, kale. Addicted to olives, I added those, too. Here is my recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Pasta:
Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Pasta
A couple handfuls of cauliflower
5 stalks kale
red pepper flakes
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
whole wheat pasta
freshly shredded parmesan cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it starts to brown (about 15-20 minutes).
While the cauliflower is roasting, boil a pot of water. Wash the kale and rip it into bite-sized pieces and when the water is boiling, steam the kale until tender (about 2-3 minutes).
Place kale aside, salt the boiling water and add the whole wheat pasta (I like to use penne but only had linguine the other night, so I used that in a pinch.) When using straight pasta I have heard that a general rule is to use about a quarter-sized handful per person. While the pasta is cooking, place the roasted cauliflower (along with the olive oil from the baking sheet) in a skillet, turn the heat on medium-low and season with red pepper flakes, freshly ground pepper and coarse salt.
Add the kale to the pan and give it a stir. After eating about 17 olives and taking a sip of wine, slice up a few olives (I like to use the ‘whiskey’ olives from the Willy Street co-op olive bar- I don’t know the official name) and throw those into the skillet. After the pasta has cooked a few minutes, drain it and add it to the skillet. Give the pasta another stir and adjust any seasonings. Serve the pasta with some freshly shredded parmesan cheese on top.
I recommend serving this meal with a glass (or two) of wine, a crusty piece of bread and a few squares of this candy bar for dessert:
A meal fit for a single girl.
P.S. If you need a movie suggestion, I think this winter meal goes great with ‘Beautiful Girls.’ If you haven’t seen this movie in awhile (or never) it is one of my all-time favorites. With Matt Dillon and Michael Rapaport as snowplow drivers, this movie features ice shanties, whiskey drinking, a great soundtrack (including ‘Will it Go Round in Circles,’ by Billy Preston) and a bar scene where Uma Thurman mentions one of my favorite holidays which happens to be coming up this week (hint: it’s not Valentine’s Day). Speaking of Valentine’s Day, I’m off to Monroe Street to buy a heart-shaped cookie cutter and a sifter. I’m making cookies and this time I’m going to do it right… Happy Sunday.
We had breakfast (homeade blueberry pancakes, Wisconsin maple syrup, fake sausage patties and lots of coffee) with our good friends Derek and Lanore this morning before they hit the road for Virginia (I was supremely jealous as I watched them drive away). Derek, a fantastic singer/ songwriter who has collaborated with Dan (including on this song– one of my favorites), was in town to play a show at The Frequency last night. In addition to “Old Fashioned,” Derek wrote an anthemic song about the Pine Cone truckstop off of I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee and can do a soul-bearing cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”
Unfortunately Dan and I missed Derek’s set last night because we had an important task to do, which I will share in a future post…. We did however catch a set by The Snowbirds, a band out of Green Bay and Milwaukee. They were a little bit country (the good kind of country- like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard) and even covered a song by one of my new favorite old bands, The Flying Burrito Brothers. It was a really good show- I enjoyed watching Gary doing a lot of foot stomps and rocking out on acoustic guitar and Dan was enamored with the pedal steel guitar. But one of my favorite parts of the whole evening was when I got home from the show and realized that the wrist band I had received at the door declared, “I am allowed to drink booze.” Well I suppose I am.
This morning Derek requested that I post that recipe for whole wheat pasta that I mentioned in my previous post. So I will start with that for my continued list of holiday highlights.
Highlight #4: Pasta dinner with my parents and Dan…
The night after my parents arrived from Oklahoma my mom and I made this recipe from The New York Times. We served it with a loaf of good bread and roasted cauliflower and laughed hard about the time that my dad and his friend were watching Dairyland Jubilee and drove to the local tv station in an attempt to polka dance with Miss Whithee Bell. The story gets better from there but I think I might get in trouble if I say anymore. Here’s the recipe for the pasta (we doubled it for four people). It was delicious- I can’t wait to make it in the summer when the zucchini and basil are in season (and possibly grown in my garden).
This is a recipe from the Dining section of The New York Times, October 12, 2010.
Creamy Pasta With Roasted Zucchini, Almonds and Basil
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 sprig basil, with leaves and stem
3 tablespoons goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine.
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss the zucchini and oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Arrange zucchini on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
3. Simmer the cream and basil sprig in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Whisk in the goat cheese until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and keep warm.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well. Toss the pasta with the cream sauce. Serve topped with the zucchini and almonds.
Yield: 2 servings.
#5: Our trip to Evanston, Illinois a couple of days after Christmas to visit friends.
In an extremely cozy house built a very long time ago we drank champagne and ate roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Despite being told that they were vegan, I abstained from eating the ribs, but I heard they were delicious.
We finally made our way to bed after a sing-along with Dan and Pat. A good time was had by all.
#6: Our Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Scrabble games.
We started playing Scrabble again a couple of years ago. We usually abide by the rules but we have had some ridiculous games (usually to accommodate my sister who used to become frustrated easily while playing, but has recently greatly increased her gameplay) where we allowed words like “jaxed” (as in, “Oh man, you just got ‘jaxed’), “manrib” (?) and “epain” (pain received via the internet).
Dan is generally in charge of naming the competitors and this particular game was a grueling battle between Groggy, Cold and Clean! For once I, Cold, was victorious!
We also honor a tradition established with my cousins at a family reunion in Montana: After the game everyone holds up the number of fingers of their finishing ranking and must have a look on their face that reflects their position. And then we take a photo which is usually pretty entertaining.
#7: Making owl-shaped Christmas cookies in the likeness of Green Bay Packers players.
It was our friend Maggie’s idea and I think she is full of good ideas. Do you think “fans” of other teams do this? I don’t. Go Pack Go!!!!!!!!
#8: Last but not least, Christmas Day.
Christmas Day officially started at my sister’s friend’s parents’ house where we sat around the fireplace and sipped on rum and cokes. My sister and I walked home at about 3 a.m. through the perfectly quiet and snowy streets of our neighborhood. It was one of those nights where you just want to walk through those streets forever. Sneaking in the house around 3:30 we were greeted by our father who has had to deal with our late nights for a very long time. The next morning we opened stockings and a few presents at home and then we were off to our aunt and uncle’s house where we enjoyed mimosas, coffee, egg frittata and fruit salad. In the afternoon we took our traditional trip to the street where my dad grew up to visit his friend’s mom who is 102-years-old this year and an incredible woman.
After that was Christmas dinner at our friends’ house.
Sitting around a familiar wooden table in a candlelit dining room with Japanese rice paper windows we popped open Christmas crackers, laughed at our fortunes and wore colored paper crowns. We ate spinach, citrus salad with pomagranate seeds, potatoes and peppermint stick ice cream pie. We drank wine and cheersed to being together. And at one point our host put on his golden lame suit bequeathed to him by his dear friend and put on a song and dance routine. It was a magical evening.
After dinner we went across the street to the neighbor’s house where people from the neighborhood have started to gather on Christmas night for an outdoor fire. We sipped a little whiskey, listened to a little banjo, and had a grand ol’ time. After we left the fire Dan, my sister and I were off to the Laurel Tavern to see who would show up and to catch up with some old friends. I knew it at the time, but in retrospect, it really was quite the day.
Happy 2011. Here’s to a healthy, peaceful and happy year with lots of highlights.