The Dinner I’m About To Make: Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans

Here’s how you know if the new recipe you’ve tried is successful: a few days go by, maybe a week, and suddenly you find yourself craving the thing you cooked the week before. This happens far less often than you think. For example, the other night I made Kung Pao Chicken from scratch and while it was very good (I’ll blog about it soon) I don’t think I’ll be craving somewhere down the road. Whereas this dish…

IMG_1.JPG

…which I made last week and which took far less time and used far less ingredients is something I’m craving intensely right now. It’s Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans and it’s extraordinarily easy and extraordinarily delicious. I saw Lydia Bastiniach make it on her show and I scratched my head and though, “Hmmm, I wonder if that’ll be any good?” So I had Craig and Diana buy the ingredients on their way home from Zodiac, which I wasn’t in the mood to see, and those ingredients amounted to: a box of Cavatappi (corkscrew shaped pasta), a head of garlic, a jar of dun-dried tomatoes, and 1 pound canned cannellini beans.

Here’s how easy this is. You boil the pasta. In a skillet, you add 2 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs of the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar. You scatter in 4 fat cloves of garlic, sliced, and then cook on medium high heat for a minute or so and then you add red pepper flakes (which you should have on hand)–about 1/2 tsp–and toast for another 1/2 minute. Then you add 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes which you’ve drained and sliced into 1/4 inch strips. You spread them out, let them sizzle, toast for a minute, and then ladle in 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, keep it simmering, until the liquid reduces by half. Finally, you stir in 1 lb of the cannellini beans which you’ve drained and rinsed, along with 1/4 tsp salt and about 1 1/2 cups more pasta cooking water. Bring it to a boil, stir together, and cook “at an active simmer” for 4 minutes. When the pasta’s al dente, you add it to the skillet to finish cooking in the sauce. You can add parsley, then, and off the heat about 1/2 cup of cheese (Parm or Grana Padano) and a final Tbs of olive oil before serving.

The beans somehow enrich everything so the meal feels far more substantial than you think it might be. It’s a wonderful and surprising mix of textures and flavors and everyone loves it. I love it, so much so that I’m going to the store RIGHT NOW to buy the ingredients so I can make it again.

T-minus 30 minutes until supreme mouth satisfaction.

The Best Cookies Of Your Life

IMG_1.JPG

Diana and I are in love. No, not with each other, but with these chocolate chip cookies, our first apartment baking project that won raves from everyone who tried them. “These are seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made,” said Diana. “These cookies are so good,” said Craig. “Meow,” said Lolita.

Of course, these cookies come to us from Our Lady of All Things Perfection, Miss Martha Stewart and her latest (and seriously awesome, in the Biblical sense) baking book: “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.” As she says in the recipe’s introduction, this recipe has a higher butter to sugar ratio which makes the cookies thin and crisper. When I was younger and more naive that description would’ve turned me off from a recipe: I like my cookies chewy. But the thing is, if you make them well, they come out chewy in the middle and crisp on the outside. These cookies resemble professional cookies more than any other I’ve made. And maybe, if you don’t tell anyone, I’ll post the recipe after the jump. JUST DON’T TELL ANYONE!

Continue Reading

The Almond Cake That Will Save Your Soul

IMG_1.JPG

The ingredients are simple: butter, sour cream, baking soda, flour, sea salt, sugar, almond paste, 4 egg yolks, almond extract and confectioner’s sugar for dusting. But assembled as they are and baked as they were, this cake is sheer perfection. On pg. 70 of Hesser’s book (referenced also in the previous post), this cake was first prepared by Amanda’s now mother-in-law. I’d like to break into that family somehow just so I’d have an excuse to genuflect at mom-in-law’s feet on a regular basis to thank her for this brilliant creation. “Thank you thank you thank you,” I’d say.

Am I overdoing it? Maybe. Just maybe. But look at this cake again and call me a liar:

IMG_1.JPG

Look at this slice:

IMG_2.JPG

Do you have any idea how good this tastes? Do you? DO YOU PUNK?

Ok, I’ll break my own rule established in the post below and share the recipe. I think recipes are in the public domain, anyway–it’s somewhere in the Federal Code 3.825 regarding Delicious Almond Cake Recipes and the Rule Against Perpetuities. I do have a law degree, you know.

The ingredients are mentioned above but not the amounts. So here we go again:

2 sticks butter, softened, more for buttering pan

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces

(Lisa cut the almond paste using a juvenile method that I found offensive:

IMG_8.JPG

“Those aren’t small pieces,” I pleaded.

“Shut up, crackwhore,” she retorted.)

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

(Ok, can I just mention that I’m usually great at separating egg yolks, and how these eggs I bought were deformed? I’d pour the egg into my hand, as I usuall do, spreading my fingers for the white to fall through–except the yellow bled into the white and I had to dump it all. Then I did the shell method–break the shell in half and pour back and forth until it’s all separated; but again the yolk bled. It took a big mess to finally get the four I needed. Don’t ask why I was using coffee mugs:

IMG_4.JPG

Ok, I used the coffee mugs because you’re supposed to add the yolks one at a time so I put two yolks per mug then poured half the mug for each addition. Genius? I dare say it is!)

1 tsp almond extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for sifting over cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper. (You may forego the parchment paper as long as you are generous with the butter on the pan itself.) Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes.

IMG_10.JPG

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don’t worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

IMG_11.JPG

Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar on top and slice like a pie.

Behold the celestial magesty of this cake:

IMG_14.JPG

Simple.

Elegant.

Robust.

Erotic.

Dyslexic.

Make it today and thank yourself tomorrow.