Pasta with Roast Chicken, Currants and Pine Nuts* (*Unless You Can’t Afford Them)

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Two of my favorite dinners in the world are roast chicken and pasta. In fact, if I had a death sentence looming over my head, I’d ask to be executed twice so I could have two last meals, one a roast chicken, the other a big plate of pasta. Luckily, that’s no longer an issue because of this recipe which comes to us from Julia Moskin and the cookbook she co-wrote with Kim Severson, CookFight.

The recipe’s ingenious in the way that it utilizes the good stuff left over from roasting chicken pieces (in this case, thighs) to create a luscious sauce that clings to the pasta and stretches that comforting, roast chicken flavor to every strand.

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Bacon Bolognese

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Italians, please look away.

Everyone else, here’s something that I made up last week that was so good, I think you should make it too. I used leftover ingredients from the Haddock chowder I’d made the day before and, in using them, I did what Tom Colicchio’s always talking about on “Top Chef”–I developed lots of flavor through careful cooking. Let me show you what I mean.

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Fresh Springtime Pasta with Farmer’s Market Asparagus and Fava Beans

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After hauling home fresh asparagus and fava beans from the farmer’s market, I stood on a chair and made a loud declaration: “I will not adulterate these beacons of springtime with a convoluted recipe that obfuscates their natural glory!” Getting down from the chair, I thought about my declaration and realized that to live up to my word, I would need to cook the asparagus and fava beans as simply as possible, and serve them up with something special-enough to be memorable but not so special as to shadow the star ingredients: which is how I came up with making fresh pasta.

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Chanterelle Risotto with White Truffle Salt

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Here’s a friendly tip: make yourself buy an exotic ingredient even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with it.

For example, a few weeks ago I was at the Spice Station in Silverlake and I bought a little bag of white truffle salt. I bought it because after sniffing from the giant jar of it, I was like: “Whoah, that’s really potent and really smells like white truffles.” A small bag cost about $10 or so which is way less than you’d pay for an actual white truffle. And knowing that I had it, I kept my eyes open later that week at the farmer’s market for anything that might work well with it; which is how I ended up buying a bag of chanterelle mushrooms.

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Mann Ziti

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Aimee Mann is one of my favorite musicians of all time. On the way to her Christmas concert at the Wiltern, Craig asked me why I liked her so much. “Because she’s unsentimental yet emotional, cold but vulnerable at the same time; plus, she’s funny.” She writes lyrics like, “And I’m the only one who knows / that Disneyland’s about to close.” And: “Finals blew I barely knew my graduation speech / with college out of reach / if I don’t find a job it’s down to dad and Myrtle Beach.” With little time to spare before the concert, I decided to whip up a pasta dish without a recipe. And it turns out that this pasta–which I’m calling Mann Ziti in Aimee Mann’s honor–has a lot in common with the music: it lives on the edge of darkness.

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Lasagne alla Bolognese al Forno (Or: The Ultimate Lasagna)

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Growing up, if I visited a friend and that friend’s mother was cooking dinner, one word would make me run away screaming. That word was “lasagna.”

Theories for why this was the case: (1) I grew up in a non-lasagna household; (2) it was a non-lasagna household because (a) my dad hates cheese and (b) he grew up in a semi-kosher home where meat and cheese were never mixed. Therefore, not only was lasagna exotic to me, it was scary. If I did have to stay at a friend’s for dinner and lasagna was served, I’d do my best to peel it apart and to eat some of the noodles, some of the filling, but to mostly mush it around on my plate.

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Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad (with Yogurt and Herbs)

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The scene? My kitchen. The day? Last Thursday. The idea? Take everything out of my refrigerator–fresh mozzarella, a red onion, scallions, celery, parsley, dill, a nectarine (ok, that wasn’t in the refrigerator, it was on the counter)–and make dinner. I didn’t know what I was going to make but then I had a thought: “What if I make a pasta salad? And what if that pasta salad is kind of healthy? What if I uses Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and lots of these fresh herbs to perk it up?”

Ladies and gentlemen: a star was born.

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Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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Meet your new favorite weeknight dinner. It asks only a few things of you: that you have a cluster of esoteric ingredients on hand (chili paste, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil), and also a few familiar ones (ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter). It asks you to boil water and to blend things up in your blender. But approximately 20 minutes after you start, you’ll have the plate of food that you see above and, on a hot summer’s eve, you’ll find that very satisfying.

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