Monday, September 26, 2011

Fusilli with Tomatoes, Bacon, and Blue Cheese

Blue Cheese is not something I reach for first, but I might be able to get past it for this dish. I bet it would taste even better if one added some of Stanley's Blue Cheese Sausage to it. The recipe comes from the Amateur Gourmet.

Fusilli with Tomatoes, Bacon & Blue Cheese
Serves 4

  • A few strips of bacon or pancetta, sliced into lardons
  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • A big pinch of red chile flakes (pepperoncini)
  • A big squeeze of tomato paste (like 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • Salt
  • A good big chunk of blue cheese, preferably Gorgonzola (1/4 pound? Even more?)
  1. In a large skillet, add the bacon or pancetta and the splash of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium.
  2. When the bacon’s released a lot of its fat and is just starting to crisp but not entirely crispy, push the bacon aside and add the onion to the pan. Allow the onion to cook by itself for a minute, stirring it around, then incorporate it into the bacon and stir all around.
  3. Push the onion and bacon aside and add the red chile flakes to one part of the pan and the tomato paste to another part of the pan, allowing both to caramelize slightly.
  4. Stir everything together and then add your can of tomatoes, squeezing the tomatoes with your hands into the pan (careful not to squirt yourself! You can do this in a bowl beforehand if you’d rather not make a mess.) Sprinkle with salt, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and allow to perk away for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, then season it aggressively with salt. (It should taste like the sea.)
  6. Drop the fusilli into the pot of boiling water and cook 1 minute less than it says on the package directions (taste a noodle: it should be just al dente.) With a spider, lift the fusilli into the pan with the sauce, turn up the heat and stir all around. If the pan is really dry on the bottom, add a splash of pasta cooking water. Continue to cook and stir until all the fusilli is coated and has absorbed most of the sauce.
  7. Off the heat, add all your blue cheese and stir it aggressively into the pasta until it makes a creamy emulsion. Scoop into bowls and serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top and another sprinkling of red chile flakes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

I was just thinking the other day that it would be nice to have buttermilk in the fridge more often. It comes in handy in so many recipes. Like this one. Crud, now I need to go back to the store.

While you are shopping for the ingredients for the cake below, here are some other ideas for cakes that require a bit more expertise (and lots of fondant).
Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Bon Appétit | July 2011
by Melissa Roberts

Buttermilk keeps this moist cake light and flavorful. Dust it with powdered sugar as it cools for a sweet, decorative finish.
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Special equipment: Use a 9"–10"-diameter springform pan.

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup sugar.

Sift 2 1/3 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup butter and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.

Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment. Dust top generously with powdered sugar and let cool completely.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Balsamic Strawberry Popsicles

Yesterday was the last day at the pool for the Brave Astronaut clan. Yes, our pool is open for an extra week after Labor Day and it is glorious to have that opportunity. I managed to get in one last time (and the water wasn't as cold as I thought it might be - given all the rain we've had of late) and took a jump off the high dive.

So here we are in the middle of September (already?) and Indian Summer is surely about to begin and there will be a few more warm days before the weather really turns "crisp." I know that Mrs. BA hates crisp, but I sort of like the fall. Not as much as the winter, mind you. But that would get me in even more trouble with Mrs. BA.

Here's one last summer recipe to either make or save for next season!

Balsamic-Strawberry Pops
Epicurious | July 2011
by Charity Ferreira

A little balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper bring out the sweetness of ripe strawberries.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 pops

  • 2 cups sliced, hulled strawberries (from about 1 pound berries)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Place the strawberries and sugar in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture is finely chopped and juicy but still chunky; you don't want a smooth purée. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of pepper.

Spoon the mixture into ice pop molds and insert sticks. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.

To unmold the pops, run hot water over the outsides of the molds for a few seconds, then gently pull the sticks.

Update / Bonus Recipe:
In the July 17 New York Times Magazine, the food column had several options of popsicles: Fruity, Savory, Creamy, and Boozy! Enjoy - the recipe / article is here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later

Here we are - ten years later. This post will go up at the exact moment the first plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center (of course, shown in the video above). At that moment ten years ago, I was dropping my car off for service and had a friend pick me up for work. When I got to work, of course, everything changed. You can read my previous posts about September 11 by clicking the links that follow (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).

Since that day, so much of my own life has changed. My mother (who was getting on a plane with my father in Texas that morning) passed away in 2006. I married the love of my life (who was here in Washington on September 11, while I was still in New York) and we now have two wonderful boys, who I hope will never have to experience the same tragic circumstances that I did.

We live in a nation forever different. Many of the things we took for granted have been irrevocably changed. We still find ourselves looking over our shoulder for what might be coming next (as recent news shows). I feel like I want to watch some of the ceremonies tomorrow and have been drawn to several of the anniversary shows that have been on TV this week.

Remembering is what we should do. Never forgetting what and who we lost is what we can do. Being strong and moving forward is what we must do. At some point today, stop. reflect. remember. God Bless America.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Labor Day

Today marks the unofficial end of summer. Good news - the pool will be open for one more week (and weekend). As is right and fitting, most schools in New York will go back to school on Wednesday, although LBA started back last week. SoBA starts his penultimate year in daycare before following his big brother to his school.

The Brave Astronaut clan had a great Labor Day weekend. I managed to get 18 holes in on Saturday, while Mrs. BA went and picked up SoBA, who was spending some quality time with his cousins. It was a great day for golf and I would love to find more time to play more. On Sunday, we went to the Maryland State Fair and enjoyed some fine fair food. Then today, we enjoyed a lamb roast at my sister-in-law's house. Her husband roasted a whole lamb. I may have been overserved. I found myself needing to take to my bed (from where I am posting this) - so needless to say I am not all that interested in posting a recipe (urp).

But never fear, faithful readers. Google has come to the rescue (again). Some time ago they launched Google Recipe View. You can plug in any ingredient (something you have on hand and may not be sure what to do with it), or search for a recipe for a favorite dish - and get lots of different options to make.

I hope your Labor Day weekend was good and fall will be here before we know it.