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November 2011 COTM: Gourmet II: Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings; Grains and Beans

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapters about pasta, noodles and dumplings, and grains and beans.

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  1. Ma -Po Tofu p. 280

    Looking for a little heat to chase away the chilly weather, we decided upon this recipe for dinner tonight. This was quick to put together and used very little oil. Stir-fry pork (I used ground pork from the freezer instead of the pork shoulder suggested) until no longer pink, then minced garlic and ginger is cooked until fragrant. A sauce of doubanjiang, chicken stock (I used Grace Young’s recipe), and soy is added along with poached tofu cubes (soft). Once it simmers, a cornstarch slurry is added and mixed until thickened. Once off the heat, chopped scallions, sesame oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns are mixed in. Top with additional scallions and served with rice (Japanese musenmai for me).

    I haven’t tried Dunlop’s version of this yet (must do this soon), but I did notice her version includes black bean sauce. I think this would have been a welcome addition to this recipe to give it a little more depth. I would also add a little more doubanjiang and a dried hot pepper to add some heat.

    5 Replies
    1. re: BigSal

      This is on my To Make list but I was going to use fermented bean paste instead of doubanjiang.
      Would that be an OK sub, Sally?

      1. re: Gio

        I am no expert in this area so I hope some others can chime in, but my first thought is that you will miss the heat/spice from the doubanjiang if you use fermented bean paste. Perhaps you could add chiles to the bean paste? Let us know how it goes. Although I was not blown away by this recipe, it has inspired me to try some other Ma Po tofu recipes to fulfill the cravings and to get the wok out again.

        1. re: BigSal

          Thanks Sal... I'm going to check out the Dunlop Ma Po Tofu recipe and compare them.

          1. re: Gio


            I made Dunlop's version of Ma Po tofu today (will report later) and I did like it better than the Tropp version in The Gourmet Cookbook.

      2. Beef and Sausage Lasagne – p. 234

        Note I’ve spelled lasagna w an “e” at the end above since that’s how it appears in the book however it was my understanding that the “e” would make the word plural… can anyone shed light on this? Be assured, only one lasagna emerged from my oven!!

        Though there aren’t Cook’s Notes for this recipe, I’d point out that the sauce for this lasagna could easily be made a day ahead to significantly expedite the prep/assembly process the next day. Another tip I’d add is to let your ricotta come to room temperature so that it is easier to spread thinly since, it needs to be spread quite thinly in order to ensure you have 3 applications.

        This is relatively simple lasagna to prepare relative to other versions I’ve made. There is little chopping and prep to do and, the recipe calls for no boil lasagna noodles. Here’s how it comes together:

        Sauce: Chopped onion is cooked ‘til golden in a little evoo over moderate/high heat. Garlic is stirred in for 1 minute before adding the sausage, beef and veal. Meat is broken up and cooked until no pink is left. Tomatoes, salt and pepper are added and mixture is stirred together then simmered, stirring occasionally for 30 mins to thicken. Mine was not thick per se after 30 mins however I decided to use it anyway given the recipe called for the no boil noodles and I always find they absorb a lot of liquid and I hate when they are underdone. Note that this recipe doesn’t call for any herbs in the sauce. I thought I’d go with that since Ruth does mention in the head note that the dish is meaty but when I tasted the sauce, it was a bit bland for our tastes so I returned it to the heat and stirred in some oregano and a little fennel seed that I’d toasted off to bring out their flavour.

        Filling: Ricotta (mine was freshly made…by me), egg, Parmesan, fresh parsley, salt pepper and a little nutmeg are combined and set aside. I steamed, drained and chopped 1/2lb of baby spinach and added this to my cheese mixture just because we tend to like that combination of flavours and it’s always nice to invite some greens to the party!

        Other: Additional Parmesan and some mozzarella are grated for the assembly process.

        Assembly: Let me start by saying that I initially planned to make this in a 13 x 9 pan as the recipe suggests however, when I saw the quantity of sauce, I quickly oiled a larger pan and adjusted the assembly process to accommodate the larger pan. The idea is to layer sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, Parmesan and repeat the process 3 times. The mozzarella is intended to be used only on the very top of the dish. My version repeated the layers twice then, after the third layer of noodles were added, I simply topped w more sauce, some mozzarella and a little Parmesan. I also distributed the mozzarella evenly throughout the layers vs just having what I imagined to be a big gooey blob on top of the dish.

        Once assembled, the pan is covered with a buttered piece of foil (I sprayed mine w evoo…just seemed easier). Into the 375° oven it goes for 40 mins then, the foil is removed and the lasagna cooks for another 10-15 mins until the top is lightly browned. After 20 mins, ours still hadn’t browned so I turned on the broiler to finish the job.

        RR suggests that this dish sit for 15 mins prior to serving and let me tell you, those were a tough 15 minutes because that lasagna sure looked and smelled delicious! We really enjoyed this dish and, it exceed my expectations as the sum was far greater than the individual components. I actually made this in October and we froze leftovers which we’ve subsequently de-frosted and re-heated. This only seems to get better with time and I’d happily make it again with the revisions above. A big, hearty, flavourful meal perfect w some crusty bread and great wine.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          My understanding of "lasagne" is that it's referring to the noodles. So one noodle is lasagna, and plural they are lasagne; as the dish is named for the noodles, it's properly lasagne in Italian. Lasagna is definitely the common Americanized (and perhaps Canadianized) name for the baked dish, though.

          Good on you for making the ricotta; I'm sure it elevated the dish.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Caitlin thanks so much, that makes perfect sense. Much appreciated!

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              That's right, except that the proper name of the baked dish is lasagne al forno. It can happen, though it's rare, that you order lasagne off a menu and get a bowl of noodles.

              1. re: mbfant

                Wow, that is a helpful clarification, as I've wondered about this also. So really, lasagne is more or less an abbreviated term for baked noodles. If you did get a bowl of noodles, would it be the very wide noodles? Or is lasagne a more generic term?

          2. Perciatelli with Sausage Ragu and (Sicilian) Meatballs – p. 222

            Sicilian Meatballs – p. 222

            Whenever we travel to Chicago we have to stop in at Quartino for a dish of their Sicilian meatballs (and a glass of wine of course!!). Needless to say I was delighted to find this recipe in Gourmet and couldn’t wait to give it a try. Since preparing it we’ve had the meatballs as part of the pasta dish and, on their own w some sauce as an antipasti. Both were outstanding, I’d highly recommend this dish.

            Time is not on my side these days so unfortunately I don’t have time for a blow-by-blow description of how this comes together. What I will say is that you could easily make the meatballs and even the entire sauce a day ahead if time was tight. Meatballs are made by combining fresh breadcrumbs, milk, ground toasted almonds, currants, ground beef, pecorino, pine nuts, cinnamon, egg and salt (I omitted the sugar the recipe called for). While the recipe suggests you fry these, I decided to bake them (20 mins in a 375 oven) while I cooked the sausage for the sauce. Instead of leaving the sausages whole, I cut them into 1 ½ inch pieces to mimic the rough size/shape of the meatballs.

            I worried that the sauce might be too acidic or, watery w 2 cups of wine and only 28 oz of tomatoes but the sweet flavours of the sausage and currants really infused the sauce with wonderful flavours and by the time the dish was ready, the sauce was a lovely consistency (though I wish there had been more).

            This really was outstanding. The sweetness and subtle hint of cinnamon in the meatballs reminded me of the flavours in some Quebecois dishes I’ve had and, of course, on their own, the meatballs were very similar to those we so enjoy at Quartino. Two forks up from casa bc for this dish . . . really lovely.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              I looked at this dish and thought it sounded really heavy with both a sausage ragu and meatballs. In the note it says they would be eaten separately in Italy, which makes sense to me. Would the meatballs work with just a tomato sauce instead of the ragu do you think?

              1. re: greedygirl

                gg the sausage is lovely with this and its sweetness and, the fennel in the sausage infuses the sauce with a wonderful flavour. While I think the meatballs would be ok in a tomato sauce, I think its the combination of flavours in the ragu (w the 2 cups of wine) that elevate the dish.

                If you did want to do them alone, I'd suggest using a jar of Italian tomatoes vs a sauce.

                You're quite right in that the dish is very "meat forward" There's far more meat than you could use in one meal IMHO. I froze the meatball/sausage mixture w a bit of sauce in portions so we could defrost and use as antipasti. Next time I make this I'll double the quantity of sauce though as there simply wasn't enough for our tastes.

            2. Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Lacinato Kale

              With some (red curly) kale and cauliflower soon to wither away in the fridge this dish seemed to be screaming my name when I plugged the ingredients into an EYB search today. I’m so glad I found this recipe and, for those of you without the book, I’ll post a link below thanks to Marcus Samuelsson who shared it on his site. I have to agree w Marcus in that this makes a great meatless main course dish.

              One thing I did differently is that I roasted my cauliflower since it’s not mr bc’s favourite vegetables and, the only way I can seem to get him to eat is by roasting it!! Otherwise, I followed the recipe as you see it in the book and, since the dish was a little dry, I did add some of the cooking water from the kale along w a little pasta water. The toasted breadcrumbs and parmesan add a richness to the dish that contrasts the bitterness of the kale and balances everything. For folks who don’t love anchovies, I’d note that the flavour is very subtle and, not pronounced enough that the flavour stands out.

              This really was delicious and surprisingly filling. FYI, my cauliflower was chartreuse and purple in case you find my photos a bit puzzling!! I’d highly recommend this one. Loved the heat from the chilies too btw.

              Here’s the recipe:


              4 Replies
              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                That looks so pretty! I really like pasta dishes with cauliflower - they go together surprisingly well, and as winter is finally upon us there's tons of kale in the farmer's market atm. Must try this one.

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    I agree with above posters, beautiful looking dish. Well done, choosing to do it with chartreuse and purple cauliflower!

                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      Thanks so much everyone, its always nice when something tastes as good as it looks and I'm so in love w the beautifully coloured cauliflowers at this time of year.

                  2. Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne, page 234.

                    A couple modifications were made with this recipe. I was a bit too exuberant in making ravioli filling the other night, so I found this recipe, which seemed compatible, and added a layer of my leftover squash and Italian chicken sausage mixture to the other ingredients called for. Mr. Nightshade made fresh pasta sheets which we used instead of the oven-ready sheets called for.

                    Other than those changes, we followed the recipe and made layers of pasta, bechamel, squash, onions, hazelnuts, and cheeses. This was very good lasagne. I thought the toasted hazelnuts added a nice texture, and the flavor combined very well with the squash and cheeses.

                    After enjoying a slice for lunch today, I can attest that this lasagne is even a little bit better the next day.

                    And, once again, if you don't have the book, the recipe is here:

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      Oh my goodness LN, that looks exquisite. This sounds like a lovely and decadent dish! I'd love to hear how your trip went...did you post a review?

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Thank you Breadcrumbs! Our trip was everything I could have hoped for!
                        I have posted two parts of my trip reviews.
                        Review of the cooking school is here:
                        And reviews of eating in Rome are here:
                        Florence notes should be coming soon!

                      2. re: L.Nightshade

                        Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne, p. 234

                        I was happy to see L. Nightshade's positive report this past Monday, as I had already planned on making this dish this weekend. I will add my own endorsement: I found this delicious, and agree that the hazelnuts added nice texture and complementary flavor. I made half a recipe, but used the full measures of garlic and sage. I used 2% milk for the bechamel, and did use the no-boil noodles and they did get a little chewier than I liked on the top and sides. Next time I'll use the trick of soaking them in hot water for a few minutes.

                      3. Baked Pasta with Tomatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Prosciutto – p. 225

                        ‘Tis the season and any dish that’s described as a “lifesaver when entertaining” because it can be made ahead always catches my eye. The fact that Epi reviewers raved about this dish as a buffet favourite further enticed me to give this a try.

                        We loved this dish not just for what it is but for the possibilities it offers. First of all, on its own, as written it’s a very tasty, hearty dish that could feed an army! I can also imagine how wonderful variations might be….cooked, shredded chicken or sausage instead of prosciutto. Throw in a green veggie like broccoli, or broccoli rabe. Shrimp would be great. Different mushrooms…kings would be meaty and delicious! Then you could also vary the cheeses to mix up the flavours. The possibilities are endless!

                        Since time is tight and, the recipe is on Epi, I’ll skip how this all comes together but will cover the changes I made.

                        Instead of removing the cooked veggies from the pan to make a roux, I simply made my roux in a separate pan while the veggies cooked then incorporated the milk to make a smooth, creamy sauce. I also decided to add the tomatoes AND their juice (the book tells you to drain them) to the mushroom mixture and let it reduce a little prior to incorporating the cream sauce. At this point I let the sauce cool and refrigerated it overnight.

                        The following day all I needed to do was cook the pasta, bring the sauce up to a simmer, stir in the cheeses, prosciutto and pasta then bake for 20 minutes.

                        We served this family-style with some crusty bread and a simple salad. It was a hit with all our guests (kids and grown-ups alike). The cheeses blended beautifully and the folks who claimed not to be fans of blue cheese said they had no idea it was in this dish.

                        Please note though, this recipe yields a massive amount of pasta and sauce. Even halved I’m confident it would serve 6. As it was I was able to fill my large lasagna pan and, a shallower 9 x 12 dish. This worked out well as I was able to “gift” the smaller pan to one of my guests and there is still some leftover to freeze for another day. I’ll re-post here later to let you know how it fares once defrosted and reheated.

                        Happy to recommend this. Here’s the link to the recipe on Epi:


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Gorgeous as always BC. You have lucky guests.

                        2. Sicilian-Style Pasta with Sardines, p 216

                          Saute onion, fennel, fennel seeds and salt until soft, add white wine, raisins (that have been soaking in the wine) and saffron, and 1 can of sardines. Simmer for a minute. Once spaghetti is cooked, toss it with the fennel/sardine mixture, another can of sardines, chopped fennel fronds, toasted pine nuts, bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste.

                          This has actually become a standby in heavy rotation in our house, it's so good and so easy that if I see a fennel bulb I pretty much have to make it. I have subbed chopped prunes and figs for the raisins if I didn't have them. I've also made half as much spaghetti, but the correct amount of everything else, and it was very good too.
                          I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

                          1. Cuban Black Beans p.267

                            My expectations for this recipe were a bit high, since all other Cuban dishes I have made from this book have been excellent. This straightforward recipe for black beans was a bit of a letdown, and I've since made the leftovers into refried beans, with much tastier results.
                            The beans contain a sofrito of onions and green pepper, but no garlic. Usually the mix is swimming in the stuff. I should have listened to my culinary conscience that told me to add some to the pot, but as usual, I tuned it out. I really need to start listening to that voice; it knows more than I give it credit for.
                            A spoonful of bacon fat is also in the beans for a hint richness, but some bacon slices might have done nicely in there.
                            The beans were salvaged with a bit of lime juice and cilantro, but I wouldn't make this recipe again.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Allegra_K

                              I totally know what you mean about the voice - I need to start trusting mine too.

                            2. Herbed Quinoa - p. 263

                              This is a slightly fussy preparation of quinoa. The recipe has you rinse the quinoa in a bowl 5 times. Then boil in a saucepan of salted water for 10 minutes (in an excess of water, like pasta). Drain. Then put an inch or so of water back in the saucepan, put the quinoa above it in a strainer, and a towel between the quinoa and the lid of the saucepan. Steam, covered, for another 10-12 minutes. The quinoa should be dry and fluffy. (And indeed it was).

                              You then toss the quinoa in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped thyme and scallions. And that's it.

                              So is it worth the trouble of the boiling, draining, and then steaming? Yes, absolutely. This was the lightest, fluffiest quinoa you could possibly ask for. As for the seasonings, it was fine, but I felt the time didn't really come through. It tasted mostly of scallions, but was pretty mild overall. But I will return to this cooking method, just probably use different add-ins next time.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: MelMM

                                I made quioa for the first time last week, and used this method, with different seasonings and add-ins, but I loved the light, dry, fluffy result of the boil-(then) steam method, and it didn't seem like that much extra trouble. Anyway, call me a quinoa convert.

                              2. Arrabbiatta Sauce, Pg. 208

                                When my original dinner plans went awry last night I had to quickinahurry find another recipe. What to do when you want something fast? Macaroni of course. This recipe was perfect. Full of flavor and pleasant heat. We make our own version of Arrabbiata with a bit of diced pancetta at the beginning, but this sauce might just trump ours. I used the exact amounts of the ingredients as listed except... Instead of two 28 oz. cans of tomatoes I used just one. That concentrated the flavors to our liking. Two cans would have made too much sauce, anyway.

                                In hot olive oil cook minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes till garlic is just golden. Stir in tomatoes and salt. Simmer uncovered for just enough time to let the pasta water come to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Just before tossing the pasta into the sauce stir chopped fresh basil into the sauce. No grated cheese is used on the pasta, linguine in our case.

                                I served an escarole and tomato salad with the Parmesan Balsamic Vinaigrette on page 173. A Great Meal in a pinch.

                                1. Macaroni and Cheese p. 223

                                  We had an early Thanksgiving meal with my family on Sunday, since I will spending Thanksgiving Day with my in-laws in Florida. This was my first time making macaroni and cheese from scratch. It’s just not something we ate a lot growing up. Quite simple to put together and easily prepared in advance.

                                  I coaxed my nephew out of the basement and away from the PS3 to join me in the kitchen.
                                  One makes a roux from butter, flour and red pepper flakes, then milk is whisked in until it boils. Next, cream, cheddar, mustard, and s&p are added. Add pasta (we used cavatappi instead of elbow macaroni) and cooking water to the cheese mixture. My nephew commented that the sauce looked a little too liquidy after adding the pasta water, but we forged ahead hoping it would work out (and it did). A topping of panko, cheddar and melted butter is added. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

                                  We made half a recipe, served 5 (6 with my nephew’s appetite) and we had plenty of leftovers. This is very rich and creamy. The adults seemed to like the topping more than my nephew did. He found it unnecessary, and preferred the unadorned, creamy, cheesy part. I was concerned that using extra-sharp cheddar throughout the recipe would be too much for my nephew, so we used extra-sharp for the topping and sharp for the sauce. I could see substituting different kinds of cheeses to create different flavors. A successful dish, but because it is so rich, not something that we will make frequently.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: BigSal

                                    My kids were performing in a play, which left us little time for cooking. I made a double batch of this recipe and froze half. Everyone devoured this dish, although the teens could also have forgone the panko topping. (I liked it myself.) As Big Sal noted, it will look far too liquidy before baking, but don't skimp on the pasta water--use what the recipe calls for, and it will be fine. As for richness, I previously tried a Martha Stewart mac and cheese recipe, and my family found that recipe too rich and GT just right.

                                  2. Baked Four Cheese Farfalle (p. 224)

                                    We thought this was wonderful. Very rich, but cut a bit by the addition of canned tomatoes (I was wary of those tomatoes at first, but liked the way they cut the richness). You make a roux of half a stick of butter, 2 tablespoons of flour then add milk and juice from the canned tomatoes. Let that simmer for a few minutes, add the tomatoes and season. In the meantime cook your farfalle to al dente. Toss together the liquid and the pasta along with the cheeses: gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella and pocorino romano. I left out the chopped parsley since we were having a parsley and cabbage salad (from one of the River Cafe books) as a side. Put in a buttered pan and bake about 25-30 minutes. Very rich, but also very good. Turns out Lulu had only ever had macaroni and cheese at a restaurant (where she didn't like it at all). She was wary when I told her we were having "fancy mac and cheese" (somehow, even though I am the person who feeds her, I just assumed a 5 year old would have had it before. Brain, you in there?). But she helped make the roux, and helping is always useful for having a kid like something, and she loves blue cheese, so she loved this.

                                    1. Bulgur Pilaf with Pine Nuts, Raisins, and Orange Zest, p. 262

                                      This follows typical pilaf procedure: onion is sauteed, bulgur and orange zest are added and sauteed for a minute, raisins, stock, and salt and pepper are added, it's all brought to a boil, then the heats's reduced, a cover goes on , and it cooks until the stock is absorbed. It's fluffed up (and cooled for 15 minutes, but mine only cooled for a few), then toasted pine nuts and parsley are stirred in (recipe also calls for some scallion greens, which I didn't have).

                                      Lots of flavor from the various components, would be a good side to dozens of things, and something I'll make again.