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Oct 31, 2012 11:54 PM

November 2012 COTM: Second Helpings -- Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Pasta and Risotto

Appetizers 3 -22

Soups 23 - 44

Salads 45 - 62

Pasta and Risotto 63 - 108

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  1. Rigatoni with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Cream (p. 92)

    It got sprung on me the night before that I'd be making dinner (I thought my husband would be out of town) so I quickly picked something from this book that looked fairly simple and rushed to hte store in the morning. While this isn't quite a simple as it looks, it is still easy and very tasty. You cut up 3 pounds of tomatoes into chunks and saute them for about 10 minutes, then zap them in the processor. Meanwhile heat olive oil and saute sliced and halved zucchini until lightly browned and add a bit of salt, then set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat and add garlic, basil and Aleppo pepper (loved this touch of pepper), cook for until fragrant, add tomato puree and reduce by about half. Stir in cream, a bit of parmesan, salt, pepper and fold in the zucchini. Cook the pasta, put into the pan with the sauce, stir to coat, sprinkle with cheese and chopped parsley. I thought this was really tasty and perfect for a fall night. Lulu claimed she loved the pasta but not the sauce - when given the leftovers for lunch yesterday she cleaned the thermos clean, so she can't have disliked the sauce all that much.

    1. Penne with Gorgonzola, Beets and Toasted Walnuts

      My copy of the book hasn't arrived yet, but I found this recipe using EYB and then searching online. I deviated a bit from the recipe, but I think I kept the basic idea intact. After cooking and slicing a couple of beets, a gorgonzola cheese sauce is made. To start the sauce, they have you mince garlic and thinly slice some red onion. Those are cooked, then wine is added and reduced. Then cream is added and simmered and you're supposed to strain the sauce. Straining the sauce seemed a bit too fiddly for me for a weeknight meal, so I finely chopped the onions and just left those and the garlic in the sauce. While I was making the sauce, I realized that I only had half of the gorgonzola called for (and my beets and onion were on the small side), so I cut the sauce recipe in half for the cream and gorgonzola, but used the full amount of wine. After the straining, gorgonzola is melted into the sauce and it's seasoned with salt and pepper. Cooked penne pasta is then added to the pan that has the sauce along with the cooked beets and walnuts. I wasn't sure if in the book it specifies whether the walnuts should be whole or chopped. I decided to chop mine. These are stirred until the sauce turns pink. Garnish with parmesan and parsley and serve.

      The sauce was quite rich and we both liked it, except for the color! It looked like someone had poured Pepto-Bismol on top of the pasta and that just wasn't very appetizing.

      5 Replies
      1. re: TxnInMtl

        I didn't know you could melt gorgonzola, but then I don't think I've ever tried.
        I do agree about the color, but maybe those golden beets would be the answer?

        Just to note, this recipe is in The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, page 50.

        1. re: blue room

          It's worth trying. I love blue cheese sauces.
          Golden beets is a good idea. Candy cane might also work nicely for a lighter shade. We had a beet risotto over the weekend and the dark red looked great, so I was surprised when this one ended up being such a turn-off. I think the cream just puts it at a weird in-between stage for me.

          Thanks for adding the page number. I hope my used copy arrives soon!

        2. re: TxnInMtl

          I just got my copy of the first book yesterday, and didn't have much time to look at it, but I did see this one and thought it sounded wonderful. They have it listed in the apps section. I'd be feeding 3 - do you think it would do as a main?

          I've made radicchio risotto and had that same sort of "um, not sure about this color" feeling!

          1. re: LulusMom

            I served it as a main with a large side of salad. Scaled very roughly in half, we still ended up with leftovers, although we're both light eaters. I think you'll be fine.

          2. re: TxnInMtl

            My apologies! I just realized I put this in entirely the wrong thread. I should have read more closely this morning. I'll put a link in the proper thread ...

          3. Pappardelle al Sugo di Coniglio (SH, p. 76)

            This is why I went online looking for this book a few years ago. I *had* to have the recipe after having this at Union Square Cafe one blustery January afternoon. I still think that it may be the best pasta dish--rich but not heavy sauce, silky thin pasta—I have ever eaten. And not because of any particular sentiments associated with that meal. (I was with two colleagues, of whom I’m quite fond, but I felt a bit like a 5th wheel as they were in love.) It may simply be that the meal was so eminently satisfying because it was so bitterly cold out.

            I decided to try to recreate the dish as my inaugural COTM endeavor. My first hurdle was my husband, who hates the idea of eating rabbit. However, we’d made a deal a while ago: he said that he had no objection to eating Thumper if I could disguise it and not tell him. I planned my subterfuge for Sunday, when I knew he’d be absorbed in football and other sports—and when I’d have lots of time. (This is not a difficult dish by any means, but it is time-consuming).

            You start by roasting a rabbit (cut into several pieces and tossed with 2 T OO, one celery stalk and half a lg. onion, thinly sliced, a head of garlic, quartered and unpeeled, 6 whole basil leaves, 1 sprig of thyme, chopped, 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, ¼ tsp. pepper) at 450F for 30 minutes. Your kitchen will start to smell like heaven. Then you pull out the pan and pour a cup of white wine over the mix; return to oven for another 10 minutes or so.

            Reduce heat to 350F. Pour 2 c chicken stock over the rabbit; cover the pan with foil; let it braise in the oven for another hour or until rabbit is tender. Remove rabbit pieces and set aside to cool. Strain the braising liquid (there will be a lot) into a bowl, pressing on solids.

            Once meat cools, remove it from the bones and chop it finely. To finish the sugo: heat 2 T OO over med. heat (I used my LC DO). Add 1 c. chopped pancetta (it’s a lot, but I think this is what makes the dish) and cook to render fat, 3 minutes or so. Reduce heat to low, add veggies (1 celery stalk and the other half of that lg. onion, 1 tsp garlic, ½ c. carrots—all minced), and cook about 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in rabbit meat. Add reserved braising liquid, 3 c. basic tomato sauce (I had some of mine on hand in the freezer—otherwise you’ll have to make it, which you could do while the rabbit is cooking), 1 T. sliced fresh basil, and, according to the recipe, simmer for 30 minutes. (Did I mention that you'll hardly be able to stand the amazing aromas in your kitchen?)

            After 30 minutes, the sugo was thin and soupy so I let mine bubble away for another 45 minutes, which it really needed. (I reduced it even further for my second use of the sauce, tonight’s lasagne.) After removing pot from heat, I stirred in ½ c grated Parmigiano and 1 T chopped fresh parsley.

            We ate this with an excellent (dried) store-bought pappardelle (if I had any hope that I could do as well making my own, I might have), roasted brussels sprouts, and lettuce/cherry tomato salad.
            Did this live up to the USC dish? Almost. I would say that I’ve made bolognese sauces that I’ve liked every bit as much as this. But this was damned good, really good. And my husband still doesn’t know that the meal he raved about Sunday night was rabbit. He asked if I’d use some of the leftover sauce (this makes a lot) for lasagne, so we’re having that tonight.

            7 Replies
            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              Well that's a compelling post! I was in great suspense, waiting to find out if the dish was equal to your memory of the cafe. Glad to hear it was close enough ..

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                "He said that he had no objection to eating Thumper if I could disguise it and not tell him." Thanks for the laugh.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  What a beautiful sauce!
                  Next time I see a good looking rabbit, I'll be making this dish. It sounds like a nice way to spend the morning in the kitchen.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    Thanks all; this turned out to be the gift that kept on giving: lasagne on a subsequent night, w/leftovers another; a sauce made from the leftover sugo and some added rehydrated porcini, a lttle chicken and porcini stock, a little more tomato sauce, eaten with pasta tonight. In other words, we've eaten this several nights this week.

                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Wow, that sounds amazing, both dishes!

                    2. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Nice dice, Nomad...! The whole meal looks Cafe worthy.

                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                        I've never cooked rabbit, but you've just convinced me to give it a go once I get my copy of the book! Thanks for the great write-up.

                      2. MINESTRA DI CECI, SECOND HELPINGS, P 37

                        a simple an non-stodgy but flavorful rendition of pasta fagiole which we very much enjoyed and I liked the very Italian refinements to this dish.
                        2 cups of dried chickpeas are soaked and then cooked til tender with an herb bundle (fresh parsley stems, rosemary sticks, bay leaf, peppercorns) and pecorino rind. I left the herbs loose mainly out of laziness and used a parmesan rind rather than pecorino. Odori (chopped onion, carrot, celery garlic chopped rosemary and red pepper flakes are sautéed til softened – the chickpeas (drained) are then added, along with some chopped oven or sun dried tomatoes (I used a some semi-dried tomatoes from Italy and some sundried) and the herbs – the mix is cooked for 50 min. then the herb bundle is removed (I pulled out sticks) and about 1 cup of chickpeas. The soup is then pureed (I used a stick blender).
                        The ditalini or other small pasta is cooked separately in water, then the dish is assembled by adding the pasta to the soup, along with the reserved chickpeas; the mix is cooked together, seasoning checked and adjusted and served up in bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley, grated pecorino cheese and (my add) a drizzle of good olive oil)
                        I had upsized the recipe, and it lent itself very well to multiple quick meals, by keeping the bean soup ( I had reincorporated the whole beans) and pasta in separate containers and assembling, microwaving and garnishing the soup in individual bowls for serving. All in all a very nice refined recipe, we will repeat.

                        ps - forgot to add, my daughter, particularly, liked to sprinkle this with some pepper flakes (the aleppo is best, I think) I like it both ways.

                        1. Chicken Liver Crostini (SH, p. 8)

                          We love chicken or duck liver pâté and spreads and I’m always up for trying a new recipe so I tried this one a week or so ago, and, as my husband said, “you don’t ever need another one.”

                          Cook chopped pancetta (1/4 c.) of minutes in OO; add ½ c chopped onion cook another few minutes until soft. Add and cook for a few minutes: 3 ea. juniper berries and fresh sage leaves, 2 anchovies, ½ tsp. capers. Add ½ lb. chicken livers (well-dried and seasoned w/salt and pepper) to skillet and cook another couple of minutes. Add ¼ c white wine and simmer until wine is almost evaporated. Add ½ c chicken stock and simmer until reduced by half. Swirl in 2 T butter. (Since I had a pound of chicken livers, I doubled the recipe.)

                          I used my immersion blender to puree this, opting for smooth rather than chunky. We enjoyed it the first time warm, topped w/sliced scallion, on simply grilled baguette slices. (I didn’t bother making the croutons as directed in the recipe.) I packed the rest into ramekins and drizzled some melted butter over the tops. On a subsequent night, we smeared this into endive leaves. Saturday we took this to a friend’s, where we had it before dinner on Raincoast Crisps, topped with diced apple. Delicious in all iterations.

                          I’m making another double recipe tonight as we’ve gone through the previous batch, and this will be a great thing to have in the freezer. It really is a wonderful chicken liver spread.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            wow, this sounds wonderful. And Pate' freezes well??

                            1. re: Tom P

                              Yes, it feezes very well. Whatever recipe I use (but this one is a real keeper), I always end up putting some into the freezer. Thaw until it's at room temperature, and voilà--instant appetizer.

                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                This sounds delicious, and very similar to the liver pâté I make for the Xmas season. I will definitely try it out. I always add a squirt of tomato paste before the wine (or sherry). I think that along with the anchovies and herbs are what make for a superior pâté. And I agree on the freezing. Even better with a cap of clarified butter!

                                1. re: rabaja

                                  We had some from the freezer tonight; in fact, it comprised most of our dinner tonight.

                                  Next time, I'll ad a squirt of tomato paste, rabaja; I can't imagine it would hurt!