Monday, August 30, 2010

pasta water ladles & emerald basil

I've been engaging in inescapable daydreams.

Lately, when sleep-deprived and in a daze, I've caught myself engrossed within ink-rampant doodling...ahem, "food-aling."

My past humdrum sketches of
dots, flowers & hearts
have switched to
trifles, burgers & steaming cups 'o joe.

When engaged in daydreams, clouded sighs from high school crushes swiftly switched to college loves then to true culinary passion.

Even without an ingredient in sight, my recipes and menu ideas always stem from internal brainstorming and outside inspiration.
Citrus candles in the ladies room may spur a desire for lemon bars. Texas gulf shrimp could create an urge for po-boys and made-from-scratch remoulade. Browning bananas create a sudden need for what else? Banana bread.
To plan a dish, I always start with one component that provides inspiration:

fresh mint from the garden,
a handful of dried plums,
homemade tortillas from the market,
local garnet tomatoes,
or stand mixer dreams of almond cake.

I then build ingredients similar to layering clothes in chilly weather.

Dark meat chicken will start to braise
with mirepoix undergarmets,
fresh herb accessories
& a blanketing of brandy...
...a tender treat perfect for a crisp evening.
For this oh-so-simple layered salad idea, I began with local cucumbers envisioning an hors d'oeuvre.

First stop: A cooler/pantry search.
Ripe avocado? Perfect.
Green onions? Maybe...
Portabellas? Too heavy.
Cilantro? Basil would be better.

After I assembled a chosen few, I glanced at my newest bottle of Sevillano Olive Oil and nodded to myself in agreement.

Emerald Salad with Layered Local Cucumber and Basil with Ripe Avocado
No recipe needed for this stunning emerald treat. So delicious you may even forget you're eating quite healthily.
In a small bowl, I dressed fresh, sliced cucumber from local Carter Farms with a dash of Sevillano Olive Oil, a sprinking of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper.
I next fanned dressed cucumbers in a circle on serving plate then topped with impeccably-hued local sweet basil leaves from B&G's Gardens. Top with ripe avocado slices, also arranged in a circle, and another sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper.
Finally, finish dish with a few slices of cucumber, a leaf or two of basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
A flute of champagne with this anise-ridden, buttery salad and you'll soon be floating on clouds!

After some sips of bubbly, I prepared a rustic pasta dish for two in an effort to utilize some precious local eggplant and a whole wheat pasta gem from Lucido's Pasta and Herbs discovered at Keller Farmer's Market.

After shavings of buttery pecorino
(I always keep salty blocks of aged parmesan or pecorino in my cheese drawer)
and a sprinkling of tangy olive oil, Sunday supper was ready in less than 20.

Whole Wheat Angel Hair with Prosciutto, Fairy Tale Eggplant, Pecorino and Meyer Lemon Oil

Serves 2 with hefty appetites.

1/2 lb whole wheat angel hair
6 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
1 c eggplant, diced large
(I used small Carter Farms Fairy Tale eggplants sliced in half)
1/4 c shaved pecorino plus additional for garnish
2 T unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c Meyer Lemon olive oil
(I used oil from Olivada Olive Oil Tasting Room)
kosher salt and coarse black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Arrange eggplant on a baking sheet with a sprinkling of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Roast approximately 15 minutes until browned and cripy on top.
Meanwhile, heat a small skillet with a dash of olive oil and prosciutto lined evenly. Heat over medium heat, flipping occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes until crispy on all sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside with roasted eggplant.
Set on a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Boil pasta according to package directions or until al dente is reached. Drain reserving 1/2 cup pasta water and return to pot with pasta.
Add oil, pecorino, butter, garlic, eggplant and rustic tears of prosciutto. Season with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste then garnish with shavings of pecorino.

Oversized bites of swirled pasta were a joyous occasion spent with pours of red wine on my comfy slate-hued area rug.

If interested in an appetizer instead of main course, omit pasta for a unique antipasto. Crisp prosciutto, shards of pecorino, bitter eggplant bites and a drizzle of olive oil would be sublime for a cocktail affair!



Weekend Cowgirl said...

Callie, Love your site and thanks for fixing the comment section!! So much easier. I am going to do the cucumber slices this week! Thanks...

Anonymous said...

Callie - who knew...a cheese drawer? I learn something new each read of your blog - love it!