Tag Archives: Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Shrimp & sausage scampi

28 Jul

This is just one of maybe six or seven dishes plowed through last evening, by a mere four humans. Not to mention the seven bottles of, uh, grape-based beverages consumed.

It was the only food item prepared by yours truly.

After shelling and deveining a pound and a half of large shrimp I made a stock with the shells, a carrot, onion, celery stalk, bay leaf and some peppercorns. Of course, any old stock you have around the house would be fine.

Using some of the stock and a little wine I sauteed a pound and a quarter of Italian sweet sausage meat, then set it aside for later.

This is two heads’ worth of garlic sauteing in olive oil, and they came directly from the garden.

The shrimp and a bunch of the stock went in with the garlic.

Then came the cooked sausage meat.

And a pound of spaghetti alla chitarra.

Some fresh parsley on top and there you go.

I gotta go walk this off.

Lemon pasta dough

12 Jan

I don’t know what my friends Marla and Jeff imagined might become of these Meyer lemons. A drink perhaps, possibly a delicate Italian baked good. Grown in their backyard in Texas and shipped here for the holidays, the lemons were a very nice surprise. It has been some time since I’ve been to visit them in Austin and I’d even forgotten that they had the trees.

Some discussions commenced about how best to use the lemons, but the truth is that I knew right away what to lobby for.

Actually, I didn’t really lobby at all.

Very early one morning, long before the associate and the house guests stirred, I zested a couple of the lemons.

Then two cups of 00 flour went onto my work surface, along with 2 large eggs, one egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, plus the zest.

Still no sound of anybody getting out of bed and my plan was nicely taking hold.

A little more flour and a few minutes of kneading and the dough ball was ready for the fridge.

The next day, at lunchtime coincidentally,  I took out the chitarra and got to work on
the meal’s main ingredient (once the dough had come to room temp, that is).

The batch of dough made about 3/4 pound of this stuff, enough for a light lunch for four.

Butter, cheese and peas. That’s it.

Being an early riser has its benefits.

Dante’s Excellent Inferno

12 Oct
(A Divine Comedy In a Single Act of Self Indulgence)
Behold, the new toy.
I may go straight to Hell for luring it to my home. An extravagant, ridiculous, totally unnecessary acquisition in times such as these.
More likely I may go directly to cousin Jennifer’s. She is a chiropractor. Nearly six hundred pounds this beast weighs. (Yes, I went and picked it up.)
It is a wood-fired oven. And it now lives in the backyard, on the brick patio just outside of the kitchen. It is a good oven, constructed of steel and firebrick and stone. The built-in thermometer monitors temperatures as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit. I built a very small fire the day after unveiling The Inferno and the temp shot to 600 degrees in the time it took to get Jen on the line and alert her that I might require her healing hands.
This particular oven (the QX-B from Quintessential) might still be 90 miles away, on the showroom floor, if not for a man I have never met (you know, like, in person) but whose influence on me has been profound and, I assume, lasting.
His name? Read the headline, would you? I’m not clever enough to make this stuff up.
Dante, you see, is the brother-in-law of my friend Joe. He owns the same oven, has for about a year. When I mentioned to Joe that I might build a brick-and-mortar oven with my own two (rapidly softening) hands, he hooked me up with Dante, correctly deducing that should a simpler option present itself I might be tempted by it.
(Dante, by the way, goes by “Dan,” but for purposes of this discussion, you have to agree, that just simply will not do. Dan’s Inferno? C’mon.)
Neither my friend nor his brother-in-law are the easiest men to track down, as they are more frequently traveling in the air than hoofing it on sea level. And yet, for a few days, the three of us were in almost constant electronic communication — all because of my interest in a wood-fired outdoor oven I neither needed nor had any business owning. (A generous associate of mine could rightly argue the oven’s rightful ownership, but that is another story entirely.)
I have no idea how many airports, planes, taxicabs, cities, even sovereign nations may have hosted our three-way culinary gabfests. I don’t want to know.
I do know this. My inbox in those days was lousy with many wonderfully enthusiastic, thoughtful emails from my newest friend, Dan. 
There was this one, for instance:
I was sold on this oven when I saw three of them being demo’d side by side. One was at 600 degrees and they were doing a thin-crust pizza. The second was at around 400 and they were roasting a turkey. The third was at about 275 and they were smoking a pork butt.
Or this, after I’d expressed particular interest in the oven’s pizza-making prowess:
I actually use the oven more for roasting meat than for pizza. It’s a must-have for big, hulking pieces of animal flesh such as beef rib roasts, bone-in pork roasts and turkeys. It does make stellar pizza, depending on the temperature, humidity and how many black handprints my wife wants in the kitchen.
And, finally, this:
Not to oversell the thing, but this oven has changed my life. Best impulsive/expensive food purchase ever!
And so here we are — and here we go. To the first of (hopefully) many wood oven-cooked meals, spaghetti alla chitarra with mahogany clams.
Before The Inferno. (The spaghetti is only partially cooked, then tossed with olive oil, garlic, pepper, clam juice and a little pasta water. Oh, and the clams.)
And after.
If this is what Hell is like…

You call that cacio e pepe?

2 Aug

Never underestimate the power of a good wine buzz. It can lead you to interesting places.


Take the fava bean-inspired concoction you are about to witness. Never woulda happened had the vino not first been swigged.

But swigged it was and so here we be.

See, I’d been planning to make a nice bowl of cacio e pepe the other evening (a simple Roman pasta dish made with cheese and ground pepper). But I got a phone call early in the prep stage, during which a very respectable bottle of Nero d’Avola managed to become uncorked.
Next thing you know I’m shelling the favas that I’d fetched from the garden that afternoon. And by the time I was off the phone there were a bunch ready for eating, but no plan on what to do with them.

So I did what seemed reasonable. I poured another glass of the Nero, stepped outside on the back porch with the dog and pondered the strategic blunder I’d made by getting involved with those damned (er, lovely) favas in the first place.

Soon enough, as happens often and without warning to me (regular readers know this) my mind traveled to (where else?) the chunk of mortadella in the fridge.
And so I chopped me up some of that.

And commenced to making the cacio e pepe — only with two pretty major additions that I do not think the Romans (that means you, Massimo!) would approve of.
You got your freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
And ground black peppercorns.
A pack of spaghetti alla chitarra.
And there you go.

Here’s a recipe for cacio e pepe from Saveur (they use two different cheeses, but using the pecorino alone is fine). As for the favas and mortadella, I tossed them in at the last minute.

Just as I was polishing off the first bottle of wine.