Using the diverse cultures and foods of Astoria, NY to feed one man's imagination in the kitchen.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Baked sausage & spinach pasta with goat cheese bechamel

Still have some left over sausage and spinach pasta soup. Wanted to do a more fattening richer dish because hey, it would make my wife happy. Thought about a bechamel but we are a bit lactose fearful. How to do a richer dish without cream? A soy milk based bechamel! Yeah, go on and bitch, I am not a fan of soy but as a hidden ingredient it can work just fine. And NO I am not a Birkenstock wearing Moosewood cookbook carrying tree hugger. I am a big jolly carnivoris chef, ask anyone.

Maybe take the soup part amd some soy, make a bechamel and add goat cheese to create a smooth creamy sauce. Mix with the pasta, sausage and spinach then top with parm cheese and bread crumbs. Bake and see how it turns out. I think this might work.
Baked sausage & spinach pasta with goat cheese bechamel
6 cups left over pasta dish. Feel free to saute more sausage, I did.
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups left over soup, chicken stock or veg stock.
2 cups soy milk, regular milk or water. Whatever works for you.
1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Grease bottom of casserole dish and pour in pasta. Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat sauce pan and melt butter. Then add flour and whisk till blond.
Add soup and soy milk. Bring to boil while whisking.
Lower heat and continue whisking till thickened and smooth.
Add goat cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan, whisk in.
Adjust taste with ground pepper and rosemary salt ( salt and some rosemary chopped or dry).
Pour some bechamel over pasta and mix in. Pour some more over the pasta so the dish is wet.
Sprinkle bread crumbs on top followed by the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Reserve extra bechamel for another use.

Into oven for 30 minutes to cook and brown top. Let sit out of oven for 15 minutes to set.
Enjoy and pat that belly when finished. You did a good job tonight.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spinach & sausage soup with pasta

Looks to be cooler tonight so I thought about a simple one pot dish (only one burner and little clean up) which would provide supper plus leftovers. Wanted a hearty meal but not too heavy or rich. Something to break us into cooler evenings.

Spinach & sausage soup with pasta
This is a very simple take on Caldo Verde, a favorite dish of Portugal.
2lbs Italian sausage links (no fennel)
1 lg onion fine chop
2 lg cloves garlic sliced

2qts chicken stock
2qts water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary. Or use some of the rosemary salt mix from a previous post and do not add additonal salt.
1lb or about 8 cups tightly packed baby spinach
1 or 2 pts. ripe cherry or grape tomatoes.
1lb pasta such as Campanelle
Salt & black pepper to taste

In 6-8qt pot or dutch oven saute in little olive oil the sausage till just browned on all sides. Set aside.
Add onions and saute till lightly browned, then garlic and cook till fragrant.
Slice sausage, return to pot with any juices.
Chicken stock, water, rosemary, spinach and tomatoes into pot. The tomatoes will also add a wonderful color contrast.
Bring to boil then lower to simmer 30 minutes.
Place past
a in pot, simmer 10 minutes.
Adjust for salt and pepper. Add more rosemary of desired.

Ladel into bowls. Serve with grated parmesan if desired.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spend a day about town and still cook dinner for friends.

Today was a great day. Played tennis at Astoria park till 10am then off to Grand cafe with wife for a leisurely lunch at 11am, sipping frappes and watching the world go by from our comfy outdoor table. Took the subway into town to see an exhibit at MOMA (interesting) then strolled Central Park till 4pm. Had to get back home because a friend was coming for dinner and nothing done yet about food.

Deciding to keep it lite and simple fit the bill for an easy stress free meal. Took a mental inventory of the goodies in our fridge, hastily picked up some items in the neighborhood and home for a nap. Up at 6pm to set table, caffinate and start prep for dinner at 7pm.

Tapas and a salad would do the trick. Used items from last nights dinner plus the new purchases and a few secret ingredients to turn out a nice menu. Very little cooking tonight, thank you very much.

The Salad.
Left over feta and olives with some chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cucs and red onion for the salad. Served with flaky sea salt, extra virgin olive oil from Morocco and Greek red wine vinegar.

Roast salmon with wasabi mayo
Last night's entree (lemon grilled salmon) spread onto toast points with a wasabi mayo. Purchase some prepared wasabi paste from your local sushi joint. Mix 1 cup mayo with enough wasabi so that the flavor stands out but not too spicy. Add a touch of sweet relish to balance the heat with some sweet.

Truffled egg salad

Organic eggs from last week's farmers market run, hard boiled, cooled and mashed with mayo and truffle oil. Onto toast and topped with thinly shaved imported proscuitto. *Credit to Chef Darren at Il Bambino for this amazing combination.

Sliced apple and imported Parmesan served with aged balsamico.

All in all, this menu makes for a nice presentation.

Our guest brought a delicious chocolate mousse cake for dessert. We ate, we talked, we spent the evening with a good friend. And that completes tonight's meal. Little work, big results and tiny clean up. Today's lesson? Know your local shops, have a few top notch secret ingredients on hand and you can turn leftovers and pantry items into a special meal with little work.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Grilled lamb steaks

Or how to please a woman in 15 minutes or less.

9am and already 80F. Another hot day ahead, I do not want to be cooking while sweating. Not my favorite combination. So how to please my very pregnant, happy wife and get two meals for the price of one? Grilled lamb. A simple dish that takes into account summer days, fresh herbs and cheap meat. Here are a few tips that will take this dish 6 levels above your neighbor or the restaurant down the street. Invite your friends over, basque in the glow of a full belly and their compliments.

Step 1# Rosemary salt
Authentic Italian herb salt mix from the hills of Tuscany. This is the part that blows away the competition and costs next to nothing.

Into a food processor. Grind till nicely chopped and mixed.
4 springs fresh rosemary (no stems)
1 big clove peeled garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup kosher salt
*Feel free to add equal amounts of sage.

Note: This salt mix is great now but even better when left to dry sitting out on a plate spread thin. Make large amounts, dry and store for future use.

Step 2# Grilled lamb steaks
Lamb for less. Go to your butcher and ask for lamb shoulder ($3.50lb), 4 steaks with some of the fat trimmed. You can't beat the price and flavor. The taste is far superior to baby lamb chops and $9 - $12 less per pound. Plus your guests or spouse will think you spent a small fortune all for them.

Place steaks on a tray, pour over some good olive oil, squeeze of lemon and a liberal amount of the salt mix. Rub into both sides. Let sit up to 6hrs or right onto a hot grill or broiler pan. Sear hard on both sides and let cook on lower heat till just cooked through. This dish is best served rare to medium rare.

Plate and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, more lemon and touch of salt mix if desired.
The side dish shown is a roast vegetable pasta salad with grated imported Parmesan cheese and the salt mix. After the lamb came off the grill I threw on sliced squash, peppers and onions. Cooked a bit to color and soften, then chopped and mixed with cooked pasta and olive oil.

Enjoy and try the salt mix with all of your Mediterranean dishes.

Bonus: place a dish of the salt mix on the table. The aroma will fill the room.