Spaghetti, Tomato Vodka Cream

Spaghetti,  Tomato Vodka Cream
Fresh Ricotta on Top

Equal amounts of olive oil and butter are heated with lots of shaved garlic and red pepper flakes. Vodka is added, raising the heat to burn off the alcohol. Add fresh or canned diced/seeded/peeled tomatoes and cream. Simmer, adjust seasonings, then toss with spaghetti. Top with fresh ricotta. I am thinking that my blogger friend, Maryann, will get a kick out of the “petite” bottle of vodka, as she kids about booze in food.

This last minute post is for my other blogger friends, Giz and Psychgrad, of Equal Opportunity Kitchen. They are hosting Presto Pasta Nights and the deadline is now! I had every intention of coming up with a unique pasta recipe for their turn (I have fresh oysters in the fridge!) but I have been very busy advising sorority recruitment at our chapter at California State University at Long Beach since last Friday.
So, if you are looking for a fast tasty pasta dish made from ingredients you always have on hand this one is a keeper.

Anise-Ginger Lamb Shank

Braised and Grilled Lamb Shanks
with Tamari,  Star Anise, Ginger, Garlic

The braising liquid is made with tamari, water, star anise, garlic cloves, sliced fresh ginger and sugar.

The shanks are simmered for over 2 hours in my Le Creuset covered French Oven.

The shanks are then seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled for about 15 minutes, until nicely browned. Meanwhile to prepare the sauce: use a fat separator to remove most of the fat, return the sauce to the pot and heat on high. Dilute 1 T. cornstarch with 1 T. cold water and whisk into the sauce to thicken just slightly. Add a splash of rice vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Many recipes for shanks use red wine as the braising liquid, like this one with Zinfandel. Last weekend, we were quite pleased with the exotic combination of tastes of tamari, anise, ginger and garlic. Whatever liquid/sauce you choose, I highly recommend the method of braising and grilling the lamb shanks, as this technique gives the meat an added dimension of flavor.
This recipe was adapted from Mark Bittman. The original recipe can be found here. After picking up four beautiful shanks from the butcher, I was searching the internet for a recipe for “braised and grilled” lamb shanks and came across his. It’s a winner!

All About Eggplant

We made grilled eggplant at least once a week during the month of August. My blogger friend, Simona of Briciole, is hosting Fresh Produce of the Month event, and this month it is, you guessed it, eggplant. So, without further ado, here are all my submissions to the event:

How to: Rub the sliced eggplant with kosher salt and let them sweat on paper towels for an hour, turning once, to remove much of the moisture. Then rinse off the salt, pat dry, and brush with olive oil. Grill over medium high heat. I like to slice the eggplant in generous portions so it doesn’t shrivel up on the grill.

Grilled Skirt Steak
over Grilled Eggplant and Salsa Verde Black Beans
Cilantro Garnish

A year ago, I posted this black bean with salsa verde recipe. It comes from Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist cookbook featuring very quick recipes that come from a can or a jar. The recipe is posted here. Last time I topped the beans with avocado, this time with grilled eggplant. Both excellent with skirt steak.

Salad of Grilled Eggplant and
Slow Roasted Tomato with Bûcheron
Dijon Vinaigrette

This is a simple salad but don’t let that fool you, it is loaded with flavors of the smokey eggplant, the concentrated roasted tomato, the tangy goat cheese, grilled bread, mixed lettuces, Jacques Pepin’s vinaigrette.
My nephew, Jett, helped make slow roasted tomatoes. I cut the roma tomatoes while he poured olive oil into the baking dish. Then he placed the tomatoes in the dish, sprinkled with kosher salt, a little sugar, and dried oregano, then drizzled more olive oil over the top. We slow roasted them at 250 for 2+ hours.

To finish, we topped the tomatoes with chopped parsely and minced garlic. I read about this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine, it was adapted from Cafe Lago in Seattle.

Festonati Pasta, Grilled Eggplant, Homegrown Tomato
Topped with Grated Smoked Scamorza, Fresh Basil
Olive Oil, Garlic, Red Chile Flakes

Chunky grilled eggplant was perfectly paired with this uncommon garland-shaped pasta called festonati.  The festonati was tossed in olive oil heated with shaved garlic and red pepper flakes, then eggplant, chopped tomatoes and basil added. Finished with grated scamorza. I especially like this rustic pasta dish, all the components are bold and rough chopped.
Grilled Eggplant, Melting Scamorza
Homegrown Tomatoes, Fresh Basil
with Garlic Anchovy Oil

If you like smokey flavors, do try smoked scamorza paired with grilled eggplant. This aged mozzarella-style cheese is made from water buffalo milk.
To make the flavorful oil: Heat olive oil, add minced garlic, then anchovies. Stir until the anchovies dissolve. Remove from heat, add red pepper flakes, chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Drizzle over tomatoes and serve with crusty bread to dip in the flavored oil too. This makes a great side dish to grilled chicken.
Still craving eggplant? You might want to check out  Spaghetti with Eggplant Cream Sauce too. It comes in handy when fresh eggplant is not available.
My absolute favorite way to prepare eggplant is GRILLED! How about you?

Spinach Salad, Warm Bacon Pecan Vinaigrette

Fresh Baby Spinach
Warm Bacon, Pecan, Red Onion Vinaigrette
Crumbled Blue Cheese

Sauté chopped bacon in a good dose of olive oil until halfway cooked. Then add sliced red onion cook until onions are translucent. Add a big splash of rice wine vinegar and turn up the heat. Stir in pecans and warm through. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss the warm vinaigrette with baby spinach, finish with crumbled blue cheese.
The inspiration for this dish came from one I posted back in January from Chef Michael Shafer. We held our holiday party at his restaurant The Depot in December, and one component of the party was a cooking demonstration. Chef Shafer prepared this course for us, then gave everyone a copy of his recipe to take home. His Wilted Baby Spinach with Dates, Bacon and Mushrooms was a big hit! The precise recipe is posted here.

White Miso Soup

Shiro Miso Soup
Tofu, Edamame, Nori
Scallion Garnish

I love to make soup…
…just to name a few. It’s funny to think that I have enjoyed many a bowl of miso soup in Japanese restaurants over the years, yet I never thought to prepare it at home. The soup is wonderful. It takes only minutes to prepare, it is light, yet simultaneously hearty and satisfying with intriguing complex flavors.