Monday, January 31, 2005

Best Pasta Ever

Saturday, Matt made a delicious pasta dinner - linguini with shrimp. It was so amazingly good, that we were still talking about it the next day. There was no recipe, just improvisation and instincts.

  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (Honestly, one lb was too much for two people. I'd do 1/2 lb next time.)

  • good olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  • dried linguini for two people

  • leftover liquid from two cans of regular stewed tomatoes (the stewed tomatoes were used for a side dish for a mac-and-cheese meal, earlier in the week)

  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • fresh Italian parsley

  • fresh lemon wedges

  • bottle of good red wine (mostly for drinking)

Marinate the shrimp in olive oil, salt and pepper for 20 minutes or so. Boil the water for the pasta. While pasta cooks, saute the garlic in olive oil for less than 30 seconds - just until you can smell it. Pour in the diced tomatoes and the stewed tomato liquid. Throw in a splash of wine and some salt and pepper and let simmer while pasta finishes cooking. Drain pasta while still al dente and add to pan with sauce. Meanwhile, saute shrimp in olive oil in a separate pan until just cooked. Toss with pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and add another drizzle of olive oil. Serve with lemon wedge. Be sure to squeeze some lemon on the pasta becaue it adds a nice bright finish.

This was amazingly simple and good. If we were to make this again, I'd use less shrimp and I might try it without the stewed tomatoe juice. It just so happened that we had saved the leftover liquid. Alternatively, instead of the diced tomatoes, maybe I'd use all stewed tomatoes and just chop them up myself.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Say Cheese!

Last night Matt and I attended a cheese tasting class at MIT as part of MIT's Independent Activities Period. The class was taught by Ihsan Gurdal, who is the owner of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and the South End. We learned all about the theory and practice of good cheese and heard some funny stories about how Ihsan finds his cheeses. Then, we tasted 11 different kinds of cheese.

Following are the types of cheese we tasted and my comments, taken from my hand-written notes. The cheeses in bold text were my favorites. (BTW, I don't know why the table is displaying way down at the bottom of the post. I don't have time to figure it out now. Be sure to scroll down to read. Sorry about that!)

Name Milk Location Price Comments
St. Maure Chevrepaille Goat Deux Sevres, France $15/lb Soft & runny, a little sharp. Very runny, ripe,
goopy logs. Goes well with Sauvingon Blanc.
Don't spend less than $10 or more than $20 on
this wine.
Tortita Las Mil Ovejas Sheep Extramadura, Spain $14/lb Good, hard, clean. Sold to Mario Batali's restaurants.
I would buy this.
Bucheron Goat Deux Sevres, Frances $10-12/lb Machine made. Sharp, like herbs, semi-soft.
White log.
Vermont Dandy Sheep Townshened, Vermont $20-22/lb Good, hard. Molded in a salad spinner.
Westcombe Red Cow Somerset, UK $17/lb Bright red/orange due to annato seed coloring
(I thought only Americans colored their cheese!).
Similar to cheddar, but not. Dry and crumbly
like cheddar, but nothing outstanding.
Brie de Nagis Cow St. Simeon, France $15/lb Runny on the outside, chalky and more dry on
the inside. Sharp, ripe rind. Very very good.
I would buy this.
Fournols Cow Auvergne, France $12/lb Texture was soft like brie, but not runny.
Bright orange washed rind. Stinky rind. Taste
reminded me of meunster.
Ubriaco Durello Cow Verona, Italy $18-19/lb Wrapped in walnut leaves, then soaked in wine
for 6 months. Tasted like wine! Crumbly and nutty
like Parmeseano Reggiano. This was my favorite
of the night and I would definitely buy this.
Pecorino Pepato Stagionato Sheep Pelermo, Italy $19-20/lb Very salty. Peppercorns throughout cheese.
Hand made on small farm. Stagionato means advanced
form of maturity. A little goes a long way.
Crater Lake Blue Cow Central Point, Oregon $12/lb Good, clean, blue cheese. Nice, but nothing
outstanding about it.
Persille Pont Astier Cow Auvergne, France $10/lb The ugliest cheese of the night. Looked like
it was covered in dust and dirt. It was! Aslo
covered with mites! Don't eat the rind, whatever
you do! Blue, but not injected with mold. The
mold comes from the air, naturally. This cheese
is sold to Emeril's restaurants.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Weekend in Vermont

We spent the weekend in Stowe, Vermont. Here are some of the highlights of our trip.

  • Getting a personal tour of the Cabot creamery plant by Doris, and then sampling some of their more obscure cheddars and super-high-fat butter (Yummm!)

  • Snowshoeing (for free!) at the Trapp Family Lodge. We lucked out and arrived on National Trails Day so we didn't have to pay for passes or rentals. It was snowing pretty heavily on the mountain but it wasn't too cold. This was our first time snowshoeing and although it was a little difficult on hills, it was great fun. If you like to hike in the woods, you'll probably like snowshoeing. Uphill is really hard but downhill and flat terrain is fun and easy. The woods were beautiful, all covered in snow and there weren't too many people. We didn't pack anything to drink, so we ate handfuls of the freshly fallen snow when we needed a drink. I'll definitely do this again.

  • Sitting by the fire at our Inn, drinking tea and eating home made cookies.

  • Enjoying gourmet farmhouse breakfasts at our inn. We had blueberry pancakes the first morning and broccoli, mushroom quiche the second morning. Read more about our innkeepers award winning breakfasts.

  • Enjoying a romantic gourmet dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe.

It was a lovely weekend. I would like to go back and try cross country skiing or snowshoeing again on the town recreation trail. I would also recommend staying at The Brass Lantern Inn.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Fondue Party!

We had some friends over our house for New Year's Eve and I made cheese fondue. It was yummy, but very rich and fatty. I don't need to eat fondue again for a very long time. Here's the basic recipe for classic Swiss fondue:

  • 4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

  • 4 cups shredded Emmentaler cheese

  • 1 Tbsp flour

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)

  • 2-4 Tbsp Kirsch (cherry brandy)

  • ground black pepper

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • 1 large loaf of crusty French bread, cut into cubes

Toss the shredded cheese with the flour. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub cut side along the inside of a sauce pan. Pour in wine and bring to just a boil. Gradually add cheese to simmering wine, stirring constantly with a wisk. Allow each batch of cheese to melt before adding the next batch. (Note - This is a very slow process and I recommend drinking some of the remaining wine while you stand at the stove.) Once all of the cheese has been added and melted, stir in the Kirsch. Be careful if you have a gas range because the Kirsch is 90 proof and you don't want a fireball in your face. Stir in pepper and nutmeg.

Pour mixture into a heated ceramic fondue pot and place over a flame. Serve with bread chunks and cut up veggies if you are feeling healthy. But don't fool yourself -- a couple broccoli florets won't reverse the amount of fat and colesterol you are consuming.

Some final thoughts on fondue:

  1. Wash the pot you made the fondue in right away. The cheese will stick like the dickens and it won't smell pretty the next day (all that alcohol)

  2. If you have any cheese leftover, you can reheat it in the microwave. Stir it often and pour off the excess oil. Try not to think about all that oil in your body either.