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pennoni dressed with cold-pressed olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, and traditional gremolata

pennoni dressed with cold-pressed olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, and traditional gremolata

Boiling yourself some pasta on a weeknight is hardly a new idea, and certainly not some gourmet shit. However, its also one of those go-to meal ideas that can easily be brought up from depressing to delicious with a few simple steps. Good pasta, with a few adornments, doesn’t always need sauce (delicious though some tomato sauces may be).
 

WORTH IT:

  • Cold-pressed olive oil, which preserves the fruity and grassy flavors of the olives. Used for dipping, dressings, and finishing, never for frying chicken breasts.
  • Real parmigiano reggiano, not the shit in a green can, and not the cheap store-brand imitation. Look for the dimpled, capitalized lettering on the rind that spells out “parmigiano reggiano.” The flavor is nutty, creamy, salty, and slightly sharp. Eat it on your pasta. Eat it on some bread. Eat it with cured meats. Eat it with a fork.
  • Imported dried pasta or freshly-made noodles may seem unreasonably expensive compared to a box of Barilla, but when your goal is to appreciate the subtle nuances of wholesome, traditional ingredients, the same goes for your pasta as well.

But remember: sometimes there’s just no replacing Annie’s mac and cheese. Or Kraft, I guess, if you’re a total sucker.

~~~~~

Gremolata is designed specifically to be added to a dish right before eating, often times to liven the flavor of long-cooking roasts of meat. However, the bright, pungent, acidic hit is fantastic over pasta. The traditional recipe goes as follows:

  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • Handful of parsley (flat-leaf, if possible), minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Squeeze of juice from lemon, just to bring the mixture together

Simply mix and sprinkle over whatever needs a punch of flavor. In addition to pasta, try it over bread with some of that wonderful cheese and cured meat, or on some roasted vegetables after they’ve come out of the oven. The basic formula of aromatic (garlic, or even onion) + herb (parsley) + citrus  (lemon, zest and juice) is incredibly flexible. Here’s my short list (which I’ve tried and love):

  • garlic + thyme + lemon + orange on roasted chicken (especially good with some dark meat and a piece of crispy skin)
  • garlic + red onion + cilantro + lime on avocado slices with toasted bread
  • garlic + onion + parsley + lemon on ripe tomato slices = deconstructed bruschetta (also good on bread)

I’m bound to get all weird with this concept, so I’m sure I’ll have more ideas sometime soon. Something Asian, perhaps? That sounds like it could be promising…

– Max.

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For your listening pleasure: “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (1995)

It’s the winter holiday season! Family, friends, gatherings, celebration, gifts! Awkward conversations with estranged cousins and people you haven’t seen since high school! But we all know what’s most important: THE FOOD.

Oh, the food. Why is it so easy to totally pig out during the holidays? Is it because things seem to taste better when surrounded by loved ones? Have we become too good at rationalizing a second (or third) piece of pie because it’s “just this once?”  The problem for most of us my fat ass, regardless of how I manage to explain it away, comes down to basic self-control. IT’S JUST SO EASY TO STUFF MY FAT FACE. Ok, no more Carrie Bradshaw. Her lifestyle is completely unattainable on a part-time writer’s salary. What is she, a junior-year Journalism major? Please. That show is faux-realistic escapism at its finest. And also, the characters are gay men written as women.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The answer for holiday gluttony isn’t some crash diet or terrible barley-water gluten-free acai berry hollywood cleanse. If (like me) you’re looking for some lighter fare, just get creative with your vegetables.

Your slicing blade may look slightly different, but it should be a similar metal disc with a NINJA-SHARP BLADE attached to it

Your slicing blade may look slightly different, but it should be a similar metal disc with a NINJA-SHARP BLADE attached to it. Go ahead and use those cucumber slices for your exfoliating facial, Samantha.

For this raw broccoli salad, most of the hard work is done by the slicing blade attachment of your food processor. Whether it’s adjustable or you have multiple discs, just made sure you use the thinnest slice possible. The goal is actually a sort of slaw than a traditional salad, which works well to mediate the raw bitterness of broccoli and the pungent fire of shallots. The extra-lemony vinaigrette also does well to combat the rawness of the vegetables. I’ll forego my usual narrative play-by-play for simple directions this time, if only because I don’t have many good pictures.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 to 2 pounds broccoli (with or without stalks, your preference), cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium shallots, skins removed
  • Up to one dry pint of cherry tomatoes (one standard package), depending on how much tomato you want
  • About 3/4 cups raw, unblanched (skin-on) almonds

For the vinaigrette

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Splash of white wine vinegar
  • 1 -2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • About 1/3 to 2/3 cups of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Feed broccoli pieces through the food processor with the slicing disc set to the smallest/thinnest setting. Repeat with the shallots.
  2. Halve tomatoes and add to the broccoli and shallots.
  3. Chop the almonds roughly and add to vegetables as well.
  4. Whisk mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, and salt/pepper together. Once thoroughly incorporated, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until dressing comes together.
  5. Toss dressing with the salad. Eat immediately or refrigerate for a few hours.

If you’re going to let the salad sit overnight or longer, I would add some fresh lemon juice before eating, as the broccoli will absorb some of the liquid and the dressing will lose a bit of its acidity and fresh citrus flavor. The dish, as a whole, is bright, acidic, and so fucking healthy that your bloated waistline will shrink just thinking about it. Perfect for those waiting for gyms to start their bullshit new year resolution sales.

Even as winter's cold gray skies arrive, there is green in the world.

Even as winter's cold gray skies arrive, there is green in the world. And hope.

All things in moderation. Including cookies.

– Max.

I would not say that I enjoyed anything about last week’s heat wave, other than my stock in Gold Bond Extra-Strength Medicated Body Powder tripled and split. The face-melting weather did, however, coincide neatly with my new ongoing experiment with booze-included popsicles. The New York Times ran an article on July 14th which included ideas for various ice pops, but given my proximity to college and a need to attract more of my friends to my cooking experiments, I was attracted to the alcoholic options.

The vodka will be back. I promise.

Not pictured: mangoes. They were camera-shy and couldn't agree on a flattering angle.

I started with two ideas: whiskey sour, made with bourbon, and mango lime, made with rum. One of them was successful, one was less so.  The vodka will make an appearance in future posts. My popsicle mold does 10 2.5 ounce pops, so I aimed for about 3 cups (24 ounces) of total volume for my batches of ingredients. I extrapolated from the Times article and various internet recipes that 4 ounces of alcohol (1/2 a cup) and 2 – 3 ounces of sugar (1/4 a cup to 1/3 of a cup) were enough to provide sweetness and booze while still allowing the rest of the mix to freeze properly. I did not, however, stick to these guidelines, and my first batch of popsicles suffered because of my folly.

Whiskey Sours: 1/2 cup bourbon + 1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 cup water + 1 cup each freshly-squeezed lemon and lime juice

It's like a "they died for my sins" sort of metaphor

Citrus massacre.

This formula will yield a fresh and tangy sour mix. At the time, I found it to be too sour for my liking. Because of this, I added an additional 1/4 cup of sugar, which did not seem to affect the final popsicles. However, after taking them out of the molds and giving them a second night in the freezer, the result was this: 

Upside = instant mixer for beverages.

Delicious? Yes. Popsicles? You're doing it wrong.

Syrupy, and unwilling to stay frozen. Failure was not an option, so my friends and I mixed the whiskey slush with more whiskey and some 7-Up. The result was good, but not a popsicle. Next time, I’ll use more water and less citrus juice.

Mango Lime: 1/2 cup white rum (optional: steep lime zest in rum for 24 to 48 hours) +  1/4 cup sugar+ 3 large mangoes, peeled, diced, and puréed (yields about 2.5 cups) + juice of 1 lime

Sticking closely to the alcohol / sugar ratio and switching out the citrus for fresh mangoes, popsicle round two was much more successful. The fibrousness of the mangoes worked well in the final pops, giving them both some nice texture and essentially holding the whole frozen block together.

Fruit-based = drunk-faced

Note the actual popsicle shape and that they are not melted and sitting in a glass.

My future experiments (read: vodka) will definitely fruit-based, as the mango lime pops were delicious and refreshing, especially in my friend’s fifth-floor walk up on a sweltering Friday evening.

Remember the formula! 1/2 alcohol of choice + 1/4 cup sugar + 2 to 2.5 cups remaining ingredients is the way to go. And if you don’t have a popsicle mold (go figure), just use small paper cups like we all learned about from Mr. Wizard! Just let your mixture set up for about an hour or two before inserting popsicle sticks.

– Max.

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