I Need Help

I haven’t posted anything new on the blog in the last week or so because I’ve been holding off to give you something that wasn’t brown or white. So yeah… I really tried, but that is apparently beyond my ability at the moment. To wit:

Fettuccine alfredo

Exhibit A: Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo

This is one of my gold-standard pasta dishes to order at restaurants, but for one reason or another (read: obscene amounts of butter and cream), I’ve never made it at home before. Well, it sounded really good, and I had cream to use up. I used Marcella’s recipes for both the egg pasta and the alfredo sauce, and it was a surprisingly quick-fix dinner, even with making fresh pasta. Two very white thumbs up.

Braised cauliflower pasta

Exhibit B: Penne with Braised Cauliflower and Capers

I approached this meal by digging into the vegetable drawer to avoid the brown and white. What did I come up with? Cauliflower, of course: I made the pasta variation of Molly Stevens’ Braised Cauliflower with Capers and Toasted Bread Crumbs from All About Braising (the original recipe can be found online here). Do capers count as greens? I didn’t think so either. This was pretty tasty fresh from the stove, but made surprisingly delicious—and white—leftovers.

Spanish daube

Exhibit C: Spanish Daube

I thought for sure that this entry, despite the predominance of browned beef, would be my key to returning to the world of color, with all those pretty green peas and roasted red peppers. And so it would, if the recipe (from the January 2008 Cooking Light) had been remotely worth sharing. Jeremy bravely ate a bowlful, but I found it pretty inedible. It may not have been entirely the recipe’s fault, though: my cut of organic beef was horribly butchered with the grain, riddled with fat and gristle, and rubbery as all-get-out, even after several hours of braising. Very disappointing, but I had plenty of leftover rice to make more vegetable fried rice with.

Allspice Crumb Flop

Exhibit D: Allspice Crumb Flop

This was absolutely delicious. I made a variation of my weekend standard cinnamon flop, substituting brown sugar for the white and adding a bit of allspice to the batter. Then I packed the top with the leftover allspice crumb topping from the previous weekend’s muffins, and baked for half an hour as usual. It came out extra-moist and flavorful and beige. Almost makes me want to keep a container of crumb topping on hand in the fridge at all times. 🙂

Oatmeal cinnamon chip cookies

Exhibit E: Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Since we ran out of our gianduja gelato, it was time to make a fresh dessert, and I ended up deciding on a batch of oatmeal cookies. We are, I’m ashamed to admit, currently out of chocolate chips, so I went with cinnamon chips. Actually, I ended up just making the recipe off the back of the cinnamon chip package (sans raisins), and these little brown cookies really hit the spot.

Yeasted waffles

Exhibit F: Marion Cunningham’s Yeasted Waffles

This brings us just about back to the present. I first read about this recipe on Wednesday Chef, and have been meaning to try it since seeing it again in The Cake Bible last month. It requires advance preparation, which I kept forgetting to do, but I remembered last night, so we had waffles for breakfast this morning. Besides being yet another brown meal, they didn’t work so well with our waffle iron. I think it was because the batter was so thin that it didn’t provide good contact between the top and bottom plates of the iron. The one I ate was nicely browned on the outside, yet seemed half-cooked in the middle. I’m holding out hope that that little flub will make the leftovers good toaster waffles when reheated from the freezer.

Update 1/21/08: They were indeed tastier waffles when reheated on the defrost setting of our pretty new toaster. They cooked through and crisped up perfectly, and filled the kitchen with a very yeasty smell—almost enough to be offputting to my sensitive schnozz, actually. They’re still not worth making again just to become toaster waffles, however.

Saffron pasta with scallops and leek sauce

Exhibit G: Saffron Fettuccine with Scallops and Leek Sauce

So this is the closest I’ve come to color lately: Homemade saffron pasta with seared scallops and leek sauce. The scallops were previously frozen, and they were so full of water that they spattered oil all over the kitchen before transforming into rubber erasers. The pasta and sauce, however, were delicious, and made a perfectly satisfying meal sans shellfish. Since it came out with an overwhelmingly pallid appearance despite the saffron (I didn’t have quite enough on hand for the saturated yellow effect), however, it didn’t quite break us out of the brown and white funk.

On the menu tonight? Some lovely white baked cod and white fingerling potatoes with rosemary and garlic. I need help.

Saffron Fettuccine

1 tsp saffron threads, firmly packed
1 1/2 tsp hot water
1/2 C unbleached flour
1/2 C white whole wheat flour
2 large eggs

In a small bowl, combine the saffron and the water and let stand 10 minutes. Place the flours in the bowl of a stand mixer with a pinch of salt. Beat the saffron water together with the eggs, and pour over the flour; use the paddle attachment of the stand mixer to beat this mixture until it forms a firm, cohesive ball of dough. It should not be sticky; if it is, add a tablespoon or two of flour at a time until it achieves the proper consistency. Divide into 4 parts and run through a pasta roller to desired thinness, then cut either by hand or with a pasta cutter. Cook for about a minute in boiling salted water, drain and serve tossed with leek sauce, below, and garlic bread.

Source: Adapted from Astray Recipes

Lele Rivolta’s Leek Sauce (Il Sugo di Porri della Lele)

3 large leeks
1 T vegetable oil
2 T butter
3 large whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Fine sea salt
1/2 C creme fraiche
Black pepper, freshly ground
1 recipe of fresh saffron pasta (about 3/4 lb)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired

Cut away the root end and the dark green tops of each leek. Dice or julienne the leeks, and rinse well in a colander; shake off the excess water, but do not dry off the leeks.

Pour the oil into a 10- to 12-inch skillet, add the butter and the garlic cloves, and turn on the heat to medium. Cook the garlic briefly, stirring it, and when it becomes colored a very pale blond, remove it from the pan. (If you like, reserve the garlic, smush and finely mince it, and stir it into softened butter to make some yummy garlic bread.) Add the sliced leeks to the pan, sprinkling them with salt. Cook the leeks, stirring them from time to time, until they become very soft, almost creamy in consistency. If you find that at some point there is insufficient liquid to continue the cooking and the leeks are not quite done yet, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.

When the leeks are completely soft, raise the heat to high, and continue cooking them until the become colored a pale nut color, turning them over from time to time. Reduce heat to low, and sprinkle with generous grindings of pepper to counterbalance their potentially cloying sweetness. Add the creme fraiche and melt it into the leeks to form a light sauce.

As soon as the pasta is done to a firm, al dente consistency, drain it and toss it immediately with the sauce. Add a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan, toss thoroughly five or six times, and serve at once.

Source: Adapted from Marcella Says…, by Marcella Hazan, 2004 (pp. 172-173)

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