Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

The beauty of this dish lies in its Roman origins and it’s simplicity.

Pasta cacio e pepe (“cheese and pepper”) is made with Pecorino Romano and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

1 – pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, lightly toast the pepper in the olive oil, then turn the heat off and let it sit until the pasta is ready.
  3. When the pasta is done, turn on the heat to oil, add the pasta to that pan along with some of the pasta water. Toss, add the cheese, continue tossing, add more pasta water, season with salt; toss again and serve.
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Eggs, Rutabaga, Sumac & Fried Sage

Rutabagas! I love that word. In the world of funny food names, I think it’s up there with kumquat and sassafras.

The rutabaga is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. People often avoid this root vegetable because of its peculiarity and because, like cabbage, it becomes more flavored and odorous when cooked.

Rutabagas are available year round with a peak in the fall and winter. These roots range from tan to violet in color and are larger than turnips; choose smooth, heavy, and firm roots. Smaller rutabagas, 4″ in diameter, tend to have sweeter flavor. This root stores for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a week. Rutabagas are usually covered in wax, so it’s best to quarter the root, then peel the skin before cooking.

       

Sumac spice comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, notably Iran. It is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking, being preferred to lemon for sourness and astringency

As a side dish or a nice alternative to potatoes or grits, Rutabaga purée is an excellent choice. I simply peeled the rutabaga, cut it into medium-sized chunks and cooked them as I would mashed potatoes, whisking in butter and cream at the end. If it tickles your fancy, you could do as the Irish do and add turnips or potatoes to the purée…I think they call it “Pats and Nips.”

I fried some sage leaves and set them aside on paper towels, then slowly braised two eggs in butter for a few minutes. I served the eggs with the rutabaga purée and fried sage leaves, then sprinkled some sumac over it to give it that whisper of citrus.

The kitchen had that wonderful odor of a grandmother cooking cabbage. I think next time, I’ll use the rutabaga as a substitute for cabbage and see what happens. Perhaps I’ll add rutabaga to slow-braised pork!

~

© Giovanni Cucullo 2011

Truffled Linguine with Parmigiano

I was shopping on Arthur Avenue in “Da Bronx“, and came across an artisanal egg linguine specked with black truffles. I had to have it!
Very often, store-bought flavored pasta doesn’t really taste much like the ingredient it’s flavored with, but this particular linguine actually tasted like fresh black truffles. Of course, I had to make it sing by tossing it with more truffle oil, butter and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

A simple yet decadent dish of pasta!

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Linguine with Tomatoes & Parmesan Crumbs

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© Giovanni Cucullo 2010 / 2011

Miso Soup

September always brings a touch of Fall weather as well as a reminder to break out some soup recipes. Miso Soup is one of my favorites; perfect all year and very easy to make.

Recipe:

2 – 4 tablespoons miso paste (to taste)
2 – 3 ounces firm tofu (2 handfuls), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
a handful of spinach, well washed and stems trimmed
2 scallions, tops removed thinly sliced
a pinch of red pepper flakes

In a medium sauce pan bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Whisk in the miso paste, adding more a bit at a time until it is to your liking. Also, some miso pastes are less-salty than others, so you may need to add a bit of salt here. The darker the miso, the saltier it is. Add the tofu, remove from the heat, and let it sit for just a minute or so.

Place some spinach, scallions, chile flakes and black sesame seeds into soup bowls. Pour the miso soup and tofu into the bowls and enjoy.

As you can see, the miso paste really does all the work for you; that’s where the flavor is; which allows you to time to get creative with the ingredients.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use whatever vegetables you like, making certain to give them each their proper cooking time.
  • Add soba or udon noodles to the soup.
  • Add bonito flakes to the water at the beginning, then strain before adding the miso paste.
  • Add seaweed.
  • Add shellfish.

Pan Seared Veal Shoulder Steak

I enjoy turning cheap cuts of meat into tasty budget meals.

Veal shoulder steaks are very inexpensive and when paired with a starch, you can put a fancy dinner for two on the table for under $10.

  1. In a smoking hot pan coated with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add one veal shoulder steak. In the same pan, surround the veal with a medium onion (quartered) and a few cloves of garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stir the onions and garlic occasionally while the veal browns.
  3. Turn the veal to brown the other side, then add 1/2 cup of white wine and some fresh sage or thyme.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon of butter and cover. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve.