Wednesday, January 28, 2009

a meal to thaw you out

I know I'm a wimp when it comes to winter, but dang it's been cold.

When I come home from work in the evening, I usually throw off my coat and spend at least fifteen minutes huddling in front of our heating vent like a shivering orphan. (Nice paint job on that thing, huh?)

Needless to say, it doesn't really do the trick. And dinner doesn't make itself. Although sometimes Dan makes dinner. And folks, he's a really good cook. A lot of you leave comments about how lucky he is that I make this or that, but he can put together an impressive meal when the occasion calls. Or when I can't be physically moved away from the heater.

I want to share a great pasta dish he made that, like last week's salmon, is fast and easy enough for a weeknight, but nice enough to feed to your friends. And best of all, it's so spicy it will melt the chill right out of your bones. The first time we ate it, tears welled up in our eyes and foreheads became dotted with beads of sweat, but we forged on and cleaned our plates because it really was very good. Although a bit tongue-scorching.

It's a simple recipe; just pasta tossed with jalapenos, lemon, red onion, and romano cheese. The ingredients aren't too exciting on their own, but when combined, they take on a bright, sunshine-y quality. The jalapeno adds heat, the lemon adds zing, and the sauteed onions add sweetness and a punchy pink hue. The dish almost tastes tropical, but it's adapted from my pal Mario Batali's cookbook Molto Italiano. (Um, we're not really pals. But he did pose for that photo and compliment my shoes.) The recipe calls for red pepper flakes and three jalapenos, but if you don't want to cry through dinner, you can reduce it to one, or add however many peppers you can tolerate.

Hot and spicy dinner

Pasta with lemon, jalapeno, and red onion
Roasted broccoli

Pasta with lemon, jalapeno, and red onion

Dan made this pasta with gluten-free ziti, but you could also use spaghetti or fettucine, as the original recipe calls for. If you want to fancy it up, you could add a pound of chopped, cooked shrimp, or rock shrimp. Or if you want to really gild the lily, you could add about a pound of lump crabmeat. I've done this before and it's really fantastic. But you totally don't have to spend $20 on crab. I'd probably spend it on, oh, lip gloss. Or the phone bill. This pasta is fine just the way it is, as we ate it last week.
(Serves about 4 people)

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 jalapeno, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise
Zest and juice of 3 lemons
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (parmesan works well too)

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot; season with salt.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add jalapenos; saute for 1 minute. Add zest and juice; bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender. Drain the pasta and toss it with the lemon-pepper mixture. Return to medium heat and stir gently. Add the pecorino and toss quickly. Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately with extra cheese.

Roasted broccoli
My friend Mindi turned me on to roasted broccoli. It's my favorite way of preparing almost every other vegetable, but I had never thrown broccoli under the broiler. So I gave it a try, and she was right: roasting is way better than boiling. The high heat draws out the broccoli's sweetness and adds a deliciously crispy texture. I especially like all of the little burnt bits at the top of the florets. For extra heat, I sprinkled the stalks with red pepper flakes, but you could omit them.
(Serves 2 to 4 people)

1 large head broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the florets in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on the garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper and toss to coat the florets evenly.
Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli stalks are browned.


Daniel said...

Wow, a post on my dish! I'm honored.

For those of you who may be checking out the original recipe and wondering why we cut down so drastically on the jalapeno, all I can say is that the 3-jalapeno version is insanely, inhumanly hot.

But hey, he wouldn't be Molto Mario if his recipes weren't x-treme, right?

Note also that more often than not we use parmesan instead of pecorino because that's what we have in the fridge. Works fine.

Lisa said...

I should add, the original recipe called for three jalapenos WITH red pepper flakes. Yeeouch.

Unknown said...

Kudos on the successful pasta dish, Dan. And extra points for the jalapeno.

Like your lady, mine also does most of the sweating over the stove. Except when it comes to eggs. I am the eggman. About a week ago I FINALLY perfected that elusive whole-yolk Flip for the over-easy. Turns out you don't have to be too delicate; it can be flung a bit. Mr. Yolk can withstand a little slap against Teflon. Who knew?

Lisa said...

Eggs are hard! I can hardly poach an egg to save my life. And forget about over-easy. That's a very impressive skill.

Oh, and like all ladies, I don't sweat. I glisten.

Daniel said...

"Mr. Yolk can withstand a little slap against Teflon."

Tom, I hope this means what I think it means and involves no double entendre.

Unknown said...

I cannot know what I meant.

"I got no sense of eggs."


Blog Widget by LinkWithin