Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pleasin' with Parppardelle's Pasta

All us foodies out there know the pure, singular joy of making as many ingredients from scratch in our recipes as our time and our wallets will allow. However, foodies get to also enjoy the magnificent ingredients of others on their own or part of our own meal creations; we really do, it's in the charter. I love this club.

I have recently moved to a new part of Orlando to me, but old to most residents, called Winter Park. The Winter Park community is just that, more of a community and less of a tourist spot or university town. Since moving I'm also trying to make more positive economical, social changes such as buying produce from local growers, using cloth shopping bags, and visiting private restaurants and markets when my dogs are barking too loud to be schlepped around my kitchen. While doing two of these activities at two completely different times, I was introduced to a gourmet pasta company called Pappardelles Pasta out of Colorado.

The first time I met Pappardelle Pasta was at our Lake Eola Sunday Farmer's Market in downtown Orlando. Under a welcoming, shady tent two gentlemen helped me to taste as many of their delicious, flavorful, raw pastas as my little heart desired. While I tried MANY, the Sweet Valdia Onion, Lemon Basil, and Fruit pastas all really tantalized my taste buds. Alas, at $4.00 a half-pound I could only bring home two telling myself I'd go back for the fruit pasta.

Not only are these pastas gourmet and flavorful, them come packed with awesome recipes. I made the recipe that came with the Sweet Valdia Onion pasta and served it with my mozzerella stuffed meatballs (no picture, I could just kick myself). The Lemon Basil went to Mr. T. (Pete's Dad) and we actually ended up eating my meatball dish and his shrimp dish using the Lemon Basil pasta in one Sunday night dinner! It was very, very bella!

My second encounter with Pappardelles Pasta arrived in the form of a gift. When I came home from the market that day, I gave Pete a menu from a new restaurant/market right around the corner of our place that sells this stuff in the store PLUS making their own new age, American bistro style food with a healthy touch. This magical place is The Virgin Market in Winter Park, FL. One day Pete wanted to get lunch with his business partner some place new, so they visited The Virgin Olive Market. Upon eating a wonderful lunch, my wonderful boyfriend brought me home a half-pound of Lime Cilantro Pasta and a half-found of that same Lemon Basil pasta.

Beer-battered Tilapia with Fresh Peppers Salad and Lime Cilantro Pappardelle Pasta

Instead of following a Pappardelle recipe, this time I opted for making pasta ala Rachel 'Tha Pizza Cutta' Style. I make a killer beer-battered tilapia so I whipped up some of those, but first I mixed a fresh salad of cilantro, a red bell pepper, a orange bell pepper, celery, red onion, fresh lime juice, and salt and put it in a covered bowl in the fridge while I prepared the fish and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked and dressed lightly with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper and the fish is on the place, break out the salad, put it on top of the pasta and THAT'S IT! Savor these light, exuberant flavors over and over again; I promise you will not only love it, you'll devour it.

Italian Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Lemon Basil Pappardelles Pasta with Lemon Butter

Even though I've had "0" success in the commercial recipe contest racket, I'm still trying. This dish was born out of practice for the National Chicken Cook off. I love this Italian Stuffed Chicken Breast and will blog about that on its own later, but look at how beautiful that Lemon Basil Pappardelle Pasta is! Making it even more special, Pete made the pasta and the lemon butter that dressed it. Of course, Pete and I LOVED it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

...And the Blog Magically Reappears!

To whom it may concern,

I am hopeful that there might be a reader or two out there for Laptops and Stovetops that isn't completely peeved at me for pulling a disappearing act from online the past couple of weeks. There aren't any great excuses for not keeping up with my fellow foodie friends, but this past month I moved in my boyfriend Pete-my number one food fan.

Moving isn't so bad but work has been overwhelmingly busy. Over the month of June, 1 large grant contract magically multiplied into 4 grant contracts with a fifth on the horizon plus a paper and presentation looming over my head for the August SALT (Society of Applied Learning and Technology) conference. Don't get me wrong-being busy is where I am best but it did distract me from posting my cooking adventures; it certainly didn't stop my cooking adventures. :)

Oddly enough, there is a theme in my amazing reappearing post: the magic of moving. Yes, moving took my attention and energy away from blogging but it also forced me to try and clean out my cupboard. The following three dishes were born out of the necessity of not wasting food while simultaneously having to cook great food turning my lonesome, leftover ingredients into tasty, beautiful dishes as if by magic!

Sausage, Peppers & Onions in a Cheesy Farafelle with Fresh Basil
Albertson's (a supermarket here in Florida) has a regular BoGo sale of Florio's Italian Sausage Family Pack at 2.5lbs. Being the good guido that he is, Pete loves Italian sausage almost as much as I do! However after making your favorite dishes with the first 2.5 lbs, you have to get creative with the other 2.5 lbs left in the freezer.

The first dish our sausage supplied the protein to is my Cheesy Farafelle pasta dish. First, I fried up the sausage until cooked in a medium pan. Next, I sauteed the onions and green peppers in olive oil and fresh garlic until a medium firmness all while the my leftover 1/2 lb. farafelle boiled away. Putting the cooked sausage and peppers and onions aside-still separate-I began to melt the leftover cheeses in my fridge. I had 3/4 full large container of ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup of shredded romano cheese and about a 1/3 of a cup of crumbled Feta cheese. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, I melted the cheeses together with about a 1/3 cup of milk. If I had cream, I would have preferred to use that. As I pulled the pasta out just shy of my desired doneness, I seasoned the cheese sauce with salt and pepper. In the end, everything was mixed together and topped with freshly chopped basil taking our old favorite of sausage of peppers to a whole new level of cheesiness!

Chicken Riggies Ray J's Way!
Love her or hate her, Rachael Ray brings a ton of great recipes to us common folk. This dish one is a variant of her Chicken Riggies and Escarole Soul. Instead of pairing this blush, spicy pasta dish with escarole I made it a stand-alone by making it with two complimentary proteins that also happened to be leftover from previous meals-chicken thighs and chorizo. If you read RR's recipe linked above, you'll see that chicken and a variety of peppers are two accessories with the pasta. In my dish, I used 4 kinds of peppers vs. RR's three. I used the 3 large roasted red peppers, 1/2 a yellow pepper, 1/2 green pepper and about 10 small, yellow chile peppers. All of these of course were chopped and I believe I also added half of a red onion for even more sweetness. This dish had a few steps more than a regular dinner prep, but the payoff in deliciousness is way worth the effort.

(PS - that Romano cheese is what ended up in the cheese sauce in the first dish of this magical post.)

Sweet Onions & Peppers with Spicy Mojo Chicken and Basmati Rice
Finding the right heat of a dish is a new obsession of mine that, as you have read, spawns experiments with established recipes as well as my own concoctions. The flavors of sweet and spicy or even tangy truly get my goat and inspired this dish which combines chicken tenderloins marinated in mojo dressing and topped with raw, chopped yellow chiles (wow, I wonder where they are leftover from?) with a quick vegetable sautee side dish of red, yellow peppers and red onions. Breaching the two flavors with a mild flavor is my favorite Basmati rice flavored lightly with salt, pepper, and cumin.

Not only did this last dish payoff in the flavor department, it's very low in fat and is a great choice for healthy, balanced dinner.