I did it! – Pasta Carbonara

Oh nads you guys…I made Carbonara for like the fourth time in two weeks because I figured out how to do it practically just right every time, but I hadn’t be able to get a good photo, and of course exactly when I tried to make it again explicitly to take photos, I stopped paying attention and messed it up. So then I had to make it two nights in a row and five times in two weeks so I can talk to you about it. Lesson learned, I guess, is that you can make it practically just right every time you actually pay attention when you make it, and don’t let yourself get distracted by the shenanigans on stage at the Grammys.

like mac and cheese, but grown-up...

like mac and cheese, but grown-up…

Man, is this good. This is also pretty much the quickest pasta dish around. I am guessing if you cook somewhat regularly, you will already have most of these things in the fridge, and if you don’t, they can all be procured very easily. Bacon, egg, decent parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. I think spaghetti might be the traditional pasta for this, but I actually like something shorter, like my new favorite, gemelli, which I used this time with great results. The shorter pasta makes it a bit more comforting somehow.

The tricky part about Carbonara is the egg. Done the right way, the egg creates a creamy, rich sauce with amazing flavor. Done the wrong way, the egg scrambles, and it’s not right. I’ve eaten it…it’s not revolting or anything, but it’s not a sauce. Unfortunately, scrambling is very easy to do when you are adding a cold egg to a hot pan SO, I have come up with a trick that seems to work delightfully well. I mix the egg with the cheese and black pepper, and then make a quick sauce with some of the pasta water to temper the egg before I add it to the hot pan. If you do this, and then stir like crazy when you add it to the pasta, you should have amazing, creamy, adult macaroni and cheese that is so quick and delicious you won’t believe it. And you’ll end up eating it two or three times a week like I did. And then you will probably realize that two or three times a week is probably too many times, like I did.

This really couldn’t be easier…

Carbonara.

Carbonara.

And now…All of the things…

I made saag paneer tonight because I decided I need more roughage in my diet and…I still need more roughage in my diet. It wasn’t very good. But dipping the Naan in the liquid was insanely delicious, so I just did that instead. Oh, Paneer? If you are going to call yourself cheese, pleased to be tasting like cheese. If I wanted weird, bland texture, I would have just made tofu. BOOM. Roasted. (jk jk, love u tofu!) So, I’m pretty sure I did saag paneer wrong. I will try again and get back to you.

I just finished reading Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. It was very cute, but I like her other stuff better.

I gave up tv and takeout for Lent. In theory, this means I will be hanging around here quite a bit more. In practice, this might mean I don’t survive Lent.

I am a very, very lucky girl…I have some of the greatest girlfriends in the world and you should all be jealous of me, because they are the freakin best.

Just a few more days until IGNITE the NITE 2013! If you are here you should come next Thursday the 28th, it is going to be great!!

Lastly, a shout out to Shannon. For fighting like a girl and winning. I am so glad to know you, and so very happy to call you my forever friend. To so many more years of Cheetos, sing-a-longs, Wegman’s trips and How to Lose a Guy…You are amazing. xo

Pasta Carbonara (serves 2)

1/2 lb pasta of your choice (spaghetti is traditional, I think, but I prefer a shorter noodle.)

4 oz bacon, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces (guanciale is traditional, but bacon will absolutely work. Use thick cut if you have it.)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 – 2/3 cups FRESHLY GRATED parmesan cheese (I measure this by holding a microplane grater over a measuring cup. A regular cheese grater would work. If you are using pre-grated parmesan, use the stuff from the deli section that looks shredded, not the stuff in the can or that looks almost powdered. Trust.)

1 Egg

Plenty of black pepper and salt to taste.

Chopped italian parsley for garnish

Boil some salted water for the pasta. (While the water is coming to a boil, do all of your chopping, grating and ingredient prep, once you start the sauce, things move quickly.)

Mix together the grated cheese, the egg, and a generous pinch of black pepper, and whisk to combine.

Add the pasta to the salted water and cook until al dente. (This will take about 8 minutes. It depends on the kind of pasta you use, but 8 minutes is a safe bet…)

After you add the pasta to the water, start cooking the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked. You still want it to look fatty, not cooked through and crispy. When the bacon is cooked, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly, so the garlic doesn’t burn. If the pasta is not yet al dente, turn off the heat and remove the frying pan from the burner until it is.

When the pasta is al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta to the frying pan (no need to drain first, the water helps create the sauce AND you need to reserve some more pasta water for the sauce) and stir into the bacon and garlic to combine. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute and then turn off the heat. Quickly drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water into the egg and cheese mixture stirring constantly to create a sauce. Immediately add the cheese, egg and pasta water mixture to the pasta and bacon, again stirring constantly to create a creamy sauce and so as not to scramble the eggs. Pro-tip: if you drizzle the egg and cheese over the pasta, as opposed to directly onto the hot pan, you are less likely to scramble the eggs! (This sounds complicated, but I promise, it’s not. You’ll do it a couple of times and you’ll feel like a pro!)

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley and serve! Once you’ve made this a couple of times, I suspect you will be serving it to guests, and they will be very impressed. The recipe can easily be doubled, just make sure you are using a big enough frying pan.

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Involtini

So good you’ll forget it’s meatless

I spent most of last year saying “I can’t believe it’s [fill in the blank] already” and now I am saying it again. It’s February 2013 already. Remember when you were little and the school year dragged on for eternity, and the summer was so blissfully long that you were actually a little bit excited to go back to school, and waiting for Santa/birthdays/summer camp/whatever was so agonizing you almost couldn’t take it? That was grand…

I made this months ago. MONTHS. And I have been wanting to tell you about it since the moment I tried it, because it is just so good. I don’t even know what it is about it that makes it so delicious, but trust…it’s delicious. Eggplant is pretty much the greatest. Whenever I eat eggplant I think, for a brief shining moment, that I could manage being a vegetarian. Just for a moment, mind you, but still, that is the power of eggplant.

This is from the Tartine Bread cookbook. I made a couple of changes, most notably that I totally forgot to add the breadcrumbs when I made it, but it was still so good that I didn’t realize I forgot to add the breadcrumbs until I went back and looked at the recipe again. I also used a different tomato sauce, because this one is so easy and delicious, I may never make another sauce again…but other than that, exactly the same! Mostly.

The Tartine Bread cookbook, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous. And obviously, not just about bread. The pictures are beautiful, I love the binding, and the recipes are great…if you are still not sure, see if they have it in your library and check it out, I bet you end up picking up your own copy.

Anyhoodle, this involtini is really, really delicious. It takes a little bit of time to salt and fry the eggplant before you are able to put it all together, so it may not be the best option if you need to complete the whole process after work and you still want to eat at a reasonable hour, but I suspect it would be no worse for the wear if you put it all together the night before. Perhaps one of these days I will give that a try and report back.

This would be a great dish anytime, really, but is very lovely for a meatless Monday (or meatless any day of the week.) Since I left out the breadcrumbs and was none the wiser, it could also be a really delicious gluten free option. I am also guessing it could be doubled, tripled or sextupled without blinking an eye.

Have I convinced you yet? Seriously. This is delicious…go forth and cook with eggplant.

The answer to your vegetarian prayers...

The answer to your vegetarian prayers…

Things I’ve thought since last time:

The internet is the most amazing rabbit hole that I fall into pretty much every day. I think back to my days in college and how productive I was back then and it is always such a mystery that I can’t seem to get anything done these days…I have come to the realization that the internet might be the problem…

What I am reading: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It is really good. And I read Gone Girl, which was an excellent page-turner. I both loved and hated the ending.

I mentioned it last time, but if you can, please give to a cause that is near and dear.

I didn’t really have a horse in the race, but I still wish the Superbowl turned out differently. The halftime show was the best I’ve ever seen though. Does Beyonce have a fan club? I’ve started one before, and I can do it again.

My 2013 goals are not off to a very good start. And it’s already February…

For those of you in the Boston area, IGNITE the NITE is going to be an excellent time…another good cause that I am very excited to be a part of.

It’s 31 days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies. It’s pretty much the best thing about the month of February.

Downton Abbey is JUST SO GOOD. And I bawled my eyes out last week…this will come as a surprise to approximately no one who is familiar with me and the episode I am referring to. On the flip side, The Mindy Project and The New Girl make me laugh out loud by myself on the couch multiple times an episode. And I am going to miss the heck out of Liz Lemon. Good thing I still have Leslie Knope.

I have a girls weekend on the Cape coming up in two weeks and I can’t wait. I’d love to say how much I am looking forward to relaxing with my ladies, but I suspect relaxing will be secondary to ridiculousness…

Singles Awareness Day is the 14th! Be sure to acknowledge all the Singles in your life. Much like Administrative Assistant’s Day, the people generally responsible for reminding you of of Singles Awareness Day are the Singles themselves, and that’s just awkward; so don’t forget people, remember your Singles!

Until next time…

prepped

prepped

Eggplant Involtini (serves 3-4)

adapted from Tartine Bread Cookbook

Tomato Sauce of your choice (don’t use store bought – throw a can of whole peeled tomatoes crushed in your hands, a peeled onion and a stick of butter in a pan with salt. Turn on the heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes – thanks Marcella!)

2 or 3 medium globe eggplants

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (optional) – don’t use the seasoned italian breadcrumbs, use panko if you don’t have any stale bread to make your own.

2 cups whole milk ricotta (or make your own!)

Zest and juice from one lemon

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/4 tsp salt, plus additional for salting the eggplant

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

chiffonade of basil for garnish (optional)

olive oil for frying

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices (you should have about 12.) Salt the slices generously on both sides and layer them in a colander or on paper towels. Let the eggplant stand for one hour to pull out the liquid.

Blot the slices dry with a towel and fry them over medium heat in a heavy skillet in approximately an inch of olive oil for three to four minutes until lightly brown on both sides. Let cool in the colander or on paper towels.

Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Place a spoonful of filling on each eggplant slice, and roll the slice around the filling. Put each roll seam-side down on top of the sauce and drizzle the cream on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the rolls are golden and the sauce starts to darken around the edges. Sprinkle with parmesan and basil and enjoy!

roll 'em up

roll ‘em up