Monday, July 4, 2011

Two Fer Quick Fix & Salad

Thought I'd give the recipe for last week's Quick Fix along with the one from today's (July 4th) show. And, while I was at it, post this picture of the first cucumbers of the summer that I picked this morning. This bowl is just waiting to be sampled--okay, not really sampled because I've already done that a few times. I love the taste of a real summer cucumber picked fresh from the garden. The wax-encased versions in the market just don't have that same taste, nay, not much taste at all. They suffer the fate of the hapless tomato which lacks anything to make one's mouth happy. But I'm not here to run down bad veggies but to celebrate these good ones that are here today...

Speaking of fresh veggies that seem to come back into season every time I turn around, there are some big, tasty, snowy heads of cauliflower that I've run across lately that beg to be made into the Quick Fix I offered last week. Orecchiette with Cauliflower Sauce has to be one of my favorite ways to treat those little discs that have made their way from the Puglian region of Italy into my heart. Seems like they pair well with cruciferous vegetables being seen from time to time with Broccoli Rabe, another way I like them. And although I would turn them down on a day like today when the heat so oppressive, I find them the perfect companion on an Autumn or Winter night.
A quick note: If you have an aversion to anchovies, shed it now. They are a key element to making this a successful dish. You will not experience a fishy taste but you will miss them just the same if you omit them. They have a magical ability to take on a different flavor when used with other ingredients, particularly garlic.

Orecchiette with Cauliflower Sauce

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes (or to taste)

Chopped flat leaf parsley

Grated pecorino

Black truffle oil (optional)

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender. Remove with slotted spoon or Chinese-style skimmer and set aside. (Do not discard water. You will need it for your pasta.)

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add anchovies pressing them down with the back of a wooden spoon until they disintegrate.

Add garlic and chilies and cook briefly. Add cauliflower and mash with back of wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook pasta in same water in which you cooked the cauliflower. Heat skillet with sauce and lift out pasta and add. Add enough water to make a sauce that's not too dry. Sprinkle with parsley and serve passing the pecorino cheese and truffle oil, if using.

I will be the first to admit that I can be a curmudgeon at times. (I'm really trying to keep this at a minimum because I believe that a perpetual curmudgeon is nothing more than an cynical old grouch. No thanks!) I am using this opportunity to display my curmudgeonly personality.

Sometime shortly after the birth of Christ, July issues of housekeeping (good or otherwise) magazines came out with pictures of sheet cakes on the covers that were decorated to look like the American flag. Back in the day it was clever, cute, kitchy and (by some stretch of the imagination) patriotic. But please! Year after year after predictable year we see the same tired sheet cakes dragged out on Independence Day. Isn't it time we gave these old soldiers a rest?

Good Lord, we've changed the flag and the constitution more often than we've modified this cake! Now, I'm not an unreasonable guy. I don't mind a compromise. It's what makes America great!(Just imagine if our leaders and lawmakers weren't able to compromise. What kind of a country would that leave us with?) I've left the colors intact, changed the canvas and the field and even added a name that would make the founding fathers blush if not do some grave-spinning. So, without further ado...

Red, White, and Blueschetta

Loaf of Hawaiian, Portuguese or other sweet bread
Small tub of mascarpone cheese
15-oz container of ricotta, well drained
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Black or blue berries
Powdered sugar for garnish, optional

Toast or grill bruschetta-sized pieces of bread. (Alternatively, you can use decorative cookie cutters to cut desired shapes.)

Spread with a thin layer of mascarpone followed by a spread of sweetened ricotta.

Top with berries and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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