Black bean pasta

I’ve had a long work week, which  ended  in frustration  this evening in–I’m hungry, but the planned meals just don’t DO it. After staring in the fridge for a while, and going back to take a few of those silly online quizzes, I still hadn’t the foggiest idea what I wanted to eat. More peering into cabinets (sardines–nope, tuna–NOT).

While skulking through the pantry, I realized that what I’d most likely cook were I not trying to be really serious about weight loss would be pasta.  Obviously, that won’t do–at least not pasta, as we most commonly think of it.

On my grocery rounds day before yesterday, I noticed that there was a new section of pasta displayed with lots of signage designed to attract attention–it was gluten-free pasta. I’m not gluten intolerant so I usually don’t pay attention to that (and I get really irritated when I see fruits and vegetables touted as gluten free–but I won’t go there now). As I stood perusing the boxes, I had a faint memory of a friend telling me that her grandchildren liked black bean pasta, so I read the ingredients list–and it was only black beans. I found that rather amazing, since so many gluten free products have potato starch or other things that are off limits to me right now. I succumbed–I bought a package of black bean pasta.

I stashed the black bean pasta (pasta?) in the pantry and went straight to  the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary to look up pasta. I discovered that it was defined as “an alimentary paste in processed form”. While spaghetti was given in an example nothing was specified as to what the paste was made of.  Ok–it’s black bean pasta.

I spend a little time thinking about why I eat pasta. It’s because I like pasta. I like the different shapes, too. I like the flavor of pasta made from wheat, but there is a texture factor there as well. Maybe there is more than that–maybe there is something about twirling spaghetti or angel hair pasta around a fork to get it into my mouth–part of the process of eating that’s satisfying–more than just the flavor.

What I’d usually make is spaghetti aglio e olio–sorry, that just sounds better that plain olive oil and garlic–so I decided to give the black bean pasta a trial that way. I got out my favorite pasta-cooking gadget. For this to keep with the meal plan in some remote fashion, I needed to add some vegetables. Spinach!  I sautéd the and spinach in the olive oil and dumped it over my black bean pasta. (I know I had a bigger serving of carbohydrate than I should have, even though it was black bean pasta, but at least I had veggies with it.)

The result? A pleasant surprise! It was remarkably satisfying (maybe just because I was hungry); the texture was good though not quite like pasta made from wheat flour. It’s not overwhelmingly “beany” either. It was so satisfying that I had to think that there is more to my liking pasta than just the flavor. Would I rather have had “real” pasta? Yes, but this was good. Black bean pasta is not going to replace the traditional stuff made of durham wheat flour. It certainly beat trying to fake it with spaghetti squash (though I like that too, but it’s definitely NOT pasta–it’s a vegetable so don’t tell me to use it instead of spaghetti).

The final call? I’ll cook  pasta made from black beans again until I can have the traditional kind that we usually think about. I don’t know why I had this resistance to this as pasta since I like soba and rice noodles. It’s a good stand in for this meal plan. After eating that I find that there is also pasta made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans).  I’m sure I’ll find some other uses for it as well, and I’ll explore other “alimentary pastes” to add to the soba and cellophane noodles as well. But I’ll still want that plate of “real” spaghetti aglio e olio!

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angel hair pasta with raw tomato sauce

I’ve always like angel hair pasta with a very light, fresh sauce. Since it’s tomato season, at least for a bit yet, I wanted to share this one–The recipes (and commentary) from this blog (Smitten Kitchen) are always good–and this is SO easy.  I’ve found that angel hair pasta cooks so well in the microwave pasta cooker which means no hot steamy, boiling pot in the  kitchen in this hot weather.

Enjoy!

angel hair pasta with raw tomato sauce from the Smitten Kitchen.

Perfect homemade pasta every time

A simple recipe for homemade pasta. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you really should get one. They are not really expensive and make a lot of cooking so simple.

homecookexplorer

This is going to be my shortest blog ever.

But it will show how you can make perfect homemade pasta each and every time.

Here is the trick. I’ll assume you have a pasta maker already.

Start by weighing your eggs (not your flour). 1 egg per person eating your wonderful ooh! and aahhh! homemade pasta.

Next divide the weight of the eggs by .6. This will be the weight of flour to use.

So if you are making pasta for 4 and your eggs weigh out to 215g, then 215/.6 = 358 which would be how much flour to add. The more precise you can be, the better will be your result.

This quite precise ratio will give you the precise amount of hydration to your dough so that when you put it through your pasta roller, it will be perfect. No extra flour needed, no extra water, no…

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Those little “goodfellas”: Brussels Sprouts and Hot Sausage Tortiglioni…

I haven’t made this yet–but I love sausage and I like Brussels sprouts. Since I do a lot of cabbage and greens with sausage, I want to try this, so I’ll just share it.

Flora's Table

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

2 Servings

Brussels sprouts are not very popular in my country and they certainly weren’t on my family’s table. I don’t think I can recollect one time that I ate them in my house or anywhere else in Italy.

Things started changing a couple of years ago when I decided to host my first Thanksgiving’s dinner. During my “due diligence” period, in my quest for dishes traditionally served in the US for that holiday, I found out that Brussels sprouts were a must as a side dish, stir-fried or roasted, preferably with bacon or pancetta and even with raisins.

Little by little my acquaintance with these little guys turned into a beautiful friendship and now I’m totally in love with them for several different reasons.

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

First, their appearance – because no matter what they say, appearances still count! 🙂 Their vibrant green has the magical power to put me in a…

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Pasta from the microwave?

Okay, you know I use my rice cooker to cook some kinds of pasta, but when Cook’s Illustrated  reviewed microwave pasta cookers and gave it a thumbs up, I had to try–I mean that should be even faster and easier than rice cooker, right?

from Amazon.com

I ordered the Fasta Pasta Microwave Cooker.  Delivered quickly, and needless to say, got tried out quickly. I’ve cooked both ravioli and capellini in it successfully.  Cooking times are obviously going to vary with the power of the microwave, but generally the times given on the included card have been very accurate.  It’s easy to move around as there are handles on both side.

The drain slots in the lid did not let the capellini slip through.  I’m really surprised–but I think that will be my method of choice for cooking pasta in the future.

(Image from Amazon.com, and should take you to page–however, I don’t have an affiliate association with them, so I get no remuneration if you order through here.)

Rice-cooker pasta with tomato sauce

Some days  a big serving of pasta with a simple tomato sauce is really necessary–it’s kind of attitude adjustment on a plate. On some of those days, it has to be really hands-off since I’m slaving at the computer with a deadline and just can’t be mucking about in the kitchen even though I want something to eat.

One of my favorite “comfort-food” sauces is the very simple one from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking–“Tomato Sauce with Onions and Butter” (p. 152).  Not even any garlic.

Krups rice cooker IMG_3796Even though it’s not complicated to make, I wanted it even easier since I had to meet indexing deadline.  I decided to try it in the rice cooker since that’s work well for other pasta dishes.  (I’m NOT kidding–you can cook  pasta in the rice cooker, been doing it ever since I first made mac ‘n’ cheese that way from the recipe that was included with the Krups rice cooker).  This is one where I don’t mind having “leftovers”.

Pasta with tomato sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5 ounce (411 gm) can of diced tomatoes (no added salt)
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (also good with olive oil, if you want to avoid the butter–or for a change)
  • salt to taste
  • grated parmigiano-reggiano (for the table)
  • 100 grams pasta of your choice
  • 200 (about 1 cup or 250 mL) water.

Preparation

  • Microwave the onion with the butter until the onion is soft and translucent. eat
  • Add the onions, butter, tomatoes (undrained), salt, and pasta to the rice cooker.
  • Turn on rice cooker and continue working until you smell it–about 15 to 20 minutes, and with a little minor adjustment, it should be ready to eat.

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The Krups rice cooker (with slow-cooking and steaming functions as well) is not one of the fancy “fuzzy logic” ones.  Just simple physics of boiling water–it turns itself to warm when the temperature starts to rise when the water has been absorbed and the temperature goes above 212°F.  Simple–and easy to manipulate when you understand how it works.

For this rice cooker, the ratio of liquid to pasta needs to be 2.5:1 for al dente pasta. If it’s not quite there, just add about 1/2 cup more liquid and turn it back on.  When the rice cooker switches to warm function, the pasta will be fairly dry since this depends on all the liquid being absorbed.  If you’re hanging about in the kitchen, peek in about 15 minutes later and check the pasta and the consistency of the sauce. –

I usually  add a bit less liquid –maybe 50 mL short–let the cooker switch to warm, and then add just a bit more liquid, stirring the pasta, to thin the sauce a little, give it a few minutes to heat, and  then eat!

I used spaghetti for this, but broke it in half since full length won’t fit in the rice cooker.  So far this has worked for all the pasta types I’ve tried–penne, conchiglie, farfalle, fusilli, gemelli, macaroni, orzo, and, now spaghetti.  (I’ve only tried “flat” pasta (read “noodles”) once and that has been the only time the pasta stuck together, though that might have been lack of oil during the cooking–or the difference in flour and eggs in the pasta.

It may not be fancy, but….a son goût!

Lentil & couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, mint and goat cheese

As you can tell, I like lentils!  And tomatoes.

It’s getting to the kind of weather where I begin to think about “salads” for hot-weather meals.   I know it’s a bit early for this since tomatoes not  ready to pick yet.  While I was writing about lentils, shortly after planting some tomato seeds (Black Krim, Japanese Black Trifle, Black Pearl, Brandywine, Indigo…..) I couldn’t help but think of this salad with some anticipation as I planted the Black Pearl cherry tomato seeds.

Lentil & Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Mint and Goat Cheese

This is my adaptation of the recipe from Gourmet 1995, retrieved from Gourmet on Epicurious with a few changes from me.  (This is a great place to browse for salad inspirations.  You don’t need to follow the recipes–just look at the ingredients and make a salad.)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) or brown lentils (or any small lentil that will hold its shape well)
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar  (The original recipe calls for white wine vinegar–but I prefer sherry; use what you have at hand.)
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves (spearmint, rather than peppermint)
  • 1 bunch arugula, stems discarded and leaves washed well, spun dry, and chopped
  • 2 cups vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved.
  • 1/4 pound feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)

Preparation

  • Cook the lentils in a small pan, covered by about 2 inches of water until tender but not getting mushy.  The lentilles du Puy cook more slowly than other varieties, so if you substitute, watch them carefully to keep from over-cooking them.  My preference is for the french, Spanish brown, or black lentils instead of the brown.
  • When tender, drain well and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Prepare the couscous:  bring water to a boil and couscous and salt (use the package directions).  Remove from heat and let stand until the water is absorbed.  Fluff and transfer to a bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil and cool.
  • Dressing:  Whisk together the garlic paste, remaining vinegar (to taste), and oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the lentils and dressing to the couscous and mix well. Chill well–about 2 or 3 hours.
  • Before serving, add the crumbled goat cheese and the mint leaves.

One problem I’ve found is that the cherry tomatoes can give off a lot of liquid and make this salad too juicy.  I like to toss the halved cherry tomatoes with about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and let them stand in a colander for about 15 or 20 minutes before I add them  to avoid the excess juice.  This doesn’t make them “salty”–but do taste before you add the last salt to taste.  This will hold well in the fridge for about 24 hours if you’ve  gotten some of the excess liquid from the cherry tomatoes.

My favorite garnish for this is crispy slices of European style cucumbers and crispy, crunchy radishes on the side as well.