Okay, we're going to veer a little bit off-course today. Because 1. I have to empty my pantry; 2. We signed the lease two days ago and had to fork over a pile of money, so big a pile that I wouldn't be able to buy groceries for new recipes over the next 10 days even if I wanted to; and 3. My CSA is keeping me so flush with vegetables that if I don't cook them every night, I'll be knee-deep in slop.
Besides, didn't someone mention wanting to see the fruits of my type-A labor? Ask and ye shall receive, people.
First up, we have a dish that freed me of a quarter-bag of Pennsylvania Dutch Egg Noodles that I bought when Ben was wracked with some kind of flu (the flu I like to call E. coli but that the E.R. doctor insisted was just a bug. Without having done a culture. While hitting on me as my boyfriend lay defenseless on the cot between us. Thanks a lot, doc.) and that had been sitting in my pantry for at least a year.
You take a small onion (or a quarter of a Vidalia onion), dice it up, and fry it gently in a pan with olive oil until softened and translucent. Then you add three small zucchini that you've diced largely. Turn up the heat a bit so that the zucchini start taking on color and the onion sizzles and it all smells delightful. Start boiling your well-salted pasta water in the meantime. When the zucchini have colored quite well all over, add a handful of torn basil leaves and a handful of torn mint leaves along with a good pinch of salt. Flipping it all together with a spatula, cook the zucchini mixture until it's fragrant. Dump the egg noodles into the boiling water (a few handfuls were enough for two plates). Pull out a bottle of balsamic vinegar, add a spoonful to the zucchini mixture and cook it down, stirring all the while. There shouldn't be any liquid left in the pan. Drain the pasta and add the noodles to the pan of zucchini (adding some pasta water if necessary). Toss them together, grate a substantial amount of Parmigiano on top and eat while piping hot.
It's fresh and sweet and has just enough of that sixth sense deliciousness from the cooked-down vinegar and funky cheese.
Next, we have tomatoes filled with rice - an Italian classic that I am utterly obsessed with and don't eat nearly enough of. You take four large tomatoes (these are the first non-greenhouse ones I've found at the market this year, from my favorite New Jersey ladies in Union Square, and they are fantastic), cut the tops off and scoop out the insides, which you then chop up and reserve (along with all the liquid and seeds). Dice a small onion, or another quarter of the Vidalia onion you used for the dish above, and saute it gently in olive oil. After it has softened, add 1/3 cup of arborio rice to the pan and stir that around for a few minutes. Chop the tomato pulp and add all of it, plus 1/3 cup of water, to the onion and rice, fold in a few torn basil or oregano leaves and a good sprinkling of salt, lower the heat and simmer the rice, covered, for 10 minutes. Heat your oven to 350 degrees, spoon the par-cooked rice into the tomatoes, put them in a small, oiled baking dish, top them a few breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and bake for an hour and 15 minutes. The tomatoes will shrivel a bit and become incredibly fragrant and sweet. Let them cool for a bit before eating.
The rice is hot and sludgy and delectable and the tomatoes are sweet and caramelized. To gild the lily, you could slice up potatoes and put them around the base of the tomatoes before putting them in the oven, as the Italians do (who else can combine rice and potatoes with such success?) - they get all oil-slicked and tangy from the tomato juices - but even without the potatoes, this is one of my favorite meals.
And then, because I realize it was a little cruel to tell you about "my" crostata and then not deliver the recipe, here you go:
Mix together 150 grams of sugar with 150 grams of softened butter. To this add 2 eggs, the grated peel of a lemon, 200 grams of flour (depending, you might need up to 50 grams more) and half a packet of this leavening (Amazon calls it yeast, but it's not, it's more like baking powder). Knead this together until well combined, then let it rest on a board for a bit while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pat 3/4 of the dough out in a tart pan or a buttered spring-form pan and cover the dough with jam of your choice (we sometimes thin the jam with a glug of brandy over low heat before spreading it on the dough). Top the jam with the remaining dough rolled into strips and woven, lattice-style. Bake until golden-brown and the jam is bubbling, 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature before eating.
As for these beauties? They're what I've been eating when I haven't been staring at my pantry with glassy eyes. They came as a delightful surprise from the kind and generous folks at ChefShop. They're Lapin cherries and are the biggest, plumpest, juiciest cherries I ever did eat. So good, in fact, that I can't bear to do anything with them but pop them in my mouth, one by one. I'd love to cook with them, make a pie or a clafoutis or even just roast them and serve them over cornmeal cake (using up the rest of my cornmeal, polenta and grits, somehow), but these cherries are too good for all of that. If you can get your hands on some of these, do.
I'm off, friends, to scavenge boxes now. I'll be packing this weekend, with a beer in one hand and a handful of cherries in the other, and apparently eating a whole lot of corn-based gruel. Enjoy the weekend and the recipes and I'll see you all next week!