Penne Perfection

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Pasta and I are friends.

Best friends.

I have to admit, when the whole "no carb" craze hit I was horrified.
What?  Pasta is bad for me?  [shock and awe].

But..then I realized people are just ridiculous.

Pasta is an art form.  Pasta is perfection.  Pasta is...well...amazing.

If people want to give it up- that's their prerogative.  But is isn't mine.  I am of the "eat a small amount and savor every piece" than inhale-a-heaping-bowl-and-five-buttered-rolls-to-boot.  I'm not willing to give up pasta, so I'll just have it in moderation and love. every. bite.

I mean, who could possibly fail to love the variety of shapes and textures?


You can even buy Bart Simpson pasta, 
for cryin' out loud!
Who knew?



And don't get me started on the neverending
galaxy of carbilicious recipes at my fingertips...
literally.

I am forever indebted to the smart computer geniuses 
who blessed me with the internet.
My stomach thanks you.



So anyway- pasta is amazing.  

Now that we have stated the obvious let me share this insane recipe with you.

Insane, I tell you.


Yes.
That's the one.


Now let me tell you a few things about penne.


Penne is my favorite pasta to work with.

There are actually a couple varieties, the two most common being

 Penne lisce (smooth):


And penne rigate (furrowed):

I prefer the latter for its shape and texture.
The tubular center enables it to hold sauce, 
and the angular ends act as scoops.  
Penne rigate's ridges hold in even more saucy goodness 
and give a different textural sensation to the palate than lisce.




However many pasta die-hards prefer the lisce because it forces
the tongue to focus more on the components of the sauce than the pasta itself.

Me?

I'm all about the pasta.  
But the sauce is nice too.

Anyway- back to the recipe.
Didn't know you would be getting a scientific analysis
of pasta shapes did you?

I'm all about surprises.

If you are super enthusiastic and interested in learning more
about pasta shapes, here is a great website.
I know there are some of you out there.
Don't hide.

Recipe!  Recipe!  
Sorry.

The actual PW recipe is provided in the link above.
But it you are too weary and cannot find the strength
to scroll that far up and click, here she is:

Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta

Ingredients:
  • 4 whole Grilled Chicken Breasts, Sliced*
  • 1 pound Penne Rigate Pasta, Cooked Until Al Dente
  • ½ sticks Butter
  • 3 whole Lemons, Juiced
  • ¾ cups Heavy Cream
  • ¼ cups Half-and-half
  • 1-½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (or Romano)
  • Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 20 whole Basil Leaves, Chopped


Instructions:

Cook pasta, reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water when you drain.  Set pasta aside in a colander.

In same pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Squeeze in the juice of 3 or 4 lemons.  Whisk together.  Pour in cream and half-and-half.  Whisk until hot.  Dump in cheese and whisk until melted.  Add salt and pepper.  Check consistency, adding some of the hot pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed.

Pour pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle remaining basil all over the top, then add sliced chicken breasts.  Serve immediately!

* I did NOT use grilled chicken, but rather just baked some chicken breasts in my oven, at 350 for 25 min, then sliced them up and threw 'em in!



YUM.


Lemony-fresh.  Buttery.  Creamy.  Cheesy.


Who in the world could LIVE without pasta?
That would be sad life, indeed.

Oh penne rigate, thank you for making my life saucy.
And textured.
And...tubular?

Okay I'm done.
Ciao!

Because I adore her...

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Is there anyone you want to aspire to be?

Someone you dream and hope and yearn to become- and know that, even though you will not come close to being as great, as talented, as fabulous- you still have this insane desire to try?  And though for some it is heroic, spiritual, political, or iconic figures- mine is none of these, necessarily.

For me, that someone is Ina Garten.

She is my hero.  Heroine?  Whatever.

I want to be her.

Is it weird that I sometimes ask my husband to pretend his name is Jeffrey and ask for chicken every Friday night?  Or swoon over every little concoction I make for fake cameras?  Or perm his hair into little gray ringlets and wear loafers?

Okay- so maybe I don't go that far.  Ahem.

But really- I just love Ina.  There is something about her that is simple, yet elegant; Parisian, but non-fussy.  She is eloquent, but down-to-earth.  She reminds me of a comforting great aunt whom you don't want to disappoint and who will always be there to teach, yet correct you.

I admire this type.

So anyway- I really don't have a whole lot to share or say, except that I have a fascination with all things Barefoot Contessa.  These are my lovelies (they have top-seating on my bookshelf):

  


And really- I just want them all:


I mean- who wouldn't want to make stuff that
looks THIS AMAZING:

Like Ina's ultra creamy-and-buttery Mac n' Cheese:


Oh brunch, how I adore thee.
Especially when it involves Ina's Smoked Salmon Frittata:


And her absolutely insane Turkey Lasagna.  Oh. me. oh. my.
Yes, please.


A Saturday morning treat: Banana and Sour Cream Pancakes.


Lemon yogurt cake, a go-to for many gatherings 
I have found myself invited to:


Or this summery mixed berry cheesecake:



Or how about Ina's sinfully divine (oxymoron?) peanut butter 
chocolate cupcakes that one blogger re-created:


So many delectable things to choose from.
And the thing I love?  It's all simple & pure ingredients,
things you can find locally,
and relatively easy to prepare-
yet nothing in the recipe is pre-made, a la Sandra Lee.  
Don't get me started on her.

I think the moment I fell in love with Ina was when
on one of her BC episodes she said, and-I-quote,
"I don't understand why some people create tablescapes,
what IS a tablescape anyway and who in the world
has time to coordinate dishes with placemats?!"  

I about wet myself.

Okay- sorry- if you don't watch the Food Network
you probably have no clue what I'm talking about.
If you do- you are likely laughing just as hard as I did!

Anyway.  Moving on.

This Sunday I plan to make Ina's Chicken Stew
with Biscuits- it seems like a very Sunday-esque
meal indeed.  Comfort food.  Lazy Sunday evening.
Maybe a dessert or heaping mound of rolls on-the-side.
Yes, this is definitely in the weekly meal plan:
(I love how this blogger made the biscuits into little
hearts- cutsie and clever!)


And OH, if I could sit upon this couch, Ina's couch, and discuss all
things culinary and French with her.  I would peruse her bookshelves
and pick her brain about things like the origination of herbs de provence
and mirepoix- who decided the latter was a base for all sauces and soups?
And why does the dice of Frenchie veggies need to be uniform?
What purpose does this serve?
And what is your favorite Parisian bistro?
And how do you grow all those lovely flowers and veggies?
And why in the world did you work on foreign energy policy
at the White House- what made you shift to the culinary world?
And how do you form a recipe?
And, and, and....
I have so many questions.


Or if I could dine in her new kitchen.  
Oh my- that would be my dream.
I would wander around the room in awe, 
and touch each tool with fascination,
and probably drool on everything.
Sorry, Ina.


This is where I would stand, 
watching her work.
Asking questions along the way
and tasting as we go.
I may-or-may-not have put little bowls of citrus
fruit in my own kitchen too...maybe.
Maybe.
I'll never tell.

And I may-or-may-not own reams of parchment paper,
just to say, "line the pan with parchment."
And I may-or-may-not have said little kitchy phrases while cooking
like, "How bad can that be?"  or "Jeffrey just loves it!"  
Possibly.


And for some reason I just want to blow up
this photo and stick it on my kitchen wall,
just to pretend like she's in the kitchen cooking with me,
sharing a good East Hampton story or telling me where
to find the freshest seafood:


Yes, I like Ina.
Is this creepy?

I promise, it's just a "like" thing.
Nothing more.
But, Ina, if you are reading-
I'm available for apprenticeship anytime.

Just sayin'.





A Brief Summer-y

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Oh well, hello.

Where have you been all my life?

It has been a while, sorry about that.

But.  Well...Summer happened.  You know how it is.

IT'S SUMMER.  Thus we should all feel a little like this:


And partake in a little of this:


And bask in some of this:


And enjoy a little of this:


And to me, summer is about over-indulging,
like this:



And soaking in the beauty of nature:









And perhaps a little painting:
(By a serious amateur!  No comments, please-and-thank-you)



And, of course, savoring summer's bountiful harvest:



Veggie-laden pita with pesto and Parmesan...


Loaded berry French toast with slivered almonds...


Blueberry streusel pie from the local Farmer's Market...


Regarding summer delights,
there is a salad I delight in often during these
I-don't-feel-like-cooking months.
A constant stand-by that gets better as it sits,
and is incredibly versatile.

Enter, the White Bean and Tuna Salad.

This dish is traditionally Italian, though they prefer it quite minimal: 
beans, tuna, onion, a little salt, pepper, and vinegar.

I, however, like to dress it up according to what
happens to be chilling out in my fridge.



White Bean and Tuna Salad
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian Cookbook)

2 (6oz) cans tuna, packed in olive oil
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (15oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, chopped
handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese
handful of parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Mix all in large bowl.  Stir to combine.  Chill one hour.  Eat over rice or atop a crusty baguette, spread over lettuce greens, in a sandwich, as a side-dish, or simply out of the bowl itself.  YUM and double yum.  It's a meal in itself.  



















Now...excuse me while I go pour a cuppa sun-tea,
grab a magazine and some sun.
"Summer days are driftin' away..."