Monday, September 29, 2008

Capellini with Baby Peppers, Pattypans, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Summer is basically over and I haven't written about all of the things I found at the green market. I made this a couple of months ago, when pattypan squash first made its appearance.

I love pattypan squash. In all honesty, I can't say they taste all that different from regular zucchini, but the texture seems a bit firmer - they hold their shape better than their cylindrical counterparts. Maybe they don't have as much moisture.

When I cook them, I usually just slice them lengthwise, about a quarter-inch thick.


And then I found these sweet peppers at a different stand on the same day. They remind me of white asparagus, like they were covered to keep them from getting any sunlight. They smelled sweet and peppery. I had bought baby bells the season before last and made this Musgovian Stew (because I kept them around too long). I learned from that last time to remove the seeds from the peppers this time, and then I just basically quartered or halved them (depending on size). The last item I found was a beautiful baby eggplant.

I thought the squash and peppers would work well with some grape tomatoes I also got at the green market (I'm making up for my non-market broccoli, orange and tomato salad). They were so firm and red that I didn't want to just throw them into a salad - I wanted to incorporate them into a dish that would let them shine.

While we're on the subject of cherry and grape tomatoes, there's something that's been bugging me ever since I saw it a couple of weeks ago. There's a new show on the Food Network called "Ask Aida" (turn your volume off before you click if you don't want an earful of Bobby Flay or some other celebrity chef). It's an interactive show where Aida Mollenkamp prepares a few recipes much like any other cooking show; the twist is that she also responds to questions that viewers send in via email and video. The questions usually relate specifically to the recipes she is creating, techniques she is using to create the recipes, or the ingredients themselves.

She does have decent credentials, having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. But I find myself frequently dissatisfied with the answers she gives to the questions she receives. For one thing, she told one viewer that hangar steak is the same thing as flank steak and it's not. They're similar, but come from differet parts of the animal and do taste different (now that I've had hangar steak at Mado I can say that for sure). She told another viewer that it was not necessary to rinse every variety of rice, but did not mention that all varieties of brown rice should be rinsed (at least according to this source). She could at least have said it depended on what kind of rice the user was using and suggest that she either read the package instructions or do a little research. When she made flank steak she did say to cut it against the grain so it would be more tender but she did not say why.

It's not that her answers are wrong; they're just incomplete. And maybe I'm so critical because what she is doing is very similar to where I have been heading with this blog - trying to demystify processes, techniques, and ingredients and then sharing what I have learned with other untrained cooks who want to learn more without having to invest a lot of time and money into the process. But there is one thing she said that really bugs me and turned me off to her show completely.

A viewer emailed that she had an abundance of cherry tomatoes in her garden and asked Aida what she could do with them other than throwing them into a salad. Aida smiled and said they really were best in salads, and the viewer should basically just suck it up and make a bunch of salads.

Well, she didn't use those words exactly, but that was the gist. She did not suggest any other uses for those tomatoes, and I think that's a sin, to discourage someone from trying to find new uses for any ingredient. She could have said that you can pretty much use them the same way you would use any other tomato. She could have suggested different kinds of salads the viewer might try. Right off the bat she could have suggested putting them on skewers with onions, green peppers, and lamb or beef cubes for kabobs, and she could have suggested what many other Food Network chefs have done, that the viewer cook them up with pasta, as I have done here.

Which brings us back to my dish. I have been experimenting with whole wheat spaghetti, cappellini and fettuccine, which I avoided after my first disastrous attempt back in the early '80s. It might be because I've eaten so much short whole wheat pasta that I have become used to it, or maybe it's a little better now that they've had twenty years to improve upon it, but I don't find it that much different to regular wheat pasta. Whatever the reason, I really like it now and it was the perfect pasta to use with this sauce, which is really more of a vegetable saute than a sauce.

It's the perfect dinner for a warm summer day.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

CAPELLINI WITH BABY PEPPERS, PATTYPANS, EGGPLANT AND TOMATOES

1 lb whole wheat cappellini angel hair pasta, cooked two minutes less than package directions

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pint pattypan squash, sliced 1/8" thick
1 pint baby peppers, seeded, quartered or halved (depending on size)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 baby eggplant, chopped into 1/4" pieces
4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 chp vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmagiana Reggiano

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil. If it comes to a boil before the sauce is ready, lower the heat. Do not start the pasta until the sauce has reduced down to where you want it.

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add peppers and squash and cook until softened, about two to three minutes. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook three minutes more.

Add eggplant and cook until well browned. You might need to add more oil because eggplant absorbs it quickly, but be careful not to add too much. It's ok to let the bottom of the pan get dry and dark brown (just don't let it burn - you can tell by the smell); that will be lifted off with the liquids.

When the eggplant is browned and the squash and peppers are soft, add the wine and the broth. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and let it continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half. Bring the pot of water back to a boil, add salt, and cook the pasta two minutes less than the package directions.

When pasta is done drain, reserving some of the liquid if the sauce gets too thick, and add it to the skillet with the vegetables. Add the basil, parsley, and tomatoes and cook about two minutes more to allow the herbs and tomatoes to soften. If it is too dry add some of the pasta water.

Serve imediately, using a vegetable peeler to grate slivers of parmagiana reggiano over each plate.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (www.mountain-software.com)

3 comments:

misreall said...

Hi Debi-

Last night was awesome, I really want to hit Taste of Peru again.

I have a question about pattypans, can you stirfry them the same way you can zucchini?

Lynda

dejamo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dejamo said...

I agree Lynda. There are definitely other dishes there I want to try.

You should be able to stir fry pattypans the same way you can zucchini. Their properties are pretty similar. The pattypans might be a little more dense with less water, but that's just my impression and not backed by any kind of knowledge.

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