Monday, July 25, 2016
Expectations can be a bitch. Have you ever had the perfect restaurant experience only to go back a second time and feel deflated because the second visit was only so-so? It's happened to us enough times that we have been tempted to never return to spots that deliver a perfect experience.
For whatever reason, Mexican food in New York is where we tend to experience this phenomenon the most. A few years ago we were wowed by Agave, but subsequent visits lacked the initial spark. Then we fell under the spell of Black Ant, but during or second and third visits there, the magic seemed to have fizzled. Late last year we had an excellent dinner at Empellon Taqueria; but our dinner last month lacked the consistency we'd noted that first time.
Were we tempting fate when we decided to try the menu at Mayahuel? Possibly; however, Mayahuel had already passed the first test last year by delivering a second-visit experience that was every bit as good as our first, if not better. Regular readers will recognize the name: it's the mezcal-focused cocktail bar in Manhattan's East Village that we visited last year and fell absolutely in love with. Prior to that, I was already familiar with its cocktails, which are well-known among mezcal fans. We went back again in December--twice actually, since we went before and after dinner--and continued to be smitten by its cool ambiance, talented staff and delicious drinks. During that visit, we also tried a plate of churros, and they were divine, leading us to conclude that we really should try make a point to eat dinner at Mayahuel.
I'm happy to say that our favorite cocktail bar is now also our favorite Mexican restaurant. Dinner couldn't have been more delicious. From start to finish, dinner at Mayahuel was among the most satisfying restaurant experiences we've ever had.
The first decision was whether to sit at the bar (which was shockingly completely empty) or the upstairs dining room. Although the dining room might have been a more traditional choice for dinner, we chose the bar, knowing that it provides the best seats in the house, since you can watch Mayahuel's amazingly talented (and super friendly) bartenders work their magic.
It's hard not to start a Mexican restaurant dinner with a round of chips and guacamole, and Mayahuel's traditional take on the avocado dip was quite tasty. But the smoked tomato salsa was an absolute revelation. Served warm, the salsa was intensely smoky due to the tomatoes having been charred over hickory chips. It was the best tomato salsa I've ever had and was the first of many good bites we enjoyed that evening.
From there, we moved on to the quinoa and avocado salad, a delightfully good mixture of texture and flavor with a touch of sweetness from the corn as well as a touch of heat. I particularly liked the sesame oil dressing, which added just a hint of Asian flair. Shortly after, the croquetas arrived. Mayahuel's are black-bean and roasted-corn fritters rolled in plantain crumbs and served with roasted red pepper coulis and crema. They were tasty; however, their comparatively mild flavor got lost amid all the other spicy dishes and drinks. I should mention that if you like heat, this is good place for you.
The main event was the tacos, and they were divine. A single order is perfect for sharing: it comes with four corn tortillas was your choice of two different meats. We opted for carnitas and chorizo, both of which were phenomenally good--meaty, tender and not greasy. Just excellent tacos. They arrive garnished simply with cilantro, radishes and lime wedges. We are big taco fans, and it just doesn't get any better than this. They even outclassed the tacos we had the next night at Empellon Taqueria, a well-known restaurant that's known for its tacos (its chef even published a James-Beard-award-nominated cookbook I wrote about recently).
Mayahuel offers only two choices for dessert, but trust me...it's a really really hard choice. Save yourself the pain order both of them. This visit we opted for the tres leches cake, which we are huge fans of (I made one for Chris's birthday this year and last). Mayahuel's version does not disappoint. I like that they use a fairly sturdy cake for its base, but the real treat here is the torched meringue on top. Most tres leches cakes I've had come with a whipped topping, so I loved this subtle but delightful twist. During our previous visit, we enjoyed the other option: cinnamon-sugar dusted crispy churros (doughnuts) with spiced Mexican chocolate sauce. As if it isn't obvious, let me point out that deep-fried donuts showered with cinnamon sugar and set next to a spiced Mexican chocolate dipping sauce are a pretty amazing treat after a few rounds of drinks.
Speaking of the drinks, they continue to be as fabulous as they were during our first and second visits. I started the night with a Chabomba, a sherry and mezcal cocktail with jalapeño-infused tequila, pear brandy, vanilla and Galliano. I absolutely loved this drink. It's a little spicy and a little savory (from the sherry), and the subtle hint of vanilla gives the drink an almost dessert quality. Brandy Alejandro is more than just a mezcal twist on the brandy-and-cream classic. The drink features chocolate-milk-infused mezcal, cognac, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, cacao, mole and orange bitters. It's a very smooth drink, not creamy like its namesake nor as chocolatey as you might expect (which is a good thing; it's subtle).
Like heat in your drink? You gotta try the Puebla Drink with No Name. This drink is seriously spicy, made from mezcal infused with chile de arable and muscatel infused with ancho chiles. This drink was inspired by a mole that Mayahuel founder and owner Phil Ward tasted while on a trip in Mexico and fashioned a drink after it. It will be too hot for some people, but I loved its flavor. I might recommend not pairing this one with food, since it could overpower it (except maybe the churros, since the sugar will help cut the heat).
Chris enjoyed the Hidalgo, a nicely balanced smoky and bitter drink with tequila, mezcal, sweet vermouth, amaro, maraschino and Fernet Branca, and the Black Star, a wonderfully autumnal drink of tequila, bourbon, ginger, cinnamon, lemon and apple butter. It sparked a great conversation with a server, who said she used to make apple butter all the time and enjoys it on just about anything (she suggested cooking pork tenderloin with it, which is an excellent idea). He also revisited the Six Shooter, a drink we named our favorite cocktail of our last trip to New York. I'm now ready to just name it our favorite cocktail at the moment. It's an amazing drink featuring a split base of mezcal and two types of rum with touches of Punt e Mes (sweet vermouth), Rammazotti (an amaro), coffee, sugar and bitters. I so love it, that I tried to concoct something similar at home I call the Ode to Mayahuel's Six Shooter.
We never got to meet Chef Vincent Gonzalez, but we sure did enjoy his food. We did, however, get to enjoy the company of our bartender, Nicole, and a server, Rachel, who stopped by the bar often to pick up drinks for diners upstairs. These were two of the nicest restaurant staff I've ever met. I loved watching Nicole mix drinks and chat with her about them, and Rachel had such enthusiasm for the food and drinks. Food makes or breaks a restaurant, but service is critically important too, since good service shapes the experience into something truly special. We felt more than taken care of by these nice people.
Expectations, as I said, can be a bitch, but Mayahuel, as a restaurant, more than exceeded the high expectations set by our prior visits to the bar. For the last year, we've been telling people that it's our favorite bar in New York, and it's now also our favorite Mexican restaurant.
Mayahuel, 304 East 6th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, N.Y. (East Village, Manhattan). (212) 253-5888. Reservations: Open Table.
Cocktail: Ode to Mayahuel's Six Shooter
Cocktail Bar: Going Two Rounds in Mayahuel (New York City)
Dining Notes from New York, January 2016 (includes our second visit to Mayahuel)
Mayahuel Mezcal Cocktails (my first post related to Mayahuel featuring two of its drinks)
Getting Serious About Mezcal
Holy Smoke! It's Mezcal! By John McEvoy
Cocktails like margaritas, mojitos and mint juleps may rule summer, but it's this cocktail hat has captured our attention at the moment. It's the kind of drink that makes you appreciate what goes into making a truly great cocktail--a drink that's an amazing blend of quality components that somehow transcends the qualities of its ingredients to become distinctive in its own right.
I'm talking about Mayahuel's Six Shooter, currently our favorite cocktail. We first enjoyed this drink when we visited Mayahuel in December, and had it again when we were there last month. The drink is so good, we actually ordered it twice both of those times.
Given our love of this drink, I really wanted to make it at home. Mayahuel has shared many of its cocktail recipes with various print and online publications, I've yet to see a printed recipe for the Six Shooter. If I was going to enjoy this drink at home, I'd have to come up with a recipe myself. What an exciting challenge!
Let's start with the basics of what a Six Shooter is. One of Mayahuel's greatest strengths is that its mezcal cocktails are not just a bunch of margarita variants. The bar really puts efforts into exploring all the wonderful ways that mezcal can be enjoyed apart from mixing it with lime and orange liqueur (although, admittedly, mezcal does make a really good margarita).
The Six Shooter is a potent drink. It's mostly all liquor. In fact, it's not too dissimilar from a Manhattan, which has been our drink of choice the last couple years. The Six Shooter is mostly spirits with some sweet modifiers, bitters and a few other flavors. Taking a page from the Manhattan, I thought it would make sense to balance the spirits and sweet modifiers at a 2-to-1 ratio.
Unlike a Manhattan, the drink has a lot of ingredients. It's base is split between mezcal and rum, with the latter comprised of a South American rum and a Jamaican rum. Mayahuel's Jamaican rum of choice is Smith & Cross, but I couldn't find that, so instead I use Appleton Estate Jamaican rum. Smith & Cross is a navy-strength rum clocking in at 114 proof; in contrast, Appleton is only 80 proof, so this does power it down a bit, but there's so much booze here that it's still a pretty stiff drink. The South American rum is El Dorado 12-Year-Old Rum made in Guyana, which I had no trouble finding. For the mezcal, I went with Del Maguey Vida, a solid mezcal for cocktail mixing.
The sweet modifiers are also split between a sweet vermouth, specifically Punt e Mes, which a more bitter than typical sweet vermouth, and Ramazzotti, an Italian amaro that is also bitter and sweet, although nothing like a sweet vermouth. It's one of those European liqueurs that has been around for centuries with a secret, carefully guarded recipe.
The other flavors of the drink help round it out, including the classic additions of Angostura (itself a Caribbean product) and orange bitters. The last ingredients is the most mysterious: "cold brew demurara" according to Mayahuel's menu. What could that be? "Cold-brew" probably refers to cold-brewed coffee, which is coffee steeped overnight with cold water rather than quickly with hot water. Cold-brew coffee has been a fad lately. Last fall, Eater published a story about where to find cocktails made with cold-brew coffee, which included The NoMad's drink, The Gentlemen's Exchange, a wonderful whiskey cocktail with a number of bitter and sweet ingredients not unlike the Six Shooter (we tried to drink when we visited The NoMad and it's also really good). A touch of bitter depth from coffee is perfect in this drink. As for the "demurara," I assume that's either an intentional or unintentional misspelling of "demerara," a type of light brown sugar. Possibly the cold-brew just has demerara sugar dissolved in it, although I made a separate rich simple syrup with two parts sugar to one part water.
The hard part about not having a recipe for a cocktail is the proportions, but setting this up sort of like a Manhattan worked rather well. Without having a real Six Shooter in my hand to compare this to, it's hard to say how exactly like the original drink this is, but I think it comes pretty close and, regardless, it's really quite delicious. If you're a cocktail fanatic like me, I definitely recommend giving this a try, as well as visiting Mayahuel to try the original.
Ode to Mayahuel's Six Shooter
Inspired by the Six Shooter cocktail at Mayahuel in New York City
1 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1/2 oz. El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum
1/2 oz. Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum
1/2 oz. Ramazzotti
1/2 oz. Punt e Mes
1 tsp. cold-brewed coffee (see note 1)
1 tsp. rich demerara syrup (see note 2)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regan's orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass with ice. Stir until very cold then strain into a chilled coupe glass. No garnish.
Note 1: to make cold-brewed coffee, combine 1 tbsp. coffee with 1 cup of cold water and stir. Refrigerate and allow to infuse for 24 hours, then fine-strain the coffee to remove the grounds (alternatively, make it in a French press and press the plunger down after 24 hours). Store coffee in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Note 2: to make rich demerara syrup, combine 2/3 cup demerara sugar with 1/3 cup water in a microwave safe bowl (a 1-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup is perfect for this). Microwave on high until the mixture steams and the sugar dissolves when stirred, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool then transfer to an appropriate container to store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Restaurant: Mayahuel (New York, N.Y.)
Monday, July 18, 2016
Let's talk about lasagna for a minute. It's pretty amazing, right? Warm layers of chewy pasta alternating with layers of tomato sauce and gooey cheese. My mouth just started watering. It's a wonderfully versatile dish that can easily be adapted to include meat (or not), other vegetables (like squash) or not. You can definitely have it your way.
And it tastes good just about any time of year--except, perhaps, when the mercury rises up for those sweltering summer days like we're having right now. Do you want your kitchen oven to be on for hours this time of year? I didn't think so. It's enough to make you want to kiss lasagna goodbye (temporarily, of course).
Except it's such a shame, since lasagna is loaded with ingredients that are really good right now, principally tomatoes, which are reaching their peak. It lends itself well to lighter cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, which are also summers staples. When you consider the fact that lots of other summer vegetables and herbs can play nice in a lasagna, I think it's time to find a compromise that lets us enjoy this wonderful dish even in 90-degree-plus weather.
So I did something novel: I made lasagna with the oven turned off. That's right. This lasagna is not baked. The noodles are cooked, but that's it. Consider it a cross between a pasta salad and a traditional lasagna. And the results were really quite good. The fresh ricotta "melts" into the fresh vegetable ingredients to make a delicious fresh uncooked sauce that's still sturdy enough to hold the layers of noodles together.
I conceived this dish as my entry for this year's Washington Post tomato recipe contest; however, unfortunately, the Food section staff revealed last week that there will be no contest this year. I hope it comes back. It's one of my favorite features they do (if it does, you can be sure I'll enter this next year).
Some tips: be sure to use regular lasagna noodles, not the "no boil" kind. Since you aren't baking this lasagna, the no-boil noodles will not work. You could probably use regular ricotta in place of fresh ricotta, but I haven't tried it. I find that fresh ricotta, which I get at Whole Foods, is a little firmer, so the consistency might be different, but I don't think it would be a deal-breaker. You can always make your own ricotta too.
Fresh Tomato Lasagna
15 lasagna noodles (13-14 oz)
3 large tomatoes (28 oz), diced
1 medium cucumber (9 oz), peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup minced red onion, minced
1/2 cup pitted kalamatta olives, chopped
1 oz fresh basil (about 32 leaves), most of the leaves cut into thin ribbons, with about 8-10 of the smaller leaves set aside
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
16 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions for al dente. Drain and set aside. Lay the noodles flat on an oiled baking sheet until ready to use.
2. In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive and basil ribbons. Add the ricotta, olive oil and vinegar and stir to combine until the ricotta is well mixed and the mixture is "saucy." Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3. In a lightly oiled 9 X 13 baking dish, spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish, then lay 3 noodles on top, followed by about 3/4 cup of sauce, a second layer of noodles, another 3/4 cup of sauce, half of the sliced mozzarella, a third layer of noodles, another 3/4 cup of sauce, a fourth layer of noodles, another 3/4 cup of sauce, a final fifth layer of noodles, the last 3/4 cup of sauce (portion the sauce evenly, you may use a little more or a little less than 3/4 cup each time), and the remaining half of the sliced mozzarella. Spread the whole basil leaves on top, drizzle with a little olive oil and finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
4. Chill the lasagna in a refrigerator for about an hour. Serve cold cut into single-serving portions. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator--this is really good the next day too.
Sliced Fresh Tomato Salad
Roasted Tomato Yaki Udon
Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Garlic and White Wine Sauce
Flatbread with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce
Roasted Tomato Risotto
Cocktail: Tipsy Gazpacho
Lasagna, Bolognese Style
Summer Vegetable Lasagna
Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Sausage Lasagna
Spinach-Tomato Lasagna with Sausage
Monday, July 11, 2016
This is a simple salad that has summer written all over it. Watermelon and strawberries--find fresh local ones if you can--are the perfect ripe red fruits of summer. The feta cheese adds some tang and the bacon adds its wonderful smoky crisp meatiness.
Feel free to mix this up as you please. Some sweet sungold tomatoes would be good in here, as would fresh blueberries.
I made this for lunch while we were on the Oregon coast a couple of months ago. For whatever reason, we tend to almost always buy watermelon while we're there, but don't get it much when we're home at D.C. (which is a shame, since watermelon is so good). See below for more watermelon salad recipes.
Watermelon, Strawberry and Bacon Salad
1/4 lb. thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon
3-4 cups arugula leaves
2 cups cubed watermelon
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese cubes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and cook the bacon until crisped. Set the cooked bacon aside on a paper-towel-lined plate, then transfer to a cutting board and chop into 1/2-inch pieces.
2. In a large bowl, combine arugula, watermelon cubes, sliced strawberries, feta cheese, pecans and bacon pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss to coat with dressing. Serve salad in large shallow bowls.
Watermelon and Blueberry Salad with Goat Cheese
Watermelon and Watercress Salad with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Mint
Watermelon and Pepperoni Salad
I have a consistent problem when I visit a Bryan Voltaggio restaurant: I find it hard to decide what to eat, since so many of the choices on the menu sound amazing. This was a problem at Volt, his elegant first Frederick restaurant (our 2011 visit was pre-blog, but it inspired this Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad), and even more so at Range, his expansive Friendship Heights, D.C., restaurant, which has a menu with so much variety that I supplemented my first review with a second a few months later.
This is a happy problem, of course, best solved by visiting in a group so you can share dishes and sample as many of the kitchen's delights as possible. I was lucky to have not just my husband but also my mother with me when we visited Family Meal, the centerpiece of our day trip to historic Frederick.
Family Meal is a striking space, all ale wood, glass and tile. Although it resembles an upscale diner, it was actually converted from a former car dealership (which means there's plenty of parking, however the asphalt desperately needs repair, as some of the potholes are approaching sink-hole size). The vibe is slickly casual, a contrast to the refinement of Volt or the urban cool of Range. The name says it all: it's perfect for family and a great meal.
Knowing that Family Meal leans Southern, I knew that fried chicken had to be on the docket. The basket is filled with a generous half chicken (breast, thigh, wing and drumstick) fried with a crispy skin and juicy flesh. It's as good as you'd hope. It arrives with buttery, flaky biscuits flecked with cheese and onion, a puckeringly good ramekin of mixed pickles (cucumber, radish, green bean) and a (fairly mild) hot sauce. Keeping with the Southern course, I also ordered a side of braised collard greens with bacon, which were incredibly good: tender, flavorful and tangy.
If a sandwich is more to your liking, I recommend the pulled pork barbecue with bourbon sauce. The potato bun arrives piled high with tender, smoky pork laced with cabbage slaw. The pulled pork has a nice consistency--not too mushy or sloppy like it can sometimes be. Family Meal's menu is a la carte, so if you want fries with that, it's a separate order. You can spring for standard fries or fried in duck fat. We opted for the latter, which arrived crispy and hot and served with three dipping sauces: a buttermilk ranch, an aioli and a sriracha, which was my favorite.
I definitely recommend arriving at Family Meal hungry, but if for some reason you're not up for a big meal, creamy tomato soup hits the spot. The soup is thick and savory and not too salty. It comes with a side of fried cheddar-brioche sticks, perfect for dipping in the soup.
But if you do arrive hungry, as I recommend, you'll probably also want to spring for dessert. We ordered the chocolate doughnuts, which arrived piping hot and crusted with sugar. They were also served with a wonderful coffee ice cream. The only thing that didn't work was the caramel sauce: it was tasty, but too thick, forming a sticky coating on the plate rather than an integrated part of the dish. A minor gripe for an otherwise very good meal.
Service at Family Meal was friendly and efficient; however, those who are noise-sensitive should be aware that the restaurant's hard surfaces make for a rather loud environment. But when it comes to the food, I can't complaint at all. Family Meal delivers a delicious experience whether enjoyed with family, friends or solo.
Family Meal, 882 North East Street, Frederick, Md. (301) 378-2895. Reservations: Open Table.
Range (Washington, DC)
Second Helping of Range (Washington D.C.)
Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Chèvre, Spring Herbs and Coffee Soil
Thursday, July 7, 2016
I often cook chicken for salads by pan frying chicken breast cutlets--those chicken breasts that have been sliced in half, making them easier and quicker to cook. I usually do this in a stainless steel frying pan with some olive oil and season the chicken with salt and pepper, maybe a sprinkle of garlic powder, a dash of dried oregano and a pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes. It's easy, quick and delicious.
What's also delicious is the olive oil left over in the pan: seasoned and dotted with little bits of chicken, including whatever chicken fat might have been clinging to the edges of the chicken cutlets. My husband discovered the joy of swiping a piece of bread through the seasoned olive oil and thus was born a favorite ritual whenever I make a chicken-based salad.
This Caesar salad was born from that ritual. Rather than hover around the stove with the seasoned olive oil after dinner, what if I could incorporate it into the salad itself by frying croutons in it? Chicken and croutons immediately made me think of chicken Caesar salad and the rest was easy.
Well, almost. I wanted a good dressing. Caesar dressing traditionally is made with anchovies--which I'm all for--and raw eggs--which I'm not. So I substituted mayonnaise for the egg yolk, considering that commercial mayonnaise is, after all, an emulsion of raw eggs and oil, albeit one that's been pasteurized, alleviating safety concerns about raw egg.
Caesar salad is also traditionally made with romaine lettuce, but I went with a comparatively hardier mix of baby spinach and baby kale (despite the "baby" these are more substantial greens than lettuce).
Garlicky Chicken Caesar Salad
Makes 2 dinner portions
2-4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. chicken breast cutlets
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
Salt, to taste
Pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes
2 slices of sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used Ultimate Grains Ancient 12 Grain)
3 cups hardy mixed greens (such as baby spinach and baby kale blend)
1/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (note: if grating on a microplane, you may want significantly more, like about a cup, since the microplane makes such fine shavings)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed of salt and patted dry
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1. Heat 2-4 tbsp. olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat (I recommend using a stainless steel pan and not a nonstick pan to get better browning on the chicken). Add the chicken and season with garlic powder, oregano, salt and Aleppo pepper. Cook the chicken until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes total, turning after the first 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Allow to cool a bit, then cut into bite-size chunks.
2. Add the bread cubes to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Toast in the pan until browned, about 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Set the toasted bread cubes aside to cool.
3. Make the dressing: Add the garlic, anchovies and a pinch of salt to a small bowl (such as a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup), use a blunt instrument (like the rounded end of a wooden cocktail muddler) to grind the garlic and anchovies into a paste (alternatively, do this in a a mortar and pestle if you have one). Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and beat with a fork to combine. Add the 2 tbsp. of olive oil and beat with a fork until combined and thickened.
4. Combine the greens, chicken, dressing and half the parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Divide between two plates, top with the croutons, additional parmesan and more freshly ground black pepper.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
This is the other dish I made with the tomatoes I roasted the other weekend. With the cheese, it's vegetarian; without, it's vegan. Either way, it's delicious and simple to prepare if you've pre-roasted the tomatoes. This is an ideal dish to share with friends and family and eat outside on your patio.
Roasted Tomato and Kale Pasta
Salt, to taste
1 lb. whole-wheat pasta (I used gobbetti, which looks like it's identical to cavatappi)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces (about 3 cups of leaves)
1 cup (or so) simple roasted tomatoes, from 3 lb. fresh tomatoes (see recipe below)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Grated pecorino-romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions for al dente (pasta will finish cooking in the sauce). Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat (medium to medium-high). Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts. Add the tomatoes, season with salt (to taste), pepper, Aleppo pepper and thyme, and stir to combine, then add the reserved pasta cooking water and stir. When the mixture boils, reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and continue simmering another minute or two until the pasta is chewy but cooked through.
3. Serve pasta in shallow bowls with grated pecorino-romano cheese.
Simple Roasted Tomatoes
3 lb. fresh tomatoes, stem end removed, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus olive oil spray
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Add the tomatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toss to combine. Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with olive oil. Spread the tomatoes in an even layer in the baking dish.
3. Bake the tomatoes until they have reduced significantly in size, look shrived and are starting to brown around the edges, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Stir every hour for the first couple hours, then more frequently, up to every 10 to 15 minutes when you hit the 3-hour mark, to prevent the tomatoes from burning.
4. When done, remove from the oven, allow to cool, then transfer to a container to store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.