pasta with creme fraiche, kale and mushrooms

Each year, we have what we’ve come to call the “pasta of the year”.  The pasta of the year is a pasta dish that we turn to for a reliably tasty and soul-satisfying dinner every other week or so. It quickly becomes part of our regular weeknight dinner repertoire, dominates for nearly a year, and then mysteriously fades away, only to be rediscovered occasionally by browsing our own blog archives. It’s a strange phenomenon, but we’ve come to accept it’s benevolent presence in our lives.


The pasta that started it all was a marinated tomato and ricotta pasta. You’d let some peak of summer tomatoes hang around with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon juice for 20 minutes or so. Then toss your pasta with an excess of ricotta cheese and top that with the marinated tomatoes. Heaven from June through September.

There was the pasta carbonara kick, which featured an incredibly poetic post from Jordan about his love for the dish. And then there was orzo topped with burrata cheese. My spicy soba noodle salad was certainly a contender in 2014.

And now, though the soba noodle salad is making an honorable attempt to defend the title in 2015, we have our new favorite pasta equation. Pasta + creme fraiche + sautéed shallot + wilted green, and it’s sister pasta, pasta + creme fraiche + shallot + al dente veg. Creme fraiche is a genius way to arrive at a solidly sauced pasta with nearly no effort, and we’ve already established that shallots are good on everything. Toss in whatever green or quick-cooking veggie (mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, favas, peas) you have around and you’ve got yourself a supremely delicious, decently well-balanced meal. If you happen to live at our house in the winter/spring of 2015, you have this pasta every 10 days.


Pasta with Creme Fraiche, Kale and Mushrooms
1 lb pasta
1 shallot, diced
2 cups (8 oz) cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups kale, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Dice your shallot and slice your kale and mushrooms. Throw your pasta into the pot of boiling water to cook.

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter, and sauté the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are nearly done, add the shallot and sauté just a few minutes more. Taste your mushrooms and season them with salt. Then add the kale. Turn the heat off and just let the kale wilt a bit.

Drain your pasta and add it back into the pot. Throw the mushroom mixture into the pasta pot, along with a generous dollop of creme fraiche. Stir to distribute the creme fraiche. Season with bit more salt and pepper, and serve. Feel free to embellish with parmesan cheese and herbs, though it isn’t necessary.




broiled mushrooms with mozzarella

Because my commute to and from the office is just over two miles, I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my favorites is the Spilled Milk Podcast by food writers Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton. Tasty recipes usually make an appearance, but  most importantly, plenty of bad jokes and giggling are guaranteed. I recommend you listen in.

This recipe is from a recent episode. I listened to it on my way home from work and had to immediately go to the store and get the necessary ingredients because it sounded so good. Cheesy, earthy and under 15 minutes to prepare, this dish is perfect for a weeknight (or a lazy night). We had it as a main course with plenty bread and a salad, but it would also be a solid appetizer.

Broiled Mushrooms with Mozzarella, from the Spilled Milk Podcast
2 cups cremini mushrooms
4 oz fresh mozzarella (You could also use regular mozzarella if you didn’t want to spring for fresh)
2 t fresh thyme
olive oil, salt and pepper

Slice the mushrooms thinly, about 1/4″ thick. Place them on a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil.

Tear the mozzarella into quarter-sized pieces and sprinkle over the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.

Broil 5 – 8 minutes, until the cheese is bubble and golden in spots. Serve with bread.



mushroom pasta handkerchiefs

Jordan and I have some really wonderful friends. Our friend Ralph, who occasionally walks Miss Willow and knows how much we love to cook, gave us one of those nifty hand-crank pasta makers! A friend of his was moving, her nearly-new pasta maker was unable to make the trip and Ralph set it aside for us. Isn’t that grand!

Mushroom Pasta Handkerchiefs, adapted from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

I noticed this recipe in the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook a few weeks ago and I added it to my list. I thought it would be a long while before I could make it (sadly, I am not a hardcore Italian grandmother who rolls her pasta with a sawed-off broom handle), but when fate brought a pasta maker into our lives, I knew it was meant to be. The pasta turned out beautifully. While it is not the easiest dish since you make the pasta from scratch, it is well worth the effort. The dish is balanced, showcases the few ingredients that make it up and is supremely comforting – everything you expect from an Alice Waters recipe.

For the egg pasta dough (makes 1 pound of pasta) 
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 T olive oil
1 T water

Mix the flour and salt together.  In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, olive oil and water. On a work surface, pour out the flour mixture and make a well in the center. Pour the eggs into the well. With a fork, stir the eggs in a circular motion slowly bringing more flour into the eggs.

Once the flour has soaked up the eggs and it is not in danger of running all over or when you accidentally break through the well and egg is rushing towards the edge of your counter, use a bench scraper to mix the flour and eggs together. It will be crumbly. Knead the dough into a ball using a squeezing motion. Once it has combined, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Divide the dough into two balls. Dust one with flour and roll it out into a flat pancake. Open your pasta maker to the largest setting and pass the dough through. Double the dough on itself and pass it though again. Continue to pass the dough through at the largest setting, until it is smooth. Cut the kneaded dough into several smaller pieces. Wrap the pieces you aren’t currently stretching with plastic wrap.

Gradually stretch the dough, passing it though progressively thinner settings. You want pieces that are about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long- you’ll cut these into 4 inch by 4 inch squares. Don’t worry if your dough is not uniform in width or length – this is a rustic pasta dish! When it has reached your desired thickness, put it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Take care to put parchment paper in between the layers of the dough, it will stick to itself like crazy. Continue this method with the rest of dough. You’ll get a decent arm workout and feel quite accomplished. After you’ve rolled out all of the dough, cut the dough into 4 inch squares and put a pot of salted water on to boil.

For the pasta (serves 4, we doubled this recipe to serve 6 as a main course)
1/2 lb mixed mushrooms (we used creminis, shitakes and morels)
4 T butter
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced fine
1/2 t thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced fine
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb pasta dough
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
a few handfuls of arrugula
lemon juice
olive oil

Clean the mushrooms of their grit. Cut them into quarters. Dice the onion, thyme and garlic. In a saute pan, melt 1 T butter. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until lightly browned. The mushrooms will lose a lot of their liquid; you should wait for this to evaporate before setting them aside. Set the mushrooms aside. Melt another tablespoon of butter and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add the mushrooms, creme fraiche and chicken stock. Turn the heat to high and reduce until it is a thick saucy consistency.  Check for seasoning, turn of the heat, and set the filling aside.

Preheat an oven to 500 degrees. Butter a large baking dish. In the pot of boiling water, cook the pasta sheets several at a time for about 3 minutes each.  Put the pasta sheets side by side in the baking dish. Spoon a few tablespoons of the mushroom mixture into the center of each pasta sheet and fold the corners up around the filling. Alice makes this step seem really simple, but it is a bit trickier than she makes it out to be. The pasta will flop all over the place and doesn’t really stick to itself like you’d hope. Just try your best to seal the little pasta pouches – they will taste amazing regardless of how they look.

Cover the entire dish with the grated parmesan cheese. Put in the oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the parmesan is melted and browned. Meanwhile, toss the arrugula with lemon juice and olive oil.  Using a spatula, place several pasta pouches on each plate and tuck the dressed arrugula around the pasta. Enjoy and bask the fruits of your hard work!



julia child’s garlic soup and eggs coquette

I busted out Mastering the Art of French Cooking the other night. I was in the mood to cook something classic, yet more ambitious than usual. I chose two different recipes – one for garlic soup and another for poached-style eggs. I had all my ingredients, I was excited about the recipes, I felt good. And … it all went downhill from there.

A brief outline of the snowballing disasters:

The garlic soup is basically garlic, boiled, crushed and then infused into water. You turn this garlic water into a soup by adding an emulsion of eggs and olive oil. Got that far without issue. I was even proud of my very viscous emulsion. I carefully mixed the hot garlic water with the egg mixture as to not burn the eggs … another successful step. I tasted. It needed acid. I added a squeeze of lemon juice … and watched as my soup went from beautifully emulsified to curdled in seconds. Strike one.

I then decided to tackle the eggs. The idea was to bake eggs in ramekins with a little cream and butter and then top them with fresh chives and sauteed mushrooms. Delicious. Sadly, I failed to read the bit in recipe about starting the eggs on the stove to thicken the cream. Frustrated, I just tossed them in the oven in a water bath. After a few minutes they didn’t seem to be cooking at all. Strike two.

Jordan suggested we put the eggs under the broiler in an attempt to rescue dinner. It was tricky to move a small, too-full pan of water with ramekins sliding around into our drawer style broiler, but we did it. After a few minutes, we opened the broiler drawer to check on the eggs and the pan came sliding out, spilling an eggy, creamy, watery mess all over the kitchen floor. Of course, this commotion prompted Willow to come racing over to investigate. To sum things up, in our tiny galley kitchen we had myself, Jordan, a nosy dog, an open broiler door, a large eggy spill, and a pot of curdled soup. Strike three.

Amazingly, I tried to save dinner yet again by plating this disaster and serving to Jordan and myself.

We had green beans and sautéed mushrooms for dinner. I do love green beans.