Monday, February 06, 2006

Spaghetti-like dinner / cena spaghettosa

After posting on this blog about the spaghetti squash, I decided I really wanted to cook something with it again. So, I decided I would prepare a 'cena spaghettosa', that is, a dinner with a lot of different types of spaghetti. Obviously, I invented the recipes, and I decided it would be a completely vegetarian dinner, since one of my expected guests was vegetarian.

This was the menu:

Appetizer: Refreshing spaghetti squash salad/insalata rinfrescante di zucca-spaghetti

Entree: Combination of whole-weat spaghetti with gorgonzola cheese and pecans, egg noodles with vegetarian ragu and rice noodles with kale, white radish, anchovies and yogurt / tris di spaghetti integrali con gorgo e noci pecans, tagliatelle con ragu vegetariano e spaghettini di riso con cavolo cappuccio, rafano, acciughe e yogurt.

Dessert: Soy noodles with ice-cream/spaghetti di soia con gelato

And here are some more pictures, the recipes and some comments.

Insalata rinfrescante di zucca-spaghetti

Bake the spaghetti squash in the oven at 400F for about 40 minutes. Cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a fork:

Isn't this squash amazing? The pulp really comes out in little strings, and in the end, you get a bowl full of something that really looks like spaghetti:

(This is what I obtained with three spaghetti squash of the size that you can see in the picture).
Let the pulp cool down and begin to add the rest of the ingredients that your fantasy suggests. In this case, I decided I would add some grated carrots, sliced white mushrooms, green olives cut in a half, finely cut cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and.. the final secret touch: orange juice, freshly squeezed. In the end, I also added small pieces of another orange.
Mix everything together, and spoon back inside the squash halves. Garnish with olives and cilantro.
Believe me, it was delicious. I was very happy. In fact, the squash by itself has a very delicate, slightly bitter taste, and in this combination it was wonderful.

Spaghetti integrali con gorgo e noci pecans

This is the recipe that most resembles some sort of Italian-style dish. In Italy, the combination of nuts with gorgonzola cheese is very common. We don't use pecans, though, since we don't have them. Walnuts are used instead.

Per gli Italiani che non conoscono le pecans: sono delle noci un po' piu' piccole di quelle che noi chiamiamo 'noci', hanno un guscio striato, e sono molto saporite, con un gusto simile alle nostre noci, ma piu' deciso. Sono tipiche del sud degli States, e parte integrante della loro tradizione culinaria, soprattutto in dolci tipo il 'pecan pie' che si mangia a Natale e a Thanksgiving. Ho trovato un sito di fondamentalisti vegetariani :) che fa vedere una foto e da' tutto il contenuto nutrizionale delle pecans... impressionante. :)

To prepare the sauce, warm in a pan a packet of heavy cream (find a packet without sugar!!)- actually, the best would be what I used: 'panna da cucina', it's the Italian version of it, it's less fatty and has a more delicate taste. I found it in an Italian store here in Raleigh.
Then, add some gorgonzola cheese. I prefer the sweet type, but I guess you could use the stronger type that you find in crumbs here in some grocery stores. Let it melt, then add the walnuts that you will have crushed beforehand. Keep the sauce warm.
In the meanwhile, boil the spaghetti in some salted water (NB: Americans don't always know that you need to add salt in the water where you boil the pasta! The best is to use kasher salt, and you will need about one-two tablespoons for quart of water, more or less. Taste the spaghetti while they cook, they must be tasty, otherwise add more salt!)
Whole weat spaghetti take a bit longer than normal ones, but remove them when they're still al dente, and mix them up with the sauce. Decide how many spaghetti vs. sauce you want depending on how 'saucy' you want them :).

Tagliatelle con ragu vegetariano

This 'vegetarian ragu' is made with seitan instead of ground beef and pork, like you should use if you want to make a real ragu. Nevertheless, I cooked it for quite a long time, like you're supposed to do with a real ragu.. this made the seitan absorb the tomato juice, and gave a nice taste and texture to the sauce. The result is obviously different from a real ragu, it's much lighter, but quite good with the tagliatelle.
To make the sauce, saute one onion in some extra-virgin olive oil, then add two cans of diced tomates, salt, red pepper and 8 oz of seitan cut into pieces, with some of its juice. Cover and let boil for one hour. Taste from time to time to check salt and pepper. In the meanwhile, boil a pound of tagliatelle (egg noodles), again in salted water, and when they're al dente, drain the water and mix them with the sauce.

Spaghettini di riso con cavolo cappuccio, rafano, aggiughe e yogurt

I used the rice noodles like I learnt when I made the Pad-Thai noodles for the Thai dinner, but I changed all the ingredients added to the noodles. In particular, I decided I wanted to use some of the funny vegetables that I didn't know at the Farmers' market: kale and white radish. I found a very nice description of what kale and collards are with a picture of the same variety of kale leaves that I used. It looks like these types of cabbages are 'primitive plants'! :)
The white radish that I used, instead, seems to be the same thing that in Italian is called 'rafano'. Still, to me, rafano tastes more strongly than this radish, which is also know as chinese radish.

Soak the rice noodles (one pound) in cold water while you prepare the vegetables. Saute one onion in extra-virgin olive oil, and add a bunch of kale (probably about one pound?) cut in small pieces. Cover with a lid and let the kale lose some water and decrease in volume. Cut half of the radish and add the pieces to the kale. Add some yogurt to moisturize and give a slightly bitter taste. Add a few pieces of anchovies (a total of four anchovies). If you add such a little amount, you will just give a nice flavor to the whole dish, without actually tasting the anchovies. Cook for a few minutes until the anchovies are melted. Then, add the rice noodles, after draining the water. Saute altogether. Try to stir altogether. This is the hardest part, since the rice noodles are really tangled!
Cover with a lid and let cook for about 10-15 min.

Spaghetti di soia con gelato

This idea came to my mind as a memory of my childhood, when in some cafes I saw some spaghetti gelato type of ice-cream (and that I never tried, for some reason :) ). The real recipe is made with vanilla gelato, which is passed through some instrument that has holes, so that you create some 'spaghetti' made with ice-cream. Then, you put some strawberry jam on top of them, to resemble tomato sauce, and in the end, a leaflet of mint, to resemble basil.
Since I didn't have a good instrument to make the ice-cream spaghetti, I decided to use some soy noodles instead. (Also because I wanted to use all types of spaghetti that I could find in the pasta department of the grocery store :) ).

I sauted the soy noodles in a pan with some maple syrup. I let them cool down, then I adjusted them on top of some ice-cream spooned in a bowl and I put the bowls in the freezer. When we were ready for dessert, I heated a sauce made with strauberry jelly and a little water in the microwave for a few seconds, and then I poured it warm on top of the spaghetti and ice-cream. To decorate, I added the mint leaf.
It was a nice ending to the dinner, and the taste was good.. It was a bit difficult to eat, though, since it was hard to pick up the spaghetti and the ice-cream with the same tool :)

Anyway, it was a really nice dinner. Everyone was happy, and we had some entertaining conversations on various subjects, a lot of them concerning aspects of the different cultures represented by the people who were at the dinner: Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American. I really loved it.


Mr Duffy said...

mi hai fatto venire fame, vado a prepararmi la mia pasta con broccoli e aggiughe :-))

chemcookit said...

Eheh :) Pasta broccoli e acciughe e' anche una delle nostre preferite :)