Friday, March 28, 2008

A weekend of food and Rigatoni with Spinach and Green Beans

I am now technically 5/6 done with grad school. I say technically, because I will be finished with grad school when my thesis is finished, not when classes are over. Nonetheless, it feels like school is winding down.

This last quarter, Winter Quarter 2008, was quite busy. I was TAing for Wine Stability with Dr. Boulton while at the same time carrying out the sensory portion of my thesis research. I spent hours on end holding wine glasses up to blindfolded students' noses. I am glad that data collection is almost complete.

March 24-28, 2008 is when Spring "Break" was scheduled for this year. "Break" is in quotation marks because there really was no break in the traditional sense for me. I was in the lab every day working on my thesis. I have been working on the Methods and Literature Review sections. I think I made some good progress in the quite of the Break-time lab.

A second, tastier consequence of "Break" is that it once again gives me time to do some cooking.

Last night for dinner, I made the pasta pictured above (recipe to follow). This morning, after I began my one day stint as a dogsitter, I started to work on bread. Oh break, I have missed you so. There really is nothing like kneading dough. It is therapeutic in a way very few other activities are. I have been making bread out of Curst and Crumb by Peter Reinhart. I recommend anyone who wants to get into bread baking pick up this book or one of Mr. Reinhart's other books.

Tomorrow, I am going to pick up some ground beef from Mr. Bledsoe at the Davis Farmers Market and will make some kreplach. I may not
fry them as per the NYT recipe, but who knows.

Any any event, it has been nice to be able to cook and blog again; hopefully it won't be so long until I do it again.

Rigatoni with Spinach and Green Beans

1 lb dried rigatoni
2 tbs olive oil
1 big handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 big handful of frozen spinach
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
garlic powder (I'm out of garlic - who knew that could happen?!?!)
dried thyme
dried fennel
cayenne pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
2 big tablespoons of hummus

Start pot of water boiling. In the mean time, heat up a large skillet or pot with olive oil on medium high. When the oil is very hot and moves about the pan with little resistance, add in the onions and green beans. Turn down heat to medium and let soften.

When the water comes to a boil add a big pinch of salt (big!), add the pasta.

After about 6-8 minutes, add in the spinach and the spices. When the spinach has unfrozen and incorporated, add the hummus. This gives the sauce body without adding cream or butter. Once that cooks for a minute or two, add in the diced tomatoes. Let these cook for a few minutes. If the pasta is already in the water, add about a cup of the pasta water to the sauce. The starch in the pasta water will help to firm up the sauce. If the pasta is not in yet, don't worry; just add the water.

Keep the sauce simmering over medium-low, allowing it to reduce and concentrate. Add back a little bit of pasta water if the sauce gets to thick. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is just about finished (maybe 1 minute before you would normally take it off), add it into the sauce and let them cook together. This will allow some of the sauce flavor to infuse into to pasta.

I finished the sauce with a little bit of Pecorino cheese. It was a very fulfilling meal which I am about to go eat for lunch.