Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pasta with Garbanzo Beans, Chorizo, and Bread Crumbs

Mark Bittman's blog at NY Times, Bitten, has become one of my go-to places for weeknight dinner ideas. Although I love to cook, I haven't had much time to explore the kitchen lately. I am tackling data analysis for my Master's thesis; I think I have made 100+ graphs in the last 2 days.
But, overworked or not, I still love to cook. This article came across my feed reader yesterday describing a recipe for pasta with garbanzo beans, chorizo, and bread crumbs. It sounded great and Antonia was on board, so tonight I made it.

Pasta with Garbanzo Beans, Chorizo, and Bread Crumbs
by Mark Bittman

salt and pepper
olive oil
1/4 lb cooked chorizo sausage (I used two fresh sausages from Nugget Market)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (hooray for the food processor)
4 cups cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans with their liquid (I used two cans, one drained, one not drained)
1/2 lb cut pasta (I used 1 lb. large shells)
chopped parsley (None in the fridge, I used dried parsley)

Since I started with fresh, uncooked sausage, I had to cook the sausage first. I did this on a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the sausages were cooked, I set them aside. In the same skillet, I added 1 tbsp olive oil and added the garlic. I gave it a 1-2 minute hot oil bath and just as it started to change color from yellow to gold, I added the bread crumbs.

The pan was turned down to medium-low and the crumbs were stirred until they turned a deep deep gold, almost brown proper. I didn't let them burn, but they were teetering on the edge. I find the best cooking-derived flavor (as opposed to ingredient-derived flavor) comes when the food is balanced on the edge of browning and .... more than browning. Once the bread crumbs were done, I put them aside.
Sausage and bread crumbs

After letting the sausage cool a bit, I cut it up and gave it another run in the pan, just to make sure the insides were cooked.

Cooking is very relaxing for me, despite what people who have been around me when I cook will say. The serenity of cooking is furthered by some music (I listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde) and a glass of wine. I am down to my last few bottles of Rd 29, so this was a treat to myself.

Road 29, almost the end

Next, the pasta water is boiled and salted, and the pasta goes in.

Pasta in the pot

While the pasta is boiling, the garbanzo beans went into a large skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil. One of the cans of beans was drained, the other was not. While they simmered with the olive oil, they received a dusting of salt, pepper, and dried parsley.

Simmer beans

When the pasta is maybe 2 or 3 minutes from being ready, drain it out of the water and add it to the garbanzo beans to finish cooking with the sauce. This will let the flavors of the sauce soak into the pasta, as well as have the starch from the pasta thicken the sauce.

Mix pasta with garbanzo beans

After the pasta is cooked through (sample prodigiously while cooking; it is bar-none the best perk of spending time in the kitchen) add the chorizo and toss (carefully).

Add Sausage

Tossing the pasta

It's done! Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and eat.

Thank you, Mr. Bittman.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Day of Bread

A Day of Bread
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
Noble Pig asked me, in the comments on one of my previous posts, where's the bread?

Here it is, Mrs. Pig. Three loaves of Rustic Bread, and a big stack of naan. The bread had a wonderfully dark crust that almost took on a caramelized sweetness. It also had a nice crunchy crust with a soft, stretchy crumb. I had quite of bit of leftover biga pre-ferment, so while the bread was proofing and baking, I mixed the biga with water and flour to make an ersatz naan dough. It wasn't traditional, but it did the job.

We had bread for a week from this bake-a-thon - I even sent out a mass email to a student group offering a loaf of bread to the first person who could get to our house to pick it up; there was no way Antonia and I could eat three loaves of bread before they went stale. A loaf of the bread when to a good home within the hour.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Wines, Week 1

Old Cork
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
This quarter, I am one of the teaching assistants for VEN 125L - Sensory Evaluation of Wines. During the labs, students are introduced to sensory techniques for wine evaluation - difference testing, reference standards, etc. At the end of each lab, the students are given 6 wines to try - these wines are termed savor wines (savor wines from last year).

Week 1 were oxidized white wines. All of the wines were old, but each had a different "old wine" character. Some where outright spoiled, while others had hints of life left in them. All of the wines were tasted blind.

Week 1 - Unintentionally oxidized white wines

1986 Wente Napa Valley Fumé blanc - ethyl acetate, acetaldehyde.

1988 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay, Beckstoffer Ranch - chalk, acetaldehyde

1990 Jordan Alexander Valley Chardonnay (375mL) - honey, Lyle's Golden Syrup

1991 Alderbrook Dry Creek Semillon - plastic, grapey, phenol, floral

1992 Van Der Heyden Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay - acetaldehyde, lemon, soy, brothy/meaty, ashy, boiled mushrooms

1996 Louis Martini Napa Valley Sauvignon blanc - green tea/olive oil, fruity flavors

My favorites were the Jordan (in splits!) and the Alderbrook Semillon. I was pleasantly surprised that some of these wines still had something left - I wouldn't call what was left "life", but there is a spark of something. Other wines, like the Wente and Stag's Leap, were just plain dead.

I look forward to next week's tasting, though I'm not sure what it is.