Blue Cheese Marinara Penne

Resuming my presentation of my culinary and gastronomic genius, I present this dish which I am certain commits several cardinal sins in Pasta land.  I certainly find it to be a sinful dish purely from a delight perspective.  It’s quite a hearty dish too.

This is not a hard dish as opposed to one requiring some effort and certainly organization.  I’d rate this as a dish of intermediate difficulty.

The reason I decided to treat myself to this dish is because I am crazy about cheese in general, nuts about blue cheese in particular and because I had a fantastic meeting today with Red Hat on behalf of one of my clients that I consult for.  Very worthy of the dish :)

Ingredients:

See? I used real Blue Cheese

  • 1 large onion
  • 9 cloves of garlic (yep, nine)
  • 1 wedge of blue cheese (200g)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin for this sacrifice please)
  • 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 packet of Penne (mine are 500g and colored)
  • Basil leaves (about 3 stalks worth, fresh please)
  • 2 cartons of tomato puree/paste (125g each)
  • 1/2 kg of lean ground(minced) beef
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

I also used the following optional ingredients.
  • a small knob of butter that I would guess was about 1/2 a tablespoonful
  • 1 tablespoonful of peppercorns (unground black pepper)
I like spicy food, quite a bit. So the pepper corns were there for me because it adds that extra zing.  As you crack one between your teeth, this nice warmth comes forth… mmmm…..

Preparation:

I’ve divided the preparation into three different parts. Keep in mind that you more or less have to do all three in tandem; it’s just much easier to organize them like this.

Meat:

Obviously, the beef out to be thawed out if it were in the freezer.  My butcher is literally up the road so I more often get my meats as fresh as possible.

See? Parallel to the original cut

First, we need to dice the onion, preferably as fine as is reasonable; we don’t want onion juice.  Now I picked a rather large onion, so to dice it reasonably fine I first cut the onion itself in half and then before slicing away at that half, I cut in half again but parallel to the original cut like in the picture.

This is what I meant by vertical cuts! To dice, just cut them perpendicularly now

After that, you have to maintain a reasonably strong grip on both the knife and the onion when you start making your vertical cuts and when you dice them perpendicularly.  I am ever so thankful for pictures as they can describe what I want to say perfectly.

Heat the pan, I would suggest a non-stick pan if you have one, and then throw in the knob of butter (if you opted to use it of course!) then as soon as that is half melted, pour in the olive oil and turn down the heat to the lowest.  Don’t wait on the mix to smoke, just as soon as there is a hint of a shimmer throw the onion in; of course, by throw I mean pour in gently as opposed to hurling say a live grenade or a cobra.  This is oil/butter we are talking about.  Salt liberally atop to help draw out the moisture in the onion and sweat them.

(I usually start the sauce at this point because the onions need some time, but hey, its you that’s cooking)

Make a paste out of 3 of the cloves and mix that with the now reduced onions; the other 6 (or more if you want), peel but keep whole;  This acts as a slow release of the essential oils in the garlic but keeps the sting of the sulfur away, also it steams the flesh of the clove and makes for a very nice and tender bite, totally unlike biting into a piece of garlic.  If some of the onion dices are turning gold/brown, that’s OK, that’s almost bound to happen if you’re rushing about.  Once the garlic paste has been cooked into the dish, meaning that you can smell it but you cannot see it and its been thoroughly mixed in, turn the heat up high and add the ground beef.  As soon as you can start smelling the ground beef cook as you are mixing it with the onion/garlic mix, throw in the rest of the garlic cloves.  Mix thoroughly and add some salt and I’d say about 2 teaspoons of black pepper, this totally brings out the flavor of the meat. You don’t need to add salt, between the garlic and the blue cheese, there’s enough salt in this dish.  If later you feel that its undersalted, salting it is an easy thing to do.

At this point, turn the heat as low as possible and cover the pan and let the meat cook through properly.  If the meat is done before the sauce, turn off the heat and let it lie in the pan.  You also want the garlic to be properly cooked and that’s when its yellowed out a bit and soft to the touch of a ladle or a spoon.

Sauce:

This is an easy sauce but use a pot because you will be pouring everything (meat and pasta) here when its all done.

Heat about 300ml of water (nearly 1/2 a pint) and as soon as it starts to simmer, pour in the tomato paste.  Stir that in to help it out.  After about 3 minutes on medium-high heat, you can now add in the lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.  If you choose to use peppercorns, now is the time to dump them in.  Now for the blue cheese.  Don’t use one of the really good – expensive – blue cheeses; I used a Danish Blue cheese that cost me 1 JOD (Jordanian Dinar) which is about $1.4  (US) and Jordan is an expensive nation when it comes to groceries.  Cheap but good.

That's half the packet, I added them in two batches just to make my life easier.

Sauce, nearly ready

Mush the 200g of blue cheese -less a tiny bit for the chef of course, for quality assurance purposes :-D – and pour that into the pot with the paste and whisk until the cheese has completely melted into the tomato “soup”.  Let that simmer and reduce, occasionally stirring or whisking to make sure that there are no lumps or that anything sticks.  Taste it from time to time to make sure that there is no need for salt or pepper.

You will feel a nice zing on your tongue, between the acidity of the lemon and the vinegar and the nasal after taste of the blue cheese. Yum!!!  The sauce is ready when its reduced enough not to simmer but heaves.  If you look at the picture, you can see the rings that show how far it has reduced.  I took that picture about 2 minutes before I decided that the sauce was ready.

Once the meat and the sauce are done, pour the contents of the pot/pan where you cooked the meat straight into the sauce and then mix well.  Now the sauce is truly complete.

Pasta:

This is possibly the easiest part.  Boil water, once it bubbles vigorously, add a healthy pinch of salt and a dollop of olive oil. Once the water bubbles starts to bubble again, tip the contents of the packet (500g of colored penne in my case) into the pot. Be VERY careful, this is hot water and you don’t want to be scalded.  You’d hate me and stop following my recipes, which is not what we want, is it? No, I didn’t think so. So now, we tip the contents in slowly. Good.

Read the packet, it should tell you how long you should boil the pasta. Mine needed about 10 minutes.

Once the pasta is done, take out, place in a colander and let it drain. Do not wash in water, hot or cold, because that will wash away all that starchy goodness.  Once the pasta has cooled and dried enough, pour it into the sauce pot (where by now the sauce and meat should be ready and mixed together).  This is a general rule you should follow with pastas, pasta into sauce, not the other way around.  Mix well.

Now we are almost ready…

Presentation:

Once the pasta has been mixed into the sauce, you can pour it into you bowl.  Now, to garnish, we’re going with fresh basil leaves.  I picked off the leaves of varying sizes from 3 stalks, about 15 leaves in total, half of which were your typical broad basil leaf.

Pile them, roll them up and sliced diagonally then one big swipe across the horizontal axis.

 

 

 

 

 

Basil chopped, sprinkle over the bowl and serve. As you can see, I added some more of the smaller leaves basil leaves.

Parmesan does really well, especially for a fromagophile like myself :)

Salam and Sahtein

 

 

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Faux Mushroom Lemon Spaghetti

OK, yes, its been a while, my apologies, I had this thing called work and then I was traveling for near 50 days. So yeah.

Anyhow, to make up for all of that, I’m giving you this brilliant dish :)

Ingredients:

ingredients

  • 1 large white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 3 table spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (capitalized out of respect)
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed, dry mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 bay leaves (dried are OK)
  • 125 ml of thick cream
  • 1 bag of spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of salt and later salt & pepper to taste
  • a bag of powdered mushroom soup (the faux part)
  • 3/4 pint of water

(again, I have a knack of forgetting to picture everything, so just use the picture as a guideline)

Preparation: 


I find the easiest way to start in preparing this dish is to chop the onion first.  Do so.  Trust me, you’ll thank me later.  Chop them in a rough manner, but not so rough that you’d skewer them.  The picture should be a decent guide.

Now we need to “sweat” the onions. Not such nice nomenclature, but hey, that’s the proper technical term for it. Basically, we need to get rid of some of the water in the onion.  So, out we get the pot, something with space in it, throw in the butter (I chop it into smaller cubes to make it melt faster :)) and then when the butter is half melted I pour in the olive oil.  You don’t want the pot to be on too hot a flame because 1. you’ll burn the butter and that will give you a bitter nutty taste and 2. you’ll burn the olive oil and lose all its goodness and taste.  You’ve been warned.  You’ll want to sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon’s worth over the onions to draw out the moisture.  Beware of splashes, this is oil (and butter) we’re talking about.

Whilst the onion is on the hob, you should now put the spaghetti on the boil; don’t forget to add a generous pinch of salt to the water (after it starts to bubble) and a dash of olive oil.

Now with two pots on the stove, you get to bash the garlic like its the kid that bullied you in elementary school.  I personally have mad love for garlic but proper distaste for biting into a piece of garlic, so I take it to the mortar, pour some salt (for the abrasion and it brings out the taste) and then pound it into a paste.

Sweating the onions
Once the diced onion is just starting to turn translucent, you pour the the garlic paste into the mix and give it a stir.  The kitchen should be smelling like heaven by now.

Now, its time for the sauce.  Pot on the stove (yes, a 3rd one, a deep pan will do if you don’t have yet another pot in your arsenal), still empty, medium heat, pour the water and then quick as you can, tip the contents of the powdered soup as you whisk.  You do not want clumps, so whisk away my friend.  Once the soup powder is dissolved, add the mustard powder, the lemon juice, the dried and crushed mint.  Whisk again until well incorporated. Now you have to watch it carefully. This mix will burn easily and because there’s NOT ENOUGH water, it will not bubble; it’ll heave.  So keep an eye out but keep whisking.  Once the mixture is warm enough, add the cream and the milk and whisk again.  It will reduce a bit and when it reaches a thick-ish consistency, where its thick to the eye and when dropped off from the spoon it falls off in blobs, then you turn off the heat. Sauce

Pour the sauce into the pan and whisk again. You want to make sure that it all mixes in.  If you find that the sauce is thickening up before the pasta is ready you can add a dollop or more of milk, so long as you whisk again (you’re really hating this word by now, aren’t you?)

Pasta done? Great! Drain the pasta of all the fluid and then pour it into the sauce (that’s why we poured the sauce into the pot with the onions).  Tongs would be great here to give the whole thing a stir, but a wooden spoon would be just as good.

You’re ready now.

Enjoy :)

Sahtein and Salam!

 

Extra note:

Let’s assume that you had some left over, just for argument’s sake. And let’s assume that you had the will power to stop yourself from eating what’s left straight ought of the fridge and you’d much rather have it nice and warm and full of glory, then I would suggest you add a dollop of milk (skimmed is fine) and mix before warming it up in stages (pot or microwave).  At the end of every stage (about 30 seconds in the microwave at high), take it out, give it a mix, if necessary add some more milk and warm up again. After an aggregate of about 2 minutes (according to my math on my microwave) its ready and fit for consumption again.

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Ful Mdammas [Mashed Beans]

This my friends, is a gorgeous dish, a gastronomical work of art. No, not to look at, but the taste? Like the used to death New York Italian expression, “foggetaboudit!”.  This is something else.

Quick school lesson.

Ful (also commonly transliterated as “fool”), is the transliteration of the Arabic word for Fava Beans, also known as Broad beans.  Wikipedia also claims that this dish has roots going back all the way to Pharaonic Egypt. The recipe I provide here is the one consumed in the Levantine which I find more suited to my taste. There are several spins on this great dish and they are ALL brilliant, in my humble opinion of course.

The ingredients


  • 1 can of Fava beans
  • 1 can of Chick peas
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 50 grams of “more than roughly” chopped Cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • Olive oil to be available for when its time to eat
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

(some items are not shown in the picture)

Preparation

Prepare the chopped Cilantro first. In colloquial Arabic, the bunch is referred to as a “bouquet”. Grab one third of the bouquet, stalks and all, wash it, then chop it more than roughly but you don’t have to go all out with your ninja skillz on it. Three or four quick passes with the knife after the initial chop should be fine. Now, plate the cilantro for when you need it later on.

Open the cans and drain them of the water. I use cans when in a hurry but usually I use the dried packed variety and just soak them overnight.

Heat a pot on a medium heat and as it is warming up (we’re talking 1 minute here), pour the 1/3 cup of water and give it 30 seconds or so to warm up. Dump all of the Fava beans and about 2/3 of the chick peas, keeping the remaining for later.

While that is heating up, take the opportunity to pound those cloves of Garlic. In theory, you can chop the Garlic, but I find that grinding it into paste is much more pleasing to the palate. Besides, as much as I love Garlic, its unpleasant to suddenly chomp into one.  Feel free to add more Garlic if your tastes so take you :)

In a mortar, throw in the cloves with 1 tablespoon of salt then pound it with a pestle until it is nice and paste like. The salt really helps in this by acting as an abrasive and it also makes the oils in the Garlic more pungent and savory.

Having said that, you really don’t want to air the Garlic for long, so, into the pot with it along with the now simmering beans. See?

Add the Lemon juice into the mix and with the same pestle that you used to righteously pasted those cloves of Garlic, begin the process of righteously mashing the beans in the pot. Shouldn’t take you more than a minute. The carbohydrates will soak up the water but you don’t want it to become too dry. The mix in the pot should to the eye have a the look of the consistency of porridge  but when the pot tilts it should move around a bit more thickly than porridge. If you feel you have to add a wee bit more of water, that’s OK, you just want to wait a minute so that everything is warmed up again.

Almost done! :-D

Cilantro. The remaining 1/3 of the Chick peas [Thank you Manfred Bihy for pointing out that I forgot to mention what happened to them!]. Quick mix until the Cilantro is incorporated. Taste to make sure that you don’t need to add any more salt or lemon juice.

All done?

Brilliant!  Spoon into a deep bowl then cover with Olive oil. Seriously, you need several tablespoons worth, 3 at least. My dad considers this dish as an excuse to consume Olive oil in quantity. Extra Virgin Olive Oil please.

Sliced Tomatoes and Olives as side dishes, rich sweet tea is the drink that must accompany this dish. This is the best weekend breakfast you can have.  Oh, and you should eat this with pita bread, ripping the bread into triangular shapes, folding them into pockets and scooping all that awesome flavor into your mouth.

Sahtein :)

Salam

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First post!

Wow, finally, I get to blog about one of my most favored subjects… wait for it… wait for it… waaaaiiiiit…. FOOD!

:-D

Oh man, I so promise to write diligently and I promise to post only the most edible of foods and potable of drinks.

 

I want to thank everyone on the CodeProject for helping suggest a name for this blog and I’d like to thank Bassam Abdulbaki and Himanshu Joshi for suggesting the two names that were the hardest to choose from.

Rama, there will be a special post for you soon :)

 

I’ll focus on food from all over the world and I’m certain that you will love it.

 

Salam

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