When I was little, my mom would sometimes make me “Buttered Spaghetti,” which was exactly what is sounds like. It was such a Plain Jane meal, probably only made when there was no food in the house, but I loved it. The woman didn’t call me Noodle for nothing!
Now, 26 years old and still a pasta lover, I’m happy to report that there is a grown up version of the dish called Cacio e Pepe. The fancy Italian name literally means cheese and pepper, which are the two additional ingredients. Take my childhood favorite and mix in some Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper, and there you have it.
Interestingly, it took enjoying Cacio e Pepe at two different restaurants and then some for me to make that connection. The first time I had it was at Franny’s, my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn. Our waiter billed it as a grown up mac and cheese and I was delighted by how simple but delicious the dish was. More recently, I ordered Cacio e Pepe at Eataly‘s pasta restaurant. I marveled at the perfect al dente spaghetti and the subtle kick that came from the coarse black pepper. But it wasn’t until I was faced with an empty fridge and pantry one night, that I thought to whip up the dish myself. And as I mixed up the ingredients, the heavenly aroma of butter and pasta reminded me of my mom in the kitchen, preparing buttered spaghetti for an excited little girl.
Here is the recipe I used, adapted from Chow.com:
- 1/2 lb dried spaghetti
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (freshly grated is ideal, but I made use of the of ground stuff I had in the fridge, from Bklyn Larder)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.
- Return pasta and cooking water to the pot and place over low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheese and butter have melted and formed a creamy sauce, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, and serve with additional cheese.
In late October I made a big batch of Butternut Squash Bisque
, but otherwise I have been dreadfully neglecting this favorite fall ingredient of mine. Last weekend I finally picked up another one at the Greenmarket and decided it would go in some pasta this week. Usually, I roast the cubed squash and toss with pasta, garlic, and olive oil for a quick but delicious fall dinner. But as is the often the case these days, I felt like trying something different. A quick Google session led me to this recipe on MarthaStewart.com, for Butternut Squash Sauce
I had most of the ingredients on hand:
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage I used fresh rosemary here, and more of it!
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 5 cloves garlic, peel on
- 1 cup half-and-half
- Pasta (such as cheese ravioli or any short pasta), for serving – I used whole wheat spaghetti.
- Toppings, such as grated parmesan cheese, chopped toasted walnuts, finely chopped fresh sage
I followed the steps on MarthaStewart.com
. As with any butternut squash dish I’ve ever made, most of the time and effort went into peeling, scooping, and cutting the squash itself. The rest was a breeze and well worth the end result – a thick, creamy orange sauce full of butternut squash, garlic, and rosemary flavor. It went well with the whole wheat spaghetti, topped with a sprinkling (or two) of romano cheese from Bklyn Larder
. I’d like to make this sauce again sometime and serve over fresh pasta, maybe trying it with sage as the original recipe calls for.
Now, I’ve also been neglecting another necessary November ingredient – the pumpkin. So tomorrow I plan on making a pie with the “long pie pumpkin” I scored at the Greenmarket last weekend. If all goes well, I will be bringing it to a sort of “Friendsgiving” dinner in Harlem. Fingers crossed – I’ve only used the canned stuff before.
Some say that today, November 8th, is National Cappuccino Day. Since I am still getting acquainted with my new espresso maker, it seemed appropriate that I participate. After making some messy lattes on Saturday, it was evident that I was a bit rusty when it came to espresso machines. So why not pay homage to the cappuccino, one of my favorite espresso based drinks, while honing my Cuisinart skills?
With utter disregard for the time of night*, I pulled my espresso shots, steamed some milk, and set out to create a layered cappuccino. This was a trick I learned during one of my summer jobs preparing desserts and coffee at a Long Island restaurant. It makes for a nice presentation if you have clear coffee mugs or cappuccino glasses on hand.
The trick is simple. Pour your steamed milk and foam into the glass and let it settle. Then place a spoon in the glass and pour the espresso in very slowly down the backside of the spoon. If you do it slowly, it’ll create a beautiful layer of espresso in between the milk and the foam. If you do it too quickly, the espresso will mix in with the milk. It’ll taste fine of course, but you won’t get as many oohs and ahhs. And those are nice.
*It was nearing 11pm. However, as pointed out in the recent Village Voice blog entitled 50 reasons to be pretty damn Euphoric You Live In New York City, “Drinking coffee four times a day, every day, isn’t the exception, it’s the rule.”
Today my cousins and I cheered for the marathon runners on 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It was truly inspiring to watch people from all walks of life as they tackled the 16th mile. It was also very cold. As I gave high fives and yelled out the names of runners, I had two very distinct thoughts. One was “I want to run a marathon” and the other was “I want soup.” Well, I could make one of these a reality!
When I got back to Brooklyn, I browsed my trusty cookbooks for a simple but nourishing soup. I didn’t have much luck so I switched to my November magazines and struck gold while flipping through the latest issue of Food and Wine. The Mushroom-Barley Soup recipe fit the bill with its simple ingredients and hearty (yet healthy!) appeal.
You might have expected me to wax poetic on the joys of fresh basil from the greenmarket and watching it turn into beautiful, bright green pesto on a Saturday afternoon. And I was probably going to do just that until I experienced the phenomena known as ”Pine Mouth.”
Here’s what happened. I enjoyed pesto pasta for dinner 2 nights in a row. On the 3rd night, I stopped enjoying it. The pasta tasted extremely bitter to me. I chalked it up to the fact that I had been overzealous with the amount of pesto sauce in the dish. I thought ‘OK, too much pesto tastes bitter, who knew?’ But Adam maintained that it tasted fine. I thought it was a bit odd, but at this point was pretty tired of pesto anyway and shrugged the whole thing off. Side note: I really should have frozen half of the initial pesto batch.
Fastforward to the next day at work. As per usual, I grab a giant cup of coffee on my way to the office. It’s usually Cosi or Starbucks and was the latter in this case. As I’m drinking the coffee at my desk, I realize it tastes different. Very bitter with a strong aftertaste. I do not connect the dots. I only start to suspect that something is wrong with me when my lunch tastes bitter and leaves a horribly bitter taste in my mouth that is hard to dispell. As is only natural to do, I turn to google and type in “bitter taste in mouth after eating,” hoping that I am not too frightened by the search results. Lo and behold, several of the page 1 results reference pine nuts and a bizarre occurrence called “Pine Mouth.” THE PESTO.
I read a little bit and while I’m not happy to have this pine mouth thing, I feel a slight satisfaction in my successful internet self-diagnosis. Besides the time that I correctly diagnosed Adam with a ganglion cyst, my track record hasn’t been great.
So, have you heard about Pine Mouth? Based on the number of people I lamented to that week, I’m guessing not. Luckily, Wikipedia offers a very clear explanation of this odd condition on the Pine Nut page:
Risks of eating pine nuts
A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects. This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001. Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as “pine mouth”. This is a relatively newly noticed phenomenon, which might be caused by the nuts spoiling and having gone rancid. It has been also hypothesised that this bitter side effect is caused by an allergy that some people may have to pine nuts, but this does not explain the recent appearance of this syndrome. Another theory attributes the phenomenon to nuts imported from China. It has been hypothesised that the nut trees are absorbing something and passing it on to the nuts, or the nuts themselves are being treated with something before packaging. Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases are self-limited and resolve without treatment.
I love that there are several theories behind Pine Mouth and no official established cause. So mysterious! Even more so since Adam didn’t experience it at all despite eating just as much of the same pesto. If not more.
Thankfully, my bout of the ole PM lasted no longer than a week, and didn’t ruin too many meals for me. On the downside, I’m QUITE wary of pine nuts for the time being. But it makes for an alright story.