A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Butternut squash pasta with walnut sauce

   I encountered some butternut pasta the other day - dried, not fresh - and its yellow color was appealing. Of course, pastas made with various vegetables have, at best, only a subtle hint of those vegetables. One isn’t going to taste tomato pasta and say, “Damn! San Marzano tomatoes picked in mid-August from the leeward side of the Valle del Sarno, southeast corner!” Still, knowing this, I purchased it and now having consumed it, can confirm that the squash flavor is indeed subtle. But since its color didn’t fade at all, it was still aesthetically pleasing on the plate. If you can’t find dried butternut pasta, cook some winter squash and puree it along with the other sauce ingredients.
   I wanted a smooth sauce but I also knew mushrooms would pair nicely with the sauce I had in mind, so I simply ground some dried shiitakes. Just put several of them in a coffee grinder and grind as you would coffee beans. One doesn’t necessarily want coffee flavoring in this sauce, so ideally you have a grinder dedicated to spices and such. If not, clean your coffee grinder thoroughly.
   I also wanted a relatively light sauce; i.e., no butter and no heavy cream. So I used skim milk (although I indicate below that cream can be used), and some of the pasta water to thin the sauce.

Butternut squash pasta, 1 lb
Dried mushrooms, ground
Walnuts, 1/2 cup, toasted
Bread, a couple of slices, crusts removed, torn into pieces
Cream or milk, 1/2 cup
Shallot, 1 large, minced
Garlic, 1-2 cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, several leaves
Pasta cooking water
Walnut oil on the cooked pasta
A small jar of minced pimientos

Place the ground mushrooms and the remaining sauce ingredients in a food processor and puree. Remove to a saucepan, heat and keep warm.

In the meantime, you will have cooked the pasta, but before you drain it, scoop a half cup or possibly more of the cooking water into the sauce, enough to make a good consistency which is neither too thick nor too thin. This might be called "The Goldilocks Principle".
After you drain the pasta, mix in a couple of tablespoons of walnut oil. Olive oil can substitute. Put the pasta on the plates, the sauce atop, with minced pimientos and parsley as garnish. And there you have it.

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