linguine & company

i think there should be a cuisine called “classy comfort.” is there already? [update: google that, and you’ll be led to a frightening website for adult diapers.] i don’t mean the kind of thing where you take a comfort food staple like mac ’n’ cheese and upgrade it with truffle oil and whatnot. i mean the opposite, where a seemingly elegant dish somehow tastes like home. kind of like this one that i had posted about earlier.

well, in any case, i’ve found another contender: linguine with gorgonzola, potatoes, green beans, and sage. what makes it seem fancy? it has a long name, for one. and also the fact that it’s meatless (except that i made it with some diced pancetta thrown in, oops) and that it calls for “gorgonzola dolce.” i couldn’t find any at trader joe’s, by the way, which to me basically means it must be nonexistent. so i responded accordingly: tossed some regular blue cheese into my basket and adjusted the amount of butter when i got home to cook, as recommended by the recipe. still tasted damn fantastic.

you know what else is neat about this recipe? it has linguine and potatoes. maybe you think the pairing would be strange, but when i read that in the recipe title i got starry-eyed. two starches, together at last. double-carb time. and it’s a lovely thing, really. the pasta is al dente and forktwirl-worthy, and the soft chunks of potato absorb and exude beautiful flavors from the sage and butter and blue cheese.

it was so satisfying to cook, too: you lift the noodles and potatoes steaming out of the pot, and then let them settle down with the cheese, butter, and sage. stir, stir, stir, and a sauce comes together as everything melts. it reminds me a lot of this recipe for spaghetti with spinach, goat cheese, and sweet little tomatoes. they’re both good weeknight quickie meals: a summery version and this cold-weather one, which was just about perfect this week, as our season’s first storm set in.


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Linguine with Gorgonzola, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Sage
adapted from Sunset, October 2007
Serves 6

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (I couldn’t find any at the store that weren’t green, so I just used three white potatoes, each about palm-sized)
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound linguine
6 fresh sage leaves
6 ounces blue cheese
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bag (10 oz.) frozen cut green beans

Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-in. pieces. Put in a large pot, add 2 qt. water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add salt and linguine. Stir, cover, and return to a vigorous boil. Uncover and cook until linguine is tender to the bite, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop sage leaves. In a large serving bowl, mash cheese, butter, sage, and pepper together. Set aside.

Add green beans to pot, and bring back to a boil. Cook briefly, just until green beans are crisp-tender. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta and vegetables, shaking off as much water as possible. Pour pasta and vegetables on top of cheese-butter mixture. Toss to combine until cheese melts and coats pasta. If resulting sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water, 1 tbsp. at a time. Serve hot, garnished with additional sage or pepper if you like.

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roasted roma tomatoes

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i had friends over this past weekend for a quiet little cocktail party. some brought fresh mint to muddle into mojitos and whole peaches to slice and plunk into the blender, i made lots of little appetizers and miniature desserts, and it was a grand time. i don’t live in the best neighborhood – think bars on windows and sirens at night – but i tell you, twilight and christmas lights can make just about any venue charming.


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i brought out one of my favorite recipes to headline the menu: roasted roma tomatoes on toast. it is a recipe that i’ve got bookmarked in an old issue of sunset, glossy pages wrinkly from spills, i’m sure, and probably still wedged into the bookshelf at home between some jane austen books and even older issues of national geographic. but since i don’t live at home anymore, i did some figurative bookshelf browsing and found the recipe online. it is here.


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i first came across it during my balsamic vinegar kick. i used to go through these phases when i’d browse through recipes or restaurant menus with certain choice ingredients on my radar. i had a period when i loved roasted red bell peppers in just about everything, another when i had my eyes bright and open for anything with goat cheese, other times for caramelized onions, grilled sourdough bread, roasted garlic… come to think of it, all those things would make a really good panini right now.

anyway. roasted roma tomatoes.

in the recipe, the tomatoes get halved and roasted for a little over an hour in the oven, basted all the while in a sauce made of balsamic vinegar, finely chopped onion, brown sugar, and just a bit of olive oil.

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at the end, the tomatoes get kind of melty – soft and rich with the caramelized flavor. it’s the perfect topping to go with a smear of creamy goat cheese on some crispy toasted baguette.

we moved the party in by the end of the night, and as we were sitting in the living room, i heard a crunch and an “mmmm” behind me. one of my friends had gone into the kitchen for a second round, it turns out. that noise is just about the best sign of gastronomic approval, i think.


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Roasted Roma Tomatoes on Toast
Adapted from this recipe {Sunset, June 2003}
Makes 8 appetizer, 4 main-dish servings

8 Roma tomatoes (equal size, 1 ½ lb. total), rinsed and cored
½ onion (about 4 oz.), peeled and finely chopped
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Goat cheese (about 5 oz.)
Baguette, sliced crosswise, brushed with olive oil, and toasted
Salt

1. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Lay halves cut side up in a single layer in an 8- by 12-inch oval or rectangular casserole (rim should be at least ½ in. higher than tomatoes).
2. In a 1 ½- to 2-quart pan, combine onion, vinegar, sugar, and
olive oil. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Pour over tomatoes.
3. Roast in a 400° oven (convection not recommended) until tomatoes are dark brown and sauce is browned and thickened (bubbles will be large and shiny), about 1 ¼ hours; baste tomatoes with sauce and onions about every 15 minutes at first, then more frequently as mixture begins to thicken, to avoid scorching. Use hot, warm, or at room temperature.
4. Spread goat cheese equally on oiled sides of the olive-oil toast slices. Spoon tomatoes and juices equally onto toast slices. Add salt to taste.

to do

yesterday evening, in a lull between errands, i opened all the windows wide and sat down on the couch with the may issue of sunset. there must have been something about the balmy evening air or the fact that summer is oh-so-close, because flipping through the pages soon had me dreaming up all sorts of pleasant possibilities for the coming months. i took out my pretty little notepad from my purse, one i bought on a whim while i was in boston last month, and scribbled down notes and addresses in a happy frenzy. my findings were as follows. enjoy!

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an article about exploring the l.a. river by bike included a blurb about l.a. bread, a bakery on los feliz blvd. i say skip the bike riding and head straight for those caramelized banana pancakes. priorities. please.

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reading about the happy hours at a couple places downtown made me want to grab some friends and get all young/hip/urban on y’all. um, yeah. anyway:

35¢ gin cocktails at
the edison (thursdays, 5-7)
&
tacos and mojitos at
ciudad (monday-friday, 4-7)

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i’m not much for wine, except for the dessert variety, so when i saw one on their list that was a blend including muscat: hello, pen on paper. and ten bucks, at that! it’s a house white from the magnificent wine company. i hope it’s good, so that i can realize the vision i have in my head of languishing beneath a shady tree with a glass of it in my hand, bowl of strawberries at my side.

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a pretty pretty picture renewed my fascination with macarons and nudged me again towards paulette, a bakery a friend had gushed about months ago.
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and the last item on my list: “make limoncello?” i’ll let you know how that one goes.