29 December 2009

We ate our weight

It would appear as though we only have a few days left in December. I could be mistaken, though--yesterday, Jeff pointed out that the last time I wrote here was in, um, October. October???

He was right. Whoops.

So for those of you who are dying of curiosity, here are a few of the highlights from the past couple of months, in no particular order:

> I started writing for another blog, Eat Life.

> As of this weekend, I will be half of the way through my course at French Culinary! I have to start looking for a job. HA! HA! HA!

> My parents came for Christmas and birthdays. It was GREAT to have them here--so fun! We all ate our weight in dinners. Jeff and I put up a Christmas tree. There was much holiday cheer.

> I turned a whopping 28 and so far have nothing but positive things to say.

> I went to Chicago for Thanksgiving, saw a great friend who I hadn't seen in AGES, and got hit on by two men approximately my parents's age at the bar. No, thanks, guys. I'm really not into men who remember the Nixon era as first-hand experience.

> I've managed to be a terrible communicator, even with the people I miss the most. I don't return phone calls, rarely return emails, and feel guilty about it ALL THE TIME.

So that's about it, folks. I have a tasty pasta dish for you to make, but alas, no photos. My parents, Jeff and I may have gobbled the entire dish up before I had a chance to photograph it; you'll see why when you make it. It's creamy, cheesy, and hearty all at once, and I very highly suggest it if it's a cold night and you want to stay in, watch movies, and eat something cosy. After all, who can resist baked pasta with spinach, cheese and cream? Not I, my friends. You shouldn't either.

Have a happy 2010, and I'll see you then.

Alpine Baked Pasta, adapted from The Best of Food and Wine

My mother and I have made this many, many times. We find that it's best if you have a dish that's not too big. I used a 9 x 13 glass casserole/brownie pan, and it worked perfectly. I also massively increased the vegetable content. Below are the adaptations I made. You will want to make them, too.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the dish
1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
3 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 pound penne/farfalle pasta (pretty much anything that's chunky/long (not spaghetti like, not macaroni like) works)
2 leeks (white part plus 1 inch of the green), well washed and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large box baby spinach leaves, rinsed--use the kind that's pre-washed and is in the salad refrigerator at the store. It's well worth it. (I know, I know. If you want, use 2 bunches of spinach, well washed and roughly chopped)
1 cup finely grated fontina cheese
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 + 1 delightful splash heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a baking dish (the recipe recommends 12 inches square) and set aside.

2. Put a very large pot of water on to boil over high heat, and salt well.

3. While waiting for the water to boil, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter becomes a light nut brown, add the herbs and turn off the heat; set aside.

4. When the water has boiled, add the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, time your pasta carefully, and cook it to 3 minutes under the recommended time (approximately 6-8 minutes, depending on your shape); add the leek to the pasta. After the water has again returned to a boil, add the spinach and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and vegetables in a colander, return them to the hot pot, and add the herb/butter, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fontina, Parmesan, and cream, and toss well to incorporate all the ingredients.

5. Turn the pasta out into the buttered baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the top edges begin to brown.

Serve immediately.

Serves 5-6 pretty darn generously.