Squash on Fire: “Spaghetti” Puttanesca

On a recent trip to a local market we were greeted by a gorgeous array of orange pumpkins and irregular gourds. Instead of heading straight for the quintessential Halloween symbol, we simultaneously reached for the oblong, sunny spaghetti squash. When roasted, the bright yellow squash is transformed into pasta-like strands, so we thought it was only appropriate living, in the North End of Boston, a historic Italian neighborhood, to use it like spaghetti.

While in Italy, we were big fans of the famously pungent and spicy Puttanesca sauce. The deep, rustic red sauce with bursts of green briny capers transforms any pasta, or in this case, the subtly sweet squash ribbons. With the addition of earthy eggplant, a sprinkling of fresh chopped basil and Parmesan cheese, it’s our fresh, seasonal take on an Italian classic.

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

Read More

Friday Fuck-Up: The Gremlin Incident

The kitchen Gremlin. I have one. And he only makes his presence known when I’m cooking for company. I do occasionally like to cook outside of my comfort zone, and in the past I’ve discovered new dishes and taste combinations that I hadn’t expected, and was so blown away that I couldn’t wait to master and introduce them to my family and fellow foodies. But then, HE appears and all hell breaks loose!

I have two dishes that I have previously produced in world-class fashion and couldn’t wait to share with others. One is the classic béarnaise sauce. I loves me some steak, and I can’t think of a more perfect, decadent accompaniment than a just-made, thick, buttery béarnaise. The first three times that I attempted this sauce it came out perfect! I couldn’t wait to have the gang over for a French gorgy, and watch their eyes roll up into the backs of their heads after they took their first bite of a perfectly cooked dry-aged filet mignon smothered in the crack cocaine of butter sauces.

But the Gremlin had other ideas and decided at the last minute that a greasy version of egg drop soup would (for some evil reason), be the only sauce that came off my cook top. A hurried second attempt produced a scrambled egg dish that looked like yellow cottage cheese. What the hell? I had this down! I could feel the ghost of Julia Child bitch slapping the back of my head as I whipped up a sorry version of a Dijon crème sauce in its place.

My second Gremlin dish is one that I initially tried on a dare.

Read More

The Endless Road Trip: Not All That’s Euro is Trash

Portland is known for its incredibly diverse food cart scene, with over 700 of them clustered around town in various Food Pods. As I browsed one of the larger pods downtown, Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland (the definitive expert on Portland street food) strongly recommended one called Eurotrash. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice based on the name, I had to give the inventive menu—Portugese-influenced with pan-Euro touches, a hint of Indian spice, and a generous helping of good old fashioned American gluttony—a chance.

And glad I did. Above: “chorizo and chips,” a serving of thinly-sliced, golden-brown fried potatoes mixed with slivers of grilled chroizo, cilantro and a creamy curry aioli. Yep—potatoes, curry and pig—all that’s good about food in one bite. Alternatively, they’ll top your chips with a heaping serving of foie.

More after the jump.

Read More

It’s Not Easy Being Green in Winter

Once spring and summer return (soon!), you will be able to read ES’ odes to fresh produce, farmer’s markets and the like, but right now we are still stuck in limbo. Not to knock all the delicious winter vegetables available this time of year, but I am more than ready for the days of walking onto my deck and picking some fresh lettuce for a salad. But even the 12 inches of snow we got last week in Pennsylvania couldn’t dull my appetite for a fresh simple salad, and I immediately thought of a book I have been reading by David Tanis, Chez Panisse’s well known executive co-chef.

While I seldom follow cookbooks too closely, this one is different. Not quite a diary and not quite a cookbook, this is more of a love letter to the beauty of cooking with care. Starting with stories of his personal kitchen rituals, Heart of the Artichoke has quickly turned into a very engrossing read for me.

The book is arranged by season and I had recently come across a winter meal that included a romaine hearts salad, which I thought would be a perfect fix for my leafy longing. Now this is not a book that will blow your mind with avant garde technique and gastronomic excess and neither is the recipe. It is more a distillation of fairly standard methods that let the ingredients shine through, so feel free to try any variations you can think of.

Romaine Hearts with Shaved Parmigiano and Lemon Dressing

Read More

Top Ten Things I Ate in Rome


I asked. You chimed in. I’m back from Rome and I’ve just got to let you know the goods on what I had, including a recap of the dishes that I was most anticipating.

Did everything live up to my sky-high expectations?  Let’s find out.

10. Gelato – I actually took it easy on the gelato.  I only had it twice while I was there…tremendous restraint on my part.  Our first time was at Giolliti, a famous spot, and I had a hazelnut/fior de latte cone and our second was at Della Palma (below) where I had creme caramel/ricotta with fig sauce. Both were delicious, but the thing that really struck me was the overwhelming number of varieties these places had. They made Baskin-Robbins and his 31 flavors look like a punk.  I did a quick guesstimate at Della Palma and came up with more than 85 flavors.  I’m convinced that the majority of the fun involved in the gelato experience comes from the process of choosing which varieties to get.


9. Zucchini Blossoms – I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get these due to the early season, but after seeing how fantastic they looked in the market at the Campo dei Fiori (below) we ordered them as an appetizer at La Campana, a ristorante just around the corner from our hotel.  Delicate, crunchy, and filled with oozy cheese.  But the best, most flavorful part of the perfectly fried flower was the fact that it was filled with…


8. Anchovies – Listen, I don’t want to hear that you don’t like anchovies.  And I’m not getting into the canned/tubed conversation because the ones I had in Rome were light years ahead of even the best canned anchovies you can get here.  The anchovies that we had both in the zucchini blossoms and on a pizza were flavorful but surprisingly mellow. I’m now more convinced than ever that people who think they don’t like anchovies just haven’t had good anchovies.

Find out what topped this list and pick up the names of some great restaurants along the way, after the jump.

7. Amatriciana This dish makes the list even though I didn’t order it during my time there.  Of course, I did sample more than my fair share of it off of Mrs. TVFF’s plate (she got it twice), so it’s in. It was quite a bit richer than when I make it, and without the red onions that I typically put in. I asked one of our waiters if the restaurant made it with pancetta or guanciale and he replied quickly and forcefully: “Guanciale…if you want good amatricana, you must use guanciale!” There you go, folks, straight from the expert.  If you’re in NYC, pick some up at Salumeria Biellese, which is where I get mine.

6. Filetti di Baccalà – Fried fish?  Yep, pretty much the same as the fish and chips that you’ll find in the best places in London, but there’s something to be said for simple fried food executed perfectly. It’s just another reminder of how seriously they take their food in Rome…even the glorified bar snacks are inspired.  We got ours as an early-evening snack at a place named, unoriginally, Filetti di Baccalà, located a few blocks away from the Campo dei Fiori, in a bustling part of town that we cut through after a long day of touring churches and walking through Trastevere.

Next: Top 5 Things To Eat in Rome