Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

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Frequent topics of conversation these days include what city we want to go to next, as based on a mini obsession with the show Street Food Around the World (despite its relentlessly annoying host), and Coffee.

Daniel recently purchased an AeroPress, which, he’ll be the first to tell you, has Changed His Life. Gone are the days of multiple daily visits to our local coffee shop, here to stay are the sink-full of coffee mugs and multiple bags of not-quite-enough-for-a-coffee-but-too-much-to-throw-away beans. I love the eagerness with which I am offered a cup in the morning (or in the afternoon, during dinner, right before bed, immediately after I get out of a shower…).

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As a barista, I am around coffee more than I care to admit. The longer I’ve worked around coffee the less appealing it has become. (Less true the summer I worked at Cold Stone in high school.)  The less I drink it, the more my “good coffee” guard slips down–I appreciate a bottomless diner mug as much as our fancy, single source, perfectly calibrated brew. Although I’ve always loved the smell and taste, coffee has held less joy for me. Until Now. Until Aeropress. I’m fancy again.

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And nothing says “I do love a good cup of coffee!” like smoked cheese, amiright?! One of our favorite post-rehearsal habits is the long walk to Chelsea Market. I’m pretty good at battling the tourists and beelining to my favorite haunts, which right now means Buon Italia. Their dried pasta section elicited girlish giggles (from both of us) and the cheese section kept me enraptured for a good ten minutes (we also have them to thank for these fregola cuties). Although I couldn’t find the soft smoked ricotta I recently tried at BK Winery and have not stopped thinking about, the smoked scamorza was a dang good choice.

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So! In summary: pasta, good; (smoked) cheese, good; coffee, also good. Keep it simple, let the ingredients Be The Best They Can Be.

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Me: Look! I actually took a nice picture of all the lovely-ly arranged ingredients! Daniel: Wait, isn’t there supposed to be cheese in this? Isn’t that the POINT? Me: You’re concentrating on the wrong thing! And, uh, shit.

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I’ve located the cheese… can’t miss it now! (please appreciate my newby photo editing skills)

Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

sorta adapted from Bon Appetit 

¾ lb. pasta, more or less (12oz or so) (we used radiatore/organetti but any fun curvy shape would be good here)
4T olive oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes (11 oz), halved (or quartered if larger)
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ c vermouth (or white wine!)
¾ c fresh basil leaves, sliced, plus extra for garnish
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried parsley (we used a “Tuscan herb blend” because we were out)
scant ½ c kalamata olives, chopped
7 mini balls smoked scamorza or smoked mozzarella (or use fresh, non-smoked!), sliced (about ½ c once sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, erring on the side of al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large ovenproof saute pan. Add onion and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown. Add cherry tomatoes; cook for 3 minutes. Next add garlic; cook for two more minutes.

Add vermouth and give everything a good stir. Scrape up any browned onions or tomatoey bits. Next, add basil, oregano, parsley, and olives and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste sauce; season with s&p. Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to coat evenly. Add half the scamorza and mix to incorporate. Top pasta with other half of scamorza and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese gets melty.

Top with fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and crack of black pepper.

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

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A February defined by performance, something a bit rare these days. A month full of those moments–when an audience member is excited with you, sad with you, surprised by you. When you feel your intentions and delivery and energy hit their mark and transform.

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This past month I’ve given a handful of performances of Amelia and Her Paper Tigers, a theatre for young audiences production I co-created about Amelia Earhart. It’s moments like when the little girl in the front row turns 180 degrees around in her chair to follow a prop going into the audience and then gasps with delight, or when a seasoned older theater-goer sheds a tear as Amelia stilts offstage for the last time and we are all left to wonder about her final moments and her legacy, that keep the acting dream alive. It’s so exciting to breathe life into a story I find so compelling. (Read more here!)

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Also this month, Cuban salsa has strengthened its grasp on my heartstrings (and schedule). That infectious audience energy when we nail an up-in-the-air move, or perform a long turn pattern in complete synchronization, or break into an intricate group move is so necessary for a good performance. We recently came back from San Francisco, where we had the opportunity to perform for what felt for the entire Cuban Salsa world. Hundreds of people from all over the country, and Mexico, Cuba, Italy, etc. The energy of this event was pure electricity and camaraderie; everyone excited to learn, observe, meet people, and, of course, dance. In the past week I’ve taken ladies rumba styling, salsa with Afro, group rueda classes, advanced casino partnering, ladies suelta, and most recently a crash course on son from the masters, Yanek and Karelia. I’m excited by how far I’ve come (two years ago I would’ve thought that previous sentence was pure gibberish) and what my body can do–adapt to new rhythms, styles, extended positions. It’s powerful.

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As such, not much cooking has occurred. This simple artichoke and fregola dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More was definitely the tastiest thing (and perhaps only things more complicated than scrambled eggs and one misguided cooking-while-sick soup attempt) to come out of my kitchen in February. In his liner notes, Ottolenghi calls this dish unphotogenic, and no picture appears. Well, Internet, may I present to you the not-stunning but certainly not ugly deliciousness of fregola artichoke pilaf with a bold and powerful jalapeño lemon sauce (page 82).

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These are the first pictures taken with my new camera (Olympus E-PL5). for the site! Daniel has been instrumental in taking and editing photos up to this point; I’m hoping to begin taking on some of the responsibility from here on out. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

2 T olive oil
1 very large onion (or 2 small), cut into thin strips
1 T butter
about 11 ounces artichoke hearts (I used one and a half cans), liquid drained, each heart cut into sixths
9 oz fregola (about 1 ¼ cups) (you can substitute Israeli couscous or mograbiah)
2 ½ c veggie stock
1 ½ T red wine vinegar
¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ c toasted pine nuts (or almonds if you aren’t me)
chopped parsley to garnish
s&p

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and ¾ t salt and cook for at least 10 minutes (more like 13-14), stirring occasionally, until caramelized. While onions cook, place stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

When onions are done, add butter. Stir until butter melts. Next, add the boiling veggie stock, artichoke hearts, fregola, and 3 good grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes without stirring. (Apparently stirring leads to gumminess and starch build up.) At 18 minutes, liquid should be mostly absorbed (you can give a tiny peek). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar, olives, and pine nuts, and stir everything together gently. Serve with a big dollop of Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce (recipe below) and extra chopped parsley to garnish.

Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce

3 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley, coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 preserved lemon, (or use my cheat: cut lemon (skin and all!) into thin slices and sautee with olive oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes; then add 1 t sugar and 1 t salt. Add water if sticks. Voila!)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth!

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