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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pasta and Potatoes with Mint, Steak and Salad

Recipe for Pasta and Potatoes with herbs and pine nuts

1/2 pound peeled and cubed Idaho potatoes
1/2 pound pasta of a size similar to cubed potato (mezze rigatone, rotini, penne, farfalle)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch of mint (approximately 40 large leaves or more)
1 bunch of parsley, leaves and only tender portion of stems
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 - 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

When cutting the potatoes, keep in mind that you will be cooking the cut potatoes in the salted boiling water as the pasta. So, try to cut potatoes to a size similar to that of the pasta. As a rule of thumb, 1 3/4 in x 3/4 cube of potato will cook approximately in the same amount of time as rigatoni. To be safe, you can boil the two starches separately in the same water, but pay attention to the time. Once you can match up the sizes and cooking times, you can cook the pasta and potatoes together and dump them together in colander.

Before anything, find time to toast your pine nuts. You can buy them already toasted, but I like to have complete control over how toasty I want them depending on the dish. Also, if you want to candy pine nuts and they are already toasted, it may be hard to candy them without them getting over-toasted. The process is simple. Spread pine nuts out on foil-lined baking tray and bake at 325 degrees. Keep and eye on them. After about 7 - 10 minutes they will start browning. Once they start browning, they only need another couple of minutes. Shake pan several times during the baking.

Alternatively, you could put pine nuts in an iron frying pan over medium high heat. Shake pan frequently until pine nuts are toasted. Approximately 5 - 10 minutes.

While pasta/potatoes are cooking, chop parsley leaves and mint. In the video, I coarsely chopped the herbs, but on second thought, I recommend you chop them finely, but not minced. Much more flavor that way. Set aside.

Next, steam green beans or microwave frozen French green beans from Trader Joe's on high for 4 minutes. Set aside.

After potatoes and pasta are finished, al dente please, toss immediately with olive oil.

Then toss with finely chopped herbs, green beans and toasted toasted pine nuts.

Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

Recipe for Steak and Salad

Keep it simple. Buy locally raised, grass-fed (if possible) beef free of administered antibiotics or hormones. Liberally salt with coarse sea or kosher salt and black pepper. Pan sautee over medium high heat in a lightly oiled hot pan. For a one-inch thick delmonico, estimate 6 minutes a side for rare, 8 a side for medium rare and 10 for medium to well-done. But please, have mercy on such a fine cut of beef and keep it pink.

As for salad, keep it simple. Nice mixed greens dressed with fine olive oil with a sprinkling of coarse salt. Perhaps a splash of vinegar (your choice) or citrus (lime, lemon, orange). If you go with the lime or lemon, consider adding candied pine nuts to the salad. Toss with your bare hands gently until all the leaves are coated with dressing. Enjoy!