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Thursday, July 29, 2010 01:05 am

Can’t beat pasta to beat the heat

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It’s too darn hot.
I’d like to sup with my baby tonight,
Refill the cup with my baby tonight.
But I ain’t up to my baby tonight,
’Cause it’s too darn hot.
From It’s Too Darn Hot! – Cole Porter, 1948

Hopefully by the time you read this it will have cooled down some, but right now the temperature is 95 degrees F. My daughter just brought in a half-full glass of tea that had been left outside and stuck a meat thermometer in it; it registered 106 degrees.

Here are three pasta recipes to help you beat the heat. The first is served cold, the second at room temperature, and the third warm. But all three require minimal or no cooking except for boiling the pasta. All are delicious no matter what the temperature, so try them even if it’s not too darn hot.



RealCuisine Recipe
Cajun Macaroni Salad

Many macaroni salads are bland and boring. Not this one, which gets its kick from the jalapeno mayonnaise. Don’t hesitate to make this if you don’t like spicy heat. Just use mild or medium pickled jalapenos, which are widely available. Even the regular ones only make this slightly hot; the mild/medium variety just add flavor, not heat. If you’re concerned about using raw eggs, use the bottled mayonnaise variation below. 

  • 1 lb. macaroni or other bite-sized pasta shape
  • 1 c. very thinly sliced scallions both white and green parts
  • 1 c. very finely chopped red, yellow, or orange bell pepper or a combination
  • 4-6 hard-boiled eggs, 1 sliced for garnish and the rest chopped
  • Jalapeño Mayonnaise (see below)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  • Optional: 1 lb. cooked shrimp (halved if large) or crawfish

Put all ingredients in the container of an electric blender or food processor except the oil.

Blend or process for about two minutes or until the scallions and peppers are thoroughly pureéd. With the machine still running, add the oil in a very thin stream. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 c.

To make jalapeño mayonnaise using bottled mayonnaise: to 1 degrees c. mayonnaise (preferably Hellman’s) add the minced jalapenos and pickling liquid, scallions (finely minced) and sugar as above. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using to allow the flavors to combine.



RealCuisine Recipe
Jalapeno Mayonnaise

  • 2 T. minced pickled jalapeños and 1 T. of the pickling liquid
  • 1 large free-range organic egg
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil, preferably canola (do NOT use olive oil)

Put all ingredients in the container of an electric blender or food processor except the oil.

Blend or process for about two minutes or until the scallions and peppers are thoroughly pureéd. With the machine still running, add the oil in a very thin stream. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 c.

To make jalapeño mayonnaise using bottled mayonnaise: to 1 1/2 c. mayonnaise (preferably Hellman’s) add the minced jalapenos and pickling liquid, scallions (finely minced) and sugar as above. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using to allow the flavors to combine.



RealCuisine Recipe
Pasta with Brie, Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil

This is a family favorite, something all three of my grown children still make now that they’re on their own. It’s good when still warm, but equally good at room temperature, making it perfect for picnics and potlucks.

  • 3 c. coarsely chopped, seeded fresh tomatoes
  • 1 T. kosher or sea salt
  • 8 oz. brie — See note below
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. – 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves
  • freshly ground pepper, preferably white, and salt if needed
  • 1 lb. bite-sized dried pasta

Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find for this dish. Any type works well – cherry tomatoes, Romas, heirloom black, green, yellow or striped, as well as red. A combination of colors makes it especially attractive, but isn’t necessary. Put the tomatoes in a sieve and toss with the tablespoon of salt. Let the tomatoes drain for 15 minutes, then place in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the pasta and condiment when finished.

While the tomatoes are draining, turn the oven on low for 5 minutes, then turn it off. This isn’t necessary if your oven has a pilot light.

Cut the cheese into cubes and add to the tomatoes. Stir in the garlic and olive oil. Tear the basil leaves into pieces or chiffonade them (cut them into very thin strips; best done by stacking the leaves before cutting). Add half the basil, reserving the rest, and the pepper. Place the bowl in the warm oven for 30 minutes to let the ingredients warm and the flavors combine. The tomatoes will continue to exude juice, but the oven shouldn’t be hot enough that the ingredients cook.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the pasta, stir the bottom of the pot to keep any pasta from sticking, and cook just until it’s “al dente.” This is almost always 1-2 minutes LESS than the cooking times on the package.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and IMMEDIATELY add to the tomato/brie mixture, tossing until the ingredients are combined and the cheese has melted into the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining basil. Serves 4-6.

Note: Use the brie with the rind on or the rind off, or just trim off the thicker parts of the rind. Whatever your preference, there should be 8 oz. of brie. If the rind is completely removed it takes approximately 12 oz. cheese with rind to yield 8 oz. trimmed.



RealCuisine Recipe
Salami, Chickpea and Wilted Greens Pasta Sauce

This one is best served warm, but the sauce is just a matter of assembling the ingredients and cooking them while the pasta drains. You can vary this recipe by using other types of canned beans for the chickpeas and/or canned tuna or clams for the salami.

  • Approximately 1 1/2 c. salami,
  • pepperoni, or other cured sausage, cut into matchsticks between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. thinly sliced or minced garlic or more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes or to taste, optional
  • 1 T. Hungarian or Spanish sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, undrained
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine or vermouth
  • 4 - 6 c. coarsely chopped washed greens such as spinach or arugula
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian flat-leafed parsley
  • Salt

Cook the pasta until just a couple minutes shy of al dente, then drain. Put the pot back on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Add the salami, half the olive oil, the garlic, hot pepper, and sauté until the garlic JUST begins to turn golden. Add the paprika and cook for a minute; then add the chickpeas and their liquid and the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for about five minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Add half the parsley and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, 3-5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the pot and stir until the pasta and sauce are completely combined. Add the remaining olive oil, check the seasoning and add additional salt if desired. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.
Makes enough for 1 lb. pasta. Rigatoni, cavatappi, penne or other sturdy tubular pastas work best with this sauce.

To make with fresh Italian sausage: Replace the salami with 1 lb. fresh Italian sausage. Remove the sausage from the casings, if any, and sauté until cooked through. Proceed as above.
Other beans, such as cannelini beans maybe substituted for the chickpeas.

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