Pasta alla Norma, The Wrong Way

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The other day at work one of the cooks (Yo Josh!) made a delicious side dish for our staff meal. It was Kale dressed with puree of roasted eggplant and curry flavors.

When I saw Bittman’s boring revisit of Pasta alla Norma in the NY Times (A Recipe for Pasta Alla Norma, Mark Bittman’s Way), Josh’s eggplant puree came immediately to mind. I like the components of Pasta alla Norma, but why not dress the pasta with a sort of Eggplant Pesto?

Our late season dry farmed cherry tomatoes are plenty sweet without roasting, feta is more interesting than ricotta salata, and everything is better with a little bacon.


Pasta alla Norma, The Wrong Way

1 Eggplant, roasted and somewhat cooled

2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Oregano Leaves
1/4 cup Toasted Pine Nuts (reserve a few for garnish)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon fresh Mint Leaves, thinly sliced
Salt & Red Pepper Flakes
Splash Olive Oil
Splash Balsamic Vinegar

Feta Cheese, crumbled
Bacon, Cooked and crumbled

1/2 Pound pasta

METHOD:
Heat a pot with enough salted water to cook a half pound of pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook your pasta.
Roast Eggplant in a hot oven (or on a grill) until tender. Peel Eggplant and add to a blender (or food processor) with garlic, oregano, pine nuts. Start pureeing, and add olive oil as you go. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine Cherry Tomatoes, Mint Leaves, Salt, Pepper Flakes, Olive Oil, and Balsamic Vinegar. Toss to combine.
Dress pasta with some of the Eggplant puree, loosening with salted pasta water as necessary. (You will probably have too much eggplant puree, but hey, stir in some tahini and you’ve got baba ghanoush!) Plate and make an indentation in center of pasta. Add Tomato ‘salsa’ and sprinkle on Feta, Bacon, and reserved pine nuts.
Serves 2 as a main dish.

Because I’m Evil

Let’s say you’ve had a delicious vegetarian meal.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, you know, maybe a little after dinner snack might be in order.

Maybe cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon in a pan. Man that Neuske’s Cherry Wood bacon is awesome.

Remove the bacon and reserve.

Drain the excess drippings and halvesome ripe figs. Place the figs in the bacon drippings and cook until they are caramelized.

Arrange the bacon on plates.

Deglaze the figs with a little port wine and pour the whole on a plate with the bacon.

I dunno, a little vanilla or caramel ice cream wouldn’t be bad.

Or maybe it is kind of bad, but in a good way.

I leave it to your discretion.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Mrs. Flannestad has been a bit under the weather this week and requested chicken soup last night.

This is what I made…

Corn Chowder

Chicken and Corn Chowder

2 Chicken Leg Thigh Combo
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
sprig thyme
few whole black peppercorns
1 whole clove

1/2 pound bacon
Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Dry Oregano
Dry Thyme
Bay Leaf
1 TBSP Chili Powder
2 TBSP White Flour

2 Russet Potatoes, Peeled and diced

1 Package Frozen Corn
1 Cup Half and Half
3 Green Onions, sliced
Cilantro, Chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Add Chicken to a pot, add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and thyme. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook until chicken runs clear.

Meanwhile chop you veggies for the stew proper. Add the bacon to a heavy pot large enough to hold a quart or so of soup. You may need to add a touch of olive oil to get this started faster without burning the bacon. Render fat from bacon and cook until crispy. Reserve bacon. Remove most of the bacon fat from the pan and add chopped onion, bell pepper, and red pepper. Sweat over low heat until they begin to soften and add garlic and spices. Cover and sweat for a few minutes more. Add 1 TBSP bacon grease back in (or olive oil if you prefer), and add flour, stirring to cook for a few minutes. You are creating a roux.

Hopefully, before now, your chicken will be done. Pour off the cooking liquid, strain, and reserve. You should have a couple cups. If not, add extra stock to make it up. Add strained cooking liquid to the vegetables and roux above, whisking quickly. Bring to a simmer rapidly. Add potatoes and lower heat. Cook until potatoes are almost done.

Remove chicken from bones and dice. Add chicken, reserved bacon, corn, and green onions to the soup. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes stir in the half and half and check seasonings. When it again comes to a simmer, ladle into bowls and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with crusty bread.