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On Cooking Southern: Let’s Dish with Salad, Pasta Primavera and Not-So-Sweets

on cooking southern pasta

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
I found myself: Not a reference to getting in touch with one’s inner feelings; instead, a colloquial means of over-emphasizing the significance of being in a state of doing something extreme. “I found myself pitching a hissy fit when the registrar refused to transfer that summer school course.”

CROWD PLEASERS DON’T HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED

Football and tailgating are well under way by now. I could write endless new columns on the topic and share innumerable recipes for tailgating, and I promise I WILL.

Today, however, The Old Bride considers it her maternal duty to teach the young’uns how to prepare a tasty, quick and cost-effective crowd meal. After all, a person can’t live well on hot wings and barbecue and salsa dips and decadent brownies (at least for very long).

It’s important to learn that one needn’t spend a fortune purchasing exotic recipe ingredients, nor does a person need to expend days in the kitchen preparing a party meal. In fact, some recipes can be prepared in minutes, and all rely on simple ingredients.

NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with supplementing fresh, locally sourced foods with commercially prepared ingredients such as pasta, bakery baguettes or refrigerated whipped cream. Anything that helps to shorten the prep time is allowed, as long as the ingredients are natural.

Just remember my cooking motto: KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and DAD (“down and dirty” in the figurative sense, meaning quick). Daddy would be so proud.

PASTA AND SAUSAGE PRIMAVERA
Basic pasta primavera was “invented” between 1973 and 1975 after several interchanges in Nova Scotia and New York by artist and amateur cook Ed Giobbi, Le Cirque co-owner Sergio Macchioni, and Le Cirque’s chef Jean Vergnes. The original consisted largely of tomatoes and spagettini. The Le Cirque restaurant version that brought New York to its knees during the 1970s included cream and garden veggies. I have omitted the tomatoes from this version, but feel free to add halved cherry tomatoes when tossing the sautéed veggies with the pasta.

3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 T butter

primavera-DSCN1480

1 sweet onion (about 1-1/2 c), diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp kosher salt

2 small zucchini, peeled and chopped

2 small yellow summer squash, peeled and chopped

8-oz pkg fresh white mushrooms, sliced and chopped

1 c (or a 12-oz jar) roasted red pepper, sliced and loose-chopped

1 tsp Italian seasoning herbs

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 c smoked sausage, sliced and cubed

3 c (a 5-oz pkg) fresh baby spinach

1 bunch of fresh basil, chopped (about 1/4 to 1/2 c)

1 c shredded Parmesan cheese

16-oz pkg of pasta of choice (I prefer angel hair)

Heat the oil and butter on medium in a large skillet with tall sides. Sweat the onions and garlic. Add salt and stir. Add the zucchini and squash and cover for a few minutes. Uncover and toss in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cover again for a minute to promote release of the mushroom liquid. Uncover and toss in the pan.

Add the chopped, roasted red pepper, the Italian herbs, pepper and sausage. Stir. Cover for about 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir about 5 more minutes. Add the spinach and basil, and toss in the pan until the greens wilt. Stir in the Parmesan and gently toss pan ingredients until the cheese melts and blends into the pan broth. Remove from heat and cover.

While Sausage Primavera is simmering, prepare the pasta according to package directions. Rinse and drain well. While still hot, toss the pasta and the primavera sauce together. Serve in a large platter. Top individual servings with shaved Parmesan or mozzarella cheese.

SIMPLE GARDEN SALAD
Remember the motto KISS DAD. When serving a pasta dish, this salad pairs best because of its simplicity and uncomplicated flavor.

simple salad-DSCN1482

1 lb (about 3-4 c) mixed cherry tomatoes

1 lb (about 3-4 c)small cucumbers

1/2 c chopped sweet onion

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 c white balsamic vinegar

2 T olive oil

1 tsp white granulated sugar or Splenda

1/2 tsp dried dill weed (or more to taste)

Baby romaine lettuce leaves, torn bite-size

Peel the cucumbers. Cut into thin circular slices. Cut each cherry tomato in half. Toss tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in a large bowl. Whisk salt and pepper, vinegar, oil, sugar and dill in a nonreactive mixing bowl until blended and emulsified. Drizzle over the tomatoes and cucumbers, toss to coat completely. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve the tomatoes and cucumbers with a bed of lettuce.

CHEESE TOAST
Toast the baguette slices and serve while hot. Nothing’s more perfect with the salad and pasta. Ooh la-la!

cheesetoast-DSCN1470

 

Baguette bread, sliced

Salted butter, room temperature

Baby Swiss cheese, grated

Garlic powder

 

Spread a thin layer of butter on each slice of bread. Sprinkle about 1 T cheese over each slice. Sprinkle with garlic powder to taste. Bake at 325˚F until cheese bubbles and bread is toasted to personal taste.

COFFEE GRANITA & CREAM
Also known in Italian as “granita siciliana” for its region of origin, this is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water, and various flavorings. It is related to sorbet, but literally is a crystalline ice mixture. In this recipe, I combined several favorite ingredients – coffee, chocolate and orange – to make a sort of granita frappuccino!

granita-DSCN1453

2 c strong coffee

1/3 c white granulated sugar

Zest of 1 small orange (such as a Clementine)

1/4 c bittersweet chocolate chips

Whipped cream

Make up a pot of extra-strong coffee (expresso or French Press work well). Dissolve the sugar and chocolate chips in 2 cups of the hot coffee. Stir in the orange zest. Pour coffee mixture into a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan and place flat in the freezer. After 40 minutes, remove tray and gently scrape the tines of a fork across the surface to break up crystals of semi-frozen mixture. Return pan to freezer and repeat process several times until entire mixture has achieved “shaved” or scraped status. Serve in a dish with a spritz of whipped cream and a white chocolate pretzel stick.

WHITE CHOCOLATE PRETZEL STICKS
This is a classic twist on sweet-and-salty flavor combos. Make up the pretzel sticks a day ahead and store in an airtight metal container to retain crispness. The pretzel rods will become stale after a few days as they absorb the moisture in the white chocolate coating.

granita&pretzelrods-DSCN1454

 

12-oz bag of pretzel rods

12 to 16 oz white chocolate chips

4 T salted butter

3 T heavy cream

 

Spread out rods on a sheet of waxed paper. Heat butter and cream in a double boiler until butter has melted. Stir in the chocolate chips, and continue to stir periodically with a wooden spoon until the chips melt. This will take a few minutes.

Once the chips begin to melt, stir vigorously continuously until the mixture becomes fluid. Remove pot from heat and begin to coat pretzel rods with the melted white chocolate, rotating the rods as you coat them.

Glob melted white chocolate onto the tips of the rods and position, not touching, on the waxed paper to cool. NOTE: As the white chocolate cools in the pan, it will become more difficult to adhere to the rods, but easier to twist.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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