30 November 2005

Last night, I semi-replicated the dish Dan S. made for us in Italy. He had the benefit of Italian zucchini and fresh made fusilli. I used the Braun cordless kettle I am currently in love with. The automatic kettle is as good as those instant 190 degree water thingies people put on their sink. Actually, since those dispensers only hold about 3 cups of water at a time, I'd prefer the kettle, which holds 7 cups. It boils very quickly and shuts off automatically. I bought it for tea and manual drip coffee, but use it for cooking nearly every time I turn on the stove. It works especially well for pasta on a weeknight.

I fill up the kettle and set it to boil. Into the large pasta pot, I put about an inch of water and a tablespoon of salt, then set it over high heat. Then I go about making or heating the sauce. When the kettle boils, I open the top flap so it can be dumped out quickly. (Otherwise, I have to hold the upturned kettle over a steaming pot for too long.) Dump the water in the pot and it's usually at a rolling boil immediately. Set the timer (for 1-2 min short of recommended cooking time), throw in the pasta, and bingo bango, al dente perfection. For long noodles which need to be submerged more, or for pasta for more than two people, two batches of boiling water are sometimes necessary, but it's still much faster than boiling it on the stove (and wastes a lot less energy since the water is heated directly).

Orecchiette con zucchini
1/2 lb. orecchiete pasta
2 zucchini, grated on large holes of box grater
1 clove garlic, run through garlic press
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano

1.) Place water on to boil (or use kettle method above).
2.) In a medium saucepan, saute the garlic in oil over medium heat, browning very slightly. Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. (The salt should help the zuchs release a lot of their moisture.)
3.) Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving a half cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta. Do not rinse or shake. Add pasta to zucchini, add the butter and some of the pasta water according to taste, and stir until well combined. Top with Parm and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Another of my recent favorite tricks is warming up the pasta bowls with the pasta water. If my mom were watching, I'd use a ladle to put some of the boiling water into each bowl to heat it up a little and make sure the ceramic doesn't cool down the pasta too much, but when it's just me or me and my girlfriend, near the end of the pasta cooking time, I'll just dip the bowl into the pasta water and scoop out some water. This is also nice because it sets aside pasta water for combining with the finished product in the saucepan, whatever sauce you're using.

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