A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shackin' Up

Gosh! I'm sorry I have been posting so sporadically these days! Apparently life (work, school, and a little bit of a social life) has filled my dance card the past few months. But that does not mean I haven't been cooking, baking and eating well. (Unfortunately, it does mean exercise and enjoying some this beautiful weather has taken a back seat for a moment.)

There has been a big change in my life...my apartment is now our apartment, as RFC and I have taken the plunge and decided to live together. We now have a cozy little home, that has amazingly absorbed much of his belongings. It is an adjustment, but one whole heartedly made, and the payoff is having someone special to come home to every night.

We celebrated our new living arrangements recently by having a couple friends over to see what my, oops, I mean our apartment looks like with more furniture (like dressers!). And we used the gathering as an excuse to buy lots of goodies at an Italian deli we discovered down the block. Sorriso's has been around for about thirty years and everything we have tried has been delicious, from their sandwiches to their capanota. This time we bought a selection of Italian meats: proscuitto, capicola, and salami, along with their housemade mozzarella (it's creamy and has a lightly salty exterior).

I also took out of the freezer a jar of Fig Sesame Jam I had made a few weeks previously. Yes, I did give jam making another try. It paired wonderfully with manchego cheese and crackers. I finished it off later in the week with the leftover meats. One highlight of the evening was RFC's baked ziti. He made his own sauce with fresh oregano and a bit of spice from hot peppers. The spiciness was even more present the next day. With his permission, here is his recipe. Lucky us had so much leftover, there is a smaller tray in the freezer ready to go.

Baked Ziti
One pound ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and fresh ground black pepper
one egg
1 package of (I think it is a pound also) of regular mozzarella cheese, part skim is fine
1 pound of ziti (I prefer large rigatoni)

Prepare cheese mixture by mixing ricotta, oregano (pulled off the stems), and salt and pepper. It is also nice to add 1/4-1/2 cup pecorino-romano grated cheese. Let sit at room temp while cooking pasta. The mozzarella will be used to create the crunchy brown top. Cut the cheese into pencil sized bars.

Next, cook pasta about 3/4 of the recommended cooking time, so the pasta is pre-aldente. The pasta will continue to cook while baking in the oven. Preheat oven to 375 when you drain the pasta. Pour the pasta into your baking dish (about 9 x 13). Add cheese mixture to the pasta and slowly add sauce till you have a nice pinkish color, that is pretty wet. Once the ziti is mixed, cover it with sauce on top. Lay the mozzarella rods out in any kind of pattern on top of the sauce, I usually do a cross-hatch, but it all melts together anyway. Bake for anywhere from 45-60 mins. Depending on you oven, you may have to cover the top with foil for the first 30 mins. Check on the dish every five mins starting at 45 mins. Top should get brown.

1 large can of whole tomatoes (roma/plum from italy)
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes (roma/plum from Italy)
1/4 cup fresh garlic, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh oregano pulled from the stems
enough olive oil to cover bottom of pot
3 grilled cherry peppers, from a jar, the ones I used were hot
teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
Add oil, garlic, and oregano to medium-large saucepan. Saute on medium flame till garlic starts to become translucent. Add tomatoes and crush whole tomatoes by hand, puncture and then crush, otherwise the tomato erupt all over the place. Make sure to use liquid that is with whole tomatoes. Add cherry peppers. I usually half the peppers, de-seed and coarsely chop them. Bring to a boil on high heat, and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir, look, and taste the sauce for the next one or two hours. You may season to taste at this point with salt and pepper. You can be creative at this point. I add carrot slices to make a less acidic sauce. Grilled eggplant it also nice.

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Astoria, New York
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