Rye Pasta with Salmon and Tomato Cream Sauce

In an effort to take advantage of the relatively mild weather before the inevitable cold spell comes (though the winter wonderland decorations already bedazzling just about every outdoor space have me believing that it’s already here), I’ve been booking my weekends with just about every outdoor activity possible. From long walks and wineries to old college town tailgating and, just last weekend, to the delightfully food-oriented Emporiyum.

Essentially a pop-up market, Emporiyum set up shop at Union Market in DC and about 100 chefs, creatives and artisanal food-makers brought their beautiful and delicious creations for all to eat, drink, and purchase. With free samples at almost every stall, my friends and I spent a good two hours meandering through every inch of the space, robotically reaching out to try everything presented to us. Scattered amongst some more well-known purveyors like Shake Shack and Route 11 chips, it was actually the tiny food businesses, the ones really experimenting with their subjects of choice, that impressed me the most. A crowd favorite was Buredo, the sushi burrito sensation that’s taking DC by storm (and yes, it is as good as it looks). I also ended up walking away with cod brew coffee aged in whiskey barrels from Vigilante Coffee, spicy maple syrup from Mixed Made, a smoked cinnamon ice cream from Little Baby’s Ice Cream, and some rye trumpet pasta from Spoglini Pasta Shop.

I’m not entirely sure why I bought the pasta. I honestly don’t even really eat that much pasta. But something about the unique and interesting shapes they offered, the rough-textured exteriors of the dry noodles, and the array of flavors from Everything Bagel Fusilli to Mint Cavatelli, had me suddenly needing to buy a bag. When it came time to make a dish out of it, I started with my favorite tomato butter sauce and built upon that with ingredients typically paired with rye, in this case hot smoked salmon and capers. I cut the tanginess of the sauce with a little bit of cream and added some freshness with spinach, fresh dill and a touch of lemon juice and zest. The dish is comforting and hearty without being overly heavily – it is Thanksgiving in 4 days after all – and once the sauce is done it all comes together fairly quickly. Of course the dish would still be great with any standard pasta, but if you can get your hands on some made with rye (Spoglini sells online!) you’ll see just what a difference it makes.

Rye Pasta with Salmon and Tomato Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6
Sauce recipe based on Marcella Hazan’s tomato butter sauce

1x28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
½ cup heavy cream
1 lb rye trumpet pasta
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large bunch of spinach
2 Tbs. capers
juice and zest of a lemon
8 oz hot smoked salmon, torn into large chunks
1 Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper

Start by making the sauce. In a large saucepan combine the tomatoes, butter and the two halves of the onion along with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to cook for about 45 minutes, until thick. Occasionally use a wooden spoon to stir and break up chunks of the tomato. When the sauce is done, transfer the onion pieces to a plate, cut into rough chunks, and return to the pot with the sauce. Stir in the cream and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve a half-cup of the pasta water and drain. Pour the noodles back into the empty pot and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Add in the capers and the lemon zest and pour in the tomato sauce to warm it back up.  Once hot, add the sauce to the pot with the cooked noodles. Add the salmon pieces and the dill to the pasta along with a squeeze of lemon juice and gently mix to combine. Pour in some of the reserved pasta water if it looks a little dry. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Grilled Corn Carbonara

Following tradition, I made my once yearly trek to Boston and spent a fabulous 4th of July weekend with my sister. At the airport I stocked up on all of my in-flight essentials (mentos, popcorn, sparkling water, food magazines) and during the whole 55 minutes of the flight, I flipped through the most recent issue of Food and Wine Magazine, the America’s Greatest Chefs Issue. The bio and recipes from Tim Maslow caught my eye immediately, not only because his restaurant Ribelle is located in Boston but also because he included a recipe for a corn carbonara pasta dish. “How intriguing!”  I thought as the pilot announced our final descent and I stowed the magazine away in my carryon bag.

Now this is the part of the story where you would expect me to go and dine at Ribelle and try the restaurant’s renowned food for myself, and maybe even meet the chef in person where I would tell him how I just read his bio earlier that day. But that’s not what happened. We instead went to Giulia (again) for one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten (again). But I digress. So, although a trip to Ribelle was pushed to the “next time” agenda, that corn carbonara recipe kept nagging at me somewhere in the back on my mind saying, “make this NOW!”

So I did.

This carbonara goes against all rules that define carbonara. It has no dairy and it has no egg but instead gets an ethereally smooth and creamy texture from a sauce made of straight-up corn puree. I added an extra step as well and grilled the corn first to add a bit of a smoky and caramelized flavor. The combination of the sweet corn sauce with salty bacon, shallot and garlic and a specialty cracked pepper fettuccine that I found at the farmers market made for a flavor that is the essence of summer in one comforting and indulgent bite. Maslow pairs his version with jumbo lump crabmeat, but I left it out. However that or grilled scallops or some roasted shrimp would all be welcome additions. Pair with a simple salad or some steamed asparagus and you’ll be living the good life for sure!

Grilled Corn Carbonara
Serves 4-6
Adapted Tim Maslow via Food and Wine Magazine

8 ears of corn, shucked
1 lb spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine
2 Tbs. olive oil or butter
¼ lb bacon, cut into a small dice
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. lemon juice plus the zest for serving
salt and pepper
olive oil, smoked paprika and parmesan, for serving

Lightly brush the corn with olive oil and grill over medium hear either on an indoor grill pan or an outdoor grill. Rotate frequently until lightly charred on all sides. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the corncobs making sure to scrape all of the juice and pulp from the cobs. Transfer the kernels and corn juice to a blender and blend on high speed until you have a smooth puree. Thoroughly strain through a fine mesh sieve and set the puree aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Once ready, reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Set this aside as well.

In the same pot used for the pasta, heat the olive oil or butter over medium. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 7 minutes. At this point you can discard a bit of the grease by mopping up with a paper towel, if desired. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 3 more minutes.

Add in the pasta, the corn puree, 1¼ cups of the reserved water, and the lemon juice. Cook over a medium heat, while tossing with tongs, until the sauce is thick, 3-5 minutes, adding more of the pasta water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly grated parmesan, and a dash of smoked paprika. 

Pasta with Creamy Pea Sauce

Over the past few weeks I’ve really been hit hard with an intense feeling of being blissfully busy. Yes, this is a good thing. Living a half-mile from my work has opened up so may doors, freeing up at least three hours of daytime that I used to spend sitting behind the wheel. I have been cramming loads of stuff into every nook of free time that I have acquired. Again, good thing. Things like being on a recreational softball team, cake commissions and simply going to a party or a post-work happy hour are at last doable. I’m living large over here people!

Most notable, though, is that I’ve been running quite a bit. I decided on a whim to sign up for a half-marathon and only give myself 2 months to train so I’ve had to adapt to a pretty intense running routine that I haven’t had since high school. It’s been hard to get back into it but I’m quickly regaining that sort of life-high that comes with regular running. There’s just something about spending the first hour of the day outside that sets everything off right. I share the morning with a lone fox perusing the remains of someone’s overgrown garden, herds of suburban deer, and corporate gentlemen making their morning bike-commute. I head out with a hazy, halfway sun and return with emerging light rays. It’s pretty great.

So what does someone with a plethora of busyness and ravenous post-run food cravings eat. Pasta, of course. More specifically, pasta drenched in a creamy, garlic-butter, green pea sauce. I’ve made a huge load if it twice in the past month and it might just become a problem because I’m still craving it. The recipe is from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Coming from this book, then, it is technically supposed to be a vegetarian recipe, but honestly I add bacon to it and it’s delicious so I don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s really quite simple and relatively cheap and you can make a ton of it, divvy it up between pyrex containers, and eat it for lunch all week long. Basically all it takes is whizzing up some warm peas in a food processor with garlic butter, mascarpone, and parm and mixing it with some hot pasta, crispy bacon and a few more whole peas. That’s about all there is too it. One could say it’s easy peasy…or one could not. I’m leaving now.

Pasta with Creamy Pea Sauce
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg
Serves 3-4

Note: I really like using orecchiette or conchiglie pasta for this because the cup shapes make a great place for peas to get trapped. It’s like a little surprise when you bite down and get pleasant pop of a pea in your pasta.

1 lb. frozen peas
12 oz small pasta
3 Tbs. butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1 oz. Parmesan, grated, plus more for serving
6 strips cooked bacon
salt and pepper

Begin by frying your bacon in a large skillet. Once cooked, crumble it into large-ish pieces and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta. While that comes to a boil, wipe out the frying pan and pour in your frozen peas. Cover with water and bring to a boil as well. Let simmer for a few minutes. Using a measuring cup, reserve ½ cup of the pea cooking water and drain the peas. Set aside.

Add your pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package instructions. While the pasta cooks, use the same skillet and heat the butter over low heat. Once melted, add the garlic and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until soft, but not colored.

Combine ¾ of the warm peas, the pea cooking water, garlic butter, mascarpone, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and combine immediately with the pea sauce in a large bowl. Combine with the remaining whole peas and the bacon. Serve with more parmesan, cracked black pepper, some red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.