Sunday, April 15, 2012

Simple Pasta Primavera – What is Pasta Primavera? Springtime Celebration!

Simple Pasta Primavera – What is Pasta Primavera? Springtime Celebration!

There are many recipes for pasta primavera, and they come in a thousand variations. From gourmet pasta recipes which call for cream, expensive cheeses, or unusually shaped pastas, to the simplest of recipes for pasta primavera, asking for nothing but a couple of vegetables and a drizzle of oil. They are usually all delicious too – and the thing is, they are every single one an authentic pasta primavera.

Why? Because the word primavera in Italian means nothing more than spring, and so when asking ‘what is pasta primavera?’, the answer can be found in any pasta recipe that connotes spring, it’s weather, it’s warmth, and it’s fresh produce. For this reason, not only is pasta primavera a very healthy pasta dish, it is also incredibly adaptable, quick, easy and delicious. It can serve as a main dish or a side, and many recipes for pasta primavera are even fabulous cold.

This particular recipe for pasta primavera is quick, easy, delicious and adaptable. Use whatever fresh vegetables you wish – and if you luck into a bit of the best of spring veggies, such as asparagus or ramps, throw them in! Cut the roasting time for the more delicate veggies, so as not to overcook them. If you’d like, start the carrots about ten minutes before the other vegetables, or just cut them into a finer julienne and toss them all in together. Or if you are simply craving fresh, bright flavors, make this any time of year with whichever veggies you find most appealing.

Give this simple pasta primavera a shot – you’ll quickly come to love it!


  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, one yellow and one red, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, both to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound bowtie pasta
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 450F.

In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Transfer vegetables to a large baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Place into preheated oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes. Halfway through baking time, stir the vegetables. You want the carrots to be tender, and the rest to begin to brown, but not overcooked.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of well salted (tastes like sea water) boiling water, cook the pasta until either tender or al dente – to your preference. It should take about 8-10 minutes. Drain pasta, but hang onto about a cup or so of the pasta cooking liquid.

Toss the vegetables and pasta together in a large bowl to combine. Made sure to add the oil and juices from the veggies that collect on the baking sheet. Add cherry tomatoes and Parmesan, and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Deglaze a Pan and Build a Pan Sauce

I’m going to show you how to make a pan sauce, and we’re going to do this by deglazing. Now you can think of this as using a magic potion in the kitchen, and you’re going to do it with this magic wand.

Now over here all I’ve done is browned off a pork chop. And you want this nice rich, deep color, because that means you’ve got this stuff left in the pan. Now this is going to be the fond that we’re going to use to build a sauce. It’s called fond because that means foundation in French, and it’s the foundation for sauces, and it’s the foundation for flavor.

Now to deglaze, what you want to do is get that stuff up off the bottom of your pan and into your food where it’s going to do you some good. We’re going to do that this way – with a little wine. And you can do it with any number of things, just about any kind of liquid. I like using a little bit of acid, and wine is an acidic ingredient. You can also use vinegar – I love cooking with vinegar; it just adds amazing flavor. You can use alcohol of whatever kind, brandy if you want to.

Now next step, and I’m going to throw in…now this is how hard a pan sauce is. It seriously is this easy. A little bit of garlic, a little bit of shallot, and a little bit of chicken broth. You don’t much, and at this stage, we’re going to give this, I’d say, no more than three or four minutes. I’m going to let it come to a very nice, heavy rolling boil. We’re going to reduce it by about half in volume, while those shallots get soft.

This is just about perfect. We’ve allowed that wine to reduce and that intensifies all those flavors. It burnt off about all of the alcohol, but you’ve got amazing taste left in there. So this one we’re going to keep very, very simple. We’re going to finish it with just a pat of butter, and we’re going to whisk him in like that. And as soon as that gets melted down, we add the last little tiny thing. Are we good? There! This is just a little bit of fresh parsley.

That’s it! And I’m taking this straight this straight over this way. Perfect. And that is how to deglaze!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fond! What it is and how to use it!

Fond and How to Use it

One of the most important things that you can learn how to do if you’re teaching yourself how to cook, is to learn how to cook with this stuff. Now, you’re going to hear this talked about in two different ways. There are going to be people who have studied classical French food and they’re going to be calling it suc – think of the French word sucre for sugar – that’s what that is. Here in America we call it fond, even though fond in classically French cooking is the next step. But we’re going to call this entire process of development fond. And I remember it, and help my kids remember it when I’m teaching them by remembering we’re fond of fond.

Now fond in French means foundation and what you’re doing with this stuff is building from it. And it’s the most valuable thing which you can develop in your kitchen. This is the first step in deglazing and this is the first step in developing a pan sauces.

Now what I’ve done in here, is I’ve browned off a whole bunch of bacon, and then I’ve browned chicken on top of it. All this luscious, lovely stuff down here in the bottom? That’s where the outsides of my foods have caramelized or developed their sugars. It’s incredibly rich, it’s incredibly deep in flavor.

Now my next step is going to be to use the fond, all of this wonderful stuff as a base for a sauce that I’m going to build to go with my chicken. I’m going to do that by simply deglazing my pan. Deglazing is not hard. You put some kind of liquid in there, keep it over the heat, scrape it up with a wooden spoon, and that’s what gives you the basis for just about any kind of pan sauce you want to develop. In this case I’m using some white wine, some chicken broth and some veggies, but you can use just about anything you can think of. And that’s all there is to it.

So – fond. We’re fond of it. It’s the foundation for all of our recipes. This is how you get really fabulous flavor!

Peppercorns - Green, Pink, Black and White

Video and transcript for Peppercorns - Green, Pink, White AND Black Peppercorns!, by Jan Charles, The Thrillbilly Gourmet

One of my very favorite ingredients to work with when cooking is pepper. Now pepper is ubiquitous, it’s all over the place. Salt and pepper is very, very common but there is so much more than that. You’re probably very familiar with simple black peppercorns. You can get them in all kinds of sizes, shapes and varieties. You just crush them up and apply as much or as little as you want. But that is not all there is to pepper, and a lot of it depends on the life cycle of when the little seeds – well, they’re drupes – are picked.

So – if you don’t let them get all the way to the black peppercorn stage you start out over here, with green peppercorns. Now these are very similar, they have the same chemical compound that give black peppercorn it’s little peppery kick. That distinct little bite that nothing else has. Now these are done in several different ways. You’ll often find them sold like this, in little tiny jars and they’ve been packed in a salt water brine or sometimes in vinegar, and to use them this way – let’s see if I can make this happen – just crush them with the back of a spoon. Just open them up and you’ve got that wonderful peppery kick. It’s softer though, and if you’ve gotten rid of the salt brine,  you have this beautiful, soft blossom of flavor, but without quite as much strength.

Now go on up in the life cycle and you wait a little bit longer, a white peppercorn is simply a peppercorn that has been picked right before it has developed that black outer casing. Now these are also done dry, and done just like you would do a black peppercorn. A lot of times white pepper is reserved for white dishes.  If you want to do a pretty b├ęchamel and don’t want black pepper flecks, or if you run a puree of potato and don’t want the black pepper flecks, use the white pepper. You get much the same flavor but you don’t have, you know – little specks.

And finally, over here, we have pink peppercorns. Now this is a slightly different species than these other three, but they do have much the same flavor. You can buy these dried, and if you can see this, this one’s set aside by this, what  you have is this little tiny husk, and this little kernel on the inside. Now that husk is what it makes it so pretty, and pink peppercorn – and green peppercorn too – both have been rising in popularity recently. I’ve noticed that from browsing online – lots of people have been posting recipes.

Next time you’re looking at pepper – give one of these other ones a try. You’ll love the difference in flavor, and the variety, and you won’t be limited to just the black!