In all fairness I owe a lot of what’s written to my brother, Sean. He’s basically my 24/7 hotline for bouncing recipe ideas off of someone, and getting editing suggestions. Sometimes he’ll even blurt out, “you know what would be cool…,” and then hit me with some nifty idea that I try and work up. This was one of those times.
He threw the idea of putting sambal in arrabiata sauce. For those of you who don’t know arrabiata is a pasta sauce that consists of tomato, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. That’s it. I tried making this with just subbing out the chili for sambal and it was fine, there just wasn’t any magic.
Then I decided to add a couple of flavor friends, fish sauce for salty funk and ginger for extra pep in my step, and the flavor profile felt full and packed with umami.
Ok so in the past I’ve gotten bad about feeling the need to do some intense diet and exercising for the new year. I usually lose weight for a while, but end up feeling restricted, overworked, and not very happy by Summer. Instead for 2020 I’m going with a goal of “happy food.” I aim to cook what’s making me happy in that moment no matter how weird or out of my normal culinary zone it may be. I’m on a new path of chasing after happy dances.
That being said, like many of you this holiday season got me jacked up. Spiked hot cocoa, tons of red meat, and all the latkes I can eat are really cool, but I needed a major reset button to start 2020 feeling fresh and clean.
One of my favorite things to have in the morning is a huge mug of matcha to get me perked up and ready to go, which was the jump off point of this dish. The surrealistic pondscape consists of some of my favorite clean flavors: salmon, cucumber, nori, roe, and dashi. The effect is a really cool combination of oceany flavors from the fish and dashi with the earthiness of matcha to create something that feels very nature inspired.
Even though we’re in the middle of winter the lightness and freshness of this dish can’t help but make me feel like spring is around the corner. Another cool perk is it can be served at any temperature and still work.
Back in I want to say sometime between 1999-2001 I lived for when my parents would let me stay up late so I could watch the original Japanese Iron Chef. The drama, the chefs being themed on nationality, my dear sweet Chairman Kaga, and that fortune teller judge. What a time to be alive.
Those late (to a six-year-old) nights were pretty much my crash course in getting wild and creative. I remember they made ice cream out of EVERYTHING, namely squid ink, which I didn’t even know was a thing you eat, but now I adore. But this story leads to one place. And that is my first ever love/hero, Masahiko Kobe aka “Iron Chef Italian.” This dude made ravioli with chocolate pasta dough.
My. World. Was. Rocked. I went borderline rabid asking how is that possible, and if my mom would make it for me. She looked like I grew two heads.
Fast forward about 10 years. I’m a junior in high school. My mom, brother and I took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. We stopped in a fancy chocolate shop. And there it was…a bag of chocolate fettuccine. I immediately flashed back to my Iron Chef days and tried to do everything to get that bag to go home with me, to no avail.
But guess what, mom? I’m an adult now and can make my own damn chocolate pasta! (I’m sorry mom, I love you.)
The biggest challenge was figuring out what sauce to make with it. I thought creamy, I thought mascarpone, and then I thought nah. I decided I wanted something that felt fresh to go with it. So I landed on raspberries and mint for freshness, with a punch of balsamic vinegar for intrigue.
In case you hadn’t noticed, in a very large percent of the world it is extremely cold out right now. Currently I live in Chicago and we have the kind of cold where a hot coffee can freeze on the walk to the train, salt solutions make cars and every clothing item you own look gross, and you see me at peak crankiness. When it comes to winters like this all I want to do is live in a blanket fort and sustain myself on pizza and hot cocoa.
In the town I grew up in there is a pizza place. When I was little every time my family would get takeout from there my dad and I both had to get their spaghetti and meatballs. I’m not even sure why because it was actually incredibly mediocre. You could tell it was frozen and the sauce tasted like water, but that was my and my dad’s thing.
I think anyone who reads my blog at this point knows I am a garlic junkie. Have I even posted one recipe that does not use any garlic other than the dessert I posted? To be honest I don’t think I have. And can you blame me? Garlic is absolutely delicious! There is nothing better than that sweet, almost nutty flavor you get from beautifully browned garlic. Well this pasta recipe here is an ode to all the fellow garlic lovers out there, and even better, this recipe is unbelievably cheap and simple to prepare and is friendlier to the figure than a lot of the recipes I have posted.
One of my favorite culinary styles is high/low cooking. High/low cooking basically takes a dish that is considered plain, humble, peasant food, or junk food and turns the volume up giving it a gourmet twist. That is what I have done with this beef stroganoff.
It has to be obvious at this point that creamy pastas are my kryptonite. There is just something so magical about a cream sauce that packs a ton of flavor. The one downside of a cream sauce is that they can feel overly decadent. For tonight’s meal I wanted to try and explore the lighter side of the cream sauce, if there is such a thing.
I am about to share something very sacred with all of you. Do you recall your first food memory? Maybe something a parent, guardian, day care professional, or nanny made for you? That one special food that always just makes you feel warm, tingly, and loved? This is my version of that. Ever since I was three or four years old I remember my mom making her famous chicken parmesan.
I have said it once on this blog already and I will keep saying it until the day I die, I love pasta. I am addicted to it, I can just never get enough. One of the perks of pasta is that it makes for a ridiculously easy week night meal. All you have to do is boil some stuff for what, about 10 minutes, and then make a sauce. Child’s play.