Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

~ Orecchiette, Roasted Cauliflower, Oven Dried Prosciutto, Peas, Parmigiano ~

This recipe might best be called the “Calm before the Storm.” Thanksgiving is looming with its promise of feasts, indulgences and lots of leftovers. In anticipation of the predictable holiday chaos and our subsequent food coma, I aim for a moment of zen and economy, creating simple and efficient meals, deliciously comforting while using lurkers in the refrigerator as inspiration and freeing up space for turkey-centric leftovers. In this case, I unearthed a head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin, patiently waiting (as crucifers are so inclined) to be put to use from last week’s farmers market splurge. A chunk of pancetta gamely joined in, skirting its banishment to the freezer, along with a bag of well frozen peas eager for a defrost. Suddenly, I had an easy and healthy dinner on hand with no whiff of leftovers, stuffing or cranberry sauce – that will come later.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas
Serves 4.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack in oven until tender and bottoms are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to top rack and broil 2-3 minutes until tops are tinged brown. Remove from oven.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto in one layer on another baking sheet. Bake in same oven on middle rack until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, peas and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to warm the peas. Add cauliflower, prosciutto and 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and additional cheese on the side.

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

~ Baked Stuffed Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Rosemary and Honey ~

Food is like fashion. There are some trends that flash then fizzle, while there are classics that withstand the passage of time – just like a little black dress. The combination of figs, goat cheese and prosciutto falls in the little black dress category. Each ingredient is a specialty hailing from the cuisines of the Mediterranean, reflecting locally grown and raised food with a history spanning the ages. And they taste great together. No fancy accoutrements are needed – this is the stuff of slow food.  Whether you call it timeless or simply delicious, the common denominator is it strikes a primal chord in all of us, bringing us back for more.

This recipe showcases the ancient fig, one of the first plants cultivated by humans.  Figs are high in calcium, fiber, potassium and contain many antioxidants.  Luscious and honeyed, they are delicate in flavor.  Their subtle sweetness is an elegant addition to savory dishes such as pizzas and salads, while their mildness adds refinement to desserts, never tipping the sugar point.  Classic, understated and refined – all of the makings of timeless food and good fashion.

Stuffed Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

Fresh rosemary sprigs serve as toothpicks in assembling the figs while infusing flavor during the baking. Makes 12 hors-d’ouevres, or serves 6 as a salad course.

12 figs, ripe but not too soft
6 ounces soft goat cheese, room temperature
6 slices prosciutto, sliced in half length-wise
4 large rosemary sprigs, cut in thirds, plus extra for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil
Runny honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)

Cut the figs crosswise from the top, halfway down the fruit.  Gently separate the quarters to create an opening.  Scoop 1-2 teaspoons goat cheese into the opening, without overstuffing.  Wrap each fig with prosciutto slice.  Pierce the prosciutto and fig with a rosemary skewer to hold in place. Arrange figs in a baking pan. Gently brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (the prosciutto will also add salt). Bake in oven until prosciutto begins to crispen and cheese is tinged brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven. Carefully remove and discard baked rosemary sprigs. Arrange figs on serving platter or individual plates with fresh arugula (optional).  Drizzle each fig with honey.  Garnish with fresh rosemary leaves. Serve immediately.

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan

Prosciutto roll-ups are the perfect appetizer. Salty strips of prosciutto wrap around leafy arugula sprigs, crispy fennel spears and nutty Parmesan shavings, binding the vegetables together in an edible cocoon basted with lemon and garlic infused oil. This is the best kind of finger food – healthy, fresh and seasonal.

Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients and take advantage of the season’s produce.  Be sure to include a leafy green, a crisp vegetable and cheese for a variety of textures. Other suggestions would include a combination of basil or mint leaves, blanched asparagus spears or crispy pear slices, and pecorino, gorgonzola or manchego cheese.

Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan
Makes 24 roll-ups

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
12 slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula leaves, washed
1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed, sliced in half lengthwise, each half thinly sliced, lengthwise
4 ounces Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly shaved
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest together in a small bowl.
Place one prosciutto slice on work surface, long side parallel to the edge. Place several arugula leaves at one end. Top with several fennel slices and a few shavings of cheese. Drizzle with a 1/2 teaspoon of the oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Starting at the filled end, roll up the prosciutto. Place seam-side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining slices. Brush the roll-ups with a little of the oil. (May be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature to serve.)

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears

If you are looking for a too-easy-to-believe appetizer, then this recipe is the one. Requiring merely 3 ingredients, an oven and less than half an hour to prepare, the finger-licking results belie the ease. This recipe takes advantage of spring’s tender asparagus and salty prosciutto, which is always in season in our home. Baking crisps and coaxes the salt from the ham, while olive oil lightly naps the spears. Be sure to eat these warm straight from the oven – with your fingers.

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears
Makes 12

12 asparagus, medium thickness
6 prosciutto slices, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Lemon (ok, that’s a 4th ingredient, but it’s optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)
Snap off the woody stems of the asparagus and trim the bottoms with a knife. Wrap a slice of prosciutto diagonally around the asparagus stalks, leaving the tips and base exposed. Brush the exposed bits of the asparagus with olive oil. Arrange on a baking tray. Roast until the asparagus tips are tinged brown and the prosciutto is crispy,  about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with a little lemon juice, if desired.

Homemade Duck Prosciutto and a Tartine

Homemade Duck Prosciutto and a Tartine

For those of you not in the know, there is a fabulous food blog event taking place as we speak. I refer to Charcutepalooza: A Year in Meat, hosted by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster. These two bloggers have come up with the inspirational idea to cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie along with the participating food blogging community. I am a huge fan of charcuterie as well as the precepts of using sustainable and humanely raised meat, so it was without hesitation that I joined in the Charcutepalooza party.

The first challenge of the year was to make homemade duck prosciutto. I have long wished to make my own prosciutto, and what better way to get my feet wet (or hands salty) than with duck breasts. The only difficult aspect of the preparation was waiting 7 days for them to cure. During this time I learned two valuable things: Duck prosciutto is extremely easy to make, and that patience is a virtue – at least when it comes to curing meat.

There are many ways to enjoy duck prosciutto, the simplest quite often the best. In this case I prepared a tartine, or a French open-face sandwich. The prosciutto is paired with melting reblochon cheese and layered over mixed greens. At once rustic and fresh, this recipe is a great way to kick off Charcutepalooza’s Year of Meat.

Duck Prosciutto and Reblochon Tartine

Reblochon is a soft cow milk cheese from the Savoie region of the French alps. It may be substituted with Saint Nectaire or Camembert. Try using a variety of greens and herbs. I used what I had on hand: flat leaf parsley, mizuna and radicchio.

Makes 4

2 slices of french country bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups mixed greens, such as lambs lettuce, frisée, green herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 wedges Reblochon or Saint Nectaire cheese
4 sprigs rosemary
4 slices duck prosciutto

Preheat oven broiler. Lightly brush bread with olive oil. Arrange on baking tray and broil, turning once, until lightly golden. Remove from oven, but don’t turn off the heat.
Place greens in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper; toss.
Place wedges of cheese in a small baking pan. Top each wedge with a rosemary sprig. Broil until cheese begins to soften and bubble, 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven.
Arrange bread slices on a plate or platter. Top with greens. Place a cheese wedge on the greens. Lay a slice of prosciutto over the greens and cheese. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Pasta Peas Prosciutto

It was a good day at the farmer’s market today. Spring is in full force in Northern California.  Baskets of arugula, mesclun, mustard greens and kale flowers vied for attention between tables teetering with asparagus, artichokes, fava beans and sugar peas.  I discovered elephant garlic scapes, nibbled on Venezuelan artisan chocolate, sampled extra-virgin olive oil and a sublime balsamic vinegar.  The sun was strong in the sky after a week of rain.  It was only 8:30 in the morning.

In usual fashion, my money ran out before my eyes and tastebuds tired.  Each time I go to the market I promise myself I will walk through the stalls first – just to look, taste samples, take pictures, and restrain myself from heavy purchases.  Once through I will double back to stock up, saving the heaviest items for last: citrus, potatoes and tubers, bottles of oil, kilos of meat.

In a perfect world.

This time, I made it through two thirds of the market before I had to turn back, my shopping bags bulging, my arms aching from dangling plastic sacks, handbag and camera, everything dusted in a coat of flour from ficelles balancing in the crook of my elbow.  A woman passed me pulling a smart trolley layered with wicker baskets filled with her market harvest, gracefully maneuvering through the crowds, stopping and chatting, tasting, selecting.  I made a mental note to find one of those for myself.

This recipe is inspired by today’s acquisitions and the TasteFood recipe archives:

Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint
Serves 4

6 ounces (170 g.) prosciutto
1 pound (500 g.) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal in 1″ pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup (125 ml.) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup shelled English peas
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper

Additional grated Pecorino Romano for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F./170 C.  Arrange prosciutto slices on baking sheet.  Bake in oven 15 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave prosciutto in for additional 15 minutes.  Remove.  Break prosciutto into 1/2″ pieces.  Set aside.

Steam asparagus pieces until tender but still firm.  Remove from heat and rinse under cold water; set aside.

In a large saucepan cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in skillet.  Add garlic and cook until aromatic but not brown, about 1 minute.  Add stock and cream.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and cook until reduced by a third.  Add peas and cook one minute.  Add asparagus, half the prosciutto, and freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine.  Add cream sauce to the orrechietti. Stir in 1 cup Pecorino Romano and 1/4 cup mint. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese, mint leaves and remaining prosciutto.

Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto and Tarragon Aioli

Asparagus and lemon go hand in hand.  The citrus compliments the grassy, astringency of ripe asparagus while the two seasonal ingredients sing springtime. A luxurious aioli infused with tarragon elevates this dish with a rich and bright creaminess. Just to keep it real, oven-dried prosciutto  is crumbled over the dish adding salty, porky crunch. Be sure not to overcook the asparagus. They should be steamed until bright green, but still firm.

Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto and Tarragon Aioli
Serves 4-6 as a side dish or appetizer

Make the Aioli:

2 very fresh large egg yolks*
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Combine the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until homogenized.  Combine oils in a small bowl. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in oil until the mixture comes together and thickens. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in tarragon and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate until use.

*Due to the slight risk of Salmonella, use only fresh, properly refrigerated and clean Grade A or AA eggs with shells intact, and avoid contact between the opened shell and the whites or yolks.

Prepare the Asparagus:

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends snapped off, bottoms cut on the diagonal
sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
6 prosciutto slices

Preheat oven to 325 F. Arrange prosciutto slices in one layer on a baking tray. Bake in oven 15 minutes. Turn off oven. Keep prosciutto in oven for additional 15 minutes. Remove and cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch briefly until they are bright green in color, but still firm, 1 minute.  Remove, drain and refresh under cold water. Lay on a kitchen towel in one layer to cool and thoroughly dry.
Arrange asparagus on a platter. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over. Sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle Tarragon Aioli over asparagus (or serve on side for dipping.) Break  the prosciutto into shards and scatter over the asparagus.