Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Grilled Whole Lake Trout with Garlic and Thyme

If you’re looking for a main dish that’s quick and easy to make, delicious, and makes for a dramatic presentation, whole grilled fish is a great way to go.

I was talking with the fishmonger at my local market last Saturday, and asked him what would be best to grill that night. He steered me to these beautiful lake trout, caught the day before. (When I say “whole” I just mean, heads and tails still on – the fishmonger had already cleaned/gutted them.)

Opening up and admiring the fish at home

Fish that’s very fresh has good color, shiny eyes, and firm flesh.

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

After admiring the fish, I stuffed each one with a few springs of fresh thyme, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and then rubbed a little olive oil on the outsides, just a tablespoon or so. Meanwhile I was heating the grill, and had scraped the grill grate clean with a wire brush and wiped a little oil on the grate too.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

Before grilling the fish, I prepped the ingredients for our side dish, since I knew the fish cooking time would be short. Given this month’s garden bounty, fresh pesto and cherry tomatoes over pasta was the clear way to go. Years ago Elph gave me a beautiful Italian marble mortar and pestle that is fun to use, so that’s a bonus, and an encouragement to make pesto by hand rather than using a cuisinart. (When I’m making large quantities of pesto, I definitely do use a cuisinart…)

Some swear that basil tastes better and stays fresher when torn rather than cut with a knife; I have not tested that for myself, but I did enjoy using the mortar and pestle for this small dinner. I first crushed a clove of garlic in 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and then added basil and a good olive oil a bit at a time until I’d added about a packed cup’s worth of basil and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and last added in some toasted walnuts, 1/3 cup or so. I sliced the cherry tomatoes (these are like candy right now so I used a lot, maybe 2 cups worth), and grated a cup of parmigiano reggiano.

I’d brought salted water to boil in a large pot, and when it was time to put the fish on the grill, I also put the pasta in the cooking water. This is easier to do simultaneously when you have 2 people cooking! If you’re solo you’ll probably want to stagger the cooking to prevent overcooking either the pasta or the fish.

We used a timer for 7 minutes a side for the fish, which is what the fishmonger recommended, but he also said just to test it by making a small incision in the flesh and seeing if it was flaky and no longer translucent.

It's hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

It’s hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

We enjoyed plating the fish whole and eating them that way. We poured a little olive oil over each fish and squeezed fresh lemon juice over too, and gave each another sprinkle of salt and pepper. You eat one side by lifting the skin up off the meat, with the backbone facing away from you on the plate, and then sliding the meat gently down toward the plate with a fork. It slides cleanly off the bone, but you just pay attention to make sure you don’t get the occasional stray bone. And then turn it over and eat the other side. And don’t forget the cheeks! Tiny and fun to eat, just down from and a little behind the eyes. We could taste the thyme and garlic in the fish.

A wonderful summer meal; it made me feel like our back deck was perched up in Tuscany or Sicily. Enjoy!

Pasta Carbonara

Every once in a while in winter time, I crave Pasta Carbonara – a simple dish that relies heavily on the use of high-quality ingredients.

Courtesy of Zingerman’s Mail Order, I had some excellent guanciale just waiting in my freezer, from La Quercia, an artisanal meat-curing company in Iowa. As well as some Parmigiano Reggiano from Zingerman’s Deli. (On our Tuscany food tour, we visit the tiny cheese maker who makes this Parm Reg that Zingerman’s Deli carries!) And, local free-range eggs from the farmer’s market. With some sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and our favorite brand of dried pasta, I was ready to roll. Recipe follows the photos. Enjoy!

Browning the guanciale

Adding the onion and browning

Parmigiano Reggiano with free-range eggs

Adding salt and pepper and then whisking

Stirring it quickly in to the cooked pasta and guanciale mixture

And eating immediately! A large serving of a good salad helps balance out the richness.

Pasta Carbonara
(recipe modified from

5 ounces guanciale (unsmoked cured hog jowl), or pancetta
1 medium onion, finely chopped (note, some recipes skip onion and only use garlic)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (note, some recipes skip garlic and use only onion)
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 large eggs
3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or use all Parm Reg)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, optional garnish

Cut guanciale or pancetta into 1/3-inch dice, then cook in a deep 12-inch heavy
skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fat begins to render, 1 to 2 minutes. Add
onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add wine
and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano
(if using), 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small

Drain spaghetti in a colander and add to onion mixture, then toss with tongs over
moderate heat until coated. Remove from heat and add egg mixture, tossing to
combine. Serve immediately on warm plates.

Spaghetti al Limone and Crispy Kale

I was in the mood for some good Italian winter comfort food that still was on the light side, and settled on the northern Italian specialty called Spaghetti al Limone (spaghetti in a lemon-cream sauce). It was super-easy, with a rich, smooth lemony flavor. And for a side dish I made crispy kale.

To make the crispy kale, I used “curly” kale, washed and dried it, and tore it up into bite-sized pieces. I tossed it in a big bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple teaspoons of sea salt, until it was very well coated with the oil. (You can use all kinds of different spices, this time I was going for simple.) Then I spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and baked it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, watching it very carefully – I’ve found it generally only needs about 10 minutes. You want it to get crisp, not soggy, but you don’t want it to turn brown. When it’s perfect, it’s amazingly light and crispy and very fun to eat. I made this while the pasta water was heating up and while the noodles were cooking.

Crispy kale!

Ingredients for the Spaghetti al Limone.

To make the Spaghelli al Limone (recipe courtesy of a cooking magazine plus a few little variations of my own):
1 pound of spaghetti (I use gluten-free, generally Tinkyada brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves – I didn’t have any, but I did have some “basil in a tube”, it worked fine but I used less of it, maybe 1-1/2 tablespoons

Boil the pasta water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta, cook til al dente. Keep a couple cups of the pasta water in a bowl or large measuring cup and drain the rest, and leave the pasta in a colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pot over medium heat, add the shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook a couple minutes, until softened. Whisk 1-1/2 cups of reserved pasta water and the 1/4 cup cream into the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.

Whisking the pasta water with the cream.

Adding the spaghetti into the sauce.

Remove the pot from the heat, put the pasta in the pot, and stir until it’s well coated. Stir in the 3 tablespoons olive oil that are left, the lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and let the pasta stand for 2 minutes, but stir it every 30 seconds or so so it doesn’t clump, and add 1/4 cup more pasta water if needed if it seems too thick. Then stir in the basil, season with more salt and pepper, and serve with more cheese.

Mm, pasta...

It was an excellent dinner, paired with a crisp Italian white wine.