Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Food Interlude

To take a break from my World Cup obsession, here is "Peppery Red Wine Capellini" from Herbivoracious... just posted yesterday, in fact, but it looked like a straightforward and delicious dinner preparation so I went to the store on the way home from work. There are two things that are unique about it... one is that you make the noodles by the "absorption method" (which I'll get to in a second), and the other is that the brownish color of the noodles isn't because they're buckwheat or wholewheat or whatever but because they were toasted in the oven. Just regular angel hair pasta broken into three inch lengths and toasted on a cookie sheet. Kind of neat I thought.

The "absorption method" of pasta making is quite popular these days, where it seems to me I've seen numerous interpretations showing up on food blogs these last few months. The first mention of it that I remember, was not directly, but as an aside by Harold McGee in an article last year about cooking pasta in minimal water... but I think it was Bittman's Minimalist column about "cooking pasta like risotto", in the Fall, where the technique was really laid out. It's actually an old Italian technique that, for whatever reason, wasn't particularly popular here and appears to have needed to be rediscovered. The idea is just that you make the pasta and sauce all in one pot... adding liquid for the pasta to absorb as you're cooking (i.e. just like risotto). Though I've made Bittman's recipe, I've never bothered to blog it... but you can see the same idea in the Skillet Mac and Cheese I made in January... though in that case, you're adding all the liquid at once (pasta like pilaf?). It's a fun way to make a one pot dish and it really gives the pasta a different texture that is... more creamy? I'm not sure that's quite right, but it's distinctive and worth trying once at least... it may make you a convert.

As for the dish itself, it is indeed quite flavorful and easy to put together. The prep might be a little involved, depending on your knife skills, since it calls for a lot of 1/2" dicing. Definitely use a big pot for this... I thought I could get away with a 5 quart pot, and while I did, it was definitely more of a hassle tossing than it would have been if I just followed directions. This was the first dish I made from Herbivoracious, though I've been reading it for a while now... and it won't be my last. It's an especially good site for any vegans/vegetarians or people just looking to cook less meat dishes.