Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Tale of Two "Carbonaras"

Looks like I got you in the door with "Carbonara." But the deception will have to end here. Pasta Carbonara refers to the bacon in the the pasta, somewhat resembling carbon. I plan on stealing the term, instead, to refer to how pasta carbonara is made, by adding the egg to hot noodles, so that it clings with creamy wonderful richness.

The first dish was one I made up while in the presence of several tens of Meyer lemons from my neighbor's tree, and plotting my strike against them. Meyer lemons are a thin skinned variety that are one of  the few citrus trees that grow well here in Las Vegas. They have an almost orange rind, and a faintly orange flavor. But you can use other lemons, too.

In my refrigerator, two egg yolks were patiently waiting for me, after I whipped their counterparts into a peanut butter atrocity of a dessert, that I do not wish to repeat. So I had lemons, egg yolks, and just needed a starchy base. And since I had just bought a bag of brown jasmine rice, Meyer Lemon Risotto was born, which brings me to the "carbonara" part. Risotto is often made with several pats of butter and a ton of Parmesan cheese. Instead, if you stir in a few eggs or egg yolks, you can still achieve a nice sticky creamy rice dish, and although it is not going to be exactly like a risotto, I think it makes a dandy substitute, and saves you quite a bit of fat by excluding the butter.

Meyer Lemon "Risotto"
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or broth
1/3 cup of white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks or 1 egg
1-3 lemons worth of zest, depending on size (and your taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to the package. I know this is not very risotto-like, but trust me. Don't let the rice burn to the bottom. You can always boil excess water away with the lid off. The important thing it that the rice is fully cooked.

When the rice is done, leave the heat on and turn it up to medium or medium high. Add the wine and let it bubble away, but don't let the rice get dry. Add the lemon zest. Stir half the cheese into the eggs and whip it up very well. Take the hot rice off the heat. Add the eggs to the rice, stir it up quickly to coat. Then add the rest of the cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve with more cheese at the table. A few asparagus spears or a green salad goes nicely!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Anchovies and Greens
Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 anchovies (adds a salty, not fishy, flavor)
1 fresh chili pepper such as cherry or Fresno
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 big bunch of greens or 2 small, ribbed and chopped (Try collards or Kale)
Few grates of nutmeg
2 large eggs or egg yolks
Grated Parmesan

Boil noodles according to package.

While noodles are boiling, fry up the olive oil and anchovies with a lid to cover over medium heat, a few minutes. Mash up the anchovies into the oil when they are hot. Add garlic and chili pepper, stir 2 minutes. Add greens and nutmeg. Stir, let wilt.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with a 1/4 cup of pasta water, beating quickly while pouring in the hot water.

Toss the drained spaghetti with the kale, add the eggs and with a few handfuls of Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.

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