Author

manthestove

 

Pasta with clams is a great all year around dish. It is easy to prepare, but it require good execution.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of clams
  • 1/2 pound of linguini (see it on Amazon)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a clove of garlic
  • Salt, pepper
  • About a quarter of a thai chili pepper  (optional – note that you can use chili flakes)
  • italian parsley (optional)
  • one once of white wine

 

The steps:

Step #0 – Start boiling plenty of water in a pot.  This dish is actually really quick, by the time you get the sauce going you should have the pasta cooking.  I usually start making the sauce as the water starts boiling and I put the pasta in.

Step #1 – In a deeper pan throw in olive oil, chopped garlic and the clams. Cook it over medium heat.  After a few minutes the clams will start opening up and release water.  Here’s a quick tip: take some of the water released by the clam and set it aside, it will be useful later to make sure that the sauce does not get too dry.

Step #2 – After you save some of the water add the white wine and let it reduce for couple of minutes.  Season with pepper/salt.

Step #3 – You are about done with the sauce.  This is where you need to make a judgement call on how how dry the sauce is.  If it seems a little dry add some of the clams’ water you saved.  If you do so, make sure you cook it for about a minute.  The pasta should be done by now and it’s time to blend.  Add the parsley, the chilli flakes and extra pepper.

Step #4 – You are done.  Time to plate!

 

Enjoy!

 

I was at the Metropolitan Market looking for a dinner inspiration and saw that they had lobster tails.  H likes pasta really spicy, so I decided to make a pasta alla “Fra’ Diavola”.  There are different ways to make this pasta and some require way too much work for my taste.   I like a specific variation that is simpler to make and less prone to mistakes.   I had a package of pasta called “bucatini”.  This is a very common type in Italy, but a bit more difficult to find here.  Think of it as a bit larger spaghetti.  No worries though, if you don’t find bucatini you can use spaghetti or penne.

Here’re the ingredients for two people (about 1/2 poung of pasta):

  • two small lobster tails (or two big ones – nobody will complain about too much lobster!)
  • couple of fresh tomatoes
  • one can of crushed tomatoes
  • shallots (although onion and garlic would work as well)
  • half glass of white wine (the same that you’d be serving)
  • parsley, pepper, salt. extra virgin olive oil
  • spicy peppers (i like the thai ones…fresh is way better than the dried ones).

It’s not super quick, but it should take about 25mins for the sauce to be ready.

Step zero:  cut the lobster tails in chunks of about one inch each.  In a different pot start boiling water.

Step one:  in a pan over medium heat add three tablespoon olive oil and the shallots.  When the shallots turn translucent add the lobster chunks.  Let the lobster cook (changing sides every couple of minutes) until the shell turns red.  At this point add the white wine, let reduce for a minute and add  fresh tomatoes (chopped).

Step two: as the tomatoes start breaking down add  the the crushed tomatoes.  I used a small can for two people.  This dish is not supposed to be overly saucy.  This is also the time to spice up the sauce – add the spicy peppers, salt, black pepper and if you want a bit of other spices.  This is also a good time of start cooking the pasta in the boiling water (don’t forget to add salt).  This is how my sauce was looking at this point:

Step 3: as the sauce starts boiling again lower the heat to medium/low and let it cook until the pasta is ready (about 10-15mins).   Drain the pasta (it should be al dente) and mix it with the sauce.  Cook together for about a minute.

Step 4:  you’re done!  Plate the pasta and serve it.

 

Friday night I was having drinks with my Italian friends and the topic came up. We talked about it for a good chunk of time and it seems that by the end there was good agreement on the ranking.

Before I started writing this post I checked the pizzeria rankings on citysearch. wow…in the audience top five there is none of the pizzerias that we have in our top 5. It seems we are more in sync with the editors. We both have the Tutta Bella Pizzeria in Columbia City as our #1.

There is another important point to make. This entry ranks the best pizzeria and not the best pizza. I will post about the best pizza later, for today let’s focus on the pizzeria.

#1 – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Columbia City
what we like: everything – atmosphere, pizza, staff/service, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like: it’s a little out of the way

#2 – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Wallingford
what we like: the space, the pizza, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like: nothing really. This is where we go the most, but the atmosphere is not quite the same as #1

#3 – Pizzeria da Guido in Crossroad
what we like: pizza is great, place is reminiscent of some off-beat Italian pizzerias, no line
what we don’t like: a little out of the way, crossroad mall it’s pretty sad at night

#4 – Via Tribunali in Capitol Hill
what we like: pizza can be very good, atmosphere
what we don’t like: waiting line, you cannot customize pizza (unbelievable!), unfriendly

#5 – La Vita e’ Bella in Belltown

Have fun at your next pizzeria trip!

What others think?

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If you are in the mood for a good fresh vegetarian pasta with a kick then this pasta should be in your short list of candidates.

It’s not the fastest dish to make. it does take a bit of preparation and good cooking time. I would give it about an hour for a good sauce. More if you have time.

For the ingredients (feeds 2-3 people):

One big eggplant
3-4 fresh tomatoes
the italian sauce “trinita”: onion (12), a stick of celery and half of a good size carrot
half glass of red wine
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 pound of pasta (I like penne, but you could use also a long pasta like linguine or spaghetti)
12 onion, 12 carrot and one stick of celery
salt, pepper, oregano, basil, a bit of fresh chilli pepper (you could use the dry ones as well)
Below the steps to put it together. I usually overlap a few steps to make things quicker. You should do how it would work best for you.

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant. If you don’t “dry” the eggplant you will see that they will not cook properly. I honestly don’t know the chemistry behind this (I should look it up), but empirically speaking it is better to dry them. There are different ways to do it. You can cover the eggplant with rock salt for a few hours. You will see that the salt absorbs the water out of the eggplant. This is probably the best approach, but it is too time consuming so I use a different one. I simply put them on a hot non-stick pan and keep them there for a few mins (about 2 mins each side).

Step 2: Get the sauce going. This is classic approach, that I have discussed a few times in my previous postings. Start the “soffritto” with the olive oil, chopped onion, slices carrots and celery. In the meantime slice the eggplant that you prepared above. When the soffritto is ready (the onion turns translucent) add the the eggplant to the mix. Stir it well. After couple of minutes add a little a little wine. I use red wine. I have used some balsamic vinegar in the past. If you use wine you just need 12 a glass. Couple of pix:

Step 3: Finishing the sauce. Once the eggplant look good add some of the freshed chopped tomato (it gives it a touch of freshness) and let it cook for two minutes. At this point add the crushed tomatotoes and the spices. Let is simmer it for about 30mins .You could leave it simmering more, up to 45-60mins. Just make sure that it does not get too dry…you could add some water (use the pasta water) to balance it. The sauce is done!

Step 4: Pasta and sauce come together. As the sauce is in the last minutes of cooking you can start boiling the pasta. Once the pasta is done you can just drain it and mix it with the sauce. Cook it together for about a minute and your dish it ready to go!!!

Enjoy it!

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Last Sunday I was at a bbq. A friend and I were chatting about “negroni”. I mentioned to him that I often drink it with some brut champagne. He said that I was doing something close to a “negroni sbagliato”. I actually never heard of it and he explained to me that is just a negroni which has champagne instead of the gin.

I went back home and gave it a shot. It is pretty good and definitely easier than the original version.

Negroni:

1/3 Campari
1/3 Gin
1/3 red vermouth (I use Martini & Rossi)
Negroni “sbagliato”:

1/3 Campari
1/3 Champagne Brut
1/3 red vermouth
Random Factoid: Campari has been the world’s higher selling bitter for 70 years! wow!

[Note: this review applies to the “new” La Spiga – after they moved to the new location on 12th and Union]

I had dinner three times at La Spiga in the past couple of months. I wanted to post a review earlier, but I felt I needed to visit the restaurant a few times before writing it. I usually don’t do that, but given the circumstances I made an exception.

Before I go too much into the details. Here’s my short scorecard (scores 1-10):

– Service: 5.5
– Food: 7
– Ambiance: 9
– Value: 7.5

Final take: La Spiga new location is just awesome. The place is great and I like the modern industrial yet not-too cold feel. But a restaurant (especially a great one) should be more about the content than the container. In other words service and food should be the main characters and this does not seem to be the case at La Spiga. The food still tastes fairly authentic and fresh. Some dishes are better than others, but they consistently lack of “personality” – to me it seems like that there is not much love being put in the cooking. The service is average at best, again there does not seem to be much passion in the air. The value is still pretty good, the food is still fairly authentic and prices are good (especially when compared to other rip-off Italian restaurants in Seattle). Now if they stopped being stingy with some of the dishes the value would be even better.

My main recommendation would be to cut back the number of choices on the menu and focus more on the execution. From the service side it seems that there is not a consistent oversight of what’s going on. With such a big place and so many waiters there needs to be a better system in place to guarantee an higher level of service…I have not seen this in place. The good news is that it should be easy to fix.

Short recap about the three times we went.
visit #1: I went with some of my friends (and respective wifes). It was a week after they opened in the new location. The service was somewhat slow and the food was a hit or miss. The good news is that we got a good break on the price, so overall it ended up being a positive experience…although without the price break I would not have been an happy customer.
visit #2: Wow…this was a disaster. I think it was the worse experience ever (ok…maybe second all time after a domican restaurant in the Carribeans a few years ago). We were there for three hours, courses got lost, food was cold, waiter disappearing…I mean everything was a mess. It was such a failure that I could not write a review at that point. I needed to go again after a few weeks. I had to give it a second third chance.
visit #3: We went back last week. It seemed that things had settled a bit and the experience was decisively better than the previous time. It is about time to write a review.

Service
In all of our visits the services has been average at best. We had 5 waiters in the past three visits and none have been too good. Many times you have to ask things a few times (not acceptable), but my main concern is that it seems that waiters don’t honestly care about the customers and they lack passion. I saw the owner still attending the table. With such large staff that should not be the case. The owner should be supervising what’s going on and make sure that everyone is up to standards. It seems that motivation and discipline are not where they should be.

Food
The good news: the overall quality of the food is still good. Dishes feel fresh and authentic. The not so good news is that I did not feel the “love” in the dishes, they lack “personality”. This is a little difficult to explain and definitely an intangible, but it’s something that a few people I went with shared. The piadina is still very authentic and the classic italian meats are a must. The pasta are a hit or miss. The gnocchi are plain but good (especially if you spice up the sauce), the risotto definitely need a kick. The passatelli are pretty good soup/appetizer.

Ambiance
I love the new place. They did a great job. I was concerned that it would lose the cozy feeling that the previous location had, but I think they were able to keep the place faily cozy, although it’s ten times bigger. I like the modern industrial feel mixed with the dark wood tables. Very nice!

Value
The value is still very good. Generally speaking Italian restaurants in Seattle are very overpriced and with average quality (aside from Machiavelli) and La Spiga distinguishes itself by balancing authentic quality food with good prices. The other thing is that – like in the previous location – the dishes are sometimes a little stingy. Come on guys… there is a difference between good size portion and being just stingy! (example: one of my friend ordered the “passatelli in brodo”…it was supposed to be a main entree…it turned to be less than a cup and she had to order another entree)

All in all you should pay a visit. It is a place I would go with a group of friends.

This is probably one of the longest names for a recipe! It’s also very misleading. Usually when you think about “saffron” and “shrimp” you think about something fancy and expensive that you can only get in some sophisticated restaurant.

In this post lets dimistify such belief! This recipe is super quick to make (20mins total) and cheap (I used frozen “quality” ingredients). The result is great!

Ingredients:

a small package of pasta of saffron pasta – I used half pound of “Rustichella D’Abruzzo Laganelle allo Zafferano”, you can also use different type of pastas (see a few examples at Amazon), but i would reccomend you stick to a long pasta.
a cup of frozen peas (organic would be better)
half pound of shrimp (the bigger ones)
1/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin)
a clove of garlic
pepper and salt
A bit of butter (i used half spoon but you could use more or less)
1/2 glass of white wine
Steps:

The basic – add the oil in a nice pan, warm it up and add the chopped garlic. Let is cooked for a minute or until golden. At this point add the frozen peas and shrimp (on medium heat). As soon as you are done, make sure that you get the water for the pasta going. As mentioned above this is a quick dish.

Sauce is cooking – after the shrimp and peas have been cooking for about 5mins it’s time to add the half glass of white wine, black pepper, salt and if you want to spice it up you can also add a few hot chilli pepper flakes. Let is cook for another 5 mins on low/medium heat (super important – don’t let it dry up!). At this point you should have the water boiling – start cooking the pasta.

Putting it together – after 5 mins you should have both the pasta and the sauce ready (if you have not added butter yet, this is a good time). Drain the pasta and pour it in the sauce, combine for about a minute over medium heat.

Done – yes. you are pretty much done. Time to plate the dish, add some black pepper and serve the dish.

The dish is officially done. As mentioned this should not take longer than 20 mins (end-to-end). It’s a great simple yet sophisticated dish. I would drink it with a nice dry white wine (chardonnay or pinot grigio).

Enjoy!

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I was due for a good dinner for Hellai (my girlfriend) and I finally put it together last Th. I made couple of things: a seafood appetizer and pasta with eggplant (one of Hellai’s favorites). I will cover the pasta with eggplant in the next post. In this one we’ll cover the super-easy platter I put together.

The platter contained:

Shrimp cooked with Jack Daniels
Shrimp cocktail
Scallops with basil oil
Scallops with peppercord mustard
Guazzetto di cozze e vongole
The ingredients are self-explanatory from the picture above. Make sure that you get good quality seafood…it makes the difference.

Here’re the directions:

For the shrimp cooked with Jack Daniels: get a nice tiger prawn and cook it in a medium heat non-stick pan (no oil or anything else). Add a little jack daniel at the time as the shrimp is cooking. I served the shrimp over a very simple spinach salad (with oil and lemon)
On a grill cook couple of scallops. Take some peppercorn mustard and serve it next to one of the scallops. For the other one you can easily some basil olive oil. In the food processor put some basil (don’t be shy!) and olive oil (don’t be shy!) and blend it together. You could add a bit of pepper. I did not try lemon, but you could. Just rest the scallop over some of the crushed basil and cover the scallop with the oil.
For the shrimp cocktail make sure you get good fresh shrimp meat. It’a s little more expensive, but it tastes better and for the quantity it’s not overly expensive. For the sauce you can pick the one you like the best. I made my own. Just some mayonese, ketchup, worchester sauce and pepper.
For the guazzetto you can just read my previous post: https://cucina.wordpress.com/2006/05/05/guazzetto-di-cozze-e-vongole/
One thing I forgot to mention is that this platter is really quick to make. If you multi-task effectively you can make everything in about 15mins.

Enjoy your meal!