Tonight I wanted to make a vegetarian carbonara dish. The thing is that if you take pancetta (or baken) out of the equation it becomes really tricky to give it that distinct flavor and extra dimension that this simple dish needs. It becomes even trickier when you don’t like that much cream in your sauces – which I don’t.
So… I tried to experiment a bit and borrowed a bit from a Caesar salad type of dressing. I used a mix of zucchini and squash to give it a bit of texture, color and substance. I used anchovies and fresh herbs (one mint leaf, parsley, and thyme) in additional to the eggs for the sauce. I used just a dash of whole milk, but of the cream sauces out there go ahead and add more.
All in whole it was much better than I actually expected. You should not be concerned about the anchovies because you can’t really tell, but they do add the extra something I was looking for.
We had a great dinner in Vancouver. Shahnaz made us some great afghan traditional dishes.
qurma e alobokhara (chicken with dried prunes)
Shahnaz tells me that this is a traditional dish that can be made with chicken or lamb. Even in the old days in Afghanistan this was considered a bit of a special dish for special occasions.
This dish is always served with “chalau” (steamed white long basmati rice). Last night we also had it with mash palau. Mash Palau is basmati rice stir fried with moong dahl (mong beans).
Baadnjan boranai over chaka (eggplant over a dense spiced yogurt)
The eggplant are lightly grilled. Onions are sauteed on a different pan. The onion are than poured on the eggplant with tumaric, garlic, olive oil, salt and a dash of hot water.
They are served over yogurt, which is very dense because the water has been filtered out.
Mash Awa (thick bean soup with a dash of thick yogurt)
All the beans are actually socked for a day or so. To add a bit of taste they are cooked on a chicken stock.
The trick to give it a bit of the “afghan” feel is adding lots of garlic, onion, ground fresh ginger, and pepper.
Another trick is adding a spoon of short grain rice that actually ends up adding thickness to the soup.
Pasta with clams is a great all year around dish. It is easy to prepare, but it require good execution.
- 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
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!
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.