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Monday, May 20, 2024 at 3:04 PM
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What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen - Fewer Ingredients Takes More Practice

What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen - Fewer Ingredients Takes More Practice
Cacio e Pepe Pasta Image courtesy of The Spruce Eats, photo by Fred Hardy.

Sometimes the simplest of things are the most delicious–they can also be the most challenging to make perfectly every time. Cacio e Pepe pasta, along with carbonara and amatriciana, is one of Rome’s most essential pasta dishes. Like many classic dishes, it is all about simplicity, including pasta, salted water, fresh ground black pepper, and a hard sheep's milk cheese. When the ingredient list is short, the margin of error is small, and technique plays a crucial role–thus, practice makes perfect.

On the sweet side, my favorite four-ingredient dish is shortbread. Food historian Alan Davidson, editor of “The Oxford Companion to Food,” traces shortbread back to 16th century Scotland, where it was “simply a thick layer of rich, sweetened shortcrust pastry, without any extra flavorings.”  Classically, shortbread is made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. The resulting treat is crumbly, lightly sweet, and butter-rific. 

Cacio e Pepe Pasta by Kenji Lopez-Alt

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ lb spaghetti or bucatini pasta
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated on a microplane, plus more for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat 3 T of olive oil and about a teaspoon of black pepper in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until the ingredients are fragrant and the pepper is barely starting to sizzle (about 1 minute). Set aside.
  2. Place spaghetti noodles in a large skillet and cover with water. Season with a small pinch of salt, then bring to a boil over high heat, prodding occasionally with a fork or wooden spoon to prevent it from clumping. Cook until the spaghetti is al dente (typically about 1 minute less than the package recommends). Transfer 2-3 T of the pasta cooking water to the skillet with the olive oil/pepper mixture. Stir in butter. Using tongs, lift the spaghetti and transfer it to the oil/butter mixture. 
  3. Add cheese and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and stir with a fork until the cheese is completely melted. Add a few more tablespoons of pasta water to the skillet to adjust consistency, reheating as necessary over low heat until the sauce is creamy and coats each strand of spaghetti. Season to taste with salt and more black pepper. Serve immediately with extra cheese and black pepper at the table. 
  4. Kick it up a notch by garnishing with microplaned lemon zest. - italics

Easy Shortbread, recipe by Genevieve Yam’s Grandmother-in-law, Evelyn Cook

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 c cornstarch
  • ¾ c plus 2 T sugar (caster, golden caster, or superfine)
  • ½ t Kosher salt
  • 1 lb unsalted high-fat butter (Kerrygold is perfect)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Line a 9x13” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together AP flour, white whole wheat flour, cornstarch, caster sugar, and salt until combined.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until melted. Pour melted butter into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients, gently stirring and pressing to combine until a cohesive dough just forms and no dry bits remain about 1 minute. Do not overmix.
  4. Scrape the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and, using an offset spatula or the flat bottom of a class, press the dough into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and light golden, about 40 minutes.
  5. Remove shortbread from oven and sprinkle top with 3 T caster sugar. Using a knife, cut the shortbread into individual portions while still warm. Allow the shortbread to cool completely in the baking dish and serve. 

 


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