Friday, September 6, 2013

Peperoncino spaghetti with swiss chard and chickpeas

This is a quick and easy weeknight pasta with spunk. The peperoncino spaghetti is already infused with the chili pepper but the heat is not overwhelming. Pairs well with the earthiness of the chickpeas and Swiss chard which helps to balance the heat from the chili peppers. The fresh shavings of Parmesan cheese adds a rich salty bite. The time taken to boil the pasta and a few extra minutes to prep is enough time to put dinner on the table.

Peperoncino spaghetti with Swiss chard and chickpeas
8 oz spaghetti with dried peperoncino
1 cup canned chickpeas
1 bunch organic Swiss chard leaves and stems
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Aged Parmesan cheese for serving
Good quality extra virgin olive oil for finishing
  1. Place a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta as per the directions on  the package.
  2. In the meantime, clean the Swiss chard and separate the leaves from the stems. Slice the stems into quarter inch pieces and set aside. Lay the leaves on top of each other and roll them. Once rolled slice the roll into thin slices.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat add the olive oil and the minced garlic, along with the chickpeas (without any liquid). Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and cook till the garlic has softened and the chickpeas have light brown spots. Now add the chopped Swiss chard stems, 1/4 teaspoon more kosher salt and continue to cook for another 5 minutes till they have softened. Add the leaves at this point and mix well. Cook for another 3 minutes and add the drained pasta with a few tablespoons of pasta water to bring it all together.
  4. Transfer to the serving plate. Drizzle some finishing oil over the pasta and serve with a healthy grating of Parmesan cheese.
Serves 3 as a Main course with a salad

Note: Two resources where you can buy spaghetti with dried peperoncino. I used the second resource as they have a store in NYC at Chelsea Market

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vietnamese rice paper rolls - vegetarian

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these soft, uncooked rolls. They are a refreshing change from the deep-fried spring rolls. These are vegetarian and are filled with colorful fresh vegetables, bean thread noodles, and some spicy cashew nuts for protein and crunch. Fresh mint leaves line the delicate rice paper sheets on which the finely cut vegetables are piled and rolled to make the perfect appetizer. If you eat enough of them, they can also be a meal. They are served cold with a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce. The best part is that they can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead and chilled in the refrigerator, covered with a clean dampened dish towel to keep them moist, until ready to be served. Try these before the summer ends!

Prepped ingredients for the rice paper rolls

8, 22cm rice papers
A 3 inch piece of English cucumber, peeled and cut into thin long strips
One medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin long strips
½ medium yellow or red pepper cut into thin long strips
1 small bunch of fresh mint leaves
1 oz dried bean thread noodles
1/2 - 2/3 cups Thai chili lime cashews or any other spiced nuts, coarsely chopped

1. The easiest way to make these rolls is to get all your ingredients prepped and arranged on your counter in a logical sequence. A shallow bowl large than 22 cm in diameter and warm water, will be required to soak the rice paper, a large cutting board to assemble the roll, moist paper towels to cover the rolls and to lay on the cutting board and a finally a platter to keep the finished product.
2. First lay a lightly moistened paper towel or clean dish towel on the cutting board to prevent the wet rice paper from sticking to the cutting board.
3. Soak one sheet of rice paper for about 15 to 30 seconds in the bowl of warm water till the paper becomes soft. Remove the paper delicately from the water, to prevent tearing and lay on the paper towel on the cutting board.
4. Place two mint leaves towards the lower edge of the rice paper (similar to making a spring roll). Top with a few sticks of cucumber, carrots, and peppers. Add a few strands of the bean thread noodles and a teaspoon of the chopped cashew. The bean thread noodles will help the cashew stick. Try to keep the filling piled high instead if spread out. It will help to keep the roll rounded instead of flat.
5. Then fold the bottom edge of the rice paper over the filling and fold in the side edges of the rice paper. Roll up the rice paper keeping all the ingredients together to form a cylinder. Keep on a tray covered with a moist kitchen towel.
6. Repeat the same process for each rice paper till you have 8 rolls. Now cut the rolls in half with a serrated knife before serving.

Dipping sauce
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 ½ teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon chili garlic sauce or sriracha sauce
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar

Mix all the ingredients to form the sauce and serve with the rolls.