Fettucine Rigate with Eggplant Tomato Ragout

fettucine rigate with eggplant tomato ragout

Cooking for yourself can be great, but cooking for the people who enrich your life can be truly awesome. Having wonderful friends is a real blessing and a large part of my enjoyment of cooking. When I know I will be cooking for important people in my life you can bet that I'm going to give it my best as a way of giving another part of myself back to my friends and family. And this past weekend I was lucky enough to go camping with some of them at Assateague Island National Seashore. 

Nothing like soaking up some sun, napping on the beach, and keeping an eye out for wild ponies to pass the time. Not to mention the assured availability of cooking on a fire. Since my apartment has no backyard and my grill is currently on loan until I can secure enough acreage to justify it's triumphant return, my live fire cooking prospects have been slim as of late. Cooking over a campfire offers my inner griller just enough of a buzz to satisfy me. Think of it as a nicotine patch for charcoal briquettes.

Now, I know that there is nothing wrong with roasting a few hot dogs over a campfire (and I'm glad we still did that!), but I wanted to do something a bit more unexpected while we were camping. I wanted something that was appropriate for that kind of "fire power" but also wasn't just something else to grill. And I know I've been posting a lot of this lately (which I will be taking a break from after this post, I swear), but I wanted to cook pasta on the campfire. This does pose a few problems. For one, bringing 6 qts of water to a boil on a small campfire grill takes a loooooooooooonnnnnnggg amount of time. Glaciers move faster. And the sauce? Do I simmer it for hours on the fire? How will I regulate temperature of there is too much/too little wind? Does carrying a stock pot to campsite even make sense?! All these things are important to think about when you've got four other hunger campers to feed and a backup plan isn't really a possibility. The answer is plan and pack ahead of time. Admittedly, I made some tomato ragout the day before we left and brought it with me. Because I was going to bring the sauce with me I had to justify the use of the campfire over a camp stove in some way. I decided to roast an eggplant directly on the hot coals from the fire and add that to the sauce to give it more flavor and add some body. While this takes a fair amount of time to prepare, it will be gobbled up quickly and will still leave you with a little room for a s'more or two.

1 large eggplant
1 head of garlic
2 cups tomato ragout or tomato sauce
20oz. fettucine rigate
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh breadcrumbs or panko to garnish
salt and pepper to taste

First you will need to get a good campfire going. As the logs turn into ashed over coals, move them to one side of the fire. Make sure to keep the fire going strong on the other side of the pit. Place a stock pot with 6 qts. of salted water and 2 tbsp olive oil on the fire side. This will take a long time to get to a boil if you don't have a lid like me. Cook pasta until al dente. Meanwhile...

On the other side, place your eggplant directly onto some hot coals. Cut the top off  of your head of garlic and place on a piece of tinfoil. Remove excess outer papery skin and pour a generous 2 tbsp olive oil over top. Crumple up tinfoil around it and place the packet on some coals near the eggplant. After a couple of minutes you will probably hear a popping sound from the eggplant. The water in the eggplant has increased its pressure inside the eggplant and has just blown a hole through the skin. This is a sign that things are cooking, but do make sure your not too close when it goes off just in case. Let the eggplant and garlic cook for 30-40 minutes as needed. The eggplant will become incredibly soft and collapse on itself. With tongs (you always pack your tongs when you go camping, right?) very carefully pull the eggplant off the coals and onto a plate. Remove the garlic packet as well. Carefully scoop out the flesh of the eggplant into another pan the same diameter as the stockpot. Try not to get too much burnt eggplant skin in during the transfer. Some is bound to get in, but do pick out the large pieces. Squeeze the garlic cloves into the pan as well. Mash everything with a fork and stir to combine. Add remaining olive oil and begin to heat on the grill over the coals. Cook to reduce some of the liquid from the eggplant. Add tomato ragout and stir. Add or remove coals if necessary, but try to maintain a simmer until pasta is done cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When pasta is done, use tongs to remove noodles to a large bowl. Pour about a cup to a cup and a half of the pasta cooking water unto the sauce depending on how much the ragout has reduced. Add sauce to pasta and coat the noodles thoroughly. Plate up and serve with a fistful of fresh breadcrumbs or panko on top. Serves 5-6 hungry campers.


Asparagus and Dill Orrechiette

asparagus dill pasta

Aside from the occasional round of mini golf, I am no golfer. However, I do know that the dimples on a golf ball are really what makes the ball fly it's best. I know it has something to do with creating a slightly more vacuous space around it or maybe creating more lift. I'm not really sure. But that concave shape is ideally suited for the function it performs.  Much like 'little ears', or orrechiette. This pasta's concave shape is perfect for cradling whatever flavor you savour during it's brief journey from plate to mouth. This time it is asparagus and dill. Some salmon on top wouldn't hurt either. Just sayin'.....

8 oz. orrechiette
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed
1 tsp dill
1 clove of garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring 3 qts. of water to a boil. Salt the water and add a tbsp of the olive oil. Add the orrechiette, stirring briefly. Let the pasta cook until al dente. Meanwhile, bring one cup of water to a simmer in a large skillet. Add asparagus and cook until just tender. Remove asparagus from heat and place in a food processor along with garlic and the remaining olive oil. Add a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and stir in dill and lemon juice.

When the pasta is done, drain in a colander. Combine with the asparagus/dill and serve.


Drunken Spaghetti

drunken pasta

I think one of the best things about food blogging is the ability to show the world your creative meals. The ones you spent a long time thinking about trying to combine flavors in unique ways or adding new and interesting processes to your cooking. That is one of the goals here at 6CD. I primarily want to show more original foods. But I realize that nothing lives in a vacuum and that even ideas that I feel may be original have probably been thought of before by someone else. These things are bound to happen.

But today I wander from my own path. Today I knowingly post a dish that is not a 6CD original. Trust me, this won't be habit forming. But this looked so wonderful, so simple, and so smart that I had to try it. And you should too. Check out the 'original' at  SeriousEats.

1 bottle drinkable dry red wine
1 pint water
10 oz. spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp finely chopped herb of choice (marjoram used here)
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, bring wine and water to a boil. Season with salt and add garlic. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add butter, herbs, and cheese.  When the pasta is done, ladle noodles into bowl. Be sure that a little wine gets into the bowl as well. Stir well to distribute herbs and butter evenly throughout. Season to taste and serve with some warm crusty bread.


Buttermilk Mac 'n Cheese

buttermilk mac'n'cheese

Early April has it's share of dilemmas. It is definitely spring, but it can still feel a little like winter at times. Take yesterday for example. The wind was blowing so strong I was keeping eye on the horizon for fears of farmhouse laden twisters and any villainous characters who happen to live somewhere west of here. Thankfully that never happened and no one was sucked into a technicolor dream world. But the winds were a reminder of the changing of the seasons and soon one of my favorite seasons will draw to a close. I'm not talking about winter either. I'm talking about comfort food season. Sure spring and summer have their own comfort foods, but in my opinion the idea of true comfort foods are meant solely for the colder months. That's when that extra butter, cheese, bacon, etc. are the most appreciated. So with what appears to be a final farewell to that glorious time, let's say good bye properly with this Buttermilk Mac 'n Cheese. The buttermilk brings a certain tang to the sauce that helps bring this dish into springtime.

buttermilk mac'n'cheese2

8 oz. elbow macaroni
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. buttermilk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp panko or regular bread crumbs
4 sprigs fresh marjoram
1/8 tsp smoked sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large pot, bring three quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to season. Cook macaroni until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, briefly rinse under cold water, and drain again.

While the macaroni is cooking, heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until well combined. Reduce heat and gently cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to darken. This is a roux. Mix in 6 oz. of the shredded cheese, the buttermilk, and the paprika. Stir until the cheese is mostly melted and then turn off the heat. Add 3 of the 4 sprigs of marjoram and continue stirring for five minutes. At this point the cheese should be completely melted and the marjoram should have flavored the sauce. Remove the marjoram and stir in the cooked pasta. Mix well to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Pour into your cooking vessel (I used two small and shallow ovenproof bowls). Top with the remainder of the cheese and the panko. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove foil to brown the top. You may want to move the dish closer to your broiler if you want, but watch it closely as the breadcrumbs can very easily burn.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped marjoram from the 4th sprig. Allow to cool for a few minutes before devouring.

buttermilk mac'n'cheese3