Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crave...at Work and Emeril's Spaghetti Squash Carbonara on Mah Jongg Night


Warm Olives
Mache Salad with Cara Cara Orange Supremes, Pistachios, Pomegranates
Roasted Beets, Chevre, Red D'Anjou Pears, Pistachio Oil
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara


This post is partially sponsored by Crave!...at Work.

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Crave delivers fresh produce to offices in the greater Los Angeles area.  From their About Us page:

Our mission is simple. We hand select the freshest, most delectable fruits and vegetables available and deliver them straight to you, so that all you have to do is ENJOY! From exotic fruits to the newest variety of snack size tomatoes, we will surprise you every week with only the freshest, peak-of-season offerings we can get our hands on.

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Two days before Christmas they delivered to my front porch cardboard boxes of  ripe Cara Cara oranges, my ultimate favorite citrus of all time.

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And red d'anjou pears, maybe my favorite fruit, period. So many delicious uses in cooking, great with savory courses and for use in desserts. But even better alone. I sometimes eat these sliced with a sprinkling of goat cheese.

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Warm Olives

The first course and first use of Crave's fruit was warmed olives to nibble at during our first round of mah jongg. I am still using this delicious trick I learned from the beautiful Pink Sparrows.  I buy a small container of olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods or Gelson's and lay them on a piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with paprika and fennel seeds. Lay a couple wide slices of orange peel and wrap the foil tightly.  After I turned the oven off from roasting the beets and spaghetti squash, I plopped the wrapped olives in to absorb what was left of the heat, left them in maybe 12 minutes just to warm through. Place in ramekins, and don't forget little dishes for the pits. So simple, so inexpensive and just a little elegant.

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Same Cara Cara orange (actually, I used two oranges).  Sectioning an orange for supremes is easy, I've watched my mom do it a million times.  Iron Chef Symon does a video tutorial here for Chow.  Clockwise from top left:  slice off a generous section from bottom and top of orange, remove peel and pith with your sharp paring knife (thank you Pat), slice in between the pith walls that segment the sections on both sides stopping at the middle of the orange and pull out section, one perfect supreme pith free (mostly).

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Mache Salad with Cara Cara Orange Supremes, Pistachios, Pomegranites

Tossed the ingredients together and put back in fridge to chill until we were ready for the first course.  Why do the good ingredients always migrate to the bottom of the bowl?

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I dressed this with a mish-mash of almost empty dressings in the door of my fridge. The mish-mash was delicious, a little of this one and a little of that one.


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Roasting beets, clockwise from top left: trim the greens, clean and place on foil, wrap different colored beets separately as the dye from the red beets will stain lighter beets, roast at 375 for one hour, after beets are roasted the peels literally slip right off.  I baked these at the same temp and time as the spaghetti squash. I love how forgiving root veggies are when it comes to roasting.

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I treated myself to a spendy bottle of La Tourangelle pastachio oil at Whole Foods. Delicious stuff.  In retrospect, I could have been more generous when drizzling the oil over the beets. The flavor is wonderful, but beets and goat cheese are fairly dominant flavors. Then again, one doesn't want an oily dish. I will play with the proportions a little next time.

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Roasted Beets, Chevre, Red D'Anjou Pears, Pistachio Oil

I could eat this dish three meals a day. Earthy, goaty and sweet.

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Prepping the squash.  Before roasting the ginormous spaghetti squash, poke holes in to release pressure as the heating matter inside expands.  I use a meat thermometer because the flesh is so tough to bore through that I worry about the safety of using a knife. For the same reason, I halve these after cooking, not before, although many recipes suggest you halve first.  I just cannot get through the outer rind even with a sharp knife.

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Roast on aluminum foil lined cookie sheet at 375 for about an hour. When cool to the touch, cut in half and remove rind. Scoop out seeds and spread apart strands with fork. Spaghetti squash ready for whatever sauce or topping you choose.

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Simple ingredients for carbonara.  Most people have these on hand.  Parmesan cheese, shallot, parsley, bacon, garlic.  I follow Emeril Lagasses's recipe with some fidelity.  I have tried to play with the proportions a little, to bad end. Now I stick to it closely.

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The four stages of bacon, because everyone loves bacon. Top left: sautee until just before bacon browns, toss in shallot and garlic and sautee until slightly caramelized, drain about half the fat, add quarter cup or so of white wine and reduce.

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Egg, cheese and parsley.  I whisk these together with salt and pepper. I think my yolks are a little extra bright because I bought free range organic brown eggs.  I'm a little more aware of my eggs these days because I have a friend who is an egg farmer.  She has told me many times how much difference there really is between home grown free range eggs and industrially farmed eggs. I believe her, but have yet to do a taste test.

I add the egg/cheese mixture to the bacon immediately after I take it off the heat. You do not want scrambled eggs here, you want an egg and cheese mixture that is barely cooked through. It's a delicate balance and it happens quickly.  After the egg/cheese is just barely cooked, toss the entire mass with spaghetti squash strands. I start with about half the squash (because their size varies) and add more as I go. I don't want the dish too sauce dominant, but I also want a taste of bacony goodness in every bite.

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Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

Not the most photogenic dish on the planet, but it is so wonderfully creamy and eggy. The squash really lightens this dish up, after eating even two servings you don't feel weighed down.  We played several more hands of mah jongg after our meal, not a nodding head at the table.

The Plimsouls were on my playlist this morning. Thank you boys for the blast from my past.

12 comments:

Kitten with a Whisk said...

I really need to try this one night, it looks divine. And I love the bright color of the eggs.

Lucas Hare said...

That Carbonara looks AMAZING.

Food, she thought. said...

@kitten i think you should!

@lucas I think YOu should make it too, for your beautiful wife!

Lucas Hare said...

I think you should fly over and make it for both of us...

Lucas Hare said...

Can you fly over and make it for us both please?

Food, she thought. said...

@lucas i'll make it for you next summer if there are spaghetti squash on hand.

Lucas Hare said...

Great! What sounded like belligerent insistence was in fact me thinking that the first comment hadn't made it through. But thanks.

Food, she thought. said...

@lucas i did not figure that out on my own. TY!

the actor's diet said...

Crave sounds cool - and that carbonara - drooool

Lily's Uhm-ma said...

pistachio oil ... interesting ... will have to find and use! beautiful blog, liz! you had me DROOLING! :)

Jenni said...

Mmmm...carbonara! Love it. We are raising 8 chickens w/some neighbors. They should start laying any minute now. First up: egg nog. Next, probably this! :)

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing! I've never seen how to slice an orange so you get nice slices like this.