Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tastes of Heaven

Now that we are finally coming into warm weather you can really start to see the transformation of my specials, not only due to the availability of fresh, new ingredients like spring onions, spring garlic, peas, fava beans and asparagus, but also because of I have to cater to the perception of a dish, which means that sure, I can serve a braised meat in the middle of summer, but no one will order it because it seems too heavy and rich to eat on a warm, sunny day. I say perception because, after all, we eat what we want when we want; many people eat ice cream in the winter and hot soup in the summer.

So, as a part of this glorious time of ingredient revival, I am going to use a combination of fresh vegetables with a simple olive oil dressing to lighten up handmade whole wheat pasta.

I don't need to reiterate my love for pasta and noodles, but it is important to note that what I am looking for when eating/making them is a certain amount of chew, and I have found that the easiest way to achieve that texture is by using whole wheat flour.

At home I buy dried whole wheat pasta not just for nutritional value, but because it is the easiest way to end up with that traditional "al dente" bite, but I cannot bring myself to feature store-bought pasta for my weekly special, so, once again, I return to the faithful Kitchenaid pasta roller-and-hand-cut technique. Maybe someday I will actually invest in a pasta cutter attachment as well, but until then...

I made a dough of equal parts whole wheat flour and all purpose flour to get the best of both worlds: the nutrition and heft of the whole wheat along with the ease and stability that refined flour offers. In between the rolling, resting, cutting and cooking of the pasta making process I gathered the accompanying ingredients.

As a simple yet flavorful sauce I began by slowly simmering spring onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil until they were soft before adding ground Linguiça, a Portuguese sausage that is cured with paprika and garlic before being smoked. Once the sausage had infused the oil with its essence the sauce took shape with a little white wine reduction and the addition of spring onion greens and finely diced tomato.

The only problem is that, as with most pasta dishes, this one lacked texture, even with the thick-cut whole wheat noodles, so to top the dish off I took pieces of the braised pork belly that's on our menu and stewed them down until all of the fat is cooked out, ending up with a light (dare I say angelic?) and crunchy version of pork that is so fine that it melts in your mouth!!

I have to let you know that the Cinnamon Pear Martini made with my own cinnamon-infused tequila and a fresh pear sorbet that was last week's drink special was HANDS DOWN the best selling cocktail special that I have offered to date, with an outcry for menu status, and not just from Paul and Chie, some of our faithful Wednesday night regulars.

So considering that, if I had tried to match - let alone beat - last week's drink special, I would have driven myself crazy, so I simply put it out of my mind and started fresh. Once I did that, a good idea just came naturally. Funny how that works, isn't it?

To welcome this beautiful weather I am offering this concoction that is full of bright and fresh flavors to ease you into this sunny transition.

First, we muddle fresh mint in a little bit of ice in a pint glass, then add freshly juiced cucumbers, a splash of simple syrup, Plymouth Gin - a perfect marriage for cucumber - and a nice amount of club soda for added refreshment.

Hopefully we'll be opening up our patio this week; what would be a better drink inaugurate the opening of our big front doors.

With Love,