Sunday, July 10, 2011

orecchiette with arugula-caper pesto, roasted tomatoes and pistachio breadcrumbs

little ears
there are times that i
think - even as i'm cooking,
even as i'm taking pictures -
that this is not a recipe worth
sharing with you. it's too
traditional, too thrown together
on a weeknight, too convoluted,
too unphotogenic, too...uninteresting.

but, i continue to cook the ingredients.
i continue to take pictures.
and usually, when it's all over and larry's
doing the dishes, i think yep, that was fine,
but, that was a dinner that was just for us:
no one will ever know about it.

but, other times, i take a bite,
still agreeing with my original
sentiment - that it's boring, simple,
fussy - but, also:
worth sharing.

and still, after all that, i almost
didn't write about this dish.
it's pasta with pesto, after all.
arugula and caper pesto
orecchiette, roasted tomatoes, olives, arugula-caper pesto
but, it was really good.
the arugula pesto, which should
have been bitter, was rounded out
with briny capers and roasted pistachios.
the kalamata olives added pockets of
saltiness and the roasted tomatoes
were bursting with garlicky sweetness.
they all came together thanks to the
toasted panko, pistachio and lemon zest
topping, which was sprinkled on
before serving.

and, i think, as i'm telling you about it,
that this pasta sounds both
expected and complicated.
but it's neither and it came together
quite quickly.
pistachios, garlic, pecorino romano
here's how:
i tossed some pistachios and panko
into the food processor, whirled them
around for a bit and then set them into
a pan over medium heat.
while one eye watched the
breadcrumbs, i pulsed the rest of the
nuts with garlic and cheese, pulsed in
arugula and capers and smoothed the
whole thing out with droplets of olive oil.

and, if we hadn't had a near oven fire - thanks
to a drippy packet of roasted garlic over the weekend -
here's what i would have done first:
i would have placed grape tomatoes in a dish,
with cloves of skin-on garlic,
olive oil, salt and pepper. i would have given
everything a good shake and then popped
them in the oven for about 4o minutes,
until their skins had burst,
the juice at the bottom was bubbly
and the garlic was tender.
but, we did have an incident that involved
a lot of smoke and so, instead, of starting with
that, i waited until larry came home from work
and very kindly gave the oven floor a scrub.
grape tomatoes, garlic
roasted grape tomatoes and garlic
while they cooked, the breadcrumbs sat,
the flavors of the pesto melded together and
the pasta cooked. once they were out of the oven,
everything came together in less than five minutes.

so that was it.
kind of traditional.
kind of seemingly fussy.
kind of enjoyable.
hope you don't mind me sharing.
pistachio, panko, lemon zest topping
orecchiette with arugula-caper pesto, roasted tomatoes and pistachio breadcrumbs
there are a couple items of note in this recipe. first, the pistachios that i used were already roasted, so i was pretty careful when i toasted them with the breadcrumbs. however, if they had not been, i would have toasted the 1/3 cup i used for the pesto. secondly, i used the saltiness of the capers to mellow the bitterness of arugula (i didn't want a repeat version of this one). but, because i had a lot of arugula, i tossed some leaves into the pasta before mixing. this definitely ups the bitter quotient, so if that's not for you, don't feel that you need to add the extra arugula. and as with all pestos, feel free to mix and match the nuts or hard cheeses that you use.

2 cups grape tomatoes
5 large cloves garlic, (3 cloves unpeeled), divided
1/4 cup, plus 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, divided
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 lemon
olive oil (1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, plus about 1/3 cup for pesto)
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano
2 packed cups baby arugula, plus one or two extra handfuls, divided
3 tablespoons caper brine
3 tablespoons capers
1 box (16 ounces) orecchiette
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives

heat oven to 375˚f. in small dish (i used an 8 x 8 ceramic dish), combine tomatoes, unpeeled garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. shake to coat tomatoes and garlic. bake 35-40 minutes, or until tomato skins have split and garlic is soft. when cool enough to handle, peel garlic (the cloves should slip out of their skin) and coarsely chop or mash; set aside.

in bowl of food processor, combine 1/4 cup pistachios and panko; pulse 10 times, or until pistachios are ground into tiny pebbles. in small skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. add breadcrumb mixture and cook 3-4 minutes, or until golden and fragrant, stirring often. transfer mixture to a bowl; season with salt and pepper. using a grater, zest lemon over breadcrumbs; stir to combine and set aside.

wipe out bowl of food processor. in bowl, combine remaining peeled garlic, pecorino romano cheese and remaining pistachios; pulse 5 times or until coarsely combined. add 2 cups arugula arugula and capers; pulse again to combine. with motor running, very slowly drizzle in oil, until the mixture is a lighter shade of green, smooth and fluid (this usually takes about 1/3 cup, but could take up to 1/2 cup). set aside.

before tomatoes are finished roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook pasta according to the directions on the box, reserving 1 1/2 cups hot pasta water 2 minutes before draining pasta.

place the same pot you cooked the pasta in over medium heat; add about half the water and half the pesto. stir to combine. if the sauce seems overly watery, add a bit more pesto. if using, add the arugula leaves. add the pasta, the kalamata olives, the cooked tomatoes, the roasted garlic and any juices from the baking dish; toss gently to combine, adding additional pesto, if desired, and more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too dry.

divide pasta among plates or bowls; sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture.