Sep 2006

Vegan Pesto Pasta

  • 3 cups fresh basil (or 2 cups basil and one cup spinach)
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, pine nuts, or raw cashews
  • 1/2 container silken tofu (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 lb. pasta, cooked according to package directions and rinsed with cool water
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Additional nuts, to taste

In food processor, chop garlic and nuts until finely minced. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Toss pasta with sauce and tomatoes, and sprinkle with nuts. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Recipe by: Susan Voisin

Substitutions: I used sliced almonds in place of the other nut suggestions, used Parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast because I’m not vegan, and skipped out on the tomatoes because the Astronomer does not care for the fruit.

Sep 2006

Fresh Cherry Cobbler with Whole Wheat Biscuits

cherry cobbler 3

For cherry filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart cherries (about 3 1/2 pints fresh, picked over)
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico or Di Saronno Amaretto
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

For biscuit topping

  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Accompaniment: vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Make filling: In a large heavy saucepan whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Add fresh or frozen cherries, liqueur, vanilla, and allspice and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer mixture, stirring, 2 minutes and transfer to a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Make topping: Cut butter into pieces. In a bowl with a pastry blender or in a food processor blend or pulse together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. If using a food processor transfer mixture to a bowl. Add milk and vanilla and stir until mixture forms a dough.

Drop topping by rounded tablespoons onto cherry filling (do not completely cover it) and bake in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until topping is golden and cooked through. Transfer cobbler to a rack to cool slightly.

Serve cobbler warm with ice cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Gourmet, July 1997

Substitutions: For the filling I used only half of the required sugar since these were bing cherries rather than sour cherries, used cinnamon instead of all spice, skipped the liquor all together due to my mormon beliefs. For the biscuits I used whole wheat flour and substituted rolled oats for the cornmeal. I also added in some cinnamon to bring together the cherries with the biscuits.

Sep 2006

Becco – New York City

Photos by Phi

September 6, 2006
Cuisine: Italian

355 W 46th St, New York 10036
Between 8th & 9th Ave

Phone: 212-397-7597

Anitpasti e Insalata:
Antipasto Misto – An assortment of grilled, marinated vegetables & seafood

Caesar Salad – Becco’s version of the classic Caesar salad

Sinfonia di Paste -Unlimited servings of our three pastas of the day

Secondi: (Family Style)
Pesce Spada -Pan seared swordfish steaks with seasonal preparations

Pollo Limone -Pan seared boneless chicken breast with lemon, Cerignola olives, & Selina caper berries

Bistecca alla Becco -Grilled Black Angus rib eye, dry-aged & rubbed with porcini mushrooms, served with garlic mashed potatoes & seasonal vegetable

Assorted Dessert Sampler

Café e Vino:
Coffee, Tea, Cappuccino, Espresso

The meal at Becco’s was perhaps one of the most extravagant affairs in my dining career. Our group had a private room and a pre-set menu designed at $82 a head without tax or tip. The restaurant was relatively large compared to many other NY restaurants and busy the evening we dined. Research has uncovered that Becco is one of Lydia Batianich’s restaurants and opened in 1993. I’ve always wanted to dine at a Lydia restaurant because her persona on her PBS cooking show screams authentic Italian. Our meal lasted three hours and included unlimited wine that I didn’t partake in. I prefer not to drink my calories.

Before the courses began we were brought an assortment of breads and olives. Since I was saving room for the actual meal, I only tried the foccacia, a bread stick and a couple olives. All were good, but nothing to write home about. Our first course was the antipasti — we had an antipasti platter filled with flavorful veggies along with some fresh mozzarella. My favorite items on the platter were the corn, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. We were also served two fish antipasti that I thought were only okay. Cold fish is something I’m not too big a fan of. We also had peas accompanied by fresh ricotta cheese — good texture and mild in a good way. Lastly we had a Caesar salad which I hardly ate because it was boring, definitely your average Caesar salad.

After our antipasti we were served three pastas — a penne with marinara, fettuccine with bolognese and some “gnocchi.” I definitely loved the pasta course even though the penne with marinara was a bust. Penne is my least favorite shape of pasta due to it’s terrible ability to hold on to sauce and the marinara was very bland. Great thing the two other pastas made up for it. The fettuccine was absolutely fresh and cut in thicker ribbons, almost like a pappardelle, which is my favorite pasta shape. The bolognese was also quite excellent and I think I tasted the employment of cinnamon sticks. The highlight of the pasta course was the “gnocchi.” While the servers called it a gnocchi it was definitely very different from your average potato ball with ridges. In fact, I don’t think the pasta contained any potato. The gnocchi seemed to be made of cornmeal and semolina and shaped to look like a giant scallop. The gnocchi was doused in a lovely creamy cheese sauce and topped with fresh chives. SO very good. I ate three of these gnocchi scallops. I would definitely return to Beccos just for the gnocchi.

Our meat course came next — fish, chicken and steak. I was very much out of room at this point so I only tried the chicken and steak. The chicken was moist and lemony, but I don’t care much for chicken in general. The steak was fantastic and prepared rare. Lastly came dessert!

Dessert was divine. In addition to the assortment of desserts offered at the restaurant (cheesecake, panna cotta, chocolate mousse) we were brought a number of gelatos and sorbets including passion fruit, sour cherries, basil and a few more. I devoured the cheesecake and panna cotta; they were superb. I didn’t try the chocolate desserts because I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate. The basil gelato was very special and yummy as was the sour cherry gelato.

The Astronomer is quite jealous of my Italian feast without him so we’ll definitely have to go to Becco’s on our next trip together to the city. That is if we can’t get a reservation at Babbo for the pasta tasting menu.

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