Category Archives: Pasta/Grains

Curve Ball: Risotto Cakes!

October 19, 2005

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INT. MR. R’S KITCHEN–DAY

Caryn stumbles into the kitchen, trying to carry way too many grocery bags in at once. She unloads the bags in the middle of the floor and takes a breath.

Flora is sitting at the table. The baseball game plays from the television in the corner.

FLORA

I’ve been trying your cell phone for an hour!

Caryn grabs the phone from her back pocket and flips it open. Dead.

Caryn

Sorry, Flora.

Flora starts to pick up the bags.

FLORA

Oh, it’s just that he wanted those rice balls again.

Caryn bends down to hear her.

CARYN

Rice balls? You mean the risotto cakes?

Flora nods.

FLORA

Yes, those cakes. With artichokes.

CARYN

But I don’t have any more artichokes. And I was just at the store!

Flora smiles apologetically. Caryn tosses the phone on the counter and heads back out.

CARYN (CONT’D)

Stupid cell phone.

INT. GROCERY STORE–LATER

Caryn scampers around the corner armed with the artichokes to discover that the only open checkout lane has a long line of HOLLYWOOD MISFITS. Their carts are filled as if expecting a blizzard.

Caryn gets in line. She smiles hopefully at the PINK-HAIRED MAN ahead of her and nods toward her two artichokes. He turns away as if he never saw her.

She sighs loudly, but no one in line hears. She picks up a copy of Cooking Light and flips impatiently through it. No interest in reading, she goes to replace it when she GASPS so dramatically that the whole line turns around to see if she’s okay.

Caryn doesn’t notice the attention of the crowd. She slowly lifts a large, glossy tabloid off the rack.

CARYN

Oh nooooo.

Sprawled across the cover is a huge photograph of Mr. R. and Miss A., arm in arm, laughing. In bright yellow letters, the headline reads: “Secretly Married?”. Caryn holds the magazine loosely in her hands, afraid to turn the page.

TEENAGE GIRL (O.S.)

Are you getting out of line, lady?

Caryn dazedly looks up to see the line moving ahead. The TEENAGE GIRL behind her taps her foot on the tile.

TEENAGE GIRL (CONT’D)

I’m missing the game here. Are you getting out of line or not?

CARYN

Yeah. I am.

Artichoke-Leek Risotto Cakes

2 large artichokes

1 TB. lemon juice

2 large leeks

1 garlic clove

2 TB. olive oil

3/4 cup arborio or carnaroli rice

2-1/2 chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups panko, or crisp breadcrumbs

1. Hack out the heart of the artichoke with a sharp knife. Clean all the fuzzy parts off and dice into large chunks. Douse with lemon juice. Slice white and light green parts of the leeks into 1/2″ slices.

2. Pulse artichokes, leeks and garlic in food processor until finely chopped.

3. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan.

4. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large skillet or risotto pan. Add the artichoke, leeks and garlic and saute until tender. Stir in the rice and cook over medium heat until opaque, about 1 minute. Pour 1 cup of the hot broth into the rice, stirring constantly until liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring the rice while it simmers. When all the stock has nearly been absorbed and the rice is thick, stir in parmesan until melted.

5. Remove risotto from heat and spread out in a tray to cool until room temperature (or refrigerate overnight). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet.

6. With wet hands, form risotto into compressed round balls about the size of a fist. Flatten slightly and dip each one into egg and then panko. Space cakes evenly on oiled cookie sheet.

7. Bake until crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 10-12 cakes.

Memories of Childhood: Linguine with Clams!

September 2, 2005

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INT. KITCHEN IN ATLANTA HOME–EVENING–FLASHBACK, LATE 1970s

CHILD CARYN, about 5, sits at a table flanked by her YOUNG MOM and her blond-haired, blue-eyed SISTER KRISSY, about 7. Her YOUNG DAD sits across from her wearing square glasses with thick black frames. All are dressed in the appropriate attire for a family in the late 70s: bellbottoms.

Caryn and Krissy pick at the plate of pasta in front of them while their parents try to ignore them. Caryn sorts little pieces of indistinguishable seafood from the long strands.

CARYN

Mommy, what’s this?

YOUNG MOM

Linguine. Eat it.

CARYN

Lin-gweeeee-neeee?

Caryn spears a piece of shrimp with her fork and sniffs it. Krissy does the same and both girls immediately recoil in horror. For the rest of their meal, the girls attempt to clean the pasta of any evidence of the sauce before sucking up one strand at a time.

INT. CHURCH–CHRISTMAS EVE–FLASHBACK, EARLY 1980s

The traditional church with hard, mahogany pews is filled with the radiant light of the candles in the PARISHIONERS’ hands . The CHOIR leads the church in familiar Christmas hymns.

Mom, Dad, Krissy and Caryn, dressed in festive velvets and taffetas, sing the chorus with full, wide-opened mouths. One by one, the FOLKS in the pew in front of the family turn around to see who is behind them.

Mom and Dad seem to catch on to the unwanted attention before the two girls. Dad casually whispers to Mom at the start of the next verse.

DAD

Maybe next year we shouldn’t have the chicken with forty cloves of garlic before the candlelight service.

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–EVENING–FLASHBACK, 1980s

Caryn continues to grow up with every appearance. She wanders in wearing a neon orange sweatshirt with matching ribbons in her pigtails. Mom, now with a wavy perm in her hair, stirs parsley into a sauce on the stove.

CARYN

What’s for dinner?

MOM

Your favorite.

The drama queen spots the can of clams and staggers back.

CARYN

Nooooooooooo!!!!

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–DAY–FLASHBACK, LATE 1980s

Same place, same Mom in a sparkly blouse, but Caryn’s pigtails are now gone and she’s a tad bit taller. A large stock pot simmers on the stove. Mom peaks in as Caryn tries to steal a look too.

MOM

Want to try it?

Caryn is alarmed at the mere suggestion.

CARYN

Before dinner?

Mom flips off the lid.

MOM

Yep.

She scoops a little of the rich, tomato sauce into a bowl, leaving the chunks of pepperoni and sausage in the pot.

MOM (CONT’D)

I always like to have a little of the sauce with some bread for lunch. I like it better than on spaghetti.

She hands Caryn a slice of white bread. Mom and daughter tear off a piece of their bread and dip it into the sauce, coloring it a bright orangey-red. Caryn tastes it.

CARYN

Mmmmm. I wish we could have spaghetti every night!

Krissy, now the typical 80s teenager with big hair and colorful hoop earrings, walks in and sees them eating.

KRISSY

Hey! How come nobody called me?

INT. ATLANTA KITCHEN–EVENING–FLASHBACK, 1990

Dad, older but wearing the same thick-framed glasses as before, stands at the counter opening the mail. Mom stirs a pound of linguine into a pot of boiling water. The sound of a car’s motor is heard from the garage off the kitchen.

DAD

She’s baaaack.

Before long, a teenage Caryn comes in and unloads her backback in the middle of the floor.

MOM

Don’t leave that there. Take it upstairs.

CARYN

What’s for dinner?

MOM

Linguine.

Caryn dejectedly picks up the backpack and stomps out.

CARYN (O.S.)

Motherrrr, why can’t we ever have meatloaf or mac and cheese like a normal family?

Mom and Dad shrug to each other and continue about their business.

EXT. CARYN’S DUPLEX APARTMENT–EVENING–PRESENT DAY

A travel-weary Caryn drags her over-stuffed luggage up the steps of her front porch. She takes out her key to unlock the front door, but is surprised to find the door already slightly ajar.

INT. APARTMENT

Mom is sitting on the couch watching television when Caryn enters.

CARYN

Mom, what are you doing here?

MOM

I thought I’d come visit for a couple days. Good thing, too, because you really left this place a mess.

Caryn shoves the suitcases aside and plops down on the couch.

CARYN

You really could have given me a little warning before heading across the country to visit me.

MOM

I made dinner.

Caryn perks up at the thought of food. Mom goes into the kitchen.

CARYN

What’d you make?

MOM

Your favorite.

Mom’s Linguine with Shrimp and Clams

I learned to cook by watching my mother, who rarely made a bad meal. Originally from a Joy of Cooking recipe, Mom has made this quick pasta for as long as I can remember, much to the dismay of her children. She has adapted it over the years and often adds a dozen fresh littleneck clams to the canned. If using fresh clams, steam the clams in white wine by themselves in a pot with a lid. Make the sauce without the shrimp and add the steamed clams when you add the canned.

6 Tbl. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup minced clams with liquid (canned)

1/2 lb. shrimp, chopped into small pieces

1/8 tsp. oregano

1/2 cup white wine or vermouth

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lb. linguine

parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Cook linguine according to package directions.

2. While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in large skillet until hot. Add minced garlic and cook gently 5 minutes.

3. Add parsley, clams, shrimp, oregano, wine and cayenne. Heat until bubbling and shrimp are pink.

4. Add sauce to hot cooked pasta and dress with parsley and lots of fresh parmesan.

Serves 3-4.

**This entry fulfills my obligation to the Memories of Childhood Meme for which I was tagged by Haverchuk. I’m now tagging Lisa at the new Lekker Lekker Lekkerste, Tara at the beautiful Seven Spoons and my buddy Danno at Cook’s Journal and Nola Cuisine (because he tagged me once before and I’m getting him back).

Dog Days: Pasta Salad!

August 24, 2005

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EXT. MOVIE SET–SOMEWHERE IN OHIO–SAME

Caryn follows Miss A. to the crowded set, only to discover a virtual sea of EXTRAS in Civil War attire waiting for their cue. Miss A. somehow spots Mr. R immediately. Her bee line to him takes out a few extras, but she doesn’t seem to care. Caryn cranes to see them when a booming voice yells in her ear.

VOICE

Extras, please come this way!

Caryn is surprised to find that the voice belongs to the timid 2nd 2nd AD she’d met before. The girl seems to have grown quite a backbone in the two months on the job. On a mission, the 2nd 2nd sees Caryn holding the plate of eggplant parmesan and stops.

2ND 2ND AD

Why aren’t you in costume?

CARYN

Oh, I’m not an–

2ND 2ND AD

We’ve been back from lunch for a half hour. You really should be dressed and in makeup by now.

Caryn tries to protest again just as Lauren appears and takes the plate from her.

LAUREN

I’ll take this. You go to wardrobe.

CARYN

But–

LAUREN

Look, clearly we’re short of extras. Be a team player and go.

She shoves Caryn toward the 2nd 2nd with a smirk and heads over to where Mr. R is getting berated by Miss A. Caryn has no choice but to comply.

EXT. MOVIE SET–LATER

Dressed in a dull gray hoop dress and holding a black parasol, Caryn is enveloped in the mass of extras around her, all sweltering in the summer heat. She squirms in her dress to get comfortable, but it is no use.

The crowd seems to perk up as Mr. R. saunters in front of them for the scene. He does not recognize his chef as she wipes the sweat from her forehead. Miss A. shortly follows him wearing an evil scowl on top of her thick make-up.

The crew gathers around for the shot. The Director takes a seat behind the monitor to watch the action just as Caryn spots Lauren watching her from the side, deeply satisfied with Caryn’s state.

DIRECTOR

Okay, going again! Try to look lively this time!

Caryn sucks in a deep breath, but the corset prevents her from getting much air. She straightens up in a futile attempt to look lively just as “Action” is called.

INT. TRAILER–LATER

Finally out of the costume and withered like the roasted tomatoes cooling by the stove, Caryn prepares an antipasto plate with a variety of olives, cheeses and vegetables. Mr. R. enters the trailer from the blackness of night outside.

MR. R.

I’m exhausted. Days with extras are always so long. They never pay attention.

Caryn turns to the tomatoes and slices them into pieces. Mr. R. picks at the cheese.

MR. R. (CONT’D)

Ah, this looks great for a hot day like today. Of course, you got to stay in the air conditioned trailer all day.

She throws the tomatoes on the top of a mound of assorted colors: pasta, basil and parmesan. She tosses olive oil into the pasta salad with the last ounce of energy left in her body.

Mr. R. seats himself at a small table by the window as Caryn serves his late dinner. He immediately picks out a roasted tomato to eat first.

MR. R. (CONT’D)

You know, we were short of extras today. You should’ve helped out. It’d be fun for you to be in the movie.

Caryn slams a dish into the sink.

CARYN

Yeah, sorry. Maybe next time.

Pasta Salad with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

I learned how to roast tomatoes from July’s Bon Appetit and now I’m addicted. The roasted flavor really lends itself well to this simple pasta salad.

5-6 medium tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

12 oz. tri-colored fusilli

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

2. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and juice. Place tomato slices, cut side up, on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil.

3. Bake tomatoes until slightly charred, about 50 minutes. Chop the halves into 4-5 pieces when completely cool.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool.

5. Toss pasta with tomatoes, remaining olive oil and remaining ingredients.

Serves 6.

Civil Wars, Red Beans and Rice!

June 5, 2005

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INT. TRAILER–LATE AFTERNOON

Mr. R. enters in a tattered uniform of the Confederate Army and a deep layer of makeup. His dense, dark hair is slicked back neatly, but there are fake cuts and scrapes across his broad forehead. Caryn stifles a laugh from the stove.

CARYN

(in her thickest Southern accent)

Is the wah over?

MR. R.

No, just breaking for lunch, Miss Scarlett.

Caryn takes the lid off a large pot on the stove. She scoops a heavy ladle of thick, red beans into the bowl. Mr. R. picks a piece of andouille sausage from the pot.

MR. R. (CONT’D)

If your army ate this well, y’all might have won.

She adds a spoonful of buttered rice to the beans and hands it to the soldier. He plops down on the couch to eat.

MR. R. (CONT’D)

Who ever heard of a Civil War comedy anyway?

He is barely on his second spoonful when the door opens and Lauren walks in. She is dressed down in an attempt to fit in with the crew, but her $400 jeans somehow miss the mark.

LAUREN

I swear our caterers make the worst coffee on the planet.

She slams her cup on the table and pulls a Diet Coke from the fridge, just as the door opens again and Miss A. makes the reunion complete. She is the worst dressed of all in a pink, corseted hoop-dress. Obnoxious curls bob from her whole head.

MISS A.

The AC is out in my trailer. Mind if I crash in here?

No one responds, but she wasn’t really asking. Caryn steps nimbly aside as Miss A. helps herself to a bowl of the beans.

LAUREN

You don’t have much room in that corset to eat.

MISS A.

I know. Loosen it for me, will you?

Lauren sighs and makes half an effort to untie the strings. Mr. R. continues to eat, trying not to spill on his costume. Caryn pretends to clean around the stove.

When the strings are slightly loosened, Lauren steps back to assess any damage to her nails. Miss A. takes her bowl to the door.

MISS A. (CONT’D)

Well, I’m wrapped after the next shot. So I’ll see you at eight?

Unsure who she’s talking to, Lauren and Caryn look toward Mr. R. who nods quietly without looking up.

MISS A. (CONT’D)

Good. I’m gonna go get my makeup touched up.

She leaves. Caryn resumes her pseudo-cleaning, but Lauren stares at Mr. R. a moment.

LAUREN

You know you’re in every shot for the remainder of the day.

Mr. R. sets his bowl aside.

MR. R.

Yeah, but I think we’ll finish a little early.

Lauren laughs icily and starts for the door too.

LAUREN

Wouldn’t count on it, Big Guy.

As soon as she’s gone, Mr. R. shakes his fingers through his hair, effectively messing up the design. He leans back on the couch with his eyes closed. Caryn wipes vigorously at a non-existent spot.

MR. R.

No, Caryn, the war rages on.

I have been looking forward to trying one of the recipes at New Orleans Cuisine and the Red Beans and Rice is a perfect example of Danno’s commitment to authentic cuisine from Louisiana. I substituted a meaty ham bone for the neck bones. The tender meat slowly fell off the bone as the beans simmered. For someone who spent a large portion of her life within shouting distance of Creole and Cajun Country, I couldn’t have been happier with this recipe!

Springtime Afternoon: Risotto!

March 17, 2005

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EXT. MR. R’S MANSION–SUNDECK–DAY

The massive sundeck stretches the full length of the house and opens out to the expansive view of the buzzing city. Just steps below the deck, a glorious pool shimmers in the California sun.

Mr. R. and Miss A. relax at a large, round table that is dressed in the requisite white linen and crystal. Lauren reads a script in a sunchair next to them.

Miss A. stretches her bare, pedicured feet into the sun.

MISS A.

Is it finally Spring?

MR. R.

I guess any day here feels like Spring when you’re from Manhattan.

MISS A.

I may never go back.

MR. R. smiles at the thought as Caryn enters with plates piled high with hot, green-speckled risotto.

MISS A.

Lunch!

Lauren comes over to the table as Caryn pours sparkling water into the glasses. Miss A. wastes no time before digging her fork into the steaming mound.

LAUREN

What’s in this?

CARYN

Oh, it’s sort of a light risotto. Arugala, leeks, parmesan.

MISS A.

Mmmmm. Perfect dish for a beautiful day!

Lauren resumes reading her script without touching her lunch. Mr. R. eats in silence. Caryn takes the opportunity to sneak away.

MISS A.

You’re right. Your chef is really good.

Lauren looks up from her script to Mr. R. who continues to eat.

LAUREN

She’s alright. Not the best you’ve ever had.

Mr. R. dismisses Lauren’s comment with a laugh. The table falls silent as the trio drifts off into their thoughts of the afternoon.

Around the corner, Caryn sits on the back steps, disappointed with the previous conversation from the deck. She stretches out her home-pedicured feet into the sun and tries to disappear into her own plate of risotto.

Spring Green Risotto

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups chopped baby arugala

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring stock to a gentle simmer.

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in heavy-bottomed pan. Add leeks and garlic. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until rice is nearly translucent, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.

4. Slowly add 1 cup of the stock to the rice, stirring constantly.

5. When the stock has been nearly absorbed, add the arugala, chives and thyme.

6. Continue to add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring the rice constantly, until the rice is just tender and looks creamy, about 20-25 minutes.

7. Stir in the parmesan and salt and pepper. Serve at once.

3 lunch-sized portions, and a little leftover.