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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dinner on a budget

The other night I was hungry. Hungry and broke. There was no ramen in the cupboard, no leftovers, and if I had to make one more round of scrambled eggs for dinner I was going to lose it. It was time for a plan. It was time to "play the six"*

Looking through the cupboard I saw some pasta, chicken stock and beans.  Awesome!  Rummaging through my brothers' side of the shelf in the fridge and I found some tasty looking sausage.  I went through my cheese box and uncovered a wedge of Orb Weaver cheese.  Awwww yeah.  That's when the sh#@ got real.

Orb Weaver is a delicious cheese that comes to us from Orb Weaver Farm in New Haven, VT.  Yes, the farm and resulting cheese take their name from the orb weaver spider *shudders*.  I don't want to write about spiders, so I'm going to lift this part straight from their website
...An orb weaver is a spider that makes delicate, symmertical webs.  For us, she is a metaphor for the cyclical rhythms of the farm, sowing, harvesting and enriching the soil to grow new pastures and gardens season after season.
And that's the last time I'm going to mention eight-legged creepy crawly creatures on my blog.

So what's the cheese like? Imagine if gouda and havarti got together and had a baby.  It has that kind of texture, soft and creamy with a nice open airy paste.  The flavors are milky, with a buttery sweet cream flavor, a hint of tanginess and just a tiny smidge of brown butter and hay.  So good.  She's also a great melting cheese.

Here's what you'll need for my poor man's resourceful pasta dish-this is going to feed two people really hungry people (with huge bowls full) with some leftovers for lunch the next day.

2/3# of pipette pasta.  I'm sure you can use penne, or any other grooved pasta shape.
1 can cannellini beans
1 onion-sliced thin (julienne)
2 cloves garlic-minced
two links of sausage (optional it if you're having an herbivore day)
16 oz. chicken (or veg stock)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Cook your pasta until it's about 3/4 cooked. Drain it, but reserve some of the starchy water-you can boil the pasta while you're doing all the skillet work. Don't forget to salt your water when you cook the pasta. 
  • Take the sausage out of the casing and break it into little chunks.  Brown it in a large skillet
  • Before the sausage is completely cooked, take the onion and cook it in the sausage fat (or if omitting sausage, use a little grapeseed oil)
  • When the onion is just starting to caramelize, add the garlic-be careful not to brown it too much. Garlic that's too brown=bitter ickiness.
  • De-glaze your pan with the stock. Be sure to scrape up any brown bits on the pan-that's where the tasty stuff is. Reduce the liquid by about 1/2
  • Pour in your can of drained canellini beans to the mix
  • Add your pasta and pasta water to the skillet-the starchy water is going to help thicken the sauce
  • Grate a whole bunch of cheese (I used about 1/3# because we're serious caseophiles) and start adding it to the sauce in small increments, allowing each addition to melt before you add more.  You may not need 1/3# of cheese, but since you're probably going to nibble while you make this I would advise it
  • Toss the whole shabang in the pan to make sure all of your noodles are coated
  • Eat it.
  • Congratulate youself on coming up with a super tasty dish in almost no time flat.
Now, it would've been awesome if I had some kale, swiss chard or even spinach to add to this dish. Mmm...chard.  The next time I make it I'll be sure to have some greens in the crisper.
It's a little beige, but super tasty. Chiffonade some leafy greens to add color and numminess.
 *I don't usually do this, but "playing the six" is a joke between me, my good-ish brother (not that brother**, the other one) and my sister-in-law.  I don't miss Chicago all that much, but I miss you guys.

**I've got two brothers.  Usually I identify them by calling one the "good" brother.  That wouldn't make sense to you, so I'll just say that the current good brother is the one who drove out to Chicago, and drove 20hrs non-stop back to VT, is letting me borrow his car, and let me stay in his room for 6 weeks until I found a job and place to live.

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