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big, easy bites

love and pasta at domenica

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By foodorleans · January 24, 2013 · 0 Comments ·
passing the plates at Domenica

I have a serious, life-long, nearly debilitating crush on handmade pasta.  I love its freshness, its tender bite, and the way just a little sauce elevates it into the highest form of art.  When I see it on a menu, at places like La Petite Grocery or August, I'm done. Take the menu away, just bring me the pasta, please. Pronto. So Domenica, whose menu features handmade pasta at every turn, among other authentically prepared Italian delights, naturally holds a place very dear to my heart--my almost Italian, highly dramatic, pasta-loving heart.

Left: octopus carpaccio. Right: tagliatelle with rabbit and porcini

I met the chef of Domenica, Alon Shaya, last year at the Tabasco event I attended on Avery Island, where he proceeded to make fusilli by hand, torture shrimp into a beautiful stock, and generally wow us all with his homemade cured meats and warm olives.  He's a master at his craft, and the restaurant reflects his easy-yet-professional style.  Vegetarians and vegans have nothing to fear here: just tell them, and they'll please most eagerly.

roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta

with your cheese and/or salumi board, you get these savory "beignets", little puffs of crackly, buttery bread

At Avery Island, Shaya prepared a 5-course tasting menu featuring different Tabasco sauces. The meat course was a slow-roasted porchetta, but for the vegetarians, he offered a whole roasted cauliflower.  You can order this at Domenica, along with the most fantastic whipped feta cheese as a sauce.  Hint: try this whipped feta on everything you possibly can.  It never fails!

whole roasted cauliflower with its accompaniment of whipped feta (looks like hummus, but is so not hummus)

This is a great place to bring a bunch of friends and order many small plates so everyone can have a taste of the good life. Be warned that it will be a little on the noisy side, so save your important discussions for another time and place. Also, though they have a wine list, you can bring your own bottles with NO corkage fee.  True!  Plus, they're making some smashingly good king cakes these days.  Check out their happy hour, 3:00-6:00 daily, and be on the lookout for their Seder Menu, which promises to be special.

the theology and geometry of Greek lasagna

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By foodorleans · August 23, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

If you're back in school, back to work, back in stressland of any sort, you might be craving some sort of soul-fortifying food hug right about now.  One of my personal favorite food hugs is a big ol' pan of lasagna--and not a thin, dainty one, either. It's got to be tall and stacked through with vegetables, meats, and a ton of cheese.  Lasagna is such a childhood classic for many of us who grew up with moms who liked to cook both ground beef and casseroles, yet it's still adaptable to current tastes, or to current needs to clean out the pantry.  It's also just a beautiful, big pan of goodness, a culinary specimen of theology and geometry.  If you like to build things that taste good and heal your soul, you'll like this.

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Tagged with: lasagna, baked, beef, Sausage, Greek, pasta, cheese

my green heaven, continued: fried green tomato parmesan

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By foodorleans · May 9, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Because I love them so, I've written a couple of love letters to fried green tomatoes over the years: the fried green tomato caprese "salad" I made without remorse, and fried green tomato BLTs, a longtime favorite.  Green tomatoes are so good when fried, I think a lot of folks never try them other ways, like in a salsa or gazpacho.  I really, really want to use them in recipes like that. I really do!  But when I think of them fried, I just can't resist.

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the secrets of the old: pasta with breadcrumbs and sweet onions

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By foodorleans · January 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Yesterday I read a great article on alternet.org that my friend Meredith highlighted on her blog, The Boiled Down Juice: it's called Compost Cuisine, and it's full of really interesting ways that a few chefs in California are using "whole vegetables" in the same way other chefs use whole animals, or in other words, using all parts of the animal, from head to tail.  They're doing things like stuffing squash stems and slow-cooking kale stems until they're soft like pasta, and reducing lemon and carrot peels into flavor-packed "ash" in the oven.  I don't know if I'm up to ashing my vegetable peelings, but it's fun to see what possibilities there are in cooking things that we would otherwise throw out, or if we're more sustainability-minded, throw in the compost pail.  It's good to find creative, delicious ways to use up what's old.

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nap-time bolognese: feed your inner starving artist

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By foodorleans · November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Rainy, gray November days beg for something warm and fortifying, and this is certainly both.  You might not be ready to run a marathon afterward, but you'll be ready for a marathon sleep.  Cheers to that!

Sauce Bolognese is perfect on fettucine, penne, or ladled over gnocchi, with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (that's the real stuff) grated over the top.  One of its traditional uses is as the sauce component of lasagna, as in Lasagna Bolognese--but you could also turn it into a baked ziti, or a soup, or even a very cheeky chili. It's also highly adaptable, so feel free to add veggies or substitute other meats (or non-meats) as you wish.  In other words, you have permission to get artsy with your food.  Just another perk of living in the best restaurant city in the universe: a great tip from a neighbor about using veal, which was spot-on.

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by-heart mac and cheese

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By foodorleans · October 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Most of us have a soft spot for good old macaroni and cheese, and personal preference usually depends on what we grew up eating at potlucks, church dinners, or our grandmother's table.  Some folks insist on American cheese being the only cheese that can meld with macaroni, and some profess a strong affinity for a crispy breadcrumb topping that crunches up in the oven.  Me?  I'm a pretty straightforward, white-sauce-meets-pasta kind of gal, though I'll put just about any kind of cheese into the sauce (anything that grates, anyway--no brie or fresh mozzarella).  I like an extra layer of cheese over the top, and I've developed a tendency to add a dollop of grainy Creole mustard to the sauce before I stir in the macaroni; it sparks the sauce a little bit, just the way I like it.

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turn away, tomato: winter white lasagna with italian sausage

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By foodorleans · February 4, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Problem:  Winter.  Boredom.  Hunger.

Solution:  Two hours spent puttering in the kitchen, which totally counts as a workout.  A mess of of dirty dishes to wash.  Lasagna in the oven.  Naps.

I love lasagna of any sort, and this one is rich and full of wintery vegetable flavor. Not using tomatoes just seemed right this time, but I've got nothing against them. Basically, I wanted the flavor of kale to be featured, so I gave tomatoes the boot till next time.

I used freshly made Italian sausage from my favorite corner store of all time, Terranova's.  If you don't have any in the house and you're snowed in, though, no big deal.  Lasagna is basically a layering of pasta, some sort of sauce/stew, and cheese.  So for the stew, I can see a melange of onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms--basically any good veggies you have in the fridge, or even in cans.  Use any kind of cheese.  If you don't have lasagna noodles, cook any shape of pasta and use a third of it to make the pasta layer...or use rice, polenta, or bread.  You really can't go wrong.
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classics (a.k.a. food you can make without thinking)

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By foodorleans · September 19, 2008 · 0 Comments ·



I used to make this dish, which is basically pasta with shrimp and feta, about once a week. Sadly, this was several years ago, when I lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the shrimp could only be as fresh as their drivers. I'm lucky now to have plump, fresh, affordable gulf shrimp to play around with.

Around 2002/03, when I started making this often, everybody was buzzing about feta cheese and its ideal companions, shrimp and tomatoes. Just seemed natural to toss it with pasta, I guess. Food magazines all weighed in with their own variations (olives. pine nuts. basil. etc.) for a good three years. I can pull any of my old Cooking Light cookbooks from that time period and I'll bet you a stock pot there are at least three recipes in each index.

Of course, tastes change. Feta cheese is so early 2k. Toss those shrimp with some flax seed if you want to be up-to-date. Sometimes I just like to feel dated.

Pasta with Shrimp and Feta

  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • one onion, halved & sliced thin
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or basil)
  • 2 or 3 diced ripe tomatoes, or canned diced tomatoes (add extra tomatoes if you like sauce really tomato-ey)
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth, or a few tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or one minced fresh jalapeno pepper)
  • raw shrimp, peeled & deveined, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 pound pasta, like angel hair or penne
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (plain or garlic & herb)
  1. Put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Salt it generously.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and saute 2 minutes, stirring.
  3. Add tomatoes (with their juices) and wine. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Cover the saute pan and simmer over low heat while you cook the pasta.
  5. When the pasta has about 4 more minutes to go, add the shrimp to the saute pan. Raise heat to medium, cover, and let shrimp cook in the sauce (about 4 minutes or so).
  6. Drain pasta and return to its cooking pot. Check sauce for seasoning. Good things to add for flavor are pesto, tabasco, or extra vinegar.
  7. Add the sauce to the pot with the pasta and toss (the pot gives you enough room to get everything really mixed together). Top each serving with a good bit of feta.

Serves 3 with a little left over.

Tagged with: feta, easy, pasta, classic, shrimp


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