Wednesday, December 3, 2008

0 Recipe #41: Mafalda with Cauliflower, Kalamata Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes, & Asiago

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Any of you who've eaten or cooked with Mafalda know that this is the pasta shaped like mini-lasagna. IMHO, this pasta forms the perfect mellow "canvas" upon which to "paint" a wide range of complementary flavors & textures, especially for this particular recipe - the ever-so-subtle crunchiness of lightly steamed cauliflower, the sharp tang of asiago cheese & sun-dried tomatoes, the saltiness of the Kalamata olives, and a mix of other complementary flavors.

Yes, cooking is an art as well as science, & in many ways, is very similar to painting a picture. There needs to be contrast between background & foreground tastes, & the ingredients must balance each other out in terms of textures, colors, & flavors. There needs to be a good foundation, not only in terms of knowledge & experience, but also in terms of the ingredients one uses. In this particular recipe, the pasta forms the base or foundation upon which the other ingredients rely upon. This is why using good pasta is essential!

Of course, sometimes good food is simple; other times it can be complex & multi-layered. This dish probably falls in the latter category. While the mafalda isn't necessarily the predominant flavor focus of this dish (i.e., the sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata, parsley, & asiago definitely steal the spotlight!), the particular texture of the mafalda pasta is certainly unique, & lends the dish its distinctive, mellow appeal, providing balance to the other more intense flavors & textures.

Anyhow, enough discourse & onto the recipe. :)

BTW, I made this for dinner tonight & it was a huge hit with the family..... It's an original recipe I created today for tonight's dinner, as a way to say thank-you to & express my love and affection for my family.

Please note: While you are certainly welcome to apply this recipe (& any of the other recipes on this blog) for your own personal use in the kitchen & adapt it to your own taste specifications, please, however, do not reprint or redistribute this recipe in any media format (i.e., blog, websites, online or paper publications, etc.) without first receiving express permission/authorization from its author -- i.e., me. Thank you & enjoy!

Mafalda with Cauliflower, Kalamata Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes, & Asiago

5-6 c. water (for cooking pasta)
1 small drop olive oil (for cooking pasta)
1 dash table salt (for cooking pasta)
2 c. dry, uncooked mafalda pasta
1 shallot, finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/3-1/4 c. sherry (preferably medium dry)
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
rock salt (or, if not available, coarse kosher salt) (for seasoning cauliflower)
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 c. buttermilk
4-6 pieces farmer's cheese (thinly sliced, 1/4" thick) (or can substitute with low-fat mozzarella slices)
1/3 c. lite non-dairy creamer (I use Nestle Low-Fat Coffee-Mate, original flavor)
8 sun-dried tomatoes, (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), julienned (or about 40 slivers of sun-dried tomatoes, if using presliced kind in packages)
10 kalamata olives, pitted & sliced into quarters
freshly shredded asiago cheese - best to use solid block & shred fresh for best flavor
fresh parsley, finely minced (for garnish)

1. Boil water for pasta. Salt the water & add a few drops of (extra virgin) olive oil. (The salt is for flavor; the olive oil is to keep the pasta from sticking together.)
2. While water is boiling, chop all produce & put aside into separate bowls.
3. On another stove top burner, place shallots & butter in pan. Sauté shallots until tender. Watch carefully, so it doesn't burn.
2. Add sherry to deglaze pan.
3. Add cauliflower florets & sauté under tender. Shortly after adding cauliflower, sprinkle a dash of salt & cracked pepper on top & then mix thoroughly. (The salt will help to "sweat" the cauliflower & also absorb excess liquid in the pan after the cauliflower starts cooking.)
4. If necessary, add additional 1 c. water to cauliflower & stir continually to keep from burning during cooking process.
5. After pasta finishes cooking (i.e., about 11 minutes for al dente), add cooked & drained pasta to the cauliflower mixture in the sauté pan.
6. Next add buttermilk & oregano, & stir.
7. In final phases of cooking, add farmer's cheese slices & non-dairy creamer. Stir continually.
8. Add olives & sun-dried tomatoes, cooking for one final minute.
9. Remove from heat & sprinkle asiago cheese on top immediately, so it gently melts.
10. Garnish with parsley & serve.

Yield: Serves 2-4, depending upon your appetite & whether or not you serve side dishes with dinner. ;-)

Chef's Notes: Do NOT use non-stick pan. It's very important to brown the cauliflower, & a non-stick pan will not allow you to do this.

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