Yet Another Quick Pasta Dish – With Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

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I know I feature way too many pasta dishes, sorry. I don’t cook as much as I’d like and lately things have been crowding in. I’d love for an entire weekend of leisurely cooking at some point soon. In the mean time, this will have to suffice.

I like chicken baked in the oven plain and simple till the juices flow and the skin is crisp. Poured onto warm pasta, it makes a simple dish incredibly yummy. This time I thought I’d use some cherry tomatoes and roast them over low heat in a frying pan. Slip in some crushed garlic and the juices come out sweet and aromatic. Let the mixture cook slowly over low heat to intensify the juices while the pasta cooks. Pour in the chicken juices, toss in the asparagus spears at the last moment, then mix with the cooked pasta. Season with plenty of freshly grounded black pepper and sea salt and a great lunch is served.

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Here’s the recipe if you must.

Ingredients:

1 chicken leg, deboned
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 cherry tomatoes
enough pasta for one person, linguine perhaps
10 mini asparagus spears, cut into short lengths

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
  2. Separate the skin from the deboned chicken leg and lay each flat on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil, taking care that they are far apart enough that the juices stay away from the skin. This way the skin becomes nice and crisp. Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. If the skin isn’t crisp yet, grill till it is.
  3. Let the chicken sit and cool so the juices ooze out.
  4. In the mean time, heat the olive oil gently in a frying pan and then sweat the garlic and tomatoes till just on the verge of brown. This takes a while, so be patient.
  5. Cook the pasta in plenty of salt water till al dente.
  6. When the pasta is just about ready, pour the chicken juices into the frying pan and turn up the heat. Toss in the asparagus and stir till just cooked, about 30 seconds.
  7. Now toss in the pasta and stir till the noodles are completely coated. Season well to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Turn onto plate, top with chicken and crispy skin and dig in!

Serves 1.

Peperoni Pizza

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I’d wanted to go to Peperoni for a while and was delighted when Misa wanted to check it out too. We had girly gossip over the most amazing truffle pizza where the truffle was earthy and almost buah keluak-like in flavour. The thin crust was excellent and freshly made, I how loved the flavours of yeast and bread and the crisp-chewy texture of the crust mingled and really made this pizza work. It’s not just the truffle and melted cheese, it’s also the excellent crust that made this pizza. It’s not quite perfect though, because the egg wasn’t runny as it should be. Still, a small defect. I’m going back for more soon!

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It was a pity that the linguine vongole had an off day. The clams weren’t very fresh and it affected the whole dish. Such a waste since this dish is potentially such a winner. I hope they do this better the next time I get there!

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Peperoni Pizza
6 Greenwood Avenue Hillcrest Park
Tel: 6465 6556

An Unorthodox Carbonara

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I had some orange zest and two egg yolks left over from my orange clove cake and knew that I had to take this rare opportunity to make pasta carbonara without having to contend with egg whites glaring malevolently at me every time I opened the fridge door. There was also some chorizo Mum brought back from (of all places) London, so the orange and smoked sausage turned the pasta into something decidedly un-Italian.

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To make things slightly less sinful, I seared thick slices of zucchini on the grill and dressed it with a simple vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was something Mum took back from London (yes mums can be slightly eccentric too). If not, I’d just sprinkle a touch of balsamic or wine vinegar over and top with some crumbled sea salt and ground pepper.

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Ingredients:
5 slices of skinny chorizo, cut into thin strips
linguine
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp + extra parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp yogurt
zest of ½ orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Method:

  1. Fry the chorizo in a dry pan over low heat till fat is rendered and chorizo is crisp. Set aside. Also set oily pan aside.
  2. Boil the linguine in salted water till al dente.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, cheese, yogurt and orange zest. Stir in the orange juice.
  4. When the pasta is just about ready, warm the rendered chorizo oil. Drain the noodles and toss them in the hot oil. Immediately transfer to the eggy mixture and stir, stir, stir till the cheese melts and the sauce thickens and clings to the noodles.
  5. Sprinkle over the chorizo bits and extra grated parmesan cheese.
  6. Eat immediately.

Serves 1 or 2.

A Socially Awkward Dinner

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Some nights I crave something very strong-tasting and assertive, food for non-date nights and when you really don’t care how many vampires or other nasties you scare away with your repellent breath. On nights like these, I cook something starting off rather innocuous: pasta with grilled courgettes and mozzarella. Things go up a notch with the addition of sharp rocket, but we’re hardly anywhere near the pongy breath zone. Slip in mustard to dress the pasta and the arrow of the pong-o-meter barely registers a tick upwards. Now add in the garlic and copious amounts of anchovies and we’re talking (with hand firmly over mouth)! Try it at your own risk, remembering that you have to like the ingredients before using them (silly!) and that you can always dial down the intensity by either using less of the ingredient or in the case of garlic, sauteeing it gently in olive oil before throwing it into the dressing. Are you game?

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Ingredients:

½ courgette, sliced into thick diagonals
linguine
2 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tsps prepared mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp peppery extra virgin olive oil
1 generous handful rocket leaves
¼ ball of mozzarella, torn into rough strips

Recipe:

  1. Heat a grill pan over the stove and grill the courgette slices on both sides till you get black bars on each side. Set aside and wrap in a piece of aluminium foil to keep warm.
  2. Cook the linguine till al dente in unsalted water.
  3. Get on with making the pasta dressing. In a mortar and pestle, grind the anchovy fillets and garlic to a paste, then stir in the mustard and combine well. Add a touch of balsamic vinegar, then a couple of good glugs of good olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning either with more mustard or more vinegar.
  4. By now your pasta should be about done. Drain and toss in the dressing till well coated.
  5. Assemble your dish. First the rocket leaves, then quickly flip over the noodles so that the rocket wilts slightly in the heat. Then the grilled courgette on top, followed by torn bits of mozzarella. Finish with a sprinkle of olive oil and the leftover dressing. (Go easy with the dressing, it’s very very salty). Devour.
  6. Brush your teeth when done.

Serves 1.

Mid-Week Herb Pasta

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As always, I hoped to finish up some things languishing in the fridge. I had two sad lemons and some fairly fresh coriander waiting around. A quick trip to the supermarket got me basil instead of the flat-leaf parsley I was hoping for, but rooting around in the freezer got me some butter and chopped shallots. I meant to have some kind of meat with this but was too tired to sort that out, so it was just chopped herbs and butter in this simple clean-tasting pasta. I’m sure this would go amazingly with some grilled fish, although DC thinks it’ll be phenomenal with lamb rack. We’ll just have to try both out before deciding!

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Ingredients:
linguine
1 generous knob butter
2 tbsp chopped shallots
good splash of dry vermouth, sherry or white wine
1 pack basil leaves, finely chopped
1 pack coriander leaves, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Boil the linguine in plenty of salted water till just approaching al dente.
  2. In a hot pan, melt the butter then gently saute the onions till slightly coloured.
  3. Add the vermouth, turn up the heat and bubble till reduced by half.
  4. Toss in the pasta, chopped herbs and lemon zest. Stir over low heat. If the pasta is not yet al dente, add a little of the water used to boil the pasta and stir till ready.
  5. Check seasoning and serve garnished with a lemon wedge and a sprig of basil.

Serves 2.

Oomphatico’s

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I was at the Tanglin area and thought I’d have some long sought-after time with myself. It’s not often that I get time alone so I treated myself to a good lunch at Oomphatico’s.

The decor is whimsical pink and gold with soft-cushioned, slightly fussy Victorian style chairs. It’s obviously geared towards trendy young mummies with designer prams: family friendly yet not overtly so.

I started with the watermelon, pomegranate and mint juice. It was a refreshing and imaginative blend that came in a fairly generous portion. It was a bit more smoothie than juice because of the watermelon pulp, sometimes I had to chew a bit. Not bad nonetheless.

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My side salad came next and I was surprised by how generous the portion was. It wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill mesclun. Rather than just limp lettuce, it also had various yummies like ripe avocado, sweet cherry toms and crunchy cucumber. The service was pretty attentive too because they asked if I wanted my main served immediately. Most places just plonk the main down whether you’re ready or not.

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I asked for my linguine vongole with mussels and anchovy to come when I was done with the salad. It still came piping hot yet not overcooked, very well done on the service. At first I found it slightly tasteless but soon realised that the anchovies weren’t mixed in properly.  It was a very pleasing combination of fresh clams and fresh mussels too, not the usual tough frozen New Zealand greenlip stuff. I liked how they were generous with the flat leaf parsley too. A winner.

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I ended off the meal with a latte. Too bad it was tiny, watered down and the only overpriced thing I had here. A let down to an otherwise excellent meal.

Quick Meals: Bacon, Mushroom, Chilli and Parsley Linguine

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This is another dish inspired both by hunger and by the need to clear out stuff from the fridge! I had a few button mushrooms that were getting past their prime, lots of curly parsley and a red chilli that was slowly drying up in the fridge. Being very hungry, I only had time enough to boil pasta and make sure the sauce was ready by the time it was al dente.

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Ingredients:

linguine
2 rashers streaky bacon, cut into strips
3 mushrooms, sliced
½ cup curly parsley, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped coarsely

Method:

  1. Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water till al dente.
  2. In the mean time, fry the bacon in a non-stick pan till browned. Add the mushrooms and keep frying till brown.
  3. Toss in the chilli and cook for half a minute, then add the parsley and stir for a few seconds.
  4. The pasta should be cooked by now. Toss in the pasta and stir till pasta is well coated. Add a bit of cooking liquid if it’s too dry. Alternatively you can add oil if you’re not watching your weight.
  5. Season to taste. Hurry up and eat already!

Serves 1.

Note: If you prefer, either leave out the chilli or remove the seeds to make it less hot.

Decadent Chicken Pasta in White Sauce

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There was some leftover sour cream staring accusingly at me each time I opened the fridge door. Thing is, I wasn’t the one to buy it. Mum bought it for some cake she baked and left them for me to finish, I was innocent! Stuck for something to do with it, I opted for a cream sauce for pasta and figured that chicken probably went best with it. I also added in some of my favourite soft green peppercorns in brine I bought from a fancy supermarket. It worked pretty well.

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Ingredients:
linguine for one person
1 knob butter (about ½ tbsp, but no one’s looking, add as much as you like!)
2 shallots, chopped fine
1 chicken breast, cut into strips
1 tbsp dry sherry
2 tsp soft green peppercorns
50 ml sour cream

Method:

  1. Boil the pasta in lots of salted water.
  2. In the meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan and then sweat the shallots very gently on low heat. It should be bubbling gently and should not brown. Stir constantly.
  3. Turn up the heat to high, then add the chicken strips, stir till they change colour to white and add the splash of sherry and peppercorns. Stir, stir, stir.
  4. The pasta should be done by now. If not, wait for it. Just leave the chicken pan aside off the heat till you’re ready to go to the next step.
  5. Dump the pasta into the chicken pan, add the sour cream and turn the heat back on to medium. Stir till well coated.
  6. Taste and add salt accordingly, then serve.

Serves 1.

Too Much Ado about Mykii

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Mykii is one of those places that got my attention as I surfed hungrygowhere. It was so much in the collective food lovers’ consciousness that my foodie friend and I both had the place in mind when we agreed on a lunch place. Plus, it had taken over the space formerly occupied by the Holland Village branch of Marmalade Pantry. Had to be good, right?

We went for the set lunch at $16.80++ that included soup of the day, choice of main and coffee/tea. First up was the soup. The odd thing was that the server told us that the soup was pumpkin soup but later served us mushroom instead. She told us that there was still mushroom soup left (!) as she set down our soup dishes. How bizarre.

No matter, there was nothing to fault with the soup. It was earthy and thickened with lots of mushroom bits. The drizzle of cream on top was a nice touch. I liked it.

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I chose the seafood linguine with laksa pesto and was a tad surprised to see it coming in a sizzling Korean-style stone pot. It was stupendously disappointing. First, the sizzling pot burnt the bottom bits of the pasta. Yes, burnt, as in charred to a (not-nice) crisp. Next, the pasta was certainly not al dente; it was the localised soft version. The prawns and squid were alright, overcooked in parts from contact with the sizzling pot. The worst thing about it was the “pesto” that certainly wasn’t. It was simply non-spicy laksa paste, nothing special. The only reason why this dish just about qualifies as fusion is that they used linguine and presented it in a Korean pot.

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This is a prime example of having my food messed about with in name and conception. First, I can’t imagine why the restaurant thought to name it as pesto as there really isn’t much pesto-nature to this dish. It was particularly jarring because I’d only just been doing a series on pesto and had been musing about what pesto was and wasn’t. The name should be changed to something along the lines of “sizzling laksa linguine.” Next, the stone pot was such a bad idea causing so much to go wrong with the dish. (Note also how it made the coriander garnish wilt. Ugh.)  I can’t fathom what the chef was thinking.

Even though the dish was blah and OK rather than inedible, this was an unqualified FAIL because it hit exactly on my pet peeve that food should not be messed about with. I didn’t finish it, plenty shocking because in some circles I’m also known as The Hoover.

My friend had the panini with beef bulgogi but I was too despondent about my food to take a photo or ask her how it was. The saving grace was that we ended the meal with good strong un-wimpy coffee.

Conclusion? I might possibly be enticed back to try out other stuff if you pay me for it.

Mykii
17d Lorong Liput
Holland Village
Tel: 6468 2838

Pesto Variations: Laksa

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Today’s instalment in Pesto Variations is inspired by the many laksa pesto dishes I’ve tried at various places around Singapore, some decent and some utterly FAIL.

By the way, laksa is also known as daun kesom and Vietnamese mint.

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If you look more closely at pesto and laksa, you’ll find that laksa is remarkably easy to adapt to a pesto style. Both have some kind of root aromatic, herb and nut. Pesto: garlic, basil, pine nut vs laksa: shallot, laksa leaves, candle nut. The remaining ingredient in pesto is cheese, which adds umami to complete the flavour profile. For laksa, dried shrimp and belachan do the trick. I’ve used only belachan in this recipe, you could add or substitute dried shrimp.

Ingredients:

½ tbsp belachan
½ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
2 good handfuls laksa leaves
2 red or green chillis, or to taste
½ tbsp sunflower oil
linguine
handful cashew nuts
1 cake tau kwa, cut into small rectangles

Method:

  1. Toast the belachan in a pan until smoky.
  2. Combine belachan, salt, garlic, laksa leaves and chilli in a food processor and pulse till smooth, adding the oil after a few pulses to help the mixture along. You should get a fine-ish paste. The pesto is done.
  3. Cook the linguine to taste.
  4. Toast the cashews in a hot pan and roughly chop once cool enough to handle.
  5. Sear the tau kwa on all sides in the same hot pan.
  6. When the pasta is done, toss it in the pesto, adding a drop or two more oil or cooking liquid to loosen. Top with cashews and tau kwa.

Serves 2.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the picture and recipe have been previously posted on my now-defunct OSF.com account.