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Roasted Beets with Skordalia

Skordalia, coyly posing with some of its raw ingredients

Skordalia, draped like velvet over richly roasted beets

This is quite simply one of my very favourite foods. Starchy, oily, garlicky skordalia crowning sweetly concentrated roasted beets. Skordalia, to be absolutely traditional, should be a quite white paste made with potatoes or bread with the crusts removed. Mine is non-traditional. I like to leave the crusts on the bread I use. The stale bread for skordalia is also commonly soaked in water to soften it up beforehand, but I like to soak mine in dry white wine.

To roast the beets, wrap them in foil individually, or place them in a covered crock, and put them in a medium-hot oven for an hour or so. Once cool, their skins should schlup right off. Slice and serve.

 

Ingredients:

Stale bread

Dry white wine

Extra-virgin olive oil

Garlic

Salt

 

Method:

The proportions are pretty rough, but for a large batch you might use 10 oz. bread to 1 cup olive oil and 6-8 cloves of garlic. Soften up the bread beforehand by sprinkling it with wine. You don’t want puddles, just moistness. Chop the garlic and toss it in the blender, followed by the bread and the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Add more olive oil or wine if it appears too thick. Pour and/or scrape it into a bowl. That’s it!

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Penne Pasta with White Beans and Tomatoes

This simple vegetarian dish is so fragrant with basil that it strongly piques the appetite. It makes an excellent primi piatti before a secondo of fried fish. Either red or white wine to accompany is appropriate. We drank a 2007 Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône, and ate the pasta simply with a side dish of watercress.

Ingredients

500g penne or tortiglione pasta

Olive oil

1 400g tin of cannellini or flageolet beans, drained and rinsed

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

500g ripe tomatoes, diced

a handful of pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise

1 small bunch fresh basil, julienned

salt and pepper

dry white wine

Method

This is a very quick sauce, so start it only a few minutes before your pasta is al dente. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and beans and, stirring, heat them through, adding a dash of white wine at the last. Add the tomatoes, olives, basil, salt and pepper, and leave the flame on only just long enough for the tomatoes to be lightly heated. Pour the sauce over the pasta, drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, and top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves four.

Orecchiette Pasta with Tomato and Tuna Sauce

This is a delicious and very quick pasta dish that I tried out last night. Its inspiration was a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

It serves 4 and takes only the time needed to heat the water and cook the pasta.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 400g cans chopped tomatoes (only buy the best)

2 200g cans tuna, partially drained

a knob of butter

500g bag of orecchiette pasta

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

fresh cracked pepper

Method:

Get the oil hot and sauté the garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the pasta is cooked. Turn off the heat.

Mix the tuna and the butter evenly into the tomato sauce and season with the pepper and parsley.

Toss with the pasta and serve. Parmesan cheese does nothing to enhance this dish – serve it with nothing but a tiny sprinkle of parsley.