Food, Yoga and Travel in Brooklyn
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Since I’ve moved into my own place (and refused to get cable), my old roommate and I still get together at her place for a night of TV. It was dubbed Terrific TV Tuesday but now that we have to do it on Wednesday it’s now called Terrific TV Tuesday (on Wednesday) because we can’t think of anything better. After three years of living together, old habits die-hard and we have realized that watching Gossip Girl alone is no fun. While we lived together, our TV watching used to commence around dumplings, frozen pizza, popcorn and lots of ice cream. Since then, we have altered our routine by actually cooking something. I know, what a concept.
“Remember when us cooking used to be throwing whatever cheese we had in the fridge on some frozen pizza?” M said as she plopped a spoonful of Pasta Al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta into my bowl. I was just thinking about the same thing.
Collaborating with friends on meals is something I’ve been doing a lot of lately and it’s also something I’ll be talking about here quite a bit. Cooking is so important and I’m realizing that creating something with friends (besides a hangover) is a really special experience. Especially being here, in New York, with no family near by, it’s very grounding to have this time and have it often, especially when so much of our week is nowhere near stable.
Our weekly routine since I left our SP haven is pretty awesome and easy to manage. A few days before we meet, we pick a dish from one of our favorite food blogs. Generally Food52 but sometimes we venture into the Tasting Table recipes. A simple ingredient list lets us each contribute something we can easily pick up. From there it’s even easier. We cook, chop, catch up on our days and in no time we have something super delicious, warm and healthy (if we choose). It’s our own little meditation before we settle in for the greatest show of our time.
Last night was a delicious beast of a dish that these photos do nothing to convey. There are 5 types of cheese and loads of pancetta. It’s wonderful winter inspired, macaroni and cheese for grownups. Despite the amount of cheese, it really wasn’t overly cheesy which was a nice ‘light’ surprise.
I had some pumpkin puree left over from my post Halloween decoration scavenging. (I don’t like to see all those sugar pumpkins go to waste.) Having that already done cut down on time. I picked up some already cut butternut squash from Eatly that we chopped up further and sautéed in a pan to help the cooking time along. (Roasting in the oven is not an after work activity)
We attempted to cut down on the cream, using only 1 cup and then ½ c. of half and half and then ½ c. of nonfat milk. With the amount of cheese, we could have cut down to 1 c. cream and 1c. milk. We also threw in one cooked chicken sausage (step 5) for an added protein. This was a nice addition.
Here’s the original recipe from Merrill at food52 with a few notes. For a nice picture, please click that link.
• 1 3-4 pound cheese pumpkin or butternut squash (I used about 2 c. pumpkin puree along with 2 c. of chopped butternut squash)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper (We forgot the salt – don’t do that!)
• Olive oil
• 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
• 1 pound conchiglie rigate (shells)
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1/4 pound shredded fresh mozzarella
• 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
• 1/2 cup fontina, coarsely grated (Fontina is expensive. I had no idea.)
• 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola (blue cheese works well)
• 2 tablespoons ricotta
• 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves (We only had dried and I am just now realizing that I added way to much thyme. I thought it said 2 TABLESPOONS and was being smart when only added 1 tbsp.Whopps. Sorry M.)
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into 8 equal wedges and arrange on two baking sheets lined with foil. Sprinkle the wedges with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for about an hour, until the pumpkin is caramelized and tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the pumpkin without burning yourself.
2. In the meantime, crisp the pancetta in a medium saucepan over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels, discarding the fat.
3. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for exactly 5 minutes, drain and run cool water over it for about 10 seconds. Set aside in the colander.
4. Scoop enough of the cooked pumpkin from the rind to make 2 cups. Combine this with the cream in a blender and puree just until smooth (be careful not to overblend, or you’ll whip the cream). Scoop out some more of the pumpkin (you probably won’t need the whole thing) and chop roughly to make about a cup and a half.
5. Combine the pumpkin and cream puree with the cheeses, salt, thyme and pancetta in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Add the pasta and the chopped pumpkin and fold together just until combined.
6. Spread the pasta evenly in a casserole or baking dish. Bake uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes, until the top is browned and the bottom layer of pasta is just tender.