Friday, April 30, 2010

Confession time

My hubbie isn't the only one with food dislikes.  As a foodie, I'm pained to admit that I don't like mushrooms (including truffles), olives, pears, bleu cheese, cheesecake, or beer.  The very things that make so many people swoon do absolutely nothing for me.  It's a darn shame, too, because I've been told many times that each of these items is quite delicious.

And yes, I do try them from time to time to see if my tastes have changed.  The answer is always that the items remain on my "nope" list.  I do kind of like telling people that I don't like cheesecake.  It must be similar to the reactions people get when they say they don't like chocolate:
That's a combination of pity and disbelief in case you've never received that particular look.

So why, then, did the recipe for Pasta with Tomato-Bleu Cheese sauce on The Pioneer Woman's website make me want to reach into the computer screen and snatch it away from her?  It's not because her pics are always mouth-watering (which they are).  When I read the recipe I could just taste the creamy sauce with the piquant backdrop of the bleu cheese and tangy tomatoes.

I had to make it.  You can see her recipe at the above link.  The differences between her recipe and mine were that I used a quart of home-canned tomatoes, homemade creme fraiche (and certainly not 3/4 cup!), beef broth, and whole wheat spaghetti.

I don't measure most things, especially for recipes like this one.  Here's what I did:
See the colander at the bottom right?  I drained my tomatoes for about an hour, mostly because I walked off and forgot them.

Every time I open a jar of home-canned anything I always marvel at the fact that I've already handled that food at least once.  [friendly voice] Hello again, little friends!  [evil voice] I've come to eat you.

Next time I make this I probably won't drain the tomatoes at all so that I can reduce the amount of cream even more without sacrificing moisture.

The Pioneer Woman (TPW) is a cheater for most of her ingredients, following the Rachel Ray method of cooking with lots of pre-packaged foods.  I didn't have pre-washed baby spinach.  I had regular spinach.  Gritty, adult spinach.  You've gotta float it in the sink for a bit to let the sand settle to the bottom.  It also perks up the greens a bit.

While the spinach floated, I chopped up the garlic.  TPW cooked her tomatoes first but I like the smell and taste of sauteed garlic, so I decided to do it my way.

Plus my computer is clear across the house from the kitchen and I hadn't printed the recipe.  Besides, don't you always start with the aromatics?

After the garlic had reached optimal aroma, I added my tomatoes.  If you compare my pics to TPW's, you'll see that my tomatoes are much drier.

While the tomatoes are cooking down, I made and documented the making of creme fraiche for your reading pleasure.  Watch for a how-to in the next couple of days.  I'm still recovering from how terribly difficult it was.

Next I added the cream.  TPW used 3/4 cup.  I used maybe 1/4 cup.  As much as I love cream, I just can't bring myself to use fat-laden dairy products in quite the same way she does.

Notice that you can see the bottom of the pan here.  I decided that the sauce was too thick.  Since I had some leftover beef broth in the fridge, I used that to thin out the sauce instead of using more cream (as suggested by TPW).  I probably added about a half to three-quarters of a cup of broth.
Sorry about the weird colors in some of these pics.  The lighting above my stove makes it really tough to get pics with anything near true colors, especially in the early evening.  I'm still learning how to get the best shots on that side of my kitchen.

And now, the ingredient I don't like.  Bleu cheese.  Full-disclosure: This is a 5-ounce package of non-local cheese, for which I apologize.  I didn't think it was very environmentally friendly to drive several miles way the heck out of my way to Metropolitan Market just for cheese.  I got a tub of this stuff at the Albertson's a mile from my house instead.

Dump it in, stir it around, and encourage gooey meltiness.

Season with red pepper flakes and pepper, then continue to cook until your pasta is done.

After the pasta had drained and was still steaming in the sink, I went to grab the spinach and toss it in with the sauce.  Problem: I forgot that this adult spinach came with tough, adult stems, which needed to get pulled off.  I was worried I'd scorch the sauce.  It was fine.

Watch as this...
...becomes this...

It only took about 30 seconds!

I dumped the drained pasta into the sauce and had fun taking pictures from the tripod on a timer setting until I realized that my action shots were all blurry from too much action.

I held still for a faux action shot, then played with hue and saturation until I was no longer sure if the picture looks better or worse than the original.  So I saved and used it anyway.

I plated the finished pasta up and took this picture in the natural light next to my sink (where 90% of my cooking pictures are taken).  Much, much prettier!

I have to say that this meal was divine.  As in ohmigawd-stop-me-I'm-eating-seconds divine.  I smacked my lips and moaned a lot.  It was exactly what I had imagined: tangy, sweet, creamy, spicy, peppery.  My husband agreed between his own grunts of pleasure.

The food, people.  He was eating the food.

Maybe, juuuust maybe I'll start using more bleu cheese in things.  This was so good, and so beyond my normal realm of ingredients, that I'm going to keep trying other things on my "dislike" list in the future.

Just don't expect to see beets on here anytime soon.  Bleh.


  1. Good for you, continuing to try those dislikes. Sometime this summer when it's hot, you need to try James' beet salad. I liked beets as a little kid and then stopped liking them entirely sometime around junior high, but this salad (despite my significant skepticism) has won me back over. I think the original recipe was from Bon Appetit -- beets, fennel bulb, oranges, feta cheese, balsamic vinagrette ... Surprisingly delicious and refreshing. If it ever gets hot.

  2. Sorry, I don't like bleu cheese either. Smells like a teenage boy's socks. Just give me the cheesecake and nobody gets hurt. Funny thing is I sent you a recipe for cheesecake this week.

  3. I have to say - that one do look yummo :)