Rigatoni with Smoked Salmon & Mascarpone

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My husband is retired now which means most of the time he’s home for lunch. I’m usually the food preparer and find myself in a quandary at lunchtime. When I’m on my own its leftovers, salad, something simple. But Maurizio loves his pasta for lunch so that’s what I make. I try to keep it simple and speedy and rigatoni with smoked salmon & mascarpone fits the bill to a “t”.

This recipe is for two people and can be made in the time it takes to cook your pasta!

Ingredients:
Mascarpone, 150 grams
Smoked salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces, 150 grams
Green onions, one medium, minced
Extravirgin olive oil, two tablespoons
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Parsley, two tablespoons minced
Reserved pasta water
Rigatoni, 200 grams

Procedure:
Sauté the green onion in olive oil until tender.
Whisk in the mascarpone.
Add the salmon to the mixture.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the rigatoni in boiling, salted water until al dente.
Drain the pasta but keep some of the pasta water.
Stir the pasta into the mascarpone sauce.
If the sauce is too thick and not creamy enough add reserved pasta water by the tablespoon until it achieves the desired consistency.
Place the pasta in a serving dish, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Olive oil containers

imageIn Italy we buy our oil in large containers of from one liter to five liters, and quite a few containers at a time, just following the olive harvest in December. We estimate that we consume about 30 L and sometimes up to 50 L a year. We use olive oil for everything: to drizzle on our bread and use it for everyday cooking: from making a tomato sauce to deep frying and everything in between. The price for oil in Italy is so reasonable that it makes sense. And it’s also such a healthful oil to use you just can’t go wrong.

In the United States and other non-Mediterranean countries it’s a little bit different. You’re probably buying your olive oil in 1-2 L bottles. Still, you want to store olive oil in the same manner no matter what size contain you are purchasing so you can maintain the quality of the oil over time.
imageThere are so many lovely and charming olive oil containers, usually pint sized, on the market to choose from. It’s nice to have something attractive to have on your countertop for easy reach and usage but it also has to be practical.
Up until about a year ago I was using the metal, and the yellow ceramic, containers pictured above. The metal container has a very long spout with a thin flow of oil. From that standpoint it’s wonderful but I found that each time I used the oil, no matter how I tried to avoid it, there were always some residual drops of oil…and often much more…that drizzled down the side of the container and onto the count countertop, or onto the plate where I’d placed the oil container. Same thing with the lovely yellow container decorated with olives; olive oil continually dripped down the side of the container and onto the countertop leaving a continual mess, and wasting oil. In addition, the spout on the yellow container has a wider opening and doesn’t permit a thin flow of oil.
My favorite color is green. With this in mind my dear friend Thelma, who’s also a passionate culinarian like myself, bought me a lovely green glass olive oil container to keep on my countertop. I don’t know why I’ve never seen a container designed like this one but it’s absolutely ingenious, particularly in its simplicity. It has a removable glass spout, that can easily be washed. The spout inserts into a wide mouth top. So what’s the advantage here? Very simple: the olive oil drips out of the spout but instead of dripping down the sides of the container and onto the countertop it goes back into the widemouth and then back into the olive oil container. Such a simple thing but so sensible: no mess, no waste.
imageNow, of course, it seems I see this container design everywhere I go; I’ve since purchased a second transparent glass container. I love them both but I prefer the green container: it’s dark and probably protects the olive oil from sunlight a bit more, and it’s also wonderful because it gives a green luster to the olive oil which I find particularly appealing. As an aside: olive oil color has nothing to do with its quality: a green olive oil can be wonderful, just as a yellow hued olive oil can be. What’s important with olive oil are other factors such as acidity.
When you buy your olive oil commercially first and foremost take a look carefully at the label. It may say it’s Italian olive oil, but if you read the label closely you may find the olive oil has been bottled in Italy but is a mixture of oils from southern Europe including Greece, Spain, Italy. Additionally, make sure that the olive oil is extra virgin, particularly if you’re using the oil for your salads and bruschetta.
Keep your oil stored in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight, and keep the smaller pint sized container on your countertop for daily use. If you don’t find the no-drip design of olive oil container in local culinary shops the best bet is to look online; there’s always something lovely and extremely functional on the web.

Maryland crab cakes at Timbuktu

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I took Maurizio and Annie to buy take-out crab cakes at this unlikely crab cake venue on Dorsey Road in Hanover, Maryland: an out of the way, side of the highway restaurant and take-out joint. A place, if I were hungry and looking for a place to eat, I would not drive into. The name Timbuktu, and the camel logo, promise nothing related to seafood…and probably nothing I’d like to eat at all. As we drove in and parked Annie remarked that she’d never come all the way back to this place no matter how good the crab cakes were.

Like most people, myself included, she associates great crab cakes with waterfront venues in Baltimore Harbor or Annapolis, or nice spots in downtown D.C. Generally I would agree but my sister and brother-in-law changed my mind a few years back and sold me on Timbuktu. The crab cakes are enormous…two or three times the size of crab cakes one is generally served. They are delicious; flavorful and meaty, with just a minimum of breading and other ingredients necessary to hold them together. We ordered one a piece and were stuffed and thoroughly pleased.

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Here’s what Zagat has to say about Timbuktu:

“Crab cakes are the real draw” at this “raucous” Hanover seafooder where “an undemanding but hungry” army of eaters goes gaga for “hearty” patties made with “golf-ball-size chunks of crab and very little filler”; “don’t count on ambiance” in the cavernous space, but prices are “reasonable”, and the “friendly” service “keeps pace.”

The good news is that Timbuktu delivers nationwide. I’ve never ordered them for shipment but I’m confident that they are nothing other than delicious. Timbuktu has a restaurant and lounge, as well as a massive take-out business. By the way, Annie will be making the drive to return here.

Here’s Timbuktu’s recipe for Crab Soup. I haven’t tried it but I’m pretty confident it’s delicious:

Maryland Crab Soup

2 ounces pork or ham bone
2 quarts water
3 (1-pound) can whole tomatoes, crushed
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups diced potatoes
3 medium stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons OLD BAY® Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound Maryland crabmeat

Cut pork into pieces and put into 8-quart pot. Add water, cover and simmer about one hour. Add remaining ingredients, except crabmeat and cook until vegetables are done, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add crabmeat to soup. Heat through.

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