Episode 2: Pasta with yogurt, caramelized onions and bacon, plus green salad and homemade dressing

March 22, 2009

This week: a simple dinner of pasta and salad, but with an interesting, Greek-inspired combination of flavors (plus bacon!) in the pasta, and a fresh green salad with easy homemade dressing.


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Shopping list

Yellow onions
Yogurt (thick Greek-style or whole-milk cream-on-top)
Good grating cheese (proper Parmigiano Reggiano–or go Greek, with kefalotyri)
Red- or green-leaf lettuce–whatever looks best at the store
Red bell pepper
Pine nuts
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Greek-style Pasta with Yogurt, Caramelized Onions and Bacon

031I got the basic idea for this pasta from Diane Kochilas and her excellent book The Glorious Foods of Greece. But I don’t always have kefalotyri on hand, and, hey, the bacon can’t hurt. Of course, vegetarians can leave it out and still enjoy a super-delicious meal.

Per serving:
Olive oil
1 medium onion
2 or 3 slices bacon
2 large serving spoonsful Greek-style thick yogurt or whole-milk, cream-on-top yogurt
1/4 lb. fettucine
Parmesan cheese

Put on water to boil for pasta–a big pot, with plenty of salt.

029Set a heavy skillet on low heat, and add a generous glug of olive oil (2 tablespoons or so). Slice onion(s) lengthwise, in thin slices. (Confused? Not to worry–an onion-slicing video is on its way soon now posted on this very website! Crude, for now, but you get the idea…) Add onions to the pan, give a good stir and add a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high just to get them sizzling–but once they are, turn back down to medium or med-low, and stir periodically. You’re shooting for all-over medium-brown (a little darker than those in the photo), a rich caramel color with no actual brown spots–this takes between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how many onions you’re cooking. (If you’re doing more than 2 onions and are in a hurry, you may want to get them going in two separate skillets.)

030Next, get your bacon going, on low heat in another heavy skillet. Let that cook till it’s browned but still a little chewy–in the photo, the bacon at the top is just about perfect, while the bottom slices need a few more minutes. (Though if you prefer crispy bacon, you could go that route too.) You can drain it if you like, but a little bacon fat is nice in the finished pasta.

Spoon yogurt into a bowl, add a pinch or two of salt and stir till smooth.

When pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook as directed (usually 8 or 9 minutes). Near the end of the cooking time, dunk into the pot with a mug and add about 2 tablespoons of this hot pasta water to the yogurt and stir–this helps warm up the yogurt a bit. Also add hot water to the bowl(s) you’ll be eating the pasta in–just to warm them up.

Drain the pasta and empty the serving bowl(s). Place the pasta in the bowl(s), then pour over the yogurt. Dab on your onions, then tear up your bacon into bite-size pieces. Grate over a generous amount of Parmesan, and serve immediately.

Green Salad with Red Peppers and Pine Nuts

034Get in the habit of green salad. It’s good for you!

Per serving:
5 or 6 big leaves red- or green-leaf lettuce
1/3 of a medium red bell pepper
Small handful pine nuts
Salad dressing (recipe follows)

Rinse and dry your lettuce well, then tear the leaves into a few pieces each and place in a large bowl. Slice red pepper into long slivers and toss over lettuce. Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet (no oil) over high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as they’re fragrant and nicely spotted with brown, scatter them over the salad. Drizzle on salad dressing–start with 1 tablespoon or so–and gently toss, trying to keep all the good stuff from immediately falling to the bottom of the bowl.

Quick and Versatile Salad Dressing

035The French call this vinaigrette, but they also recommend a 3:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar, which I find way too oily. So start light on the oil, but adjust everything to your own taste. Skip the fussy whisk or blender–just shake everything up in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

1 clove garlic
Dab of Dijon mustard
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil (the good stuff)
Salt and pepper

Squeeze the garlic through a garlic press, or chop very fine, and place in jar. Add a dab of mustard about the same size as the garlic. Add red wine vinegar, about a knuckle deep. Pour in just a bit more than twice as much olive oil. Add salt and pepper, screw the lid on the jar and shake. Taste by dipping a leaf of lettuce in–adjust as necessary. If you’re finding it’s too tart but don’t want to add more oil, a drizzle of water (about 1 teaspoon) can help smooth the sharp edges. Or add a pinch of sugar or drizzle of honey. You can of course also vary the kind of vinegar, add shallots instead of garlic, add yogurt for creaminess and plenty more…

{ 2 trackbacks }

Episode 22: Sorta-Pasta all’Amatriciana with Quickest Kale — Cooking in Real Time
10.04.09 at 9:17 am
Episode 17: Salade Nicoise — Cooking in Real Time
11.16.09 at 4:51 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patrick 03.23.09 at 8:00 pm

We enjoyed your company tonight – cooking with you. We both were happily surprised how delicious this is! It’s sooo creamy & bacon-y. We followed your directions exactly – even to the point of letting the olive oil get too hot and smoking. What’s next? P& K

2 zora 03.23.09 at 9:20 pm

Oops–sorry about the olive oil! Thanks for being my quickest testers, and glad you really liked the recipe. There’s a couple non-dinner episodes coming up–one features Peter! And then the next dinner recipe is one Patrick knows for sure: arroz con pollo!

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