I finally purchased Volume 1 of Canal House Cooking. I had been meaning to since at least last fall.
Oh, how I wish I hadn't wasted so much time.
I can't remember the last time I was this delighted with a book of recipes. Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton's cooking journal beautifully captures their passion and excitement for food.
Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Canal House Cooking is the epitome of what I dream of producing and living -- yes, I am filled with envy (and admiration)! This little journal is gorgeously produced. The photography is dreamy, the writing inspiring, the spirit fun, and the recipes are realistic.
These women speak the romance of food and drink -- Let's make a Pimm's Cup and pickle some watermelon rind! Let's invite a crowd and make paella over an open fire!
I'm in love with them and the life they have created.
Each issue is seasonal and embodies the wonder of its particular time of year.
Hooray for tomatoes! It's summertime!
Even though I was overly optimistic about the ripeness and heft of the tomatoes from our garden, the Canal House roasted tomatoes, studded with garlic served over spaghetti turned out marvelously.
This recipe is actually an adaptation of a Paul Bertolli (the genius behind Fra' Mani salumi, also of Chez Panisse and Oliveto fame) recipe. I love that I had every single ingredient on hand. Of course riper, more luscious tomatoes than those I plucked from the garden, would have made this already stellar dish, sublime.
The idea is that everyone gets their own garlicky, juicy tomato to squash over a nest of pasta -- essentially creating your own personal tomato sauce.
Fun eating, this is!
I'm particularly fond of the use of anchovies, pancetta, and breadcrumbs in this recipe. I always forget it, but I love toasty breadcrumbs with pasta. There is something about the crisp crunch against the slippery noodles that is immensely satisfying.
And when the breadcrumbs are cooked until golden in olive oil, the grease from cooked pancetta, and anchovies that have been melted down? Heaven.
It may seem insane to turn on the oven in the middle of summer, but it is only for an hour or so. And it is worth it. The tomatoes studded with garlic roast in the oven under a scattering of breadcrumbs and pancetta and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs.
The juices accumulate in the bottom of the pan with the extra crumbs during the roasting, just waiting to be tossed with the spaghetti. Just be sure to use juicy tomatoes for ultimate sauciness!
Canal House Roasted Tomatoes Studded with Garlic
1/2 cup diced pancetta
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pasta
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
4 tomatoes, tops sliced off, seeds scooped out (use your fingers)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Small handful fresh thyme, parsley, or basil leaves, chopped (I used a combination of all 3)
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound spaghetti
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fry the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp around the edges. Use a slotted spatula to lift the pancetta out of the skillet to a plate. Leave the rendered fat in the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and anchovies to the same skillet. Use a wooden spoon to mash the anchovies until they dissolve. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often,until they are golden.
Put the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish and slip some garlic into each tomato. Mound some bread crumbs into each tomato and scatter pancetta and herbs on top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil over all. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they have browned a bit and the interior is supple but the tomatoes have not collapsed, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in some olive oil and some of the oily tomato juices from the bottom of the tomato roasting dish.
Serve the spaghetti with the roasted tomatoes and their juices spooned on top.