It’s not your average really good cook who would suggest I invite 8 girlfriends for a sleepover at our lake house and offer to create a delicious breakfast menu centered completely around Al Dente Pasta. But then it’s not just anyone who could show up late to a pot-luck birthday party where she was in charge of organizing the food, and in a matter of 10 minutes miraculously rearrange and transform each and every dish. That’s Annabel Cohen for you and here’s how I met her. It was at Kim Hippler’s 50th birthday party. I went into the kitchen to offer my assistance. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice many unique touches that were far from traditional. I had to ask “who is the person who thought to garnish this dish with just picked, wildly deformed green and red tomatoes?” I also needed to identify who could imagine grabbing frozen peas from the freezer and with a flick of the wrist, magically adorn a tray of phyllo triangles. The people in the kitchen, to whom I addressed my questions, looked at each other and began describing a burst of energy that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Her name was Annabel. I knew I had to find this person. Needless to say, I did. We clicked immediately and the rest is becoming culinary history.
Kim, Annabel and Me. Getting Ready for Sleepover Cook-a-Thon
Al Dente Pasta Frittata served with Monique’s Luscious Leek and Sundried Tomato Sauce
Frittata is an Italian version of the omelet. Rather than folding ingredients into an egg pancake, the filling is mixed with the eggs and served as an egg pie, cut into wedges. Unlike omelets, frittata can be served warm or at room temperature.
12 ounces (1 package), uncooked Al Dente Pasta, any flavor
1 pound fresh baby spinach large stems removed
12 large eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 jar (about 3 cups) Monique’s Leek and Sundried Tomato Sauce, heated for garnish
Position oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.
Place spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Allow to cool to the touch before removing the spinach and chopping (there is no need to remove the water). Set aside.
Place eggs, cheese and water in a medium bowl and whisk well. Set aside.
Heat oil in one very large oven proof nonstick skillet (or two smaller skillets), over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pepper and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta, spinach, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes more. Spray the sides of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the eggs again for about 10 seconds, and pour the mixture over the vegetables and pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the frittata for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is set and lightly colored. Carefully place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake until frittata is set, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven, allow to sit for 5 minutes before running a rubber spatula around the edge and as much of the bottom of the frittata as possible. Tilt the skillet and gently slide the frittata from the pan onto the serving dish, cut into wedges and serve with heated sauce on the side. Makes 12 servings.
Caramelized Noodle Kugel
Although there are countless recipes for kugel, this one, baked in a tube or Bundt pan, reminds me of a gooey stick bun.
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter or margarine
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 pound (16 ounces) Al Dente Egg Fettucine
4 large eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
Melt half the butter in a large tube pan or Bundt pan. Pick up the pan with both hands and swirl the butter around the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Press the brown sugar into the bottom of the pan and press the pecans into the sugar.
Cook the pasta to al dente, according to the package directions and drain. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Mix in the eggs, the remaining butter, cinnamon, sugar, and salt and pour into the pan.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF, oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top of the kugel is brown. Let sit for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pan and unmolding the kugel onto a serving plate. As the kugel cools, the caramel top will become slightly hardened, like praline. Cut into slices and serve at room temperature. Makes 16 or more servings.