Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rainy Night Comfort Food

Can I even tell you how much I am loving this weather?  In Boston, it is rainy and 65-ish, and I am savoring every minute of it.  The past few weeks of baking hot weather might be nice under other circumstances (beach, umbrella drink, good book) but have been rather patience-testing in our current reality (moving, unpacking, organizing, working like fiends).  I was born in Portland, Oregon, and the Oregonian in me will always have a soft spot for dark, rainy days.  I just love the cozy feeling that comes from being able to hole up inside, don a few layers, and cook something superbly delicious, especially as a respite to all the heat and hectic-ness we've been through lately.  We had a busy weekend of moving furniture from my parents' house to ours and generally dealing, so this chilly Monday evening was the perfect time to settle in and rest with some Italian comfort food.

At Whole Foods last week, I spied some Niman Ranch Uncured Ham and impulse bought it.  Ham and other pork products don't come naturally to my cooking lexicon, you'll be shocked to find out.  Growing up in a Jewish home, pork products were just non-existent, even though we never kept kosher.  Now, the husband has shown me the piggy light, and I am coming around adding things like guanciale or pancetta to dishes, but it still rarely occurs to me to buy pork chops or ham at the store.  Nonetheless, this ham steak looked beautiful and all-natural to boot, and I decided it had to be mine.  But what to do with it?
Hello, Radiatore with Ham and Peas.  Where have you been all my life?
1 lb. radiatore pasta (I used veggie radiatore from Trader Joe's and it was delish, but any variety could work, as would orchiette or shells)
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 green or yellow tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
~6 oz. ham steak (preferably all natural, uncured... this Niman Ranch one was phenomenal), cubed
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1) Prepare pasta according to package instructions.
2) Heat the butter in a deep skillet.  Add the minced garlic and saute until golden, about 3 minutes.
3) Add the chopped tomatoes and saute until wilted, about 5 minutes more.
4) You'll likely be running out of liquid at this point, so add the olive oil as you add the ham steak and peas.  Saute until the peas are cooked through and the ham starts to brown a bit, about another 3-5 minutes.
5) Add the half-and-half and turn the heat to low.  Allow the mixture to reduce and thicken as you drain the pasta.
6) Add the drained pasta and the cheese to the skillet and mix well to combine.  Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 4-6 people.

Health food this is not, unless we're talking about the health of the soul.  This was such a gratifying and comforting meal, and although it does have a bit of cream and butter, a reasonably sized bowl left me feeling perfectly full and not over-indulged.  Everything in moderation, right?  With a glass of wine and some good dinner conversation, this was just the thing for rainy late summer evening.  Oink.


  1. Your post got me inspired to make a (similar) warm and cozy meal tonight, and the weather here in Portland changed very quickly after our heat wave! It's 65 and you can feel Fall in the air. I love reading your blog, and didn't know you were an Oregonian (: Greetings from Southeast Portland! Have a wonderful weekend.


  2. Thanks, Jessica. Flattered I inspired your cozy dinner! I love Southeast Portland! Pambiche=heaven. And it is home to Portland's most talented massage therapist:
    Thanks for reading!

  3. I'm reading Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" where he dedicates an entire chapter to Niman Ranch. I've just started the chapter, but from what I can tell they're a stellar operation. Helping small, family ranches while giving their own animals a life of joy & freedom from suffering is what we should expect from all of our meat producers.
    And, having crashed on my bicycle twice yesterday, I'm feeling the need to crawl under a blanket with some heating pads & Italian comfort food. My hubby will be making something for me tonight, probably pesto-related. Thanks for the inspiration.