Friday, June 24, 2011

Pici with Bacon and Greens

Since most of my meals incorporate pasta, the Jimmy Page diet poses some particular challenges. Noodles made with rice flour are softer than usual and require a little more care, and they don't behave the same way on the fork or between your teeth. I've found that rolling rice pasta in a machine exacerbates its drawbacks, so I tend to make hand-formed noodles, like these pici, a long pasta with a slightly thicker diameter than spaghetti.

I made the pasta with rice flour, seasoned with a little salt and lemon zest, olive oil and egg yolks, reserving the whites for another use. I'm aware that Heather could get bored of eating rice pasta while she's on the JP, so I intend to make different styles of noodle, and one element of variety will be using just yolks in this one and just whites in another, firmer pasta.

The pasta came together quickly, but I let the dough mass rest for an hour anyway to fully hydrate and minimize the graininess I've encountered with rice flour in the past. Heather's diet is particular about acids and doesn't allow citrus juice or citric acid, but the zest of the fruit is mostly oil, so I use it occasionally. It doesn't make for lemon flavor exactly, it just brightens the taste of whatever you eat with the noodle. Instead of dividing the dough, I just pinched off portions and rolled out each noodle on the cutting board. The rice dough is a little fragile, so I had to keep the noodles to about eight inches or shorter to prevent breaking.

The condiment started with some lardons of smoked bacon cooking in olive oil, and when they were browned a little I added diced red onion, julienne of ginger, sliced garlic and some mixed greens including spinach, arugula and mint from the alley. I normally splash a little vinegar on greens to wet them and mediate their bitterness, but like I said the diet is particular about acids, and the only vinegar allowed is rice vinegar, which I don't have. In place of the vinegar to help wilt the greens and provide a liquor for the sauce, I added a ladle of vegetable stock.When the liquor had reduced almost to serving consistency, I dropped the pici into salted boiling water. They firmed up when cooked, but didn't swell nearly as much as typical noodles made with white flour.

The noodles were fragile enough that I didn't want to risk breaking them by tossing them in the sauce, so I plated the noodles, then spooned the greens and bacon on top and garnished with some olive oil, parmigiano, chopped celery leaves, pepper and sea salt. The noodles were substantial enough to carry the greens, but not rubbery or tough, and the greens enriched by the bacon made a lovely compliment. A paradox of the JP is that it's a weight-loss diet, but it doesn't prohibit rich flavorful ingredients like bacon and olive oil, so making satisfying meals is less of a struggle than with a purely calorie-restriction diet. Well bowled JP, well bowled.

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