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Winning pairs

Thanksgiving in Las Vegas is when you leave with more money in your wallet than when you arrived – no small feat. Turkeys, well, those are the people who take out a second mortgage to keep gambling. And there’s lots of stuffing; Vegas has an abundance of award-winning restaurants, which are open into the wee hours of the night, as well as free buffets at some of the shadier casinos. Libations flow liberally.I spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas with my parents, who recently moved there. We didn’t have the traditional turkey dinner; we went out to eat instead. We went to a show, visited various casinos and window shopped at the Forum, the collection of designer shops in Caesar’s Palace that sell clothing that starts in the $100 price range (as if). My mom and dad are pretty rockin’ and can hold their own against a twenty-something daughter who wants to stay up all night and party.Though I did gamble a little, I never ventured into a poker game. I like to play poker – I even watch celebrity poker on TV – but something tells me I’d be lucky to even get a pair of deuces, much less a winning hand. I’ll stick to video poker, thank you very much.But that got me wondering why a pair is so lowly (unless you just happen to have a pair of aces). If you called someone with a pair of fives in your hand, all the high rollers would scoff. Pairs in poker are like pennies – pretty much useless in most situations.However, in almost everything else in life, pairs are good (well, not Nick and Jessica, but …). This is especially true in the culinary world. What is an Oreo without a glass of milk? Pair a good wine with dinner and it becomes a special occasion. Put peanut butter on bread and it just screams for jelly. And pancakes are just plain lonely without syrup.Pasta particularly needs a match, whether it’s marinara sauce, alfredo sauce or parmesan cheese. Pasta is kind of like the gigolo of the food world – it has a lot of different partners. There’s macaroni and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, pesto pasta and linguini with clam sauce, to name a few. Each pairing is a different experience, but they all can be so good.So maybe a pair won’t win in Vegas, but it will at the dinner table. And pasta primavera tastes a whole lot better than bitter defeat.Gabrielle Devenish is the food editor at the Post Independent. Next time she goes to Las Vegas, she wants to see the Thunder From Down Under, a male revue. Contact her at 945-8515, ext. 535, or gdevenish@postindependent.com.

Angel hair pasta with pesto Leaves from 2 bunches fresh basil 2 tablespoons pine nuts, untoasted 1 garlic clove 12 cup extra-virgin olive oil 12 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 pound angel hair pastaBring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil in a blender and blend to a puree. Add the cheese, salt and pepper, and blend again. Cook the pasta in the boiling, salted water until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss. Taste for salt and pepper, and add a drizzle of oil, if you like. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.Linguini with clam sauce 1 pound linguini, or spaghettini 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 ounces chorizo, diced 12 cup finely chopped yellow onions 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano 12 teaspoon salt 14 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 2 pound Little Neck clams, scrubbed and purged in water 34 cup dry white wine 12 cup clam juice 12 cup heavy cream 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 14 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves 12 cup finely grated ParmesanBring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguini and cook until al dente, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving 12 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the cooking liquid. Cover and set aside. In a large, heavy saute pan or medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and clam juice and cook for 1 minute. Add the clams, cover, and shaking occasionally, cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add the cream and lemon juice, stir well, and simmer for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and parsley, and toss to coat. Divide among serving bowls and top each portion with cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.- foodnetwork.com


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