Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Little Pockets Of Nom


After whipping up all that homemade pumpkin mash for the sweet buns earlier this week, I started looking for ways to use up the litre of excess puree that were a little more out of the ordinary.

Pondering what might be the optimal pumpkin delivery system, I settled on a filling for handmade ravioli that would combine it with creme fraiche, roasted garlic and fresh thyme; all things that I had kicking around in my fridge that also happened to sound vaguely complimentary.  Deciding on a course of action, I prepared the filling and left it to chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm up a bit.

Once I’d whipped the filling into a lather, I dug my hand crank out of a drawer and set to work rolling out gossamer sheets of dough.  Being that I don’t make stuffed pastas too often, my technique is a little less than stellar, yielding ravioli of varying shapes and sizes, but personally I think that makes them look all the more authentically handmade.

Two imperative things to note when making your own ravioli;

1) Resist the urge to over-stuff your ravioli, because it will come back to bite you later


Bastardized Pasta

Cavatelli or Capunti

For a long time now I’ve had a growing fascination with Italian cuisine, namely pasta in particular.

I constantly marvel at the innumerable shapes and sizes of pastas that Italy has created, and the myriad uses they have unique to each one.  For at least 6 months I’ve wanted to take a course that would teach me more about the intricacies of a subject I know precious little about, but as far as I can tell, such a course does not exist.  It’s unsurprising really, as I’ve noticed that Italians generally tend to be quite cagey when it comes to passing on their culinary know how to non-familial brethren.  If you are lucky enough to gain mentorship, I bet you sure as hell had to prove yourself first.  I’ve not yet found a person who thinks I’m worthy of what is to most a cultural birthright and so I continue on, on my own.  Perhaps when I make it to Italy one day I will track down a willing nonna who will share all her secrets with me.  One can always dream!

Barring any sort of official instruction, I’ve been messing around with pasta dough on my own more and more lately.  I’ve been meaning to buy the Encyclopedia Of Pasta ever since it came out, but my local bookseller never has it in stock and it’s definitely the kind of tome I want to page through before I buy it, just so I can make sure it’s really what I’m after.

In the meantime, I’ve been perfecting my stamped and ribbon pastas on and off for the past few months, so last night I thought I’d try something completely different.  Using Ruhlman’s pasta ratio I prepared 4 servings of dough in the morning and left them to rest in the fridge all day.  When I arrived home I started the basics of a red meat sauce on the stove by combining half a jar of my home canned tomato sauce with a lingering hothouse tomato, 4 grated zucchinis and half a pound of ground beef.  While the sauce simmered, I split the dough in half and began rolling out long, snaky tubes.  Snipping them down into 1 inch lengths, I rolled them a bit longer and thinner between my palms, then used a bench scraper to gently drag the dough nubs across the surface of the table until it formed either cavatelli or capunti.  I can’t say with certainty which one I made because so many pastas are so nuanced that they have only the faintest whisper of difference between them.  In this case, I think what I made is capunti, because I’m pretty sure cavatelli is usually made with a ricotta enriched dough.  As you can see from the above photo, some turned out rather well while others are an embarrassment to real pasta.  For a first attempt though I thought they were magical, and once they floated to the top of the briny, boiling water, I tossed them in a meaty tomato sauce and allowed the whole to soak in a little bit.

Like fingerprints, they’re all a little different, but definitely not quite perfect just yet.  The fun part about experimenting with pasta (or anything, really) is that in the end you can just eat your mistakes.


Turning Winter Into Spring (Or Why I Would Never Survive On The Atkins Diet)

Combining The Seasons

Firstly, I apologize for having such a one track mind lately, but I’ve really, really, really been enjoying messing around with the new pasta maker.  Heaven knows I already loved pasta a great deal before I started to make my own, so fresh made has only managed to amplify that passion further.

The other night I intended to finish the rest of a batch of semolina dough by trying my hand at ravioli, so I’d carefully rolled out sheets and set them aside as we waited for someone to pick up a set of keys.  I hadn’t wanted to start cooking on the off chance that we’d be sitting down to dinner just as they decided to show up, so I’d only started my prep. Of course, the visitor ended up being late, and staying much longer than expected, so by the time I got back to the pasta, most of the edges and ends were dried out and brittle.  Lesson number one with pasta; always cover the dough when you’re not working on it.  Since we’d been waiting so long to eat neither of us wanted to wait any more, so we ended up getting some takeout that night instead.  Not that it mattered at that point, because I was significantly non-plussed by the whole situation.

After we were sated, I decided to try and salvage what was left of the supple dough and work it into a pasta for the following day’s lunch.  I had a rather large bag of frozen chunks of braised oxtail in the freezer that wasn’t getting used as quickly as I would’ve liked, but given that my grocer had delivered a 5 pound bag of oxtail when I’d ordered them and I’d braised the whole lot because it sounded just as easy to do 1 pound as 5, it was understandable.  Nonetheless, I knew oxtail would form the base of the sauce.  Peering around in the fridge, I also came across the flesh of a roasted acorn squash I’d been meaning to use, and some leftover fennel fronds.  Rooting around a little bit more, I unearthed a jar of pickled ramps from last spring that astonishingly had not been opened yet.  Grabbing a tub of creme fraiche for good measure, I started tossing all of the disparate ingredients together into a pan to warm up.  In the time that it took for the sauce to heat and come together, I cut the pasta dough into rough noodles, and dunked them into the pot of boiling water.  After their quick bath, I retrieved them and tossed in the pan with the sauce.  Adding a sprinkling of chopped pickled ramps and fennel fronds to the top, I portioned it up for lunch and put it away.

The next day at lunch, as I took the first bite I marvelled at the clever combination of bi-seasonal ingredients.  Standing in for winter was the oxtail and acorn squash, giving body to an otherwise lightened dish.  The fennel fronds and ramps practically sung of springtime and the creme fraiche managed to tie everything together.  It probably wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever made in my life, but at the time in that moment, with the warm sun beaming down on me through my office window, it was pretty damn fantastic.

I would suggest you try just such a combination to help usher in spring.


Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?


During the past few months I’ve become increasingly entranced by the idea of making my own pasta.

While achieving ribbony, hand cut noodles has been a work in progress, I’ve slowly but surely become more proficient, bit by flour-covered bit.

As such, I’ve been on the market for some form of pasta machine, but ever since my snafu with the stand mixer pasta attachment, I haven’t been in much of a hurry.  I’ve also been told they can be quite expensive, so I didn’t want to plunk down any cold, hard cash until I was absolutely certain it wasn’t just a passing fancy.  In the interim, pastas have been made with some regularity in our household by using the old fashioned method of rolling pin plus sharp knife.  Rustic for sure, but still extremely satisfying when compared next to your standard out of the box fare.

So, while the Everyman and I were out shopping for our upcoming trip, it occurred to me to stop into a housewares store to check if they happened to sell pasta makers.  In the first store I was out of luck, but ducking into the second as we headed towards the exit, not only did I find a pasta maker, but it was the last one, and a floor model at that, so for all intents and purposes it was a steal.  The only catch was that it didn’t come packaged, which meant that a) there was no manual, and b) it took the clerk 20 minutes to try and figure out what the SKU was so they could enter it into the cash register.  But, for a mere $20 I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Semolina Dough


If You Can’t Stand The Heat…


Lest you start smirking about how seasonally appropriate this next dish is, wipe those silly grins from your faces because it was actually inspired by a comment left by Larbo’s friend Dan (aka the Chocolate Man).

It wasn’t enough for me to make my own ‘nduja.  Nor was it sufficient to try my hand at combining it into ‘nduja burgers.  And even after all that, my ‘nduja chocolate truffles only served to stoke the fire of my curiousity.

Nope.  I had to reach further; I had to do more.

Larbo’s friend Dan succinctly reminded me that what had initially inspired me to make ‘nduja truffles in the first place was a bizarre chocolate and ‘nduja pasta recipe on an Italian food website I’d noticed through Foodgawker.  It seemed only fitting that I should further expand on that idea in my own unique way.

Ideas have been marinating for a couple of days now, but yesterday afternoon I finally came to a conclusion about what I wanted to do.


There’s An App For That


A couple of weeks ago, I found myself purchasing Michael Ruhlman‘s Ratio application from the iPhone App Store.

It’s a bit of a dirty little secret that I’ve become addicted to food and cooking apps, and I have the Epicurious, Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, and Nat Decants apps to prove it, and now Ratio as well.

Now, I may have a fair amount of respect for the Charcuterie book (moreso for its co-author than for Ruhlman himself) but the more I see him on TV (typically on No Reservations) and with that whole “are we too stupid to cook” thing he blundered last week, the more I’ve started to view him as a pompous, self-aggrandizing ass.

But, I had bought the app for the inherent practicality of it, so I still intended to test it out.

Ratio Dough


The Foodie 13 – All I Want For Christmas


Within the last week or so (or pretty much since US Thanksgiving rolled around) it seems that everyone and their dog has been compiling lists of gift ideas for the foodies in our lives.

But instead of telling you about great things to buy for everyone else, I thought I’d turn the idea on its head and do a round up of the various bits and bobs that I’m hoping to get this year.  You are welcome to provide your own gadget-y suggestions in the comments, of course.

However, before you start thinking that the publishing of this list is nothing more than a poorly veiled series of hints for the Everyman (or various other people in my life) I will assure you, it is not.  You see, I’ve made kitchen stuff off limits as a gifting inspiration for the Everyman.  A few years ago he bought me a gorgeous Peugeot red pepper mill as part of a Christmas gift (which I loved), but then for a birthday he bought me one of those ginormous chocolate fountains (which I was a little less stoked about).  To be fair, he had at one point heard me say that I wanted a chocolate fountain, but I’m very particular about the larger appliances that I allow into my kitchen, if for no other reason than the premium on our space.

Plus, to me a loved one should never give practical presents; that’s what my parents, friends and acquaintances are for.  Presents from loved ones should be frivolous extravagances that you are deserving of, but would probably never bother buying yourself, which in my case would be stuff like jewelry or spa days.  And there’s always that phantom ring that everyone’s been asking about and keeps hovering over our heads, because you know, shacking up is like so 2007… so put a ring on it already, right?

But no.


Confessions Of A Corporate Drone

Pasta, Wine And Cheese - The Dinner Of Champions

Work has been brutally kicking my ass lately, which is one of several reasons why I haven’t been updating as often as I’d like to.

It’s literally been so busy that it hurts; to the point that I’ve found it’s exacerbating an ulcer I’ve had on and off for nearly 10 years.  For the past few months I’ve been working on a huge project that takes up all of my time (and then some) and I live the project, eat the project and sleep the project.  It’s kind of exhausting.  Every couple of days I’ll be at my office and some coworker or other will tell me how I look like shit lately.  Well, duh!  Of course I do!!  I’m running myself ragged and not sleeping because of how worried I am over whether it will all get done.  And the funniest thing about it is I’m not even working as a project manager anymore, so I’m really not accountable for the success of what we’re doing, but I just can’t turn it off, per se.

Of course, after a tough day at the office the last thing I want to do is stand around and cook for an extended period of time, but since the Everyman doesn’t really cook, that doesn’t leave too many options, otherwise.  Especially when I’m trying not to do takeout or delivery more than once or twice a month.

So, what’s a mentally drained peon to do?  Come home and whip up a sriracha-laced, crumb-topped, roux-thickened cup ‘o mac and cheese, of course.

And, it wouldn’t be complete without a sweet, refreshing glass of Gerwurtztraminer on the side, either.


One Of The Best Parts Of Summer

Basta Pasta

Like most people, summer is my favourite time of year.

But the moment I look forward to most is the inevitable tomato boon that starts to overtake the garden during the first few weeks of August.  This year my own garden has not yet produced more than a half dozen ripe cherry tomatoes, but the farmer’s market has been a great source for supplementing my growing tomato desire.  Of course, once you have those perfect globular specimens, there’s always the question of what to make with them?

Summer's Best

I used to think I had a clear winner when it came to the best use of a ripe summer tomato, but then I met the Everyman who introduced me to the joys of a toasted tomato sandwich.  My original answer would have been a batch of my mother’s succulent and tangy bruschetta, but now there are Caprese salads to nosh (improved by the recent discovery via Malcolm Jolley of a local producer of bufala mozzarella), tomato consommés to savour (thanks to Lucien for that revelation), mini tomatoes to pop into your mouth whole and enjoy like candy, and my quick and easy, simplified version of a primavera/carbonera pasta.


Market Meals May

New This Week

I went to the market again this evening (as I do most Tuesdays once May rolls around) in search of my friend Seth from Forbes Wild Foods. I was hoping he’d have more dried elderflowers since I burned through them rather quickly over the weekend.  Unfortunately that was not in the cards today, though he did promise me a bag for next week’s market.  As a consolation prize I helped myself to some of his other tasty edibles; maple syrup, more ramps and some garlic scapes, with not an inkling of what I would do with any of them.

One of the things I love about market days is not planning out what’s for dinner.  I’ll arrive at the market and let what’s fresh and in season inspire me towards inner deliciousness.  This evening I prepared our second real market meal of the season, a sparkling green pasta with flecks of rosy guanciale.

Seasoning The Pan With Garlic Scapes