sauce

Communal Meal: Fresh Pasta

Inspired by a pasta-making class, a friend suggested that we hold a pasta cook-off. The ingredients were identical – flour and eggs. The combination of semolina flour and “00” flour gave the pasta both texture and lightness, while the eggs added density, color, and richness to the dough. We could agree on those basic components, but we differed in our processes. Our challenge lay with the implements used to mix the flour and eggs (fork versus fingers) and in the rolling and stretching of the kneaded dough (her KitchenAid versus my hand-cranked pasta machine).

There was flour on both sides of the kitchen counter, as we sieved and measured the night away! My friend used a fork to mix in the beaten eggs, whereas I used my fingers for a more old-fashioned approach. While we waited the 30 minutes necessary for the dough to rest, we cleared the kitchen, set the table, and drank wine. Then we rolled (rolling pin versus hand-stretching) and folded the dough before passing it through the KitchenAid or the hand-cranked machine. She trimmed the dough by hand into wide strips, while I got more uniform spaghetti-thin and wider strips from my cutting attachment. However, both of our pasta was uniformly delicious! We served the pasta with three different sauces that we’d previously made and brought to the cook-off, matching flavors with the differing widths of pasta. The widest pasta was reserved for the rich pork ragout, the medium-cut pasta with an eggplant and roasted pepper sauce, and the spaghetti-thin pasta worked well with the plain marinara sauce.

We ended up with the best of a potluck and communal meal at the end of the evening. Cooking together allows people of all ages and abilities to contribute to a meal, something to keep in mind for the holiday visitors soon to come! (If you need ideas, other favorites include cheese fondue, shabu shabu, and injera)

Pasta

“00” flour – 2 cups, sieved

Semolina flour – 2 cups, sieved

Eggs – 4, plus two yolks

  • Heap the two flours separately. Bring them together, forming a small well in the middle.
  • Break an egg into the middle, and using your fingers (or fork) start to form a mixture pulling in the two flours from the sides of the well to combine with the egg – until you get a runny consistency. Keep pulling the flour into the middle of the well and mixing and kneading as you go.
  • When the mixture loses its stickiness, break the next egg into the middle. Continue the process, until all the eggs and two yolks are incorporated into the dough.
  • Pull, stretch, and knead the dough, adding flour as needed. The dough is ready, when pulled apart there are no sticky bits in the middle. The dough should be just firm enough, such that an indented thumbprint would show.
  • Place the dough in a wet towel to prevent drying.
  • Set aside for at least ½ hour.
  • Sieve the excess flour and keep it aside, ready for dusting.
  • When the dough is ready, slice the dough into four equal parts.
  • Work with one portion at a time, while keeping the others covered in moist cloth.
  • Flatten the dough with your fingers. Feed the dough through the machine that is set on the lowest setting (1). The first pass lengthens the dough a little. Fold over the dough and pass through the setting at least 4-5 times, continuing to fold the dough both in half and along the edges. Dust with sieved flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
  • Move up the setting to 3, and repeat at least three times, making sure you get a straight edge, working with aligning the dough. Continue, until you have an even sheet of stretched dough.
  • Move the setting to 5 or 6 and pass the now lengthened sheet through at least twice, dusting with flour as needed.
  • Cut the thin sheet into shapes, or use the cutter on the machine to make thin, medium-size or fat ribbons.
  • Repeat with other sections.
  • The cut pasta can be placed on parchment paper, until ready to cook. Alternatively, freeze the pasta to use within a month.

 

Serve with your favorite sauce. Tomato sauce.

 

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The Vegetable Butcher

Most Indian meals comprise a medley of vegetable dishes ranging from mixed vegetable curries to simple stir-fried dishes. Fish and meat are usually served as a side item, and often, they aren’t missed at all. During Lent, when I sometimes crave a little meat or fish, it is vegetables with distinct textures, such as fibrous plantains, nutty tubers, or dense elephant yam that stand in for the “meaty” substance to a meal. 

It is a good a time to eat more vegetables: Local farmers are growing vegetables that were once deemed exotic, and grocery stores are offering creative plant and soy-based substitutes for meat. “Vegetable butchers,” at food markets like Eataly in New York, give basic lessons on cooking this new produce; you can ask for tips on how to cut artichokes or how to finely slice jicama in order to add it to your existing salad repertoire. Vegetables are even tossed with spice rubs and marinades, and cooked like meat on the barbecue grill.

I was inspired to try the marinade on broccoli (one of my least favorite vegetables), as it is in season and packed with vitamin C. The spiced and roasted broccoli “steaks” were caramelized by the seasonings and flavorful – and the result was (almost) as good as ribeye!

Broccoli Steaks

Broccoli – 1 bunch

Soy sauce – 1 tbsp

Hoisin sauce – 1 tbsp

Rice vinegar – ½ tbsp

Hot sauce – ¼ tbsp

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF
  • Mix all sauces (soy, hoisin, hot sauce, and rice vinegar) together.
  • Trim the bottom of the stem and discard leaves.
  • Slice along the entire length of the broccoli stem and floret. This cut gives broccoli the “steak” texture when cooked.
  • Place sliced broccoli on an aluminum foil, spreading them out evenly.
  • Roast for 25 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
  • Serve hot broccoli immediately.

 

 

 

Double Boiler: To Make Hollandaise Sauce Or Melted Chocolate

The first asparagus spears that push through frost and dirt need only a dusting of salt and pepper to bring out spring’s freshness. Later in their season, the more hardier and fibrous asparagus tips benefit from embellishments of shaved Parmesan cheese or a creamy Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise is the “mother” in a family of buttery sauces, which also includes Béarnaise and mayonnaise. Béarnaise is used with meat and Hollandaise sauce usually accompanies milder flavors such as eggs or asparagus. The base for Hollandaise and the others is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter, which is combined together at the right heat for a velvety-rich textured sauce. Monitoring the heat is key; too hot, the yolk can curdle or the emulsion separates, and if there is not enough heat, the emulsion does not form.

Controlling the temperature is accomplished by using a simple utensil called a double boiler. A double boiler or bain-marie (water bath) can be bought, but can also be improvised. A double boiler, like a homemade steamer, uses two pans. The main pan is filled with water, and the second pan sits snugly above the first without touching the simmering water. The steam, which is at a lower temperature than the boiling point of water, cooks the ingredients in the inner pan. Using a double boiler prevents overcooking, burning or curdling, and is a more foolproof option for making delicate sauces or melted chocolate than using a microwave or direct heat.

Hollandaise

Egg yolks – 3, beaten well

Butter – 5 tbsp

Lemon juice – 1 tbsp

Kosher salt – ¼ tsp

White pepper – ¼ tsp

  • Set up the double boiler. Start to simmer water in the bigger pan.
  • Warm the butter in a separate pan, and keep aside at room temperature.
  • Add salt and pepper to the egg yolks in the smaller pan that fits inside the larger pan of the double boiler. Whisk the yolks continuously for 6-8 minutes. Keep the water at a simmer. The color will change from deep yellow to a creamy pale yellow as the sauce thickens. Stop when the whisk or fork leaves a trail in the pan. If the temperature is too hot, remove from heat and keep whisking. Do not let the eggs cook.
  • When the mixture is creamy, remove from heat. Drizzle in the lukewarm butter and keep whisking until all the butter has emulsified (mixed) with the yolk mixture. The sauce will be rich and creamy yellow.
  • Add the lemon juice. As whisking generates heat, mix gently to prevent any more cooking.
  • Serve Hollandaise with grilled asparagus or shrimp.
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