Pasta of the Week —- Another Cookbook Challenge

Because I completed 95 bread recipes, I figured why not work my way through another cookbook.  This time its the Pasta Bible!  I’m picking one recipe from one chapter each week.  So far 18 down!  Discoveries so far?  Shocking use of thyme.  Have loved the minestrones and well still perfecting my ravioli technique.  Here are a few highlights from my journey so far!

 

 

Two and a Half Years and 95 Loaves of Bread Later………..

 

polenta     Pooris     SunshineLoaf

2014 I began baking bread as a New Year’s Resolution.  Little did I realize at the time it was actually going to take me roughly 2 years to make it through 95 different bread recipes from around the world.  Why was I doing this?  Because chefs have control over their kitchen’s and frankly baking is a wild variable of a culinary art.  I was convinced I’d learn through trial and error, the secrets bakers and pastry chefs had come to know over the centuries that create consistent baked goods.

When I reached the half way mark I wrote about the lessons bread had taught me up until that point.  “One Loaf at a Time”  chronicled some baking and life realizations. The lesson of patience, to never bake angry, to always give your bread away, some things need a second rise, and lastly if you want to do something well do it all the time.  So what have I concluded another 45 loaves later?

Lesson #6:  Leave It Alone:   Is cooking an art or is cooking a science?  My opinion it’s an art form to learn how to make the science work for you.  Translation—to bake beautiful bread trust that the natural chemical process is going to work. Walk away, go do something else and have faith that what you have assembled is going to work.  The best breads came when I’d mix and knead the dough together, would go off to run errands, hang with friends, all the while it was rising.  Come home smash it back down, take a nap, and the second rising was complete. Pop it in the oven, go work out, and trust that when the timer goes off you have some fine bread.  The more you fuss, the more you tweak, the more you check, it’s never as good because you haven’t let it become its natural self.

Needless to say this baking lesson can easily be translated into to daily life.  It always saddens me a little, whether its business or pleasure, to just see people TRYING TO HARD, at life.  I catch myself saying “it just needs to be organic”  as my sing song advice now.

swiss braid   panDeCebada   pumpernickel

Lesson #7:  Bread is Life:   I know it sounds super cheesy.  But honestly after when I baked that last bread and thought about all the things I had learned over the 2 and a half years….the conclusion was to just keep it simple.  Two basic ingredients, flour and water, can make a thousand combinations.  Bread is Life. To make a great life, keep it simple.  If you never bake a loaf of bread in your life by learning the 7 bread lessons you’ll be in a real good place.

Lesson #1: Be patient

Lesson#2: Don’t do things in anger.

Lesson #3: Never do something for personal gain, only for the enjoyment.

Lesson #4: Give second chances.

Lesson #5: Do what you love and do it all the time.

Lesson #6: Let life takes its course.

Lesson #7: Keep life simple.

Ha I don’t know too many bakers but after this I view them in the same category of Buddhist Monks…..zen like beings that just get it.  And isn’t that what we are all looking for?   I’m still baking bread, not every week but here and there.  Occasionally after a long day I come home and find that sifting my fingers through some flour, using the balls of my hands to knead, and smelling that sweet delicious smell of warm yeast just helps to keep things a bit on track.

MexicanBreadoftheDead    NewEnglandFantans     moroccanholiday

Trust me on this—Potatoes in your pasta!

Trenette with pesto french beans, and potatoes.

I’ve been cooking A LOT of pasta lately ( explanation to follow in another post) one of the recipes I recently made was Linguine with Pesto, French Beans and Potatoes.  That’s right potatoes.  Besides potatoes mating with pasta and forming the wonderful  baby known as gnocchi, why would you put the two together?

I remember one time venturing to cook dinner at my grandma’s house, as a “I love you let me help out” kind of gesture. The meal I choose spaghetti.  I was dumbfounded when half the family asked “where are the baked potatoes” when I proudly announced that dinner was ready.  Baked potatoes? Why would you serve baked potatoes with spaghetti?  That would be like ordering a side of toast with your pancakes….crazy.  At the time my mother just leaned over in a whisper and said “I don’t know this family just always has baked potatoes with spaghetti……”

I have held firmly to this “these two foods shall never meet”  idea until it came time to cook this dish.  As I took the first bite my mouth gave a big “YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO YOUR GRANDMA” sort of I told you so thank you.  You might be thinking that sounds heavy.  But honestly the addition of a small handful of red potatoes chopped up, slightly boiled added a light earthy quality to the pasta.  Of course I had to instantly sing the dishes praises over social media.  Where one long lost Facebook acquaintance actually commented in a judgmental way “That’s a lot of carbs for a meal”  God’s honest truth I unfriended them for that.  Don’t judge it till you try it!

 

 

Cacio e Pepe: The Cozy Pasta

I’ve fallen in love with a pasta recipe.

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Cheese and Pepper Pasta

Motherland Mac and Cheese

Cacio e Pepe is such a simple pasta dish. I made it for the first time two years ago and it’s becoming one of my heart and soul comfort foods. The name literally means “cheese and pasta” and it’s as easy as that.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe Review

I love Bon Appetit’s recipe and highly recommend it. Whenever you’re needing a little pasta comfort, grab a fork and get ready to twirl up some cozy.

Bon Appetit’s Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

Preparation

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot.

Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender.

Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer.

Add pasta and remaining butter.

Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.

Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.)

Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Potatoes and Pot of Guinness

darby-ogillEvery St. Patty’s day we watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People and eat something Irish-ish. Sometimes it’s pasties. Sometimes it’s cabbage, but it’s ALWAYS potatoes. Red ones to be exact.

This year I’ve decided to make a recipe I’ve had for years, but didn’t try until January. Real Simple’s Smashed Potatoes and Cornichons.

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Those gherkin pickles are amazing mashed up into the mustardy, butter love of warm potatoes AND it goes great with a Guinness– what else could you ask for on St. Patrick’s Day?

I know, I know….

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Sausage with Smashed Potatoes and Cornichons

From Real Simple

INGREDIENTS

  1. 1 1/2pounds small red potatoes (about 18), halved
  2. kosher salt and black pepper
  3. 3tablespoons olive oil
  4. Italian sausage links (about 1 1/2 pounds total) — I substituted Field Roast Vegetarian Sausage
  5. 1/2cup cornichons, chopped, plus 3 tablespoons of the brine
  6. 2teaspoons Dijon mustard
  7. 1/2small sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla), chopped
  8. 1/4cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the sausages to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornichon brine, mustard, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  6. Add the potatoes, cornichons, onion, and parsley to the bowl and mix, mashing gently. Cut the sausages into large pieces and serve with the potatoes.

 

 

MOVIE FOOD: Temple of Doom

The Temple of Doom Dilemma

Let me start this by saying, I am a strict Ovo-lacto vegetarian. I am also a huge Indiana Jones fan. So when I decided to create meals for the three original Indy films, I had a small problem– Temple of Doom.

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There’s a complete dining sequence in this film. I can’t ignore that famous food, it’s what everyone remembers from the movie, but at the same time it’s not vegetarian friendly.

Raiders was easy, just don’t buy bad dates.

Last Crusade, simple, just make german potatoes, veggie sausage with onions, and have a nice English ale for Papa Jones.

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Remember that time I served you fake monkey brains?

Here was my solution, my dessert would also be their dessert with a huge exception–Chilled Pudding.

Here’s how I made vegetarian friendly “Monkey Brains” pudding.

First I made chocolate pudding. Straight out of the box for this one my friends.

Eerily, I had these white bowls that worked a little too well for the situation.

I topped the pudding with Chubby Hubby cookie bars from Whole Foods. They have some crunchy pretzel pieces and chewy caramel that I thought would be the, uh, right texture.

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Then I squirted a can of whipped cream into a bowl and added several drops of red food dye. And yep– I suddenly had veggie-friendly Temple of Doom food.

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Love Is Like A Heart-Shaped Pizza

Make Your Own Valentine’s Day Pizza!

Years ago I started buying heart-shaped pizza on Valentine’s Day. I can’t remember the pizza chain that started selling it in town, but there was only one. My sweetheart is a pizza lovin’ guy, so it was a perfect match. Of course, right after you get a tradition started then BAM, that single pizza place stops selling my got-to heart day meal.

Never daunted by food challenges, I decided to heck with delivery, I’m just gonna make my own.

Heart Day Pizza Melts My…Cheese, Of Course.

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Heart-Shaped Pizza Dough: Before

And as if cupid predicted it– making your own heart-shaped pizza is easy. All you have to do is buy pre-made pizza dough at the grocery story and stretch it into the heart shape. What I love about it is that I can make it like a friendship necklace heart; all cheese on one side for my sweetie and lots of veg on the other side for me. These days lots of chain pizza places make heart-shaped meals, but it’s a little more meanginfull when it’s your un-imprefect heart melting with cheesy goodness.

The Trick to Stretching Pizza Dough…

Julia Child taught me this one. To get that specific heart shape, you have to let the dough rest. Here’s what I do…

  1. Flour the dough a little, about 2 tablespoons.
  2. Drape it over the palm of one hand and gently stretch it into a circle with the other.
  3. Lay it down on your cookie sheet.
  4. Start to gently pull and stretch it into a heart, BUT…
  5. Always let the dough rest after each pull. Count to 20, or recite romantic poetry, or something.

Letting the dough rest gives it time to accept the shape you’re pulling it into. Making a heart takes several stretches and pulls, but don’t forget, this is for your true love, so it’s totally worth it.

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Heart-Shaped Pizza Dough: After