food

The Making of Pasta

Yesterday the weather was absolutely disgusting, and so while I was out shopping with M, we ducked into Broadway Panhandler.  For those of you that don’t know, the Panhandler is the poor man’s Sur La Table.  Anyways, we spent the better part of the hour browsing for kitchen appliances that we didn’t need, and then I spent the latter part of the hour calculating how much money was in my bank account, and how much of the unnecessary things I could actually afford to purchase.  I ended up putting back the potato ricer (more on my brilliant ideas for that tool later) and the latex egg shells (for the perfect poach) and settled on the pasta maker.  Now this I had been eying for a long time.  A gorgeous, old-fashioned looking wooden handled metal box that makes fresh pasta.  What more could one ask for?

I took it home immediately and got to work, after M assured me that making pasta is extremely easy (um, thanks for that tip).

First I just set up the little machine on my chop block and stared at it, cranking the handle, fitting on the fettuccine attachment, clamping it to the counter.  (NOTE: I am not Italian and I will never spell any Italian pastas correctly.  My apologies in advance, I know its horrendous).  Then I got to work with the pasta.  I ended up calling in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on this one, because that method has pictures, and the little booklet that came with my pasta machine was all in Italian, except for one page in English that looked like it had been put through Babelfish and was nearly as unreadable as the rest of the instructions.  So here we go:

Fresh Pasta

Start by lightly combining 3 eggs with a fork in a small bowl.  Then, on your counter, dump two cups of all purpose flour (or Italian 00 if you have it).  Form the flour into a mound, and then make a little well in the middle.  Into the well, pour the eggs.  Now, not being an engineer, my well was slightly structurally unsound and much of my egg escaped out an unknown crack.  So pour the egg in slowly and make sure your mound of flour is solid.  I spent a good five minutes chasing egg back into the well and trying to unsuccessfully repair the crack.  What a mess.

When the egg is safely in the well, start to stir it into the flour with a fork.  When it gets too thick, use your hands until the flour and egg has formed into a dough.  Then begin to knead the dough, just as you would bread or pie crust.  Do this for about 10 minutes. According to Martha, this “develops the glutens in the flour.”  When your hands are tired, form into a ball and wrap with seran wrap.  Then let the dough ball sit on the counter for about an hour and a half (this helps the glutens “relax”).

Now the fun part!!  When you’ve managed to distract yourself for an hour and a half (me and J were making ravioli, so we roasted the butternut squash and made the filling during this time), unwrap the dough ball and using a pasta cutter (or in our case, pizza cutter) to cut the dough ball into 8 sections.  This makes it easier to feed into the pasta maker.

Start with the pasta maker on the lowest setting, so the rollers are as far apart as they go.  Feed the dough into the pasta machine.  When it comes out, you can reshape the dough and feed it through several more times.  Reshaping the dough a little helps to make sure the pasta is even.  Now tighten the settings and feed it through the machine 2 or 3 times on each setting.  We went down to the lowest setting since we were making ravioli and wanted it really thin, but you can stop at whatever thickness you prefer.  If you are making fettuccine, feed it through the attachment directly after pressing it through the pasta maker.

And voila!  Fresh pasta!  Now (if you’re not filling it), you just boil, sauce, and eat.  If you want to dry it, take 8-10 strands of fettuccine and form them into loose nests.  Then leave them out to dry for 24 hours before wrapping them or putting them in tupperware.  The nest shape is so they don’t break when you store them, the 24 hour rule so that they are completely dry before you store them, or the moisture in them will mold.  You can keep dried fresh pasta for two weeks.

More on the ravioli later – we’re off to the Promenade to watch a dog halloween parade.  And no, I’m not joking.

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Today is the day!

And yes, that is the reason why I am still up at 1:00 AM… because there were so many things that I forgot to do.  Authors in the Kitchen (the website) is launching as we speak (slowly but surely) and then hopefully if I ever get to sleep, by the time I wake up, the series will be available for download on DailyLit!

At least, thats the plan.

So spread the word.  The culmination of months of work (and teaching myself php.  I hate php).  So I am redirecting you to www.authorsinthekitchen.com since in just an hour (cross your fingers!) I will be taking down the placeholder…

And then when this thing is finally launched, I’m going to come right back here and share with you all my new favorite way to eat eggplant (fried, of course) and a bottle or two of cheap champagne, if you live in Brooklyn.

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Seriously, still here!

Now, I know it might be hard to trust me again, after my unannounced absence, but it will be worth it, I promise (especially after next Tuesday when all of my hard work becomes public).  But I’m here again this morning, with another recipe and some ideas on weekend post possibilities… I think Megalie might expand into cocktails.  So if you have requests (or recipes to share!), let me know!

Last night A and I cooked up a really simple, but really delicious, Italian dinner.  Its finally fall, so comfort food is back, and in a big way.  No more silly salads for me!  This also means I am back to my regular gym schedule, and for good reason.  Must fight off all of that heavy cream that I simply can’t resist.

This recipe grew out out of Bon Appetit article this month, for a sausage and white kidney bean dish.  We improvised on it a bit (and have some suggestions that might make yours a tiny bit better than ours), but you can find the original recipe (with quantities… Mom) on Epicurious if you want to stick to the letter of the law.

Sweet Italian Sausage and White Beans

Ingredients
White Kidney Beans
Sweet Italian Sausages
Garlic Cloves
Canned Plum tomatoes (peeled)
Olive Oil
(See, told you it was simple)

Preparation
Mince the garlic, chop the peeled tomatoes, and slice the sausage.  I might recommend removing the casing first and then slicing, although if you do this you have to be very careful when you cook the sausages, so they don’t just fall apart.  Heat up some olive oil and add the garlic to the pot (we used 5 cloves I think?  We love garlic).  Then add the sliced sausages – don’t move them around too much, you just want to brown them on each side.  Then add the tomatoes (WITH the sauce from the can) and kidney beans (which you have drained the liquid from).  At this point, you can also add oregano, basil, and salt and pepper.  Simmer this for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, until the sauce is at the thickness you prefer.  Dig in!

Note: the ratios are all up to you.  We had tons of sausage and tomtoes, and less beans.  Just a matter of preference.

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