Category: simple pleasure

Try Something New -Homemade Pasta Edition!

In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.

I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.

Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.

I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!

Homemade Pasta Dough
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Homemade Pasta Dough
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
  2. As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
  3. I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
  4. Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
  6. If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
  7. At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
  8. Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
  9. Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
  10. To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
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Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Why is it important to Me?

I am often asked why do I write about cooking. Why is it important to me that “you” cook? It’s often a hard question to answer. Maybe, because it feels existential to me; I cook therefore I am. Recently, I had a small epiphany to this question. I woke up early one morning, I went down stairs and noticed the pungent aroma of too ripe bananas. I immediately got to work on banana bread. My movements around the kitchen, to grab my ingredients were easy and lazy on a warm Saturday morning: three ripe bananas, an egg, some flour and sugar are the basics and then I can get fancy. As I worked it dawned on me, this is why I want YOU to bake. I want you to stumble into your morning kitchen and think “banana bread” or cinnamon rolls or whatever you are craving and not be intimidated, afraid or ill prepared to bake. It is gratifying to bake/cook for your family and friends. It is also extremely gratifying to be the teacher. I want your emails saying you succeeded or even failed with one of my recipes. Let’s walk through it and try again. I love running into you in the store and answering your questions about ingredients or techniques. Send me the pictures! I want to see.

So in turn this answers another question that I have been asked. What’s your voice? Who’s your audience? My voice is just me. And you are my audience. In any article you read whether it is here on my blog or a book or a magazine; I want you to feel like we are sitting at the island in my kitchen, sipping a cup of … and just talking. You can ask me anything and tell me everything. See you soon.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Ingredients
Glaze
Servings: loaf
Instructions
Bread
  1. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.
  3. Mash the bananas and then fold them into the wet mixture.
  4. Ad the flour mixture and beat on medium low until just just combine. Some lumps are ok.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9X5X3 loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. I know that sounds vague but every oven varies and you don't want your bread to be over or under baked. A tooth pick should come out clean but just clean. Run knife around edges and let cool completely in pan.
Glaze
  1. Put peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave and stir, in 30 second intervals, until smooth.
  2. Pour glaze over top of turned out bread. Garnish with chopped peanuts. Let set for 10 minutes to set up before slicing.
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Try Something New! Graham Cracker Edition

When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off.  Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind.  The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say!  It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back.  So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.

We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles.  I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up.  I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores.  So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.


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I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!

I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.

My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.

Homemade Graham Crackers
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Homemade Graham Crackers
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. I used a stand-up mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, honey and milk. Blend into flour mixture, until a ball starts to form. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if necessary.
  3. Wrap and chill the dough for about an hour. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured board an knead gently for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line with parchment, 2 baking sheets.
  5. Roll the dough to 1/16"; make sure the board stays floured so the crackers transfer easily.
  6. Cut the dough into 3X# square and prick them with a fork several times. Place on prepared pans and brush tops with a little milk. You can sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if you wish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely, on rack. They will keep well wrapped at room temperature for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
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La Peetch!

I have returned from Julia’s, La Peetch! It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much more and a little less at the same time.

For anyone that fancies themselves a good cook. For anyone that has ever watched a black & white episode of The French Chef, on PBS; walking into the kitchen at Julia Child’s home in the south of France and seeing the peg board wall still adorned with every kitchen utensil imaginable is awe inspiring. Somewhere in your mind you understand that these can’t all be original pieces but it doesn’t seem to matter. YOUR IN HER KITCHEN!!! As you “tour” her approximately 10X13 kitchen, you can feel her, you can smell the remnants of meals past and your fingers want to graze over every edge.

Our first evening there we were served appetizers on her cottage table. They were simple, as I thought they should be. We had a little cheese and both green and black olive tapenade on crostini. Each of us explored the home and compared it to pictures on our phones. We sat on the green velvet couch and walked the grounds imagining Julia and Paul walking every step with us.

The next morning, we met again at that cottage table for coffee and “morning pages”. We were given a prompt and our writing began. For me, this is where I think my separation from Julia began. I had a crazy expectation that she would work through me and I would suddenly have words flowing from my fingertips. Not so much. As the week went on and this exercise got more frustrating for me, the bloom fell of the rose, as they say. But, in a good way. I became less focused on Julia and more focused on the women I was with. I started listening to their words. I paid more attention the food and beverage I was consuming, in the moment, instead of what Julia would have been eating and drinking. As I did that the words started to come for me. The drink started to taste sweeter and I had a keener sense of how our food tasted. I was able to enjoy even the simplest meal of pasta with Roquefort sauce.

It was last day and I had yet to find my perfect magazine pitch or outline for my breakout cookbook. Some had already began their journey home and others were taking in a sunny day at the pool. Some had gone exploring in St. Paul de Vence. I decided to take my camera and journal and explore the property practicing my new camera skills. I was composing some artsy photo of an olive or a leaf when the piano started. It was so beautiful and magical. It stopped me mid-shot and I started to write. In that moment I found the soul of Julia I had been looking for. It wasn’t her words but her inspiration that came through me.

On the very last day, I found my words and started my project. So while I continue to walk with you on your journey to good cooking I will share some peeks into my project along the way. Here is my version of the Roquefort Pasta we had a La Peetch. Bon Appetit!

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Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
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A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
Print Recipe
A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Note: I cook my pasta in a well salted boiling water. As the saying goes the water should taste like the sea. Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water for the recipe. Right before putting everything together, while the water is still boiling hot, swirl it in your serving bowl, to warm it, then toss out.
  2. In a small bowl combine Roquefort and butter with a fork until well blended and soft.
  3. Put pasta in warm bowl with butter mixture and toss slowly so pasta can absorb flavors of cheese and butter. Slowly add cup of cooking water until "sauce" forms and pasta is coated (you may not need whole cup). Season with nutmeg. I use a good amount. There's something about cheese and nutmeg.
  4. Toss with lemon zest and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning with fresh ground pepper.
  5. Serve with fresh greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette and fresh bread with butter. Don't forget the wine ENJOY!
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Baked Kale and Rice

Baked Kale and Rice
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This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Baked Kale and Rice
Print Recipe
This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Cook the kale in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Then immediately drop in ice water.
  2. Squeeze dry and chop. Make sure all moisture is removed before you bake.
  3. Using the same cooking water, for flavor, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and spread out to let cool. I use a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When cool, transfer to large a bowl.
  4. Preheat over to 375° and butter a baking dish. Dust baking dish with 2 Tbs. of parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in a small sauce pan and add almonds. stir until golden and add to rice bowl. Season with Salt and pepper lightly.
  6. Add remaining parmesan, ricotta, jarlsberg, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme an sage to rice. Add chopped kale and toss well. I use my hands to get every thing mixed in well.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
  8. Serve immediately.
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