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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.
The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.
Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.
Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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.
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.
Last summer I got to spend many days cooking, teaching and hanging out with one of my favorite kids. The best part is it was all under the guise of cooking school or Camp Culinary, as I called it. Noah is a freckle-faced 11 year old boy that you will usually find in some sort of team t-shirt and matching everything else. Sports are Noah’s thing. Cooking is his other thing. He asked for a cooking play set for his 3rd birthday and even though it wasn’t with me, this summer he continued his culinary education with more classes.
Mom gave me carte blanche. Noah gave me challenges that upped my game. I suggested we decorate cupcakes and make macaroni and cheese and maybe pasta al la checca. He said “What about Mother Sauces?”.
This kid is amazing. We started with mayonnaise, hollandaise and veloute. Did I mention he made me sharpen my skills? It is very hot here in Southern California and my mayonnaise got way too thin, too fast and my hollandaise got overcooked. He loved it, not because I messed up and he could giggle (which he did), but because it gave him another opportunity to learn. We remade both and they were great! Noah found heaven when dipping a piece of broccoli in the hollandaise, complete with eye roll and tummy rub.
Our first field trip took us to Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles. Noah had been to L.A.’s famed Farmer’s Market and his local farmer’s markets but never to Grand Central Market. The child that sat in my backseat peppered me with questions like he was on his way to Disneyland. How long will it take us to get there? What stand would we go to first? Did I think he would be able to hold a butcher’s cleaver? The questions continued the whole way. I don’t even think he noticed the traffic we were in. I told him our first visit would be to Bel Campo Meats.
I was so pleased at the time each of the vendors took to talk to my young charge and teach him. As promised, first stop was Bel Campo Meats. The butcher took the time to show Noah his meat cleaver and talk about the ways you can cut meat. Did you know that Japan has 200 MORE cuts of the same cow than America? We cut our meat much bigger and have a lot more waste. We learned that cuts, such as the Hangar, used to be used in ground meat or hot dogs. This is because there is only ONE Hangar on each cow. Often it can be cut into two portions but because it is not the tenderest cut it didn’t use to be so popular. The American palette has developed and now we demand flavor as much as the tenderness, so cuts like the Hangar, Flap and Skirt are becoming a lot more popular. After learning all about the different cuts, we decided on a Bavette Steak.
After the butcher, we learned about seven different kinds of mole and the differences between double cream, triple cream and hard cheeses. We ordered noodles for lunch at the Chinese place and learned that meant soup! We went to the candy stand and the juice bar. Each vendor was another ride, without the long lines.
By the time we got back in the car, we were both exhausted but so satisfied. Before we ever left the parking garage, my little Noah was asleep. It really was a day at Disneyland for him. He was excited to get home and share his experiences and couldn’t wait for our next culinary adventure. It was truly one of my most memorable summer experiences.
Here is a great way to prepare Bavette Steak. If you can’t find Bavette you can use skirt or flap steak too.
Bavette Steak with Romesco sauce
I love romesco sauce! It's bread and almonds and deliciousness! It also happens to be super easy to make.
Heat a non-stick pan (I like to use a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat and add 1 T. oil then add onion. Cook until browned. Transfer to a food processor, but don't process yet.
Return same pan to heat and add another T. oil to pan. Toast bread and almonds until just golden. Watch carefully. When ready, add to food processor.
Add roasted red peppers, water, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and red pepper flakes to processor and pulse until well combined.
With processor running add 1 T. olive oil, through top and blend until smooth.
Season the steaks with t teaspoon salt and some fresh ground pepper.
Reheat your pan over a medium high heat and add the last T. of olive oil.
Cook steaks until they are brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip steaks, reduce heat and continue cooking until desired doneness. A thermometer inserted that reads 130°, will be medium rare after resting. This should take about 12 minutes. Let cook an additional 4-8 minutes for medium to medium well.
Let meat rest, covers with foil, on cutting board, for 10 minutes. Slice very thinly against the grain and serve with Romesco sauce drizzled over it or on the side.
I love to be the first one at my local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There is a coolness to the morning air that lets you know Fall is on its way. Sometimes the farmers are still setting up and your chat will be more relaxed than when they are trying to make a quick sale and onto the next “neighbor”. This past weekend as I was strolling through my Farmer’s Market, I was in awe of the beautiful corn and tomatoes. Then the gorgeous fruit of the summer struck me too. Even though, I know some things have already peaked, it sure felt like everything was leaping off the table as if to say “pick me!”.
So I bought those beautiful tomatoes, some sweet fresh corn and the last of the summer blackberries. I also bought some avocados and peaches. As I am writing this I can smell all the freshness. YUM!!! The truth is we don’t spend a lot of time canning and preserving, since we have beautiful produce, year round. Nonetheless, I wanted to feature this beautiful bounty as a slow goodbye to summer.
I grilled chicken, which I had pounded thin (pallard) with just a little bit of lemon, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper. Then I made a rustic corn and tomato salsa to serve over it. The greatest part of the salsa was grabbing whatever I had in my kitchen to add to it. This type of cooking is perfect for using up herbs, vegetables and even leftovers.
I was so excited to share my bounty that I grabbed a shawl; a few friends and we sat outside, on a slightly cooler evening and enjoyed the flavors of the season. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine, too!
I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
The truth is mix it all together in a bowl and serve it over any kind of meat. As I said above I pounded chicken thin and gave it a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime juice with a little olive oil , some salt and pepper and grilled fro about 3 minutes on each side. You could easily do fish or steak too.
Recently a friend asked if I knew how to make French macarons, since she really wanted to learn. I can cook and bake anything so I was sure I could figure it out. When faced with the task, I was stumped. So off to Sur la Table I went, girlfriends in tow, aprons knotted tight and ready to bake. I am now in love with these small sweet treats!
The class focused on classic, almond flavored macaron cookies; the flavor came from the fillings. In class we made a Blackberry Jam and Ganache and Apricot buttercream fillings. The class was great but it only taught us the basics. I knew the cookies could have different flavors and the fillings were endless combinations. I mean these babies are meant to be customized. So, I put my own spin on their recipe and jazzed it up.
Traditionally macarons are made quarter sized. I recommend making them small, bite size, and make a lot! When they’re small, they can be popped in your mouth just like a small candy. I also made a full-sized “Lemon Macaron Tart”, that was out of this world. The lemon curd was extra tart and the macaron was sweet and almond flavored. Delicious!
I have just a few pieces of advice before you dive in.
Make sure you use Almond flour NOT almond meal. I found one , locally, that is called “ultra” fine almond flour.
Use gel colorings and flavorings. You don’t want any added moisture.
This recipe will get you started making macarons. I hope you will get creative and start adding different flavors and colors to the cookie and fillings.
Preheat oven to 300°. Place rack in lower third of oven.
Fit heavy duty baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
They make macaron silpats with circles already drawn.
In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, put the confectioner's sugar in first then almond flour. Pulse into a fine powder. Do not over process or the powder will become sticky (from the natural oil).
Press (sift) the sugar/flour mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This process may be done up to three times. You are trying to get the smoothest blend possible. You can discard any coarse meal. Set flour mixture aside.
Make the Meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Start with a slow speed and whisk until eggs start to get foamy.
Gradually add your sugar and start to increase speed. You can add in vanilla or other flavoring, at this point, before peaks start to form.
Once all the sugar is added, watch closely until stiff, glossy peaks form. You DO NOT want to over beat the egg whites! Think shaving cream, not soap suds. When you have the consistency right, you can fold in gel food coloring. Again be sure not to over work the egg whites when folding in color.
Add the flour mixture, to meringue, in thirds. I find a silicone spatula works best. One more time, do not over blend. You should have the consistency of thick ribbons or lava. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.
I like to trace my circles on parchment paper as a guide, or use the pre-drawn silpat. Hold the pastry bag straight up and down and pipe small circles.
If you are making one large macaron "top", use a 9" pie guide and work in a circular pattern.
Let the macarons stand at room temperature, until they are no longer tacky and the touch of a finger doesn't leave a dent, in the top. The is about 30 minutes.
Bake until crisp and firm, 14-16 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and making sandwiches.
Fill with anything from chocolate ganache or jams to flavored cream cheese. Go crazy!
Lemon Curd Filling
Place all ingredients in a large heatproof bowl and put over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not actually touch the water.
Stir constantly as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. The mixture will heat and thicken in 10 - 15 minutes. Keep a close eye, to not overcook.
The perfect consistency is when the curds coats the back of the spoon without immediately running when a finger is run through it.
Pulse lemon cookies (enough to make 2 cups crushed) in food processor.
Toss butter and cookie crumbs together and press into a 9" pie dish.
Bake at 350° for 8 minutes.
Let cool completely before filling.
Fill crust with Lemon Curd and gently top with Macaron.
To paraphrase Julia Child you should never makes excuses for your food. Whether it is good or bad everybody already knows. After a five month absence, I’m back. This is for you Carl!
My pantry is my comfort zone, a larder that has evolved over twenty years of cooking every day. It is my haven and where I go to feel safe. I can look at my pantry and see nothing; my sister looks in my pantry and thinks, “This is where I’m going after the apocalypse.” My pantry is where I go to get my creative juices flowing. It is often where I go to have fun. I can always find a spice, or some ingredient that will spark whimsy and often a party.
There is no one size fits all. You have to start with a few rapid-fire questions. I mean it! Don’t think about your answers. Say the first thing that comes to your mind.
1- what is your (family’s) favorite home cooked meal?
2- what is your breakfast, every morning?
3- what is the meal you cook every week? This may not be the same answer as #1.
4- when asked to bake for a bake sale or office party, what is your go to recipe?
5- when you stand in front of your pantry or refrigerator, what do most often eat as a snack?
6- what is the one recipe that gets the most reaction, wow factor, when you serve it?
Write the ingredients from all your answers down. This is where you will start building your pantry. Be honest with yourself, too. When I was single I may never have thought of turkey burgers. I sleep soundly, now, knowing I have my go to ingredients on hand.
Now I face the conundrum of the well-stocked pantry. Mine is in three parts: Everyday, Panic and Entertaining. Everyday- Here I am a Mom that feeds her family. I can make lunch, snacks, and dinner for my family. This pantry makes me feel nurturing. Panic- this pantry may well have some overlap with Everyday. It has the most basic of ingredients for a quick breakfast and at least chocolate chip cookies for a last minute bake sale. This pantry makes me feel safe. My last pantry is for Entertaining. Here you may find an atypical ingredient, like cherry preserves or capers, in mine. This is the pantry that may get stocked when a specialty ingredient is on sale or as the holidays approach and you know you will be living it up. This pantry excites me. For me some days are utilitarian and on other days I just want to have fun. My pantry in three parts lets me indulge any mood.
Your Everyday pantry will be very personal to you. Here is a glimpse into my Everyday pantry
A quick breakfast item – For me this is grits. For you it may be cereal or pancake ingredients. I like to keep these items at waist high level. That way the kids can be a part of the decision.
We always have PB&J at home – that means not only the best quality peanut butter, but also an almond butter to swipe on a banana for a snack. Because this gets used so often it is on the same shelf that includes the snack items, like dried fruit, or pita chips (for hummus)
A few dinner ingredients – I always have dried pasta on hand and some sundried tomato paste. Sometimes you just have to throw it together quickly and that means dried pasta and jar sauce. I keep sundried tomato paste to stir into jar sauce and give it a richness and fresher taste. I try to keep my pastas, sauces and rice all on the same shelf.
Basics – I always keep cans of tuna (I like the Italian kind canned in olive oil). I like to keep chicken and vegetable broth on hand. They are both great for adding flavor to cooked rice, pasta and vegetables, instead of water. We love tomato soup with grilled cheese so there is usually a box or two of Pacific brand tomato soup. I also use the sundried tomato paste in here and maybe some Pomi diced tomatoes to doctor it up. These items I like to keep all on one shelf.
Baking – I always have flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder on hand. I also make sure there is always a bag of chocolate chips. This makes it easy to do a cake, muffins or cookies at a moments notice.
Spices – I am pretty selective about what spices I will keep on hand. I have small shelves built into the side of my pantry, just right for holding an array of small bottles and jars. However, spices can go bad or lose their potency, quickly. For that reason I try to only “stock up” on the ones I go through quickly. You can see I need to do a New Year purge.There are spice stores popping up that you can but in small, or customized quantities, even some farmer’s markets have spice vendors. I love flake salt so Maldon Salt is always on hand. I love the way a fresh grind of nutmeg can add a secret flavor to cheese dishes so I usually have a couple of whole nutmeg in the house. My husband loves heat so we always have a large container of chili flakes. My daughters love cinnamon and I love garlic so these are staples too. For the cinnamon I give in and buy the Cinnabon cinnamon. They love it so why not? I love a product called Garlic Gold. It is chopped, roasted and then freeze-dried garlic that has amazing flavor. You can buy it dry or packed in olive oil. I use both versions.
Speaking of oils, here is my take. I always have a vegetable oil. I don’t really have a preference of canola or corn. I have a less expensive olive oil for cooking and I have a really high-end olive oil for dressing. When I say high end, I mean you would and could just eat a spoonful of it. It taste that good. One I really like is Laudemio. It has a beautiful green color and a peppery taste.
Alright, get started! To help inspire you, here’s my recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins. It’s one of my favorites from my everyday pantry.
Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
If you don’t speak Spanish, that is try something new! Cinco de Mayo is this week and most of us are planning some sort of celebration, especially here in California. A quintessential ingredient for any Mexican fiesta is Guacamole. By definition guacamole is avocado sauce, but it has been americanized over time and is more a dip than a sauce.
There are lots of really good remade guacamoles on the market. I propose that if you have any time at all that you try something new and make it yourself. I get constant compliments on my “homemade” guacamole and I have an excellent shortcut. I use store bought pico de gallo!
The basic components of guacamole are avocados, lime juice and sea salt. That’s about all my kids would want in it. My version is a little more complex but you can totally jazz it up. Pico de gallo (pico) is chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and cilantro. It’s pretty easy to see where the variations and creativity start to play.
I like my guacamole on the chunky side so all I need is a fork and bowl. You can use a molcajete, which is basically a Mexican mortar and pestle. If you like a really smooth guacamole, you can use a blender or food processor.
I smash my avocados but leave them somewhat chunky. Then I add about 2 tablespoons of pico per avocado and mix it well. I continue to add the juice of half a lime and even some reserve juice from the pico. I add sea or kosher salt, a little at a time. DON’T over salt. Boom! You’re done.
As I said earlier, there are all sorts of ways to get creative. You can add cotija cheese or more heat. Garlic is a nice addition too. If you don’t like cilantro, use mexican oregano or basil. I found a couple of ideas online that sound great, too. Try adding sour cream for a creamier guacamole with a little tang. I love the idea of adding toasted nuts for some crunch. A traditional nut would be pepitas, but use your favorite. If you want a smoky flavor, try roasting your tomato and jalapeño before chopping them. Most importantly, make it your own and enjoy!