Pasta Game

Pasta is easy to make.  Once you get the knack of it, anyway.

I started attempting to make my own pasta about two years ago for a lasagne. I had just started studying culinary arts. I was tackling things that I knew I needed to learn.  Pasta being up there on the list, considering how much people already loved my lasagne.

Off to the internet I went to learn the recipe!  I watched videos, I read food blogs, I must have studied every pasta recipe on the internet.  It was lengthy too.  Some cooks add some extra stuff to be more creative, insisting it helps, some stick to the bare bones basics.  I decided to stick with the most basic of recipes.

My first attempts were, well, sad.  A sticky, gooey mess that only slightly resembled the Blob with meat sauce and bits of Italian sausage. My friends, being as supportive as they are, or no idea what good pasta is supposed to look or taste like, insisted that it was the best pasta they had ever had.  This lie still makes me laugh.  I have good friends with good intentions.

Shortly after my first attempt, I got myself a pasta machine, thinking that would change everything.  Oh, Dear Readers, you can not hear the boisterous laughter coming from me right now, but I assure you, I am writing this through tears of laughter.  The pasta machine only made all of my pasta sheets a uniform thickness.

Here is a hint; Do not overwork your pasta by running it through the machine too many times, it is easy to overwork pasta during the pressing process. Especially when you are new at it!  Over worked pasta is tough, almost leathery.

I do not eat a lot of italian food.  It is the bell peppers, but that is a whole different blog. However, more than the Italians use pasta and noodles in cuisine.  Pasta is a very inexpensive food to make, and with a little practice, can be so much better than the dried up pre processed pasta you can buy at the store.  The cost of making pasta, this time for me was about 75 cents for 6 servings of fresh pasta.  That means 3 nights of dinner for 75 cents for me and my room mate.

Flour and eggs.   Depending on the egg size and flour batch, my pasta averages 3 cups of organic unbleached white flour (I prefer Wheat Montana White All Purpose flour) and 3 or 4 eggs.  I do not like to have a huge floury mess when I am in the kitchen, so I use my largest bowl for this, some use the countertop.

I put the flour into my big bowl and whisk it with my dry whisk, this is much like sifting flour, not quite but almost.  I use my fingers to make a pit in the middle of the fluffy flour.  I have found the mixing process works better if the eggs are beaten before adding them to the flour.

With the eggs in the flour, using my hands, I start covering the eggs with flour, then push the wet eggs to one side until they break through the flour, then cover them again. I do this for a few minutes, trying not to work the flour too much,  I just want it to soak up all the moisture from the eggs.  I mash it all together, within a few minutes a large yellowish beige ball is now collecting the remaining flour in the bowl as I now knead into a firm ball the size of a huge grapefruit.

I like my doughs to be a little sticky when I rest them.  When it comes to pasta, I like the dough ball to be sticky, then I roll it in the remaining flour so the sticky is covered with dust. I wrap it in clingfilm, and put it in the chill box (yes, I stole it from Alton Brown) to chill for a while.  How long?  When I see that it doesn’t look dusty any more, the flour is still absorbing the eggs. It is still sticky, but workable.

After I am satisfied with the way it looks I cut the ball in half, then in half again, and again.  That gives me 8 pieces that have to be squished through the machine, which turned into last night’s dinner and at least two more meals in the future (uncooked, unused pasta freezes great).  But wait!  The dough is so sticky!  I shape the small piece I am working with into a roughly shaped rectangle, then drop it in some fresh flour before I push it through the pasta machine.

Last night I recruited my roomie to help out while I rolled out the pasta, her job was to cut the sheets into noodle size strips.  I cranked out beautiful sheets, and she sliced them very carefully for uniform size.  “Don’t you have an attachment to do this?” She asked as we toked along.

“Of course I do!”  I said happily as I kept cranking.  Twice through on 7, twice through on 6, one time through on the remaining settings 5 through 1.  Setting 1 is the goal here, then the sheets are ready to cut.  I was using scissors, my roomie opted for a pizza cutter.  Of course there are a plethora of pasta tools.  Scissors and pizza cutters work fine if you don’t have fancy equipment.

After the pasta is all rolled out and sliced up it is time to cook it.  Most people know how to boil water, in theory.  I salt my water instead of adding salt to the pasta dough.  Salt changes the chemistry of eggs, and can alter the texture of the pasta.  It seems to me that salting the cooking water seasons pasta much better and keeps the texture creamier, smoother. Don’t cook these noodles for too long, they will be a soggy mess if overcooked.

Last night, I made the best pasta I have ever made. I made Fettuccini Chicken Alfredo.  It turned out much lighter than I expected.  Much better than I had hoped.  I do love it when I can impress myself with my cooking.

I would not know how to make pasta if it weren’t for the dedication of other cooks and chefs in the culinary world.  I thank every cook and chef I have ever studied.  Each and every one of you are more valuable than gold pressed latinum to me.

 

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So Much for Toast

There is an old saying: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

I have a dog, a hound dog.  Her name is Moana.  I have had her since she was 5 weeks old.  She is a sensitive soul, and can be a little needy at times.  Times when loud scary noises are happening.  Such as fireworks, slamming doors, fire alarms.

Let’s set that nugget of the story aside and explain another.  My toaster sucks!  Yup, some of you Dear Readers might have already concluded how my morning went.  If the toast level is a nanometer too far on the toastier side, it burns my bread to black.  If it is too far on the not so toasty side, my bread stays soft and not toasty.  There is a delicate balance here.

One of my favorite things to eat for breakfast is soft boiled eggs mashed up onto torn up bits of buttered toast.  MMMMM,  so yummy.

Yeah, this morning I am doing my thing, making my breakfast, I have the water boiling, and I have my toast toasting.  I am all happy because my eggs didn’t crack in the boiling waters, then that is when the toaster decides that the morning is just not exciting enough.  It is going to hold onto my toast the .003 seconds longer than it needs to, enough to blacken my toast!

Subsequently, the smoke detector went off, and both the cat and dog instantly freak out.  The cat hides, but Moana, does she hide?  Sure, under me, and I was standing in the kitchen yelling at the toaster for sucking and burning my bread.

I turned to go deal with the smoke detector, and Moana, all 85 lbs of her is suddenly leaning on me shaking like a leaf basically pinning me to the kitchen counter with the offending toaster..  when I try to move around her, she sticks to me like static cling.  There was no peeling her off me.

I managed to push her to her kennel and got her in there.  Then I was able to shut the smoke alarm up.  I had to remove the battery, so now every few minutes it beeps at me as a reminder.

That reminder keeps poor Moana in shivers though. Even with the step ladder we have here, I am too short to put the battery back in, I have to now go down to the office and put in a maintenance request.

seventy-seven-fessden

Coffee

My drug of choice.  Glorious black coffee. Untaitned with sweeteners or milk fats.  Pure beautiful coffee.  I feel that so many of us are oblivious to the history of coffee throughout the world.  How it has influenced the world as we know it.  We take it for granted the rich full-bodied story of this magical little bean.

Here in the US, we have had a very passionate love for coffee.  A true sign of political rebellion against the crown of England.  What?  Do you think we gave up morning beverages during the Boston Tea Party?  Hell no!  We, rebellious Americans, simply started drinking coffee in an effort to avoid giving the crown any more taxes from tea consumption.

Over the centuries, we have come up with a plethora of coffee preparation techniques, and even more recipes that contain coffee.  So many of us can not go without our morning dose.  I am on my 3rd 6 ounce cup right now, which is usually my limit.

We are dependent on its tasty benefits completely unaware.  According to Coffeechemistry.com, coffee helps out the not so good eater from having more serious health issues.

Now, I keep drinking coffee so I do not get a throbbing migraine.  In an article on Medical News Today states that magnesium production is reduced when we drink coffee.  In an effort to get better sleep, my doctor suggested taking magnesium supplements.  So I gave it a whirl, and then had the worst series of migraines I have ever had in my life. Which leads me to believe that the overproduction of magnesium is what  makes my migraines so unbearable.  I’ll keep drinking coffee thanks.

 

 

Comfort Delivered Home

Hi.

Welcome to Comfort Delivered Home.  I am new to this (let’s give “this” a common vernacular for arguments sake) scene.  I have never been interested in working in a restaurant as a cook or a server. Those people work too hard.  However, I love cooking for people.

I get lost in how beautiful food is.  The raw ingredients are just as beautiful as the finished prepared dish. All the steps in between, the techniques, the science, the sights, the smells (oh the aromas, more on that in a totally different blog post), the fun of creativity!  Then the ultimate goal: The eating! The end game result is watering mouths, moments of chewing silence, guttural sounds of pleasure as the taste buds come alive from the explosions of flavor and texture.

Cooking is my driving force. It is all I think about. I always have questions to ask.  There is never an end to learning how to cook.  Someone will always have more information on ingredients or techniques.  Researching foods is bottomless!   What can I make today?  How can I put these same 5 ingredients together so they do not taste like they did last night?  What sets this thing apart from this thing?  What plates should I use?  How am I going to impress this person?  Has this been done by anyone else? How many people have done this, and how did they do it? The questions never stop.

I started cooking because preprocessed food is so expensive, and, well, as the term applies: Processed.  Nutrition and healthy choices are easy when you make everything fresh.  I also had two kids to feed!  Cooking was something that I needed to learn how to do.  I was overweight, out of shape and broke!  Two teens in a house bring friends.  I figured if I fed them they would stay close to home and out of trouble.

I took on my own education.  The internet is a powerful tool, especially for the curious people like me, who need to keep learning things.  I found some curriculum syllabus’ from a few different institutions, compared their content, and devised my own syllabus. From there I would narrow my research to each type of class: Knife skills, baking, sauces, etc. I found websites and videos and books by the greatest chefs in the world!

Now that I have some skills under my belt, I am starting this to have something to lean on.  I use cooking as a way to deal with my emotional state.  I cook to level myself, to humble myself.  Cooking is a great way to cope with the onslaught of daily life.  Unlike painting, writing and dancing, cooking is something I can do no matter how I am feeling.  If I am sad, I cook.  If I am happy, I cook.  If I am angry, I cook.  Cooking gets me through a lot of emotional chaos.

I have worn many hats in my life, and I have had several jobs too! Now it is time for me to don the toque. I am making myself available to cook for people.  For a fee of course.  But that is something that I will deal with later.  For now, let me plant this seed of thought. By reading this first post, you will be taking this journey with me.  I am excited and nervous.  So I better get to the kitchen and work out some details!