Archive | April, 2009

Handmade Pasta

30 Apr

Good morning, my dear readers!

Last night, I made fresh pasta. Without a pasta maker, simply with my good ol’ two hands and a rolling pin. It turned out so well that I thought I’d share it here! And very simple, too. I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which made me skeptical at first, but it worked very, very well. I have to admit that although I do love Jamie Oliver as a persona (who wouldn’t? only someone without a heart), and his approach to cooking and food, most of his recipes I have tried did not really deliver on their promise of ‘simple and fast.’ But this, my friends, really is simple, and tasted delicious. I don’t have a pasta maker, so I went with Jamie for the dough, and then used common sense and a rolling pin from there. Here we go:

Ingredients:

Use one egg and a 3/4 cup of flour per person.
pinch of salt
drop of water

Directions:

I a large bowl or on the counter top, knead the eggs, the flour, and the salt into a smooth, elastic dough. If need be, add a little water (not more than a teaspoon at a time). Form into a ball.

Wrap in plastic wrap, and put it into your fridge for 30 mins. In the meantime, you can make the sauce or the salad or whatever. I served my pasta with a tomato sauce, old school. Basically, I sauteéd some chopped onions and garlic, added tomato paste and sliced zucchini, stirred, added canned tomatoes, stirred some more, and then let the sauce simmer until it thickened. Season, and serve. Oh, I put in some sundried tomatoes, too, because they had been sitting in the fridge for quite a while and this was an opportunity to make use of them.
Aaaaaanyhoodle, when the dough is chilled, remove the wrap and cut it in half (the dough. not the wrap). Then, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough portions, as thinly as you can manage. I was amazed at how well this worked, the dough was really elastic, and didn’t fool around.

pastadough2

Then roll the flat dough into a roll, and cut into slices. I aimed for a linguine-type pasta, so I cut mine pretty small, maybe 1/2 inch wide.

pastadoughroll

After that, unroll the slices, and store them on a lightly floured plate or whatever (I used the plastic wrap) until cooking.

pastacut

In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add some salt, and the pasta. Cook for approx. 5 mins., drain, and serve!
Here’s how ours looked:

pastawsauce

Yes, this was really good. Writing this post made me hungry again. Thank God there’s leftovers!

Rhubarb Coconut Cake (and Lemonade!)

19 Apr

Good evening!

rhubarblemonade

This cake is major. It is easy to make, requires few ingredients, and is very, very tasty. Perfect for a sunny weekend! And the best part: as a very special bonus feature, you get a nice syrup which, mixed with water, makes a very refreshing (and very pink) lemonade. Look at that picture! Swoon. In this respect, I am a very girly girl: I love pink.

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh rhubarb
zest and juice of one (organic) lemon
1/3 cup sugar

3 medium eggs
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
about 1 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened

1 cup whipped cream

Directions:

Peel the rhubarb and cut into pieces one inch long. In a pot, combine 1 table spoon water, the lemon juice and zest, the sugar and the rhubarb. Stir well, bring to a boil and then let it simmer for about 10 mins. until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb has become soft, but not fallen apart. Pour into a sieve and place it on a bowl; this way, you can save the wonderful syrup. Let the compote drip and cool for a couple of hours; in the meantime, bake the cake.

Separate the eggs. Combine the yolks and the sugar; beat very well, until the mixture turns into a thick, yellow cream. Preheat your oven to 310° F. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very stiff. Stir the coconut flakes into the yolks, and the fold in the whites. If the mixture seems too wet (depends on the size of your eggs), add some more coconut; it is not supposed to be runny. Pour/ smear the batter into a cake pan, and smooth it with a wooden spoon. Bake for 20 – 25 mins., until it turns golden. Ah, that smell! (I love it.) Let the cake cool in the pan.

At last, transfer the cake to a cake plate (or whatever), and spread the rhubarb on top. Slather with whipped cream, and keep in the fridge until serving. Dig in!

rhubarbcakedone

Fried Risotto Balls

19 Apr

Hello again!

Another recipe that does take some prep time. But these crispy little things are so good! Basically, you make a risotto, form little balls, stuff them with mozzarella, and fry them. There – you got it? Allright, here comes a more detailed description. (Once again, the source of the recipe has long been forgotten, sorry.)

risottoballs

Ingredients (makes about 24):

2 cups vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup risotto rice
1 cup dry white wine (if need be, substitute with veggie stock)

salt, black pepper

3/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
2 medium eggs
1 large ball mozzarella
1 cup breadcrumbs

vegetable oil for frying; I used canola oil

Directions:

To make the risotto, heat the vegetable stock, and keep very hot during the entire process. In a pot, shortly sauté the garlic in olive oil; add the rice. Stir well, until the rice turns translucent. Add half of the wine, and stir until it is absorbed. Season the rice with salt and pepper, and add the stock, one soup ladle at a time, consistently stirring, until it is all absorbed and the rice is almost tender. Then, stir in the rest of the wine and let the risotto sit until nice and creamy. Add the parmesan, stir well and let the mixture cool completely (this will take a couple of hours).

Separate one egg; stir the yolk and the other egg into the risotto. Cut the mozzarella into small cubes. Then, with wet hands, form the balls and put them on a plate. I used about one table spoon of risotto per ball, flattened the mass a little in my hand, put two mozzarella cubes on it and then moulded it into a ball about a little bigger than a walnut. You get the concept. Then, put the plate in your fridge for another hour. I know, this is kind of annoying, but it makes all the difference.

Brush the balls with egg white, turn them over in the bread crumbs, and fry them in lots of oil (which should be approx. 350° F hot). Set them on a cookie rack or a paper towel in order to let them lose their grease, and then enjoy them while still hot!
We ate ours with a nice green salad, and some plain yogurt. So good!!

Veggie Stuffed Bread

19 Apr

Hello, dear readers!

breaddone

Where I am, it has been very sunny and warm for the past week, and we have been spending as much time as possible outside, sitting on park benches etc. Which, of course, requires picnic food. And this, my dears, is the perfect picnic food. I kid you not. Please try this! It is really good.
I ripped the recipe a while ago from some magazine, which one I can sincerely not reconstruct. But as usual, I adapted it a little anyways, and I am sure that this is a dish that (thankfully) turns out a little different every time it is made, depending on how much of what one has at hand. So, I’ll just tell you how I prepared it, but obviously the ingredients can vary, depending on what you like!
The recipe does take some time since the veggies have to cool before you stuff them into the bread, but it can be very well prepared in advance, and let me tell you: it is worth it!
One more thing: in my last post, I talked about how a store bought chili paste prevented me from posting the recipe in question. Well, I cheated again: I used store bought pesto, because I simply did not have the time to make my own. (I am very ashamed now.)

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
2 red peppers

arugula salad; I used about three handfuls
1 big ball mozzarella
basil pesto; I used about 4 table spoons

1 regular white bread

salt, pepper, olive oil

Directions:

Wash the veggies and slice them into shapes that correspond to your bread; I used a tin loaf, so I cut my veggies into long stripes. Fry the vegetables, one kind at a time, in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. I suggest frying them slowly, and on medium heat, because that results in a flavor that resembles grilled vegetables. Scrape the skin off the peppers (if you feel like it), and let everything cool on a cookie rack, so the grease can drip off.

breadprep1

Wash and chop the salad. Slice the mozzarella into thin slices.

Now comes the fun part: cut off the top of the bread, and carefully hollow it out (make sure to leave a ‘frame’ that is wide enough, so that the whole thing will not collapse). Then, slather the inside sides of the bread with pesto, and fill with the other ingredients in layers. When you are done, put the top back on. To serve, cut into slices. Enjoy!

Yummy! This is my kind of food.
Next up: fried risotto balls, and rhubarb cake and lemonade.
xoxo, F.

Epic Fail

15 Apr

grapefruit

My dear readers,

why, you ask. What about the mushroom soup recipe? And, she must have cooked and eaten since the last post. But why wouldn’t she tell us about it?

Well. To tell you the truth: my cooking since the last post either a) went very wrong and sucked, or b) was good, but boring. What sucked most was my Easter eggs, dyed with onion skin and beetroot. I had been looking forward to this very, very much. But it didn’t work. The vinegar made the eggshells all blistered, and I ended up with only three decent ones, but they had not turned yellow, as I had hoped, but brown. Sigh.

I made a mushroom soup; it was meh. I made a veggie curry, which was good, but I won’t post any recipe because I cheated big time and used store bought green chili paste instead of making my own, and so in my eyes it doesn’t qualify for a real recipe any more. I made little leek pies, and they were okay, I guess, but nothing to be proud of. Other than that: a pasta soup (yawn), poached eggs (big yawn), cinnamon rolls (I’m asleep). Well, you get it, right? Some weeks are better cooking weeks than others.

Anyhoodle, for the weekend I’m planning a rhubarb cake, and the recipe sounds heavenly. So stay tuned!

xoxo, F.

Buttermilk Biscuits

9 Apr

Hello my dear readers,

just before Easter I present you this lovely recipe for some biscuits that would do well on any brunch table. I make these regularly, and they are always gone an instant later. The preparation does not require much time, one can well whip them up right before they are wanted.

biscuitsdone

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I usually use all-purpose, which I was out of this time; all-wheat worked just as well)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

Combine all the dry ingredients. Add the butter, and knead into crumbles. Whisk the egg into the buttermilk, and stir into the crumbles. Try to combine everything into a nice dough; it will be sticky, but that’s great. Now is the time to add chopped nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, or other stuff you might want in your biscuits. Grated cheese, maybe?

With flour-dusted hands, form biscuits and place them on a bake sheet; I made 8. I wouldn’t suggest to make them bigger than that, I have made 12 out of that batch before and that worked well. Simply adjust the baking time: the smaller the biscuit, the shorter you bake it, obviously.

biscuitsprep

Spray or brush lightly with water before and once during baking. Bake for about 15 mins.; the biscuits are done when they are light brown and slightly cracked open.

Enjoy! We ate ours for breakfast, with jelly and cream cheese. Very, very good!!

Green Ricotta Gnocchi

7 Apr

Good evening!

gnocchi

So this is what we had for dinner a couple of nights ago. It was great! This recipe requires some time, but it is worth it, and the dough can be prepared well in advance. I served these adorable gnocchi with a gorgonzola-cream-basil sauce, which worked well, but I think a tomato sauce or even just some butter and parmesan cheese would also taste good with this. And oh yeah, I found the recipe in Johanna Handschmann’s book Italian Vegetarian Cooking (which btw is great, I recommend it highly), but I had to adapt it a little to reality. For some reason I needed way more flour than suggested there. Anyhoodle, here it comes.

Ingredients:

18 oz spinach (fresh, if you have it; I used frozen)
1 onion
3 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated
2 eggs
about 2 1/2 cups flour (I used a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose; come to think of it, maybe that’s why I needed so much. The original recipe calls for pasta flour explicitly!)

salt, black pepper, grated nutmeg to your liking

Directions:

If you are using fresh spinach, wash and chop it very fine. Peel the onion and dice it. Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, and shortly afterwards the spinach (the onion is not supposed to brown). Let cook for about 5 minutes, then take the mixture out of the pan and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, combine the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, and some flour roughly, using a spoon. Season strongly with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the spinach. Then, adding more flour consecutively, knead and knead and knead until you have a nice smooth, elastic dough. Form into two rolls (maybe 2 inches thick), wrap in plastic wrap, and put them into your fridge until you want to cook the gnocchi, but at least for 30 mins.

In a large pot bring water to a boil, add some salt. Form rolls of dough approx. 1 inch thick, slice off pieces approx. 1/2 inch wide, and shape them into little balls. Cook them in the boiling water (it really needs to be bubbling the whole time) for about 5 mins. (try one to see how long they need), then take them out and let them drain before serving.

Enjoy! We enjoyed this dish a lot, and although I have made good gnocchi before, I have to say I really liked the texture of these. I will surely make them again.

xoxo, F.