Monday, December 29, 2014

Pasta Maker with Quick Red Sauce

My husband got me a beautiful set of Shun knives for Christmas.  Beautiful and so very sharp.  In fact, I sliced the couch accidentally while I was unwrapping them and putting them away (I may not ever hear the end of that). 

With that purchase, he got a credit back to Williams-Sonoma.  Add in the gift card I received, and we had a handy little amount to spend.  I don’t usually shop there – it’s very expensive, but I do love to walk through it. 

I had my eye on some attachments for my KitchenAid mixer – I don’t have a single attachment, and I thought it might be fun to get a pasta maker attachment.  I have a hand crank pasta maker, but it’s a pain in the ass.  I’m willing to spend a lot of time of weird cooking stuff (obsession with springerle?) but pasta – ugh.  The constant kneading and rolling and re-rolling and re-rolling before you can even cut it… And then the cleaning and picking out little bits of dried pasta for the next two weeks. It’s too much for me. 

Anyway, the lady at W-S really spoke highly of the Philips Pasta Maker as opposed the KitchenAid attachment.  I have never heard anyone gush over a product like this.   And when I did a quick check online, just about all the other reviews of it also gushed over it. 

It’s a pretty cool machine – just put in your ingredients and in 15 minutes, you have fresh pasta.  My one complaint is that it only has 4 shaping discs – spaghetti, fettuccini, penne rigate and lasagna (which can be used to make ravioli and dumplings).  Apparently, if you live in Australia or Asia, you can get udon, ramen, angel hair and a tagliatelle.  The recipe book that comes with it includes recipes for the other discs.  It’s pretty cruel, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m still considering whether it’s worth the $60 shipping fee to get a $20 part.  

Now… the fun part….  My husband arranged for an impromptu dinner party with a couple friends.  I know you aren’t supposed to try something new like this when having a party, but I figured it would be fun for everyone.   Six adults, five kids – we’d see how this thing would work.  I made a quick red sauce and a quick white sauce (wasn’t sure what the kids would eat) and grilled some sausages and a chicken breast for protein.  Bob (my starter) provided another loaf of bread and my girlfriend brought a salad.  Didn’t have time to make dessert, but we still had plenty of Christmas cookies. 

Oh. My. God.  I doubt I will ever buy pasta again.  It was perfect.  Delicious.  And done in 10 minutes.  We made two large batches of spaghetti and it was probably a little tight – I could have made a third small batch.  And I say this primarily because I woke up this morning wondering if there was any pasta left because I really really wanted some for breakfast.  But alas, we ate it all last night.

 And the topper on the thing – it was a breeze to clean.  Even I could take it apart and clean it.  No teensy tiny parts to lose.  Fantastic.

Tonight, I am going to try Food52’s Spicy Ramen Express Recipe with Harold McGee’s Alkaline Noodles (although I may cut the semolina with a bit of AP flour).  

Last Minute Red Sauce

1 large Onion Very finely diced/processed
3 tablespoon Butter
1 can (8 oz) Tomato Paste
1 can (12 oz) Tomato Sauce
1 large can Tomatoes drained
1 small can Tomatoes drained
1/2 cup Wine/water can use red or white
1 tablespoon Spices (Basil, Bay, Oregeno, parsley)
4 cloves Garlic crushed
to taste Sugar Usually pinch to 2 tbls
1/4 cup Shredded italian cheese (parmesan or a mix)
2 tablespoon Butter

Saute onion in butter until very soft. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, both jars/cans of tomatoes and wine. Break up tomatoes if whole. Add in spices if dried to taste. Let simmer for 20 minutes. If using bay leaves, take them out now. Taste sauce - may need a little sugar, depending on wine used and tomatoes and how sweet you like it. This is also the point to adjust texture - if you like your sauce smooth, stick an immersion blender in it.  Otherwise, leave it chunky.  Stir in garlic and cheese. Let simmer for as long as you need. Shortly before serving, taste again, adjust spices. Finally, stir in the last two tablespoons of butter, mix well into sauce.

Yields: 6-8 Servings

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coffee Berries.....

About 6 years ago, I thought it would be fun to purchase some coffee plants.  We both love coffee, like, seriously like coffee.  Coffee has become one of our hobbies.  A friend from the neighborhood shared that she had a coffee roaster and it opened up a huge realm of possibilities.  We now have a coffee roaster, pounds of green beans, a big fancy grinder and of course, the coffee plants.

So, I got these plants.  I think I ordered two of them, but really, I got like 12 little sprigs of plants.  They were nice foliage and I have a great sunroom (when the oak trees don't shade it) so they were able to stay completely climate controlled.  Over these last six years they have grown tremendously and the plants now occupy three large 25 gallon pots.

Last May, we got our first blooms.

Pretty little things, aren't they?  The scent was sweet, really sweet.  Not as pervasive as a lemon tree (which I also have), but it could have been because there are fewer blooms.  We had a few fruits set.  I wasn't looking for a lot, because I didn't want to tax the plant, but I couldn't help but get excited when we had a solid 20-30 berries set across about 3 of the plants.

Fast forward seven months.  It's JANUARY.  STILL NOTHING.  These green berries done nothing for seven months.  I was starting to think they were never going to ripen.  I figured that the inside of a house in the frigid north was just not going to do it.

And then....

We have ripening.....  About January 10th I noticed the first signs of something changing.  At first I thought it was the berries dying (they were yellowing slightly).  But no - they were changing to red!

So today, I actually picked a berry.  At least one of them had that firm but squishy feeling that I associate with ripe fruit. 

Inside the berry, I was rewarded with two green beans!

So, I'm off to figure out how to process the beans.  The green beans have a coating on them - I associate it kind of like tomato seeds - it's kind of firm and slippery.  I believe I need to get that coating off.  I know with tomato seeds you ferment the seeds to remove the coating.  We may have enough to get a half of a cup of coffee, but it's been fun!  And, it's one step closer to knowing where our food comes from and being able to sustain my coffee habit in case of the zombie apocalypse.