Sunday, March 1, 2015

Homemade Pasta - it's like music to my mouth!

Music played on a Chitarra (translation guitar) that is. That is my lovely instrument below that my equally lovely friend Carolyn brought back for me (and one for herself) from her trip to Rome in December. And this thing is not small! I couldn't believe it when she walked into my house with such a big box - Carolyn you are "double tuff" carrying not one but two of them back on the plane! Either that or crazy - as she also has 4 kids! Anyway, homemade pasta is pretty easy to make - but as you can see lots of equipment is needed. Okay, you don't need a chitarra but it sure is fun to have. What you do need (and I guess you could do it all by hand as I'm sure Italian grandmothers have been doing it that way for centuries) is a food processor and a pasta machine - this rolls it into thin sheets - pictured below and can also cut it. For the chitarra you lay the medium thickness sheet on the strings - wires tightly strung across the board and then with a rolling pen you press them through to cut them into long spaghetti-length noodles that are square rather than round. The magic happens when to unstick the pasta you run your finger across the wires - it really is like music! And let me say this is the only kind of music I make! Anyway - here is a basic pasta dough recipe - I promise it is a lot of work but worth the effort once you have all the equipment. Oh, final note - once you have made the pasta either use right away or freeze it cut and tossed with some semolina flour into nests - as Carolyn and I found out the first time we made it - it turns grey in the fridge - yuck. I guess you could dry it - but then you are defeating the purpose of fresh pasta if you ask me. 

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough per person

100 grams "00" flour (available at specialty stores) or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg
salt (for cooking water)
(about 3 eggs to 2 cups flour is good for 4)

Obviously don't make this just for one serving as it freezes really well - but this is just the basic measurement. Put the eggs and flour in a food processor and whiz it up until it kind of rumbles in the bowl - you want it to come together but not be sticky. You may need to add more flour - it's a bit of guess work. Turn the bowl out and work it together into a round - refrigerate covered in plastic wrap for about 30 min.  Roll through your machine until desired thickness and then cut and toss with a little semolina flour. Cook right away in boiling salted water for just a couple min or freeze in a ziploc in little nests. If you are trying this you bought the Atlas machine - so follow the instructions on putting it through. This is just so you have the basic premise. Enjoy!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Hearts Day!


Valentine's Day - this is one of those holidays that I just don't really LOVE. I mean it puts so much pressure on people - do you have a date? are you in love? did you get flowers? were they red roses (that cost way too much this week)? are you going to spend way too much $ on some dumb dinner out? I'm sorry, but it's just too much! My friend John used to say "Valentines is for Rookies" and I agree. We NEVER go out for dinner on 2/14 - prices are jacked up first of all, but most importantly for me is that cooking a meal for someone is how I show my love. Yes, those of you that I've cooked for can officially know it - I LOVE YOU!

Years ago -in a land far, far away -The City - we used to do Valentine's with 2 other couples in our neighborhood - it was a great group - us and 2 women and 2 men couples - what could be more perfect - we all loved each other and it didn't matter what sex was with whom (I'm not even going to get on that soap box but to say - get over it people! - love is LOVE!) Anywho. For the first of those dinners I decided to make these heart cookies to put on everyone's plate so yesterday I realized I hadn't made them in years and I was like - what on earth do I have those silly cookie cutters for if I'm not going to use them on Valentine's day! So since my xmas notebook was put up for the year I looked in my Martha Stewart Cookie book and tried her cutout cookies. Well, they are OK, but next time I'm going with my book - and here's the recipe for you. XOXOXO - bake some for someone you love - whoever they are!

Iced Cutout Cookies makes about a dozen large

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy then add egg and vanilla and mix. Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl and then add to bowl and mix. Remove and press together into a disk and refrigerate an hour or overnight wrapped in plastic. Flour your work surface and roll it out into about 1/4 inch thickness, then use cookie cutters to cut them out, then re-roll and finish it off. Lay on baking sheets (silpat works great!) with a little space in between and either sprinkle with decorations or bake plain if you are icing. Bake 350 degrees for 8-12 min - very lightly browned. Let cool completely then ice.

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
couple tablespoons hot water
paste dye or liquid food coloring

mix together to form a paste - not too thick, but not too runny either. I use the paste dye and you could split the icing and have 2 colors if you like. I kept it simple today and just did purple. Let dry completely.

Post Note: I wish I had a picture of the first time Jen and I did our cut out cookies using the paste dye! We had never used it before and didn't realize you had to mix it into the icing - Jen just thought you could use a little on a toothpick. Well. We were making SnowMen - and first off we used some organic powdered sugar for the icing as we wanted it to be white - well it was slightly grey - so if you want white icing skip the organic stuff. Next Jen dotted 2 eyes with black dye, and with the red color drew on a thin line for a scarf around his neck. Next thing we knew the colors were bleeding out. So picture this - big black spots for eyes and a red slash across the neck. They looked like our snowmen had been murdered! Luckily I have a few clients with a sense of humor!

XOXOXO
Yesterday I also baked a nice fat round of bread - thanks to Warren at BurtonZ Bakery for my new "slashing tool" - it's a little plastic thing that holds a razor blade - made a great cut! With the other loaf I'll have to try an O. 

with love, Rebecca

Monday, February 9, 2015

Shepherd's Pie - it worked!

I told you awhile ago I made a Shepherd's Pie - well it was supposed to be pie but actually turned out more like soup! Way too greasy and soupy. Well this week I made it with my revised recipe and it turned out great - what a way to use leftover mashed potatoes!
This was why I had leftover mashed potatoes - one day we grilled a Tri Tip roast - perfectly cooked thanks to my hubby! Even better the next day thinly sliced as sandwiches. YUM. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What to do with all that cabbage

Last week I bought a head of cabbage to make some spring rolls and really only needed about a 1/4 of it. So I started looking for inspiration of what to do with all that cabbage and found this recipe for Bratwurst with Mustardy Fried Potatoes and Braised Cabbage. And Holy crap it was good! I had Bockworst in the freezer so I used those instead and I will be making this again! I slightly adapted the cabbage recipe and really liked it - so here you go…

Citrus Braised Cabbage serves 6

1/2 head of cabbage thinly sliced (red preferably but I had green and it was great too)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup port
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl toss the cabbage with the juices and sugar. Then heat a large pot and add the fats and onion and sauté until soft. Add the cabbage including juices, spices, wine and port and bring to a simmer and cook for about 40 min or until juices are absorbed and cabbage is tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with sausages and potatoes.


Post Note: I've finally used up all that damn cabbage - this past weekend for the super bowl I made ribs and coleslaw!




Sunday, February 1, 2015

No Asian food available? Make your own!

 If I have one complaint about Healdsburg - it's that we have no Asian cuisine. Hint, Hint Charles Phan. That is what I miss about The City - well that and my friends ; )

Anyway I decided to quite whining about it and make my own damn chinese food! And actually I was inspired when I went to the city a couple weeks ago and popped in at my friend Jen's house around 5:30pm on a tuesday- she wasn't home yet but her husband Andre was ready with a glass of wine for me. Jen walked in the door around 6:09pm and I said - let's go out to dinner! She said - no, I'm making Beef with Broccoli. By 6:45 dinner was on the table. My point of this story is that YES YOU CAN make your family a home cooked meal during the week - you just have to prep for it on the weekends. I've been thinking about this all week - as it's not that big of a secret - but really essential. First we decided you don't want to have to go to the grocery store and shop before you cook that night. Here's my suggestion - on the weekend look online (my blog hehehe) or glance at your favorite cookbooks or magazines and see if you get inspired. Next go to a local farmer's market if you have one - see what's in season - then finally go to the grocery store and get the rest. You should have what you need in the pantry for the seasonings and buy the fresh stuff. Now, I always have a stock of different meats in the freezer - which helps too. Take last night - I decided to make Egg Rolls - more about that later - and Kung Pao Chicken - but I realized I forgot to get chicken - luckily I had a little package of boneless chicken breasts in the freezer so I took them out around noon and by dinner I was good to go. Now obviously you are not going to make egg rolls on a weeknight - BUT this recipe made 10 so we ate 4 last night and 6 went into the freezer for another night - a weeknight if I want! So stay home and have your home cooked food - it's healthier and I'll bet tastier. And you get leftovers (unless your friend drops by and stays for dinner ; )

Kung Pao Chicken
A quick note on why I made egg rolls - last week we had our monthly Soup Night and this one was Asian themed so I decided to make Imperial Rolls - I used the recipe from The Slanted Door cookbook which I had never tried and they did not turn out so great - yes they were tasty but what a mess and greasy to boot! I think I either didn't have a great spring roll wrapper to start and maybe didn't roll them tight enough - but whatever - they were a mess! I lost at least 3 of them as they fell apart in the fryer! But just to show that I'm not perfect (don't tell my husband I said that) I brought them to soup night anyway - everyone said they were tasty but I knew they were f*d up. So this weekend I thought - I'm going to make egg rolls instead (egg roll wrappers are much easier to use) and they turned out delicious! Not greasy, but crispy and yummy - now the ready to be fried remaining 6 are in the freezer waiting for the next weeknight that I try the Beef with Broccoli!

Egg Rolls makes about 10

1/2 pound raw shelled shrimp (try to find rock shrimp)
1/3 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry (I always have sherry so I used that)
2 green onions chopped
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (I've been buying it in a jar - really good!)
about 4 sliced water chestnuts cut into strips
1 carrot cut into thin strips
1/4 of a head of cabbage finely shredded
salt and pepper to taste
10 egg roll skins
1 egg beaten
to serve: chinese hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce (yes, I bought these)
vegetable oil

Heat a wok (I realized I got rid of my wok a few years back as I never used it anymore in the city! I'm going to have to buy one again!) or large sauté pan and add the tablespoon of oil. Stir fry the pork until it is lightly browned and soy sauce, wine, green onions and ginger and stir a few more min. Add the carrots and cabbage and water chestnuts and cook a few more min. Move to the side and add the shrimp to lightly cook them, then mix it all together salt and pepper to taste and let cool mostly. Get out your egg roll skins and place them so that the corner is facing you and put about 2 tablespoons of mixture in an oblong heap at the end. Pull up the bottom corner then fold over the 2 sides brush the rest with a bit of the egg with your finger and tightly roll the rest of the way so that it seals. Like a little package. At this point they can be frozen or heat couple inches of oil to 370 degrees and fry them about 4 min until browned. Serve with sauces.

Kung Pao Chicken serves 2

1 whole boneless skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 green onions cut into slivers
2 tablespoons peanuts
1/2 can sliced water chestnuts
couple tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon Hunan Paste (OK, when I first read this I was thinking in my head Hoisin Sauce so I didn't have any on hand - I used instead chili garlic paste which turned out very nicely!)

Coat the chicken with cornstarch in a bowl. Heat a wok (or fry pan!) and add oil and then chicken pieces. Let sit on one side until browned and then turn over. When mostly cooked remove to a plate. Add to the pan the ginger and green onions and sauces stirring a bit, then add back the chicken and peanuts and water chestnuts and toss it all to coat and cook just a couple min more. Serve over rice.

These recipes were adapted from my old Fast and Easy Oriental Wok Cooking book - which I'm going to be trying more recipes soon! So don't order take away - plan ahead and cook it yourself!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Finally an actual picture of my Sticky Toffee Pudding

Obviously I've posted this recipe before for sticky toffee pudding - it's one of my favorites - people go crazy for it and they never believe its got dates in it! I just finally took a picture before it all got eaten - this time I brought it to my dear friend Rey's bday - New Year's Day - and there was not a scrap left. I have to make this again soon - not just a holiday pudding (I do love the English name for any dessert) as this is good any old day. Actually it makes any old day a holiday! Cherrio!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fondue Night with the Girls

When Richard was out of town I decided to have my Healdsburg Girls over for fondue night - and boy did we have a spread! I baked bread (yes, those big babies!) and everybody brought so much food - I had leftovers for days. And you may wonder - what on earth do you do with leftover fondue - well never fret! The first week I made Potatoes Au Gratin to go with our brisket - oozy cheesy potatoes - yum.

Then last week I made Suppli - which are basically fried balls with leftover risotto and inside I stuffed a slice of cold Romesco Fondue  - it had roasted peppers and almonds with manchego and montery jack - oh yeah. Seriously don't throw out any fondue - it can make your next meal!



Thanks to all my girls for making it a special night! XOXO