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Pasta Fun

I am so lucky.  I have great friends and the vast majority enjoy eating and cooking and baking as much as I do.  This leads to some pretty fun cooking dates.  So the other day I got together with Stephanie, and she taught me how to make pasta-from scratch!  She’s always a big hit at parties because she makes homemade perogies and homemade pasta, and I was dead set on learning her secrets.

Well, one of the things I learned is to get a pasta maker.  You can roll out pasta by hand but it would take you FOREVER to do.  Luckily, Steph has one (and they are darn fun to use too!)

Pasta is actually really simple.  It’s just egg and flour, and if necessary, water.  You can make poor man’s pasta by using just water and flour too.  The ratio of egg to flour is 1 egg to 3/4 to 1 cup of flour.  We each made some pasta and used 2 eggs and 2 cups of flour.

Make sure you have a clean surface to do this on-and be prepared for a bit of a mess.  Pile up the flour and make a well in the center.

Add your egg or eggs in the middle of the well.  Work the flour in slowly, either using a fork or by hand.  You want to work it so that eventually it comes together as a ball of dough and it’s a bit elastic.  Work in more flour or water as necessary to get the desired consistency.

Once you get it into a nice elastic dough, wrap it and chill at least 15 minutes.  Then you break out the pasta machine and roll out your pasta nice and thin.  We cut out squares and filled them with two fillings: one was a spinach and ricotta cheese filling and the other was a beef filling.  They were so delicious!  Thanks Steph!

 

EM

Back home…

Wow, summer is just flying by!  I’m having way too much fun.  I’m very happy to be home though, as fun as my trip was, there really is no place like home.  Seeing all my family and friends is always a good time, and, of course, I’m always just so well fed when I come back for a visit!

This time around, I’ve been spending mornings with Gretchen.  She is a fabulous cook (she gets it from her mom), and my breakfasts have been really something.  I went to her place on Friday and she fed me a delicious gourmet breakfast (no, it was not all made that morning, some of it was leftover from the dinner her mom cooked the night before.)  I had a salad with homemade dressing, gourmet mac and cheese, French onion soup, roast lamb, apple and cheese puff pastry, coffee, and leche flan.  DELICIOUS!!!  We chatted for a few hours while I ate my way through all that food.  And after that breakfast I didn’t need to eat lunch!

I got to leave with some mac and cheese, and her recipe!

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

*recipe adapted from The Best of the Best in the Best of Bridge Series

  • 2 1/2 cups shell pasta
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups any semi-firm to firm cheese, grated
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs or panko
  • handful of potato chips, crushed (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste

 

Cook and drain pasta. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Stir in flour, and mix well. Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.  Add salt, sugar and cheese. Mix well. Mix sour cream, cottage cheese, and paprika into sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Pour pasta into the sauce pan, mix thoroughly with the sauce, and then place in a casserole dish. At this point, you can serve it, bake it, or freeze it for later.

 

If you’re baking it, you can sprinkle it with the bread crumbs or the panko, then bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes.

 

If you’re freezing it, then don’t add the bread crumbs or the panko right away. Instead, store in individual Tupperware containers. Thaw in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, pop it into a ovenproof bowl, and then sprinkle with the bread crumbs or panko. Broil for about five minutes, until the crust is crunchy and golden brown.  Note that for the crust, Gretchen used a combination of panko crumbs and crushed salt and pepper thick-cut Kettle Chips for extra crunch.

Also a note about cheese: The quality of mac and cheese depends on the quality of the cheese.  You can use a combination of whatever you have on hand.  However, higher quality cheeses obviously means it’s more expensive.  If you don’t indulge in gourmet cheeses, use a large amount of ordinary cheddar or mozza and then spice it up with small amounts of higher-end cheese.

This recipe was so delicious, I can’t wait to have more sometime!

EM


Phoenix Cooking Adventures-Part II-Jamie Oliver Cookbook

As mentioned previously, I was (and still am) really excited about my new cookbook.  Laura and I promptly flipped through it and found a few things to try.  One of them is a favourite of her’s, penne carbonara.  Super tasty and easy to make.

Penne Carbonara

  • 1 lb penne (we used one bag, no idea how much was in it)
  • 10 slices of bacon
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 7 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4  1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until done to your liking (I like mine al dente).  In the meantime, fry up the bacon until nice and crispy-drain on paper towels.  Mix the yolks, half the cheese, and the cream together (this is the sauce.)  Once the pasta is done, drain it and immediately add your sauce to the pasta and stir well-the residual heat will cook up your sauce.  Add in the bacon and serve.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

To go with our delicious pasta, we tried a drink from the cookbook, and then made another version based on the original.

Ginger Beer

  • 5 oz fresh ginger, grated (I just eyed it and used a decent sized knob since I like ginger)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 4 cups soda water or sparkling mineral water
  • fresh mint

Zest the lemons.  Mix the ginger, zest, and brown sugar in the bottom of a pitcher.  Add the juice from the lemons and then pour in the water.  Let it sit for 10 minutes to allow flavours to blend.  Taste it and add more sugar or lemon juice as needed.  You can adjust the amount of zest to your taste: I love lemons so we used a lot of zest, but you can start with the zest from one lemon and go from there.  You can strain out the ginger and zest before serving.  Garnish with the mint.

Grapefruit and Raspberry Punch

  • 2 grapefruits
  • handful of raspberries
  • 4 cups of soda water or sparkling mineral water
  • sugar
  • fresh mint

Zest the grapefruit.  Mix the zest and raspberries in the bottom of a pitcher.  Add the water.  Add sugar to taste if necessary.  Garnish with mint when serving.

A note about the grapefruit: we picked it from Adam’s mom’s backyard!!! That was so awesome, there is NOTHING like picking fresh fruit.  Especially when it’s January.  It was so delicious, and we didn’t even need to add sugar to our punch!  I also devoured a few of those grapefruit before I left.  Our evening of cooking was a big success!

EM