Pasta Anyone?

ravioli cutter

Pictured is a ravioli stamp manufactured by Pampered Chef.  I find it the easiest
way to efficiently and easily make great ravioli.

Recently one of my readers asked if I made pasta.  Yes, most certainly.  When I was much younger and when I lived at home with my parents we rolled it by hand and cut it by hand.  Now I have one of those handy doohickeys made by Atlas that makes it a whole lot easier, a hand crank pasta machine.  Sometimes I still cut it by hand if I want to make papradelle, the really wide ribbons of pasta.

My machine came with a ravioli maker, but I do not use it.   I also had one of those aluminum, flat plates that took a sheet of pasta, which, in turn, was pressed with this plastic cupped thing that made space for the filling.  You then put a second sheet of pasta over the top and rolled the rolling pin over it to press and cut the ravioli apart.  It didn’t work very well either.

If I want to make ravioli, I make them by hand.  I did find a round ravioli maker which hand-stamps out round ravioli at remarkable speed made by the Pampered Chef that I use often.

If you have read my earlier blogs, you know that I make ricotta, as well, and often make it part of the filling with spinach or pesto and sometimes ground chicken.

How do I make pasta?  One cup of flour to which I add a pinch of salt and one large egg.  I mix this in a bowl with a table fork until mostly together.  I run this crumbly mixture through the pasta machine.  As it starts to coalesce, I pick up more crumbs and flour, which didn’t mix in initially, until it is all together after going many times through the largest opening of the machine.  I fold the sheet in half and put it through the machine until it “pops” like bubble gum when going through.  If you put the raw edges down through first, eventually the folded edge will pop.  When it does you are ready to start decreasing the opening width thus making it thinner.  When you have it as thin as you would like, cut as you wish, either by hand or with the cutter on the machine.  Leave on the counter to dry while you boil salted water for cooking.  Remember that homemade pasta that is still soft takes a lot less cooking time than dry pasta.

My husband usually makes the pasta while I make the sauce.  By the time he is ready, I am ready.  The sauces we make a simple, often cubed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs browned in some butter, freshly chopped garlic, chopped tomato, some basil or pesto and some parmesan cheese.  The tomato provides the juice needed.

I have also used a tin of drained, smoked oysters with fresh mushrooms, a little basil, rosemary and thyme and cream for another simple sauce.  Prawns may be substituted for the smoked oysters.  Fresh peas, spinach, onions, both green and regular, bacon and much more can make a beautiful fresh pasta dish.  Just use your imagination.  I use it to clean out the fridge of all kinds of things lurking there.  Green or black olives, red roasted peppers, pepperoccini (sp?), salami, prosciutto, blue cheese, the list is endless.

It can be as complex or as simple as you like.  The thing that makes it really special is the homemade pasta. It has a different texture than any store-bought dry pasta.

Remember you can use it for other things too, like wonton, lasagna, Chinese dumplings, cannelloni, little purses with all kinds of surprises, tied with chive stems.  I have used these for appetizers and they look very fancy.

Don’t have a pasta machine?  You can watch for one at the thrift store which is where I have bought several, cheaply.  You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin and cut it with a knife, which was the way I made it for years before I managed to get a machine at the thrift store.

Enjoy.

Are you out there?

email Under 18,000 gross_edited-1Hi:  If you are out there and reading my posts.  Please let me know.  Sometimes it seems as though no one is out there.  Although one friend told me she didn’t mark hers as read so it wouldn’t show up. I have been having trouble with my server putting your likes and comments into the junk mail, but hopefully that has now been rectified.  Let me know if you are out there and if you are reading all the posts.  Do some strike your fancy more than others.  What topics would you like to hear more about?

Thanks,

Deon

The Broom Season

scotch broom

No, I am not talking about spring housecleaning and sweeping out the detritus of life.  I am talking about Scotch Broom (also called Scot’s Broom, Cytisus scoparius).  Visitors to Washington State see this plant along the roadside and think its yellow, pea-like blossoms beautiful.  It use to grow in clover leafs of the freeway, along many a state highway, in open fields and anywhere there is gravelly, open soil.

It is considered an invasive species by the state of Washington. The state has declared this and requires that we exterminate it.  Why?  It will take over vast areas of property which is not its primary problem.  One of the main problems is many folks are susceptible to its pollen.  The smell of the plant is somewhat sweet, but it wreaks havoc on the repertory passages giving sore throats for weeks and red eyes to those who are allergic or wear contact lenses.

At the moment my left eye is bright red from a grain of this needle enhanced pollen getting under a contact.  It is uncomfortable.  Many find it hard to breathe near the sites where it grows.

When folks come from out of state they extol the wonders of the plant.  It is gorgeous!  Fields of yellow with plants that can sometimes exceed ten feet in height.  The fragrance is wonderful.  Yes, you may think so now, but wait a few more hours when your eyes start to water and you feel like someone is standing on your chest.

The real dichotomy here is that the state which has declared this plant noxious and requires us to remove is its the greatest offender.  It appears along the state highways of Western Washington rampant in its growth.  The county removes it, we have group gatherings to remove it along country roads, yet the state highway which runs the length of my island is festooned with the plant.  It is in its full glory now.

I am told that the seeds, which the plant can throw twenty or thirty feet, are viable for as long as thirty years, with some scientists claiming eighty.  As the weather warms and the peapod-like seedpods mature, you will hear constant popping in these fields.  The pod pops like popcorn and the seed is tossed into the air as both sides of the pod scroll back to send the seeds flying.

The state website tells us that “It displaces native and beneficial plants, causing loss of grassland and open forest. It aggressively spreads to form monocultures, replacing desirable forage grasses and young trees. Seeds are toxic to livestock and horses.”

Eradication is difficult.  Pulling the plants with intact roots works temporarily.  I have seen whole fields of the stuff poisoned and it is back the following year more vigorous than ever. Since the seeds can be viable for such long periods and remain dormant in the soil, they can pop up decades after eradication seemed complete.  The only option is to pull any plants you see as soon as they immerge or before they produce seeds.  Right now is the best time as they are readily identifiable by their blossoms. If you are out for a walk and spy this beast, nip it in the bud (so to speak). If you wait much longer, the seed pods will develop and the whole process will begin again though maybe eighty years down the road.

It may be beautiful, but those of us who live here find it noxious, even if the state highway department doesn’t.

Making Yogurt

yogurt

We eat a lot of yogurt around our house.  It seemed like we eat about a quart a week, and this is expensive.  I decided to try making it again.  Some years ago, I made yogurt in one of those Salton yogurt makers, with little success.

When we lived in China, we got the best yogurt.  It came in a grey stoneware bottle shaped similarly to the old glass milk bottles.  It had a foil cap and came with a straw that was cut to a point on one end.  You punctured the foil with the straw and sucked out the yogurt.  Boy, was it wonderful.  When I visited Dali in Yunnan Province, I had Yak milk yogurt.  This was the best I had ever had.

In China, they do not add such things as pectin, or gelatin, or rennet to their yogurt.  It is milk and bacillus. I thought, “I can do that!”

A couple of years ago, I watched a UTube video about making it and have modified it for myself and for better results. This is what I do:

I have a one quart, glass peanut butter jar that I have cleaned thoroughly.  I have a three litre thermos that my husband used to take cold drinks to work. I purchase a one serving portion of Greek Yogurt from the grocery to get the whole process started.  We like the whole milk yogurt the best so I purchase a quart of that.  You can use non-fat as well if you prefer.

I put the quart, or almost the whole quart minus enough space so I can add the store bought yogurt in the container later as well.  I heat the milk to lukewarm.  It is important not to get it to hot or the milk will curdle and you will have a strange form of cheese. I heat the milk in the microwave in the glass peanut butter jar.

I use a freshly opened quart of milk, not one that has been previously open in the fridge.  You can use a previously opened container of milk, but it must be raised to at least 180 degrees and cooled to 100 before use.  If it is a fresh bottle, then you don’t need to do that step.

I put a tablespoon of sugar in the milk while it is warming.  DO NOT USE HONEY at this point.  Honey is a anti-bacteria agent and will kill the bacillus that you want to thicken the milk. If you want to use honey, stir it in after the yogurt process is finished.  It will still kill some of the bacteria, but it has done its job by then.

To the warmed milk with sugar, add the container you purchased of fresh Greek Yogurt.  Stir it thoroughly. Put on the lid.

Now for the three litre thermos.  Run tap water until it is as hot as it gets. Put the yogurt jar in the thermos. Fill the insulated container with water until it just comes up to the lid.  It should be as hot as you can get it.

Screw the lid on the thermos. Cover with a thick bath towel and wait for half the day.  Do not move it around as the yogurt does not like to be moved while it is setting up.

Remove the thermos lid, place the yogurt jar in the refrigerator and enjoy when it is cooled.  We are eating ours with the Spring Tonic mentioned in an earlier article.  A little granola, a large scoop of yogurt and Spring Tonic on the top. Yum.

Next time around you don’t need to purchase the Greek Yogurt. Just save a little from the previous batch and follow the directions above.  You must scoop out the remainder of the yogurt  from you glass jar to add after  wouldn’t set.  I can repeat about eight times before I need to purchase a fresh batch of yogurt for starter.  If you are really clean about it you can get more batches than that.

Enjoy!