Pasta From Scratch

on Friday, February 18, 2011

 
My first attempt at pasta from scratch was a huge failure (except for getting engaged, that part rocked). I figure we did several things wrong, using bleached all purpose flour instead of unbleached or semolina flour, using eggs that were too cold and too small, and not having the correct moisture content. We made two attempts that night and they both wound up in the garbage.

Last night I tried again, this time with semolina flour and jumbo eggs -- which I left sit out on the counter for a good hour before cracking. It took two eggs because the first one just disappeared into the flour without a trace.

I kneaded the dough for a good long time and let it rest for 10 minutes or so. I came back to something that still wasn't right, but I wasn't willing to throw it out because semolina flour is so expensive. I wetted my hands and went back to kneading, wetted them once more and kneaded... finally the dough starting taking on the right consistency.

I cut a small amount of the dough ball and started to run it through the pasta machine. My god what a huge fucking pain in the ass! That damn thing needs to be bolted down to keep it from sliding all over the counter. I finally managed to make to headway by bracing the top of the machine with my left forearm while feeding the dough in with that hand, my right hand operated the crank which constantly came out of its little guide hole.

Oh my did I swear a lot!

But damn it! I was getting something that resembled pasta!

The second third went better, but it was still an exercise in frustration, especially with the machine sliding all over the place. The third batch went about as well as I could expect! The moisture content was perfect (well, damn good anyway) and I wound up with a strip of pasta that was long and wide.

Lesson learned so far: let the dough rest longer. Those flour molecules need time to absorb all the moisture they can before you start manipulating them.

My filling rocked, but still needed a little spice. I took a chicken breast, braised it in vegetable stock, ground it, added an Italian five cheese blend and some chopped cashews, and added a little of the veggie stock I'd used to give it some moisture. I built a piping bag out of a zip-lock with one of the corners cut out and went to work making ravioli.

The second lesson I learned is that ravioli should be small, I made some things that were gargantuan and boiled them in a pot that was too small. Still, they came out really nice.

So next time I'll know what to do: mix the pasta dough, WAIT until the moisture is fully absorbed before manipulating it, spice the filling a little more, make my ravioli smaller and boil them in a larger pot. If I follow my own advice I'll come up with something really tasty!

I'M ENGAGED!!

on Wednesday, February 16, 2011





Kate and I have been dating for four years now. I have never known anyone like her and I love her deeply. I proposed before, but she has never accepted before now and I wanted to record how it happened.

We have been volunteers for a 50-hour trivia marathon on the local college radio station, KVSC-FM, for years (the contest itself has taken place annually for over 30 years), I record song parodies with the Shake a Hamster Band, she works the phone bank where the competing teams call in their answers.

Across the hall from the phone bank is the food station (we are very well fed throughout the whole contest) and this year they had a big bowl of Necco® Sweethearts, which I love (I know a lot of people who don't). Sometime during the weekend, it had to have been Friday or Saturday, I grabbed a handful and wandered across the hall to the phone bank to say "hi" to Kate and give her a kiss on the top of her head. As I walked I would read a heart and eat it, read and eat, read and eat... I found one that said "Marry Me" and I put it in front of her, kissed her and went back down to the recording studio.

I was certain that she would ignore it, seeing as it was a silly way to ask.

Monday after Trivia Weekend is a day of recovery. During the weekend sleep patterns get thrown in the trash and bedtimes of 4 AM or later are not uncommon. This year it also happened to be Valentine's Day. After laying around on the couch for most of the day we decided to start making dinner, but first she presented me with a card.

"Shit!" I thought to myself, "I didn't get her a card."

Inside the envelope, inside the card was another candy heart that said "Yes Dear." I asked her, half jokingly, if that was a response and she said, "Yes."

"Really?!"

"Yes."

I leaped to my feet -- I felt weightless. We hugged, we kissed... I cried. I am the happiest I have ever been! I am so in love with that girl and I am looking forward to making her my wife and of building a life together.

That's the story, it's silly, it's romantic and I wouldn't change a single moment of it.

Cooking Error

on Friday, February 4, 2011

I got all the ingredients I needed to make spaghetti last night -- almost. I got meat, onion, garlic, mushrooms, a red pepper and a can of diced tomatoes. Notice that I didn't get any sauce, which I realized when I was getting ready to start cooking. I didn't feel like running to the store just to get a can of sauce, so I decided to reduce the recipe size and use the can of diced tomatoes as the sauce.

So I got out the blender, poured the can of diced tomatoes into it and hit "liquefy." Everything was going just fine until I noticed that some of the liquid was leaking out of the bottom of the pitcher.

"Oh, you're bleeding," I said, and started to remove the pitcher from the blender's base. The bottom came off completely covering the blender and the counter with tomato sauce.

I cleaned up the mess and ordered a pizza.