I’ve made your favorite. Spaghetti. With lots of oregano….VERONICA DINNER!!!!!

One of the movies that seemed to be a staple of my angsty adolescent years was the cult classic “Heathers”.  Veronica Sawyer played by the somewhat neurotic Winona Rider was desperately trying to escape her fate of becoming a plastic Heather by succumbing to her bad boy lust and dating a rather ummm misguided youth named J.D. played by the always luscious Christian Slater *sighs*.  In this movie a love struck Veronica goes on a tumultuous world wind love affair which results in mayhem, bombs, a murder or two and a mantra that still holds true to today.  Teenage suicide. Don’t do it.  It’s fucking brilliant and apparently a new musical hitting the stage in 2017.  There is a rather amazing dream sequence that happens in the first hour of the movie where the heroine of the movie is faced with the harsh reality of innocence lost due to suicide..or in this instance a cup full of Draino where she is faced with the Heather she unknowingly killed7-heathers-quotes. The deceased debutante pulls back the cover of the holy water to reveal a bowl full of spaghetti, extra oregano and says “I’ve made your favorite.  Spaghetti.  With lots of oregano.  VERONICA DINNER!!!” and slams Winona’s face into the bowl of complex carbohydrates covered with the simmered saucy goodness.   This phrase had become a permanent part of my culinary lexicon and every time I make spaghetti now I can’t help but reminisce back to the good old days of 1992 when I first saw the movie and how I truly related to J.D and his angsty desire to blow up the school during a pep assembly by strapping a bomb to the boiler room….>.>…..<.<….um..anyways….

I’ve recently become the proud owner of the Kitchenaid pasta attachment set.20170216_181413_11  It’s been one I’ve been holding on out getting until it either went on sale or went on sale and I had a surplus of Kohl’s cash and gift cards to warrant me spending absolutely nothing on it.  It finally happened.  Last week I busted out the remnants of the wedding gift cards with expressed consent from my loving husband *who lets face it, he would pretty much let me buy anything kitchen wise as long as it didn’t cost me a grand* and set forth to purchase my long-awaited Kitchenaid accessory.  It’s pretty much the only one I wanted with the exception of maybe a second Kitchenaid which I will some day own.  I want two..for multitasking.  STOP JUDGING ME!!!! So I decided today would be the day I would crack open that box and bust a pasta cherry.  I’ve made homemade pasta before.  My mom has a hand cranked pasta maker which I enjoy using but sometimes you just want something that isn’t going to require you vicegripping something to your countertop that you can use with one hand while you drink a glass of wine with the other.  Don’t think that you need to drop a few hundred $$ to make pasta.  People have been making it for centuries without the aid of an electronic gadget and when I’m in the mood and need to vent some frustrations because my job is driving me absolutely bonkers I relish the idea of knowing that I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of some dough and roll away the tension.  But I normally end up pretty bruised on my forearms from pressing hard on my rolling-pin aka wizard staff and I’d rather not be bombarded with questions about whether or not I feel safe in my own home…It’s happened…I bruise like a Georgia peach.

I’ve tried many different recipes for pasta dough.  Some which use only AP flour some which use a mixture of AP and semolina.  Some which call for eggs and others which call for vegetable oil.  While I’m sure they are okay I found them somewhat lacking, so I found this awesome recipe that has since become my standard go to pasta recipe. It calls for no egg which means its vegan and also means that you don’t run the risk of salmonella setting in from letting it dry for later use.  It also only has 4 ingredients to it and most of them everyone already has in their house.  AP flour (all img_20170218_132111purpose), semolina flour, water & olive oil.  That’s it.  Plus  I have a quick go to pasta sauce that I’m going to share that helps out in a pinch when you don’t have access to nice vine ripened tomatoes because it’s still technically winter and you live in the midwest.

First off, this pasta dries up amazingly and will keep in a ziplock bag for a few months.  I normally don’t keep dried pasta for longer than a month because I normally only make enough for a meal. Unless I’m making ravioli then I make tons and freeze them for quick meals during the week for myself or Kyle.  So don’t feel like you MUST use this the day you make it.  You’ll want to get your materials together so you aren’t running all over creation and back. Taking equal weights of AP flour and semolina you will want to pour them into a large mound on your countertop. I recommend doing this by hand instead of by using a machine because you can get some pretty gnarly pasta if you over mix it.  Plus it’s always more fun to be interactive with your food.  Taking the bottom of a bowl you will want to make a deep well in the center of your flour.  I’ve made some pretty shallow ones only to have water and oil spill over and go everywhere.  Take your warm water and your olive oil and using a fork you want to slowly start to mix in the flour into the water.  Go slow,  you don’t want to build up a lot of gluten in your pasta dough because that can make for tough chewy pasta which aint good eats.  Once you’ve got the inside of your flour volcano pretty much mixed in you’ll want to exchange your fork for img_20170218_132326a dough scraper to start folding in the outside walls of Mt Semolina in on itself.  If you don’t have a dough scraper simply collapse the mound in with your fingers and continue folding and kneading until it forms a rough ball of dough which kinda looks like the moon.  Okay it doesn’t but it’s not smooth.  Transfer the ball of dough to a ziplock bag and walk away.  Yes that’s right.  Walk away from it for about an hour.  Go take a shower, run to the store, have a quick make out session with your significant other or perfect stranger.  We want to give the dough time to relax due to the fact that during the kneading process, gluten was created and we need for it to take a break and relax to create a soft supple dough that will be easy to either roll out for hand cutting or be fed through a machine without causing too much strain on the machine, your nerves and the dough itself.  Plus the additional time allows the flour to thoroughly hydrate.

When you’re ready to start rolling out pasta make sure your sauce or whatever you are dressing it with is almost finished.  Fresh pasta only takes about 5 minutes or so to roll out and only needs 2 minutes to cook so you don’t want your pasta sitting in water getting soggy while you toss in a jar of Prego to warm up.  I’ll share my quick and easy pasta sauceimg_20170218_140923 at the end.  Taking your dough you are going to want to cut it in half and place the unused portion back in the bag to keep it from drying out.  Knead a few times back into a ball and taking your rolling-pin you’re going to want to gently roll it out so that it can feed through the pasta attachment easier.  For the Kitchenaid the largest setting is 1.  Turn your mixer to speed 2 and slowly start to feed your dough in.  It will struggle at first but after the second or third time you’ve passed it through it won’t sound like it’s a 1982 bright orange Volvo going up a steep hill and about to die.  This is just my own personal preference but after I feed the dough through for the first few times I fold it in half and give it a second pass.  I crank the dial up to 2 and give it two-three passes. Set it to 3 and then 4.  You may need to cut your dough into sheets if it gets to long to manage on your own.  I ended up doing that for mine and did it in two sheets before swapping out to the spaghetti attachment.  I wish I had gotten pics of what it looked like coming out but I had originally meant for this post to be about sweet potato ravioli with brown butter sauce but decided to forgo that idea for now and save it for later. I.e I ate the raviolis before I got pictures of them..DAMN MY TUMMY!!!!  Anyways you only really get one shot once you put it through the spaghetti attachment.  After that it’s decision time.  Do you use it now or save it for later?  If saving for later you can lie it flat on a flour dusted cookie sheet or if you’re creative and kookie like me you can drape it over a new coat hanger you bought specifically for this and put it in your pantry to dry out

 

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Ancient Italian drying technique

 

Now I’m pretty sure all of you have made some sort of pasta before so it should go without saying that you need to have a large pot of water that it salted like the sea at a boil before you toss it in.  If not um, fill a large pot up with water, add salt and bring to a boil.  It’s not rocket science people,  its complex carbohydrates.  Once at a boil add your pasta and put on a timer for 2 minutes.  Fresh pasta cooks insanely quick and you don’t want it to become soggy and mushy because well then you’ve wasted time and energy and you might as well have used store-bought and I will shame you endlessly.  ENDLESSLY.  Once cooked strain and toss with your pasta sauce.  If using a thick ragu type sauce don’t mix because I’m pretty sure that’s a cardinal rule and will result in you getting capped by an angry Sicilian woman.  You never mix your pasta and sauce because you want to be able to add meatballs..I personally don’t like mine mixed all together because it makes reheating difficult and I sometimes like to only eat the pasta sauce and not the actual pasta.  Bariatric patient..It happens.  Serve up with some fresh herbs and a little grated parmesan cheese and you’ve got a nice bowl of love ready for devouring.  Now don’t limit yourself to just spaghetti with this pasta dough recipe.  Make lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, parpadelli pasta.  It’s just a pretty basic pasta dough which you can modify and tweak to your liking.  Not a fan of sauce but just a little olive oil with some minced garlic and grated egg yolk? Knock yourself out.  You do with this what you want and share with me what worked for you and what didn’t.  I like feedback 🙂 So go out, find Heathers on Netflix or Hulu, Kodi or where it’s hiding these days.  Make up a huge bowl of spaghetti and embrace your inner angry teen.  You won’t regret it.  I promise 🙂

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Pasta Dough Recipe

  • 500 g AP flour (all-purpose)
  • 500 g Semolina Flour
  • 75 g olive oil
  • 450 g warm water

Pour both flours onto a clean countertop into a large mound.  Take a bowl and create a deep well.  Add water and oil and slowly start to incorporate the flour into the liquid using a fork, slowly adding the sides of the well until no runny liquid is left.  Scrap dough together and gently knead for up to 8 minutes until a rough ball forms.  Wrap in plastic and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to an hour to allow the gluten to relax and the dough to fully hydrate.  Either roll out and cut by hand or feed through your pasta attachment until you get to your desired thickness.  Cut using either a knife or spaghetti attachment and add to salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and dress in sauce preference.  If eating later, lay in single layer on a floured baking sheet and allow to dry fully for up to 12 hours.  Store in a zip lock bag until ready to eat.  Bring water to boil and cook till al dente and dress in sauce preference.

Quick and easy 15 minute Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes diced
  • salt/pepper to taste (omit if using canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed oregano

Heat a saute pan on medium heat and add olive oil.  Sweat out onions and garlic for 3 minutes and then add tomatoes with juices to pan along with the oregano.  Salt/pepper to taste and let cook for 10 minutes, breaking up large pieces of tomato with your wooden spoon.  Toss to cooked spaghetti and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Braise the Lord Hallelujah!

Now that my wedding is done and over with I can hopefully find more time to keep my blog up to date.  It’s hard out to try and juggle work, wedding and passion but I will try to be a little more due diligent in the future.  A month or so ago my now amazing husband gifted me with a meat grinder after I won a bet of not cutting or coloring my hair for a year. Anyone who even slightly has an inkling of who I am knows that in and of itself is a challenge considering I change my hair color pretty much twice a month so going au natural for 12 months was a sort of sick and morbid type of torture.  You add not cutting or shaving it and I’m pretty sure that violates UN torture laws.  But I did it and I relished the diabolic joy of fastidiously going through different options for my spoils (insert diabolical laugh).  Now this post has nothing to do with actually using said meat grinder but hey spoilers for future posts maybe?

In the meantime while I waited for my package to arrive I set my eyes on a pack of meaty beef short ribs I had purchased on a whim at one of our chain grocery stores.  I hadn’t really worked much with beef short ribs but a burger recipe I had been oogling used ground beef short ribs and I didn’t want it to go to waste so I went through my pantry to find out exactly what did I have that could possibly go with beef short ribs.  And viola.  Found beef broth, garlic, tomato paste as well as a bottle of Cabernet on my wine rack and a little fresh thyme still on my plant outside.  Might as well do a little braising.  Hallelujah!!!!image000004

One thing I love the most about this recipe is that it literally only uses 1 pan.  There isn’t any need to dirty multiple pans and spoons and bowls.  I love recipes like that, Kyle loves recipes like that and my dishwasher definitely loves recipes like that.  Another is that it’s not an expensive dish.  You can easily find beef short ribs on the bone for around $5.00 a pack and even cheaper if you go to a butcher shop.  You don’t need expensive wine and can easily grab a $10 bottle off the shelf and most everyone has beef stock, tomato paste and garlic in their house already so this is an easy meal to make for under $20.00

So braising.  What exactly is braising?  Braising is a two part cooking method in which you first brown the meat and or vegetables (yes you can braise vegetables) in a fat (searing and creating the Maillard reaction before cooking them low and slow for a long period of time in a minimal amount of liquid.  It is meant to help break down tough pieces of meat or fibrous vegetables to make them more tender and succulent.  It differs from stewing in the fact that you don’t completely submerge your item in liquid and it can be done with quite large pieces of meat as opposed to small pieces like stew meat.  And it can be done either on the stove or in the oven.  I prefer the oven in the off chance I have other things that need to occupy my stove top space.

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by the power of Maillard!!!!

The first step always is to make sure you have a clean work space.  We are going to be temporarily working with raw meat and you want to reduce the risk of any possible cross contamination because lets face it, food poisoning is a horrid horrid thing and I really don’t like the idea of anyone getting sick off of my cooking.  You will want to place a roasting pan on your stove and heat over a medium high heat.  This allows us to be able to brown our meat prior to transferring it to a hot oven for the braising portion of the recipe. While your pan is heating up take this opportunity to premix your salt & pepper that will be added to the beef short ribs prior to going into the pan.  This again helps reduce the chance of cross contamination as you can simply throw the rest away after using it.  Add a fair amount of olive oil to the roasting pan and heat until it starts to smoke.  We aren’t talking roaring clouds of Chernobyl, but just little whisps of smoke.  Generously season all sides of your beef spare ribs and place meaty side down in the pan (there is a bone in these hence the meaty side down comment).  You will want to essentially fry these until well browned on all sides for around 10-15 minutes.  This gives you plenty of time to wipe down your work station and prep the rest of your ingredients.  Take your bulbs of garlic (yes whole bulbs) and slice across the equator.  If you have a large elephant bulb of garlic 1 should do ya but if you’re like me I only had the little ones so I ended up using about 4, plus I am a huge fan of garlic so I always use a little extra. More isn’t always a bad thing.

image000006Once you’ve browned all sides of your short ribs, place the garlic cut side down pressing it into the pan.  Take 2 oz of tomato paste and also place into the pan,  be mindful that it may splatter and you want to just cook it out for a minute or two to start the caramelization process, pressing the paste into the bottom of the pan.  I always love the smell of tomato paste as it starts to cook out.  It goes from being this tart acidic smell to a rich roasty smell.  I know so scientific right?  It just smells good dammit!

You will want to de-glaze the pan and scrape up all the little bits of fond that got stuck to the bottom.  That is the flavor right there and you want to incorporate it into your braising liquid.  What? We aren’t even braising yet? Nope still in the prep stage but its worth it. Put your trust in me I shan’t steer you in the wrong direction. And what shall we de-glaze the pan with? Why an entire bottle of dry red wine. image000008 No…I’m not joking, a whole bottle.  All 750 ml into the pan.  We gonna do this we gonna do this right..Make sure you get a wine that you’ll enjoy drinking because those make the best to cook with. Pour the whole bottle in (don’t cry you should have another to drink while you wait) and scrape up the bits on the bottom.  Return to a boil and reduce liquid by half which can take about 10-20 minutes depending on how big your pan is.  Once reduced, add your beef stock and fill till it almost covers the short ribs, bring back to a boil and gently baste your ribs before transferring to the stove.  Congrats ya’ll.  You’ve successfully created your braising liquid.  Now it’s time to braise.  BRAISE THE LORD!!!!!

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drunk off the fumes but thats okay!

Carefully take aluminum foil and wrap your roasting pan prior to transferring to the oven.  Carefully place inside the oven, get a buddy to help you if the pan is hot and heavy and let it cook for 3-4 hours, basting every 30 minutes until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.  That’s it.  That’s the braising process. Complicated huh?  During the cook time you can do some laundry, watch a few episodes of Shameless, torture your cats by putting them in Halloween costumes….What?  I’d never do…..oh..okay so like once…..or um okay twice..Okay three times..I swear they love it though!

When the ribs are done and you’ve applied Bactine to all your cat scratches remove carefully from the oven and transfer the ribs to a separate place.  All that beautiful meaty rich liquid does not go to waste.  If you throw it away and I find out I’ll hunt you down and slap you silly.  That is a gorgeous demi-glace and should be enjoyed. image000002 Remove the garlic and place in a fine mesh sieve and press out all the braised roasted garlic pulp, and then in the same sieve strain the braising liquid.  You can at this point reduce it down if it is a little thin after incorporating the garlic paste or if its the right consistency place in a separate bowl for your guests.  I personally saute up some mushrooms and shallot and more garlic and add the demi-glace to the pan prior to plating and then drizzle over my short ribs.  You can pair this with anything.  A lovely polenta with the rib nestled on top would be lovely.  Some egg noodles and go a little more rustic always a winner or even eating it by itself with a lovely vibrant salad.  Its all up to you.  I hope you enjoy!

Mangia! 

Recipe:

Oven temp 340 F / 170 C

Total cooking time 5 hours

Ingredients

6 large beef bone in short ribs

750 ml dry red wine

3 cloves garlic split horizontal

2 oz tomato paste

salt/pepper to season

4-6 cups Beef Stock (depending on size of pan)

 

The kind of rolls you wanna see in the summer

Well, I personally want to thank everyone out there who this winter wished for summer weather.  God has answered your prayers and parked Satan’s backside right here over the Gateway city.  It has been insanely hot.  So hot in fact that the idea of eating anything remotely warm is enough to make me toss down my towel, walk away from the kitchen and refuse to cook.  I loathe being in the kitchen during the summer.  It’s just not right to stand over a pot of boiling water when it’s almost hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt.  So how I battle the heat is I eat things that require minimum cooking time or if at all possible no cooking time.  I fear for Kyle’s meat eating ways as he is in for a sore surprise when he realizes that any possibility of a roast chicken or lasagna dish will not happen until fall in my house.

With that being said there are plenty of quick dishes that you can prepare and prepare ahead of time that will allow you to enjoy your dark cool living room or if you are truly one of those summer masochists that feel the urge to go outside these are a light yet filling snack or meal that will satisfy you on your journeys into hell and back.  Fresh spring/summer rolls.

Wait.  Isn’t a spring roll fried?  Yes it is but these are the non fried variety commonly called fresh spring rolls or fresh summer rolls.  What’s the difference?  It’s not fried….oh wait you meant between the spring and summer.  A spring roll can be either fresh or fried and can be found in many different varieties in many different countries (egg rolls, lumpia).  A summer roll is a specific Vietnamese wrapped in fresh rice paper.  Spring rolls also often contain meat where as the summer roll is primarily vegetarian but can be served with shrimp and even sometimes pork.  Spring rolls are also made with a wheat flour skin made with egg in the base and summer rolls made with a translucent rice flour skin.  Either way both are good eats and I enjoy them frequently either by themselves or as an accompany to another dish.

You are only going to be limited with this recipe if you don’t care for fresh vegetables.  That isn’t an issue in my home so the fillings are only limited by what we might have in the crisper drawers.  But for the sake of this entry I’ll just post the standard typical fillings as well as a fun dipping sauce made out with peanut butter.  The majority of all the ingredients if not all of them in fact can be found at your local international grocery store.

Ingredients: Rolls

  • Rice Paper Skins (Circle/Square)-1 per roll
  • Rice Vermicelli Noodles (2 oz)-Can be omitted ****
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  •  1/2 cup julienne cucumbers (seedless variety)
  • mixed greens or romaine lettuce leaves torn in half
  • cilantro
  • basil (i prefer Thai basil but regular basil will work in a pinch)
  • 6 poached shrimp cut in half (3 halves per roll depending on size) (leave the shell on but de-vein prior to poaching)

Ingredients: Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water

 

 

In a medium sized stock pot heat water to boiling and drop in your shrimp, shell on.  You can choose to season the water with some salt, peppercorns and bay leaf if you feel like it. Turn off the heat and place a lid on and let poach for 5 minute or until they turn pink.  Remove from the water and let chill in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and set to the side.  Refill the same stock pot and bring your water to a boil for your noodles.  Once at a boil, submerge your noodles, turn off the heat and lid the pot and let it sit for 3-7 minutes (vague i know but hey i don’t make the noodles).  We are just wanting the noodles to become soft.  Remove from the hot water and since in cold water for 30 seconds and let sit to the side to drain.  I normally will separate out my noodles into little bundles and let them sit on a paper towel while I finish my prep.

On a clean cutting board place down a piece of parchment paper or if you have it a silicone pad.  This will help the rice paper skin to not adhere to your work surface, potentially causing it to rip when filling.  In a large saute pan fill with warm water, not hot.  The reason we dont want hot water is we dont want to cause the sheet of rice paper to buckle and curl.  Just warm.  Submerge your rice paper and move around for 20 seconds until soft and pliable,  once the rice paper starts to soften time is against you as it will keep on absorbing any moisture left on the skin.  Gently dab with a paper towel and start filling with your choice stuffings. Be careful not to over stuff as it can potentially cause it to break and you will have to start all over.

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So sadly with these photos I overstuffed my summer roll because I was being impatient but it’s just for a point of reference.  You don’t have to follow this method for putting your items on in any sense of the word.  In fact they recommend you stack it side to side instead of on top of each other but meh to each his/her/their own.

So lay a small bundle of rice noodles down spreading out evenly (love how mine is even?!).  Next you’ll place next, on it your other vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peppers.  I recommend if doing avocado put your avocado slices UNDER your noodles.  Lay your shrimp or protein of choice at the top.  If using shrimp make sure the pink side is face down on the rice paper so it can show through for the finished product .   I prefer having a green background against the pink of the shrimp as its more visually appealing and as everyone knows, we eat visually before we actually eat.

image000001 When you’ve got you’re desired fillings on the skin you have a few different methods of folding this bad boy shut.  You can either choose to fold in the side’s first and then roll it up ala burrito style.  You can start to roll from the bottom and then fold in the sides.  It’s whatever is easy for you and best suits you.  You do however want to make sure you roll it tight enough to keep the contents together. I do a three roll roll image000003.  Once over the noodles, once over the veggies and the last one to seal it up and show off the protein (again if using one.  It’s totally optional).  If making more then one be sure to cover with a damp towel to avoid the skin from drying out and breaking.

 

 

These are commonly considered appetizers but with the hot weather hellbent on destroying my desire to cook a warm dish these have been a fantastic meal replacement.  Give me two with some peanut sauce on the side and I am a happy camper!.  By all means swap out and put zucchini in, some jicama.  Not feeling veggies make this with fruit!  Just nothing to liquidy or you’re gonna get a soggy mess.  Don’t want noodles?  Keep em out.  Nothing is set in stone with this recipe which makes it a versatile meal.  Slice in half, plate it up and enjoy with a nice glass of iced tea or a cold iced Vietnamese coffee 🙂

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***if not wanting to use rice vermicelli noodles you can always substitute them for cellophane noodles instead.  Or even omit them entirely.