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.

 

 

 

 

I’m gonna gnocchi you out

I seem to be on a veritable roll this week with keeping this blog updated.  Go me for being either productive or not productive enough.  Das macht nichts (go on..you know you wanna look it up.  It means neither this/that doesn’t matter..My papa says it TONS!!!).  Whilst registering for the upcoming wedding I had made a mental reminder to ask for a gnocchi board because its insanely tedious to roll those little buggers out and then get the ridges with the back of a fork. And it reminded me that crap it’s Wednesday.  My normal dining partner had other plans and I had nothing to make for dinner.  Thank the Gods that the little corner store by my house has probably the most random things for sale.  Gustine’s Market.  If you’re a St. Louis resident that lives in South City I recommend you stop in and get a sample of wine and a Serendipity drumstick from the freezer section.  It’s amazing.  Plus the people are rather friendly so that’s a perk.

I never normally know ahead of time what I want for dinner when it’s just me cooking for myself. I’m perfectly content with cutting open an avocado and eating that for dinner; however my husband Kyle gets rather miffed if he realizes that I didn’t eat something that had some form of protein.  So when I got home I made a quick detour to Gustine’s Market and wandered the small tiny store and stumbled across the frozen gnocchi.  Now normally I make my own but with it being already 6 pm and me having not really the motivation to make homemade pasta I opted to go with one at least made locally.  Maria & Son’s.  I’m not ashamed.  Hey I’m pretty sure Gordan Ramsey at one point in his career has opted for something made by someone else in the name of saving time.  Don’t you shame me!

So off I go home with my tiny bag of perfectly rolled, frozen potato dumplings when I catch a whiff of what the neighbors were cooking.  I love my neighborhood.  It’s so…aromatic.  Coconut, cumin, curry powder.  Mmmmm Thai food and as we all know I am a sucker for a good Thai dish. And if you didn’t know, you know now.  Curry, gnocchi, I knew damn well I had sugar snap peas in my garden as well as some mushrooms and a ton of fresh basil.  The only question was, did I have all the ingredients to make my own curry slurry.  More then likely yes but did I want to take the time to make one from scratch?  Eeeeeeh Wednesday night, worked 12 hours at my primary job the answer to that was a no so this was a quick no fuss no muss idea.  And the results were awesome.

image000001Now I’ll never be one of this individuals that just use a pre made mix as is.  I always feel that it can be more of a “homemade” dish if you doctor it up some and while I was going to use a pre made curry paste the aromatics would be all me.  Now when a recipe calls for say 2 cloves of garlic minced I take that as a “suggestion” and always double it.  Never be stingy on the garlic as it is your friend.  So to my pre made paste I added my own aromatics.  Sweated the paste off with some onion till fragrant and then added the curry paste (red) and toasting it off.  I find toasting the paste adds an additional depth of flavor.  Kind of like when you toast tomato paste.  It helps deepen and concentrate the flavors, plus as I’ve gotten older I find I need bolder flavors in order to really appreciate my food.  More spice to counter balance the fact my taste buds over the course of the years have committed ritual seppuku to the God of Time.  Toss in some coconut milk and whatever vegetables you want and let them bubble away on low till your pasta/rice/chicken/whatever else you’re pairing it is with is cooked.  If you are going to use root vegetables I recommend parboiling them first or you will be waiting for a while for them to get soft and nothing says “this is….tasty o.0” like biting into a hard chunk of potato..Mmmmmm starchy..yeah no.  Sadly though albeit normal for me, by the time dinner was done cooking I wasn’t hungry but hey at least I have lunch for tomorrow (now today cause I’m a Time Lord and I can bend space

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Now for the meat…or rather meatless portion of the post.  The actual recipe.  I kind of made it up as I went along but here’s the gist of it.  You will need the following for a serving for two individuals.

  • 5 cloves garlic crushed and rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon grass
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thai chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriender
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white/yellow onion sliced thin and diced\
  • 2 tablespoons pre made curry paste (I use Mai Ploy-Massaman Curry Paste)
  • 12 oz coconut milk (milk not cream..dont make the same mistake I’ve made…before)
  • vegetable add ins:  I used baby bellas and peas 
  • pasta/gnocchi/whatever you are doing this with
  • chopped fresh basil

Take all ingredients and place into a mortar and pestle and pound away whilst thinking about that person who spurned you back when you were younger.  Or the fact that you’re favorite sportsball team isn’t doing well this season.  Goooo Sportsball!.  If you do not have a mortar and pestle whirl it away in a food processor/magic bullet/ninja/etc. Place in a small dish and put it to the side to allow it to rest.

In a medium sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute onions.  We want to achieve a little bit of the Maillard reaction (browning) to allow the inherent sweetness of the vegetable to show up.  This also allows the enzymes and amino acids found in the onion to change at the molecular level as to help stave off any potential threat of turning the garlic in the aromatics a blue green.  This occurs because of a chemical reaction between the enzymes/amino acids and the acidity in the garlic when the two items meet and mingle.  FOR SCIENCE!!!!.  Once you’ve achieved the desired level of browning add your aromatics and let them mingle until they become fragrant.  This should take only about 1 minute.  Any longer and you run the risk of burning your garlic and that can provide a rather acrid note to the dish.

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This is listed as a spicy curry paste so if your tastes are more mellow and calm you can by all means use the green curry paste or yellow.  This is all based off your personal preference.  I like spicy food but I am not biased in any sense of the word.  Add in your curry paste and allow it to toast.  How do you know if it’s toasting?  It will take on a deeper darker hue of red.  This only takes about a minute and a half max and you want to watch it to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Switch your spatula for a whisk and incorporate your coconut milk into your paste.  Add your mushrooms and let simmer on a medium low while you prepare your pasta/rice.  If it becomes to thin by all means thin with a little vegetable stock or even some white wine, water, a little more coconut milk or some half and half.  Add your peas at the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Nothing worse then mushy peas.  Top with fresh chopped basil and serve in warmed bowls

There ya go.  Total time depending on what you’re having with it no more then an hour if doing chicken or less then 25 if doing pasta with shrimp.  I opted to keep this a vegetarian dish but did have poached shrimp on the side for my protein.  Not to shabby for a Wednesday and goes to show that premade doesn’t always have to be boring as long as you add your own little twist to it.

 

Enjoy!