It is all about the pasta

In my heart, I am Italian!  I will call Italy my home one day…the vineyards, the olives, the architecture…

(focus Kristie)

Where was I?….oh yeah…because of this I have an obsession for anything Italian…most importantly the food!  Two words….tomatoes and basil (mmmmmm).

Making pasta is one of my favorite things to make.  Dried pasta is good, really good but there is just something  about freshly made pasta.  It is lighter, the taste is cleaner, and best of all it can soak up the yummy sauce like a sponge.  Fresh pasta is super easy and I bet you have all the ingredients right now in your pantry.  The process is a bit time consuming but oh so worth the wait, I promise!!!

Egg pasta

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix slowly just until most of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients.  When the dough starts to form a ball stop and knead dough by hand on a lightly floured surface.  Add flour as necessary if dough is sticky, I usually have to add around 1/2 cup.  Flour is your friend with pasta, be liberal with dusting your work surface. When the dough is no longer sticky and has a uniform consistency and color form into a ball and cover with an over turned bowl.  Let rest 30  minutes.

After 30 minutes divide dough roughly into 3 parts (while working with one part keep the others under the bowl).  Shape the dough into a flat oval and run through a pasta roller on the largest setting.  Fold rolled pasta in thirds and run through again.  Keep doing this until the dough is smooth.    When smooth run dough into a smaller and smaller settings until it is the desired thickness.  If needed, cut the rolled dough into lengths that are workable for you. Let these ribbons of rolled dough dry for 20 minutes on paper towels. Remember flour is your friend, flour the surface of the dough, and the roller as needed.

Depending on your recipe run it through a roller that will give you the pasta you need (fettuccine, spaghetti, lasagna).  You can use this recipe for any type of pasta you need.

To cook, boil in water until pasta floats to the top, this takes seconds.  Keep an eye on the pasta to avoid over cooking.

Things I have learned….

Work in small batches.

As soon as I run the dough to cut into pasta I cook it immediately.

As soon as pasta is done I transfer it to a  colander set over a bowl to drain water.   I drizzle olive oil over it so it doesn’t stick together.

Hope this helps you to enjoy the greatness of fresh pasta…because it is all about the pasta!

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Thirsty?

Sweet, pink and full of watermelon.

So, I had this culinary dilemma last weekend.  There was half a watermelon sitting in the fridge and it was going to go bad soon.  So I cranked up the culinary gears in my head and tried to figure out a way to use it….FAST!

The watermelon mojito, with a simple twist, was the perfect solution.  A wonderfully sweet fruity cocktail for a warm summer dinner.    Cheers!

Watermelon Mojito

  • watermelon, cubed
  • Mojito mix
  • light rum (I used Malibu Rum)*

I eyeballed this recipe so I don’t have exact measurements but this allows you to adjust the amount of mix or watermelon to your own tastes.

In a blender puree the watermelon until smooth, pour into a small bowl and set aside.  Make mojito as directed on mix.  Add pureed watermelon to the desired level of taste.  Pour into some cocktail glasses over ice.  Garnish with a lime slice.

*if you would like a non-alcoholic version you can use club soda

Summer Lemons

Tart & tangy lemony goodness!

Not sure why but when summer comes around so do my cravings for lemons.  Lemon bars…lemonade…lemon curd tarts…there is no end to the madness.  I love sweetening my summer days with a touch of tang.  Every year I spend hours scouring the internet for new lemon-centric recipes to try out.  This year I have not only found a superbly lemon-filled recipe but a simple one to boot.  Lemon glazed cookies have made my lemon-starved taste buds dance and I hope they do the same for you!  The glaze is super simple and I am already scheming of other uses for it…it is that good!  Any suggestions??

Lemon Glazed Cookies (thank you Martha Stewart!)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool.

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.

Pretty Pretty Flowers

Flowers…they make me giddy…what can I say?

An effortless vase of fresh flowers can brighten a room on a rainy day…what am I saying…they can brighten a room on a sunny day…they are perfect brilliance.  Peonies certainly make my top 5 favorites list, how can I resist those perfectly scrumptious blushing pink petals?  Ahhh…pure giddiness!!!

What is your idea of perfect brilliance??  What makes you giddy?

A Fantastic Chicken Dinner

Yep I said it…it was a FANTASTIC chicken dinner!  Now I have to admit it wasn’t perfect but it was darn good.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I have to admit something before sharing last night’s recipes.  This sounds silly I know but, I have recipe ADD.  I am usually not happy following just one recipe, and thus I mix and match recipes to come up with the right combination of ingredients.  Because of this some measurements are approximates, I tend to go by sight and smell when cooking.  I will do my best, I promise, to be as accurate as possible!

Now on to the good stuff….

The menu:

Garlic Lemon Roasted Chicken (recipe follows)

Quinoa and Corn Salad (recipe follows)

Homemade French Bread

and for cocktail hour….Watermelon Mojitos

Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken

  • 1 5lb whole chicken (fresh or thawed), rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 lemons
  • 9 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 26 oz chicken stock or broth

Let chicken and butter stand out for about 30 minutes to reach room temperature.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Remove giblets and anything else that might be in the body cavity of the chicken.  Rinse and towel dry chicken.   Sprinkle salt and pepper inside and outside of chicken; don’t be stingy!

Next slice onion, 1 lemon and the cloves of garlic.  Place onion, lemon and all but 2 cloves of garlic on the bottom of your pan making a bed for your chicken to sit on.  Place chicken in pan.  Half remaining lemon and place inside of chicken along with 2 cloves of garlic.

Coat chicken liberally with the softened butter.  This step  can get a bit sloppy, but isn’t it fun to make a mess??  Make sure you coat the WHOLE chicken including getting under the skin (my mom hates this part!).  If needed, salt and pepper chicken again. Pour about half of stock into bottom of pan.

Cover with foil and bake for approximately 1 hour.  Check chicken occasionally during roasting, if needed you can add chicken stock if it seems to be getting dry.  Remove foil and continue to roast for 30 minutes more or until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 180 in the breast and 190 in the thigh.

Let chicken rest on a plate for 10 – 15 minutes.  Meanwhile pour pan juices, minus the lemon slices, into a small sauce pan.  Make sure you get all of the good meaty brown bits off of the bottom of the pan.  The more “stuff” you get out of the pan the better your sauce will taste!   Using either a fat separator or a spoon, skim off the fat.  Simmer juices about 15 minutes, taste.  If too salty add more stock, if bland add salt and pepper to taste.

When serving you can choose to pour a bit of sauce over chicken or serve on the side in a gravy boat or dish.

Quinoa and Corn Salad

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, thoroughly rinsed and drained (about 4 Cups cooked)
  • 2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring 2 3/4 cups water to boil in a small saucepan and stir in the quinoa and some salt. Return to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add corn, red pepper, onion.  Cover and continue to simmer on low until onion is tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, cumin, chili powder, garlic, oil, and salt to taste; pour over quinoa. Cover and simmer on low until heated through.

Add scallions and cilantro. Stir thoroughly.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Cooking School: Roast Chicken

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. ~Vernon Howard

I am walking through this dinner as if I had something to learn….because I do.  I am going back to school and learning what makes a chicken tick.

Chicken and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love to make it but it hates to turn out.  Either it is a bit too dry or a bit too bland. In culinary school roasting a chicken was the classic and most basic way to introduce us to this popular protein.  I didn’t have a problem then, chicken and I were friends.

But….

Things have gone down hill since….until tonight.  I have had enough and am fighting back!  I am cracking open my old textbook and reintroducing myself to chicken.

“Hi chicken this is Kristie and this is going to be a fantastic friendship!!!”

Wish me luck!

Playing catch up

Someone needs to send me to time out. Why? Well isn’t it obvious, I have totally neglected my duties as a blogger!

There is a simple explanation really…no really! It is a one word explanation….work. Two weeks of hectic running around and late nights. But that has come to an end (finally) and to celebrate I am going to cook and reintroduce myself to my equally neglected garden.

New adventures are a comin’!