Posts tagged pasta
Sunday, January 18, 2009

pasta with chanterelles and fresh ricotta

pasta with chanterelles, cream and ricotta

It is still, after 20 years of living in the United States, utterly shocking to me how much chanterelle mushrooms cost. When I was growing up in Russia, they were the one of the cheapest mushrooms around, though we picked most of our mushrooms ourselves. That’s the kind of thing you do in Russia – pick your own mushroom and berries in the forest. It’s a bit cliché and “Sound of Music” but I assure you we didn’t do this with a song. And as for mushroom-picking, I used to be quite good at it too. You had to have a keen eye, discerning one brown thing from the next, a twig or a leaf sometimes was hiding a beautiful porcini or a cremini mushroom. And as for chanterelles, you could see their bright yellow tops a mile away.

I also had memorized names of all the mushrooms and how they looked and how to tell their poisonous look-alikes from the real thing. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but with the chanterelles, my favorite childhood mushroom, I still remember. Should you find a chanterelle mushroom that has worms inside, it is a fake. Apparently, real chanterelle mushrooms are repugnant to worms. Now, that may have been an old wives tales, but even so, would you want a wormy mushroom?

pasta with chanterelles, cream and ricotta

Regardless, the chanterelle is a pretty fabulous thing, if you ask me. It smells of earth and moist woods and moss and when cooked, it makes the most humble meals glorious and worthy of a special occasion. And this dish, which I slightly spruced up with some fresh ricotta (I really just couldn’t resist it!) was an absolute favorite thing of mine to eat when chanterelles were in season. And ridiculously simple too!

pasta with chanterelles, cream and ricotta

You simply sauté some onions and shallots, add to them the chanterelles and let that cook until reduced in volume (mushrooms shrink when cooked) at which point you add a dollop of sour cream (what dish in Russia goes without?), mix it all in, and then stir it into freshly boiled pasta. It sounds simple and pedestrian, though it’s anything but – and you just might finish the whole dish by yourself, so for your sake, do invite some guests over. This could be one fancy dinner party!

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

kasha varnishkes

I wish I had a great story to tell you about growing up eating kasha varnishkes, but I don’t. In fact, I had it, for the first time, last year at a Jewish deli and it was love at first bite. And at the time, I didn’t even know it was such a traditional dish. All I was excited about was that there was buckwheat in it and fried onions that, for reasons now known to me (one word, people – schmaltz!) were the best tasting fried onions I could think of. I liked the bowtie pasta, but my fat-loving stomach hinted that egg noodles might have been even better. But there are no bow-tie egg noodles are there?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

thousand layer lasagna

mille feuille - with pasta

Sometime I lunge head first into a recipe without really considering what the process will entail. I’ll all but skim the ingredients list, look at the picture, consult my flippant cravings and then jump in. Most of the time it’s worked fine for me, but at times, I find myself in the middle of something not quite what I expected. And then the only thing to do is just soldier on.

When I read about this thousand-layer lasagna, I was instantly hooked. Layers and layers of almost translucent pasta, delicate in texture, yet intensely flavored. How could I possibly resist? I saw pictures on Heidi’s site, and then Deb wrote about it, and I knew it was a matter of time before I would succumb to the delicate pasta call.

It helped that our pasta machine wasn’t getting much use lately and we were feeling like we have to justify its purchase somehow. I was going on and on about how I wanted a mandoline and KS gently reminded me that before we buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment, we had to use the ones we had. I couldn’t really argue with him, practical boy that he is.

And so while he and his friend played tennis one afternoon, I got to work. I rolled my dough and let it sit. And that’s when I decided to read the instructions more carefully. Boy, was I in for a challenge. Not so much a process challenge, but a space challenge. You know how New York kitchens are, and if you’re not a New Yorker, I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Tiny spaces lacking counterspace, they are not friendly places for laying out layers and layers of pasta, and that’s what you kind of have to do. Heidi’s warning was well-noted – I did need all the counter space I could get my hands on, and then some. I laid out fresh kitchen towels everywhere the eye could see.

perhaps it needed more sauce and cheese

I rolled and rolled until the sheets were so thin, they were almost torn, going to 8, but not quite to 9. And then into the boiling bath they went, and then into the cold bath, and finally to the towels to rest. It. Was. A. Process. While not technically challenging, it took awhile. And it was very step intensive. But I was in the middle of it and when a recipe and I start playing chicken, I always win.

The layering part was the easiest and most fun. I will change things a bit next time though. I will use thin sheets of cheese instead of chunks as they tend to melt better and prettier that way. And secondly, I would love to do this with a nice, thick Bolognese sauce. But in the end, it was incredible. Everything I wanted and imagined this lasagna to be. Each square was like a savory mille-feuille, layer upon layer of pasta with tomato sauce and cheese. Undoubtedly to be made again. And again. And again. A thousand times over.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

egg pasta

awaiting the hot water bath

Oh but I died and went to heaven! How on earth did I live in New York, think myself a foodie and not know of the wonderful place that Chelsea Market was!! I mean, really, I am terribly embarrassed and feel like I was a fake foodie, like fraud, having missed quite possibly the most wondrous place of them all.

It all started out innocently enough, when I joked about making homemade pasta with the BF. I kept oohing and aahing at the homemade pasta created here and here, and whining to him about having carb envy. I don’t even like carbs that much and here I was, sitting in bed, looking at people’s floury creations and wanting nothing more than a toy of my own. Back in college a friend of mine had a pasta maker and we spent many a night making our own fettucine, drying in on the handmade drying racks he created, and then cooking it up with our own creamy porcini sauce. Our meals were memorable, if only because we would always start cooking at 11pm and wind up eating sometime around 2am. Even back then, our Chianti came from a bottle, not a jug or a box. We were frugal, but we ate well. And ever since then, I wanted a pasta machine of my own.

Well, all my promises of pasta and such did not go unnoticed. The BF, a man who listens as well as he eats, reminded me one weekend of my aspirations. I, promptly did some research and found a fine looking machine on Williams-Sonoma. Still, I had to consult someone who owned one, and so I asked the inimitable Deb on her thoughts. She quickly told me about her model and that she got it at Bowery Kitchen Supplies, which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought was located on Bowery. Not in Chelsea Market, of which I’ve never even heard, or probably didn’t remember.

let there be pasta!

Armed with an address for BKS, the BF and I set out, on what was quite possibly the coldest night we’ve had to date, to purchase the machine and make some pasta. Saturday night, people. To call us nerdy and homebodies would be the ultimate understatement.

pasta machine

When I spotted the building I was excited, but confused. I saw plants in the window, no kitchen things in sight and I thought that we were going to a Home Depot like store. BF warned me that this just might be the kind of place where I lose all sense of grace (as if I had any to begin with) and might have a fainting spell. He wasn’t even close. I had a complete and total meltdown, in that scary, happy way. All these little stores, with all the food stuffs. The seafood place where the lobster looked fresh and succulent. The place with cupcakes so pretty I almost wept, and cookies to commemorate the Super Bowl. The Thai place! The meat place! The place with all the Italian groceries where I went crazy and BF had to restrain me.

“No, of course we need a gallon tub of blood orange pulp! I will make… something out of it!”
”Look at the gigantic bag of porcini mushrooms! If we buy it, it’ll last us 20 years!!!”
“Pizza flour?? Buckwheat flour? Don’t we need it?”
”Lentils!! Do you like lentils? I could make this dish with caramelized onions and lentils, that you’ll love!!”
”Stop, look, there’s a pound of foie gras!! And over there, there’s rabbit.”
”Do you like mascarpone cheese? Because I can make this thing with it, that’s going to be amazing….”

In short, I was dashing madly from one item to the next as if it was my last time buying food. I was excited and almost panicked – what if we never come back here again? I felt as if I was stuck in wonderland, where all my food dreams came true. I never wanted to leave. I could just make a cot somewhere in the corner, by the bread makers and wake up in the morning to the hypnotizing scent of baked bread, my cheek pressed up against the floured glass.

BF could barely tear me away and out of that place. And that was all BEFORE we got to the Bowery Kitchen Supplies, where I almost bought a $300 pasta machine. Why? Because I hadn’t any idea and I figured, since I am buying it once, why not just get the best? Lucky for me, the BF being as practical as he’s diligent talked me out of this crazy notion. And so the pretty Atlas was mine. We barely made it too as the stores were shutting down.

Back at home, I followed the recipe until I got the desired consistency. I covered the bowl and waited an hour to roll. I dried my pasta and waited for it another hour. But when I tried to boil it, it stuck together and I had to manually separate the little guys. First time’s always the hardest. And though the pasta turned out divine in taste, I had to work a bit better to get the look just right. And the next time when we made it last week, the individual pasta pieces were much much better, separate and distinct.

all dressed up and ready to go

I have plans for ravioli, herb printed pasta, and a vegetarian lasagna that will challenge even the heartiest meat lover. I have this machine now and it must justify its existence to me. And I promised someone to share recipe ideas. After all, I owe her a few good ones, since she’s consistently inspired me to make new dishes.

I’ll leave you with this thought – the advertisement on the pasta machine manual features an attractive woman wearing nothing but pasta. The moral, or rather the suggestion is probably that eating pasta made by Atlas, will render you this svelte and this hot. If this is indeed true, I am going to eat pasta three times a day and much like Sophia Loren, I’ll owe everything to spaghetti.

so i you eat homemade pasta - this is what you'll look like...

Continue reading egg pasta.