Monday, August 15, 2011

pasta and anger

So all the funnel cake and cookie bar action in Jersey was HEAPS of fun but I also had HEAPS of extra layers on my midsection, as did the boyf. So we made a bet.

Steve: I’m going to run more than I ever have this week!
Lele: What’s your record?
Steve: 24. So I’m going to run FIFTY!
Lele: … how about 30? I’ll shake to 30. Just 30. Don’t hurt yourself. How about 30?
Steve: 50 it is!

Did he do it in a week? No. He did it in two and a half days. Because he felt so anxious about it. 50 miles in 60 hours. Steve is a ridiculous human being.

(I, pathetically, gave up sweets for a week. Whoo. I did it. This is a meager accomplishment)

The terms of the wager were this: if I completed my bet, Steve had to make me homemade sushi per my specifications (brown sushi rice, fish of ethical origins, whacky fillings, I-don’t-care-if-you-don’t-like-wasabi-I-do, etc.).

If Steve completed his, I’d break in my pasta maker.

DSC05612 DSC05613DSC05614


My cousin Lara gave this to me after her boyfriend, not knowing that she already had a pasta maker, got her one (er, Lara, sorry if Robert reads this. But he probably has better things to do. Like appear on Jon Stewart LARA WHEN IS HE DOING THAT AGAIN? HE SAID HE’D BRING ME. Robert’s a writer. Wow this is a tangent).

So I’ve had the pasta machine, but I was intimidated by the pasta machine.

But, a bet’s a bet. And I’d promised Steve not just pasta, a POUND of pasta (his ultimate dream is to eat at Carmine’s, where they serve pasta by the pound), and a pound of homemade pasta.

So dammit I was.

I started with the Time Life Good Cooks series, which is sort of my cooking bible (my mom worked for Time Life as they were making it, and my grandmother’s hands actually appear in several of the cooking photographs. Awesome, eh?!) They talk you through the homemade pasta dough making and the machine rolling…


And gave a chopped herbs variation that looked promising, particularly since we’ve got a big bag o’ basil from the farmer’s market and oregano that’s sort of taking over our deck garden box.


And lo and behold, I remembered a dust-covered box in the back of our pantry that turned out to contain semolina flour! The authentic, higher-protein, Italian, designed-for-pasta stuff.


Got my stuff together. I entirely followed the recipe on the box, which called for the flour, an egg, oil (I used olive), and warm water.


You make a circle with a valley in the middle in the flour, then crack your egg and put your oil into that valley…


And work from the outside in, folding the flour into the wet stuff and adding water to moisturize it.


This is a lot harder than it looks. And I ended up with kind of… dry lumps.


So I added another egg, and it started to come together.


And lo and behold. Dough lumps! Half for plain pasta, half for herbs. Unofficially, I was plain girl, Steve was herb man.


And so it began. Rolling pasta. For hours and hours and hours of my life. And both of us being oldest children, at any activity we do at least one of us becomes irrationally competitive and perfectionist and obsessive and has to get their pasta rolled into the PERFECT SHAPE and kind of micromanages how the other person feeds the pasta into the machine as it cranks and it just becomes HORRID AND JOYLESS.

I won’t say which of us got crazy at this particular activity.


The noodles were quite lovely as they dried upon the table, getting ready to slice.


Initially my first round seemed too thick to go into the slicer attachment, so I just did it by hand. I surprised myself with the symmetry of it all, actually. It was good lookin’.


I plated it up with a wee pat of butter (our house keeps running out of butter. We need to just go to Costco and buy the 3 pound slab thing we get), and some olive oil, parmesan, and pepper. We sort of passed it back and forth, slurping down noodles as the task of finishing and perfecting the seemingly RELENTLESS procession of pasta continued.

It tasted good.


Gave me the confidence to brave the slicer, which did indeed produce pretty, albeit not that much prettier noodles. These guys were thinner (it depends how many times you put it between the squooshing machine before you cut it), and so we just cooked them separately.

We cooked everything separately, actually. Fresh pasta doesn’t allow you to set a timer (usually I’m an intuitive cook but when I make pasta I just follow the time on the box) and I just truly had to go by testing as I went (I borrowed my mother’s “bite a noodle in half and inspect its center for starch” strategy).


Steve put together the first herb-flecked noodles, which were lovely.


And plated them up as only he can, gobbed with condiments, one of which seemed truly bizarre, super fatty… and fantastic.

Fresh pasta… lotsa olive oil… lotsa basil (in addition to the stuff already in the pasta)… lotsa cheese… and, of course, Sriracha.

It was deliiiiiiiiiicious.


I immediately made one of my own. It fortified me greatly.

Which was good, because I discovered homeless dough! It blended in too well with my table!

Dough… plus laughing cow…




Ugly but tasty (though the filling was thin and the edges were way too thick…. though this would soon prove amusing).


So once the food was served, the previously somber and tense mood lifted. It helps when if perhaps the corners of your ravioli are too tough to eat you reappropriate them as Mr. Spock vulcan ears.


And to conclude, may I call your attention to the yummy veggie side dish I made: okra! My mom made a recipe for the first time when I wasn’t home and is now super mega into it. It can be found here: Stir Fried Okra.

The main thing is just to outfit oneself with screamingly fresh ingredients: fresh ‘n local farmer’s market tomatoes and okra, green onion, and fresh from the deck thyme to mix with the dressing. (More backup pasta herbs on the left)


Heat up an oil-butter mix (far far less butter than called for due to the aforementioned always-being-out-of-butter-lately sitch)


And stir fry! Huh! Unusual but splendid way to make okra!


Results were quite yummy. Lemon, thyme, and tomato are where it’s at.


So there was a lot of pasta, with different flavors and textures and toppings. A healthy veggie-filled side.

So all I wanted was baked goods.


It was the birthday of a dear friend of the family’s, who suffers from celiac disease. My sister made her gluten-free fruit bars, with berry ‘n peach fruity filling… but wasn’t sure about the recipe because she’d made prune butter (!?!?! this is something she read about or something) as a fat substitute and wasn’t sure about the final results.

Packed full o’ fruit (and, uh, holy fiber!), I could not stop eating them. Mmm.



Rachel said...

I like to add a little pureed beet to my pasta dough... Makes lovely hot pink pasta. Mmm.

Penny said...

Your narrative is always so adorable. Love it. :-)