Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

A few weeks ago, I saw a Good Eats episode on homemade pasta, and I was inspired. Alton Brown made ravioli, but since this was my first attempt at pasta from scratch and I don't own a pasta maker, I decided to keep it simple and go with a pasta noodle. I wanted to up the nutritional content, so I chose a whole wheat pasta recipe from my lovely Joy of Cooking. For this recipe, I followed both Alton's tips and the tips from Joy of Cooking. Here's how it went down.

AB and JoC both suggested mounding the flour and creating a well in the center for the wet ingredients to be poured into. The benefit of doing it this way is you never use more flour than you need -- you just use as much flour as necessary to soak up the wet ingredients and form the dough. That's brilliant! And so simple! So I tried it.
First I mounded my dough. Then I made a well...

Then I added the wet ingredients...
Waahh!! My well! My beautiful well. Actually it was a stupid sissy well that couldn't even hold some eggs and water in place...arrghh. At this point I almost gave up, but the bf offered some moral support, so I continued...
Ahh..eventually, I got a dough! And it didn't suck. Yay! I actually didn't use up all the flour that the recipe called for, so I think it is a good idea to incorporate the dough and the wet ingredients slowly instead of all at once.

After the dough rested in the fridge for about an hour, we rolled it out into thin sheets...
And if you're wondering, no those are not my hands -- I put the bf to work for this recipe. Sometimes moral support just isn't enough.

The next step was to cut the sheets into strips. Using a pizza cutter made it really easy.
The final step was to use a handy dandy pasta dryer and allow the pasta to dry for at least 2 hours...
This is what happens when you're living on a grad student stipend and therefore don't have a handy dandy pasta dryer. You make one! We scrubbed down a yard stick until it was nice and clean, propped it up with two chairs, and hung the pasta strips off of it. Drying the pasta this way was so simple, I don't think I even need a pasta dryer.

Once the pasta dries, it is ready to be boiled. The boiling time is much less than for store bought pasta. We boiled ours for about 6 minutes.

I made a simple tomato sauce with fresh mushrooms and onions, topped it with some Parmigiano Reggiano (yes, I splurged and bought the real stuff) and...Tah Dah!
This pasta was SOOO good and the taste/texture was just so much better than the store bought stuff. Now I'm not saying that I'll never use store-bought pasta, because, well, it's still really good and so quick to prepare, but whenever I have the time, I will definitely be making this again. It does take some effort and patience, but the end result is sooo worth it.

Whole Wheat Pasta (adapted from Joy of Cooking and Alton Brown)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tb water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1. Combine the flours and mound the mixture on a clean counter.
2. Combine the eggs, water, salt, and oil.
3. Make a large well* (see note below) in the center of the mound and slowly pour in the egg mixture a little bit at a time. Mix the flour with the wet ingredients until all of the wet ingredients are absorbed. Do not force the dough to use all the flour, just take as much as needed to incorporate all the wet ingredients.
4. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes.
5. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
6. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll out each piece into a thin sheet, one at a time. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick, thin enough to detect the outline of your hand.
7. Cut the dough into strips of desired thickness.
8. Let the strips dry on a pasta dryer (or a homemade pasta dryer!) for at least 2 hours.
9. Note: Fresh pasta takes much less time to cook. Check the pasta as soon as 4 minutes of boiling.

*I think the reason my well didn't work out so well (hah!) is that I poured too much of the the wet ingredients in too quickly. The wet ingredients should be poured into the well in small batches, one at a time. Also, the well should be deep enough to hold a good amount of liquid (mine was not).

After making this, I decided to submit it to Presto Pasta Nights, a great group of food bloggers who challenge themselves by making interesting pasta dishes. This week's host is Ruth from Once Upon a Feast -- her blog has some great recipe ideas!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Legume Love Affair: Chana Dal Burfi

I've finally decided to quit being a food blogging hermit and branch out to the rest of the food blogosphere. Here I am! This week I decided to participate in a food challenge presented by My Legume Love Affair. This month is hosted by Glamah from Coco Cooks (who btw has some amazing recipes on her blog, like Pumpkin and Coconut Samosas...I drooled a little bit just typing that) and the challenge is appetizers and desserts. Naturally, being Indian and all, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight the use of legumes in Indian desserts. Of course I forgot the fact that my mother's and grandmother's skills in preparing Indian desserts have apparently skipped a generation.

This recipe is for a a sweet, fudge-like dessert called burfi or barfi (I know the name doesn't sound appetizing, but trust me, it is so good!) I got the recipe from my mom, but being the pro that I am, I screwed it up. The results were still very good, of course not as good as mama's, but I'm not sure if they'll ever be.

Burfi is made with chana dal (the bf pronounces it 'china doll', which is wrong but kind of funny), a relative of the chickpea. I will post my mom's original recipe with notes on my screw-ups and desperate attempts to remedy them.

Indian Chana Dal Burfi

  • 1/2 c chana dal
  • 1/2 c water mixed with 1 Tb oil (I forgot the oil)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tb oil (I used peanut)
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup white, 1/4 cup brown)
  • about 2 Tb non fat dry milk powder
  • 1/2 cup roasted pistachios (my addition)
1. Soak chana dal in 1/2 cup of water overnight.
2. After dal has soaked, boil the dal in the same water. When the water starts to boil, lower heat to a simmer. Cook the dal until it is soft enough to mash with your fingers. Once ready, use the bottom of an empty jar (or your hands) to mash the dal. (This is where I messed up -- I drained the water out and mashed the dal without the water. I had to compensate much later on by adding more water).
3. In a separate pan, heat 1 Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter. Add the dal, milk, and cardamom. Cook over medium low heat, being careful not to burn the milk, for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the sugar, non-fat dry milk powder, and
pistachios, and stir. The mixture should be thick. Add more non fat dry milk if necessary to thicken to a paste-like consistency.
5. Pour the mixture into a dish or pan and allow to cool for at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ok, I know it's spring and all, but when the BF brought home a bunch of these oh so pretty butternut squashes I knew I had to make something delish. He got these from the Plant Sciences department of our unversity -- apparently they were just giving them away. Since this department grows tons and tons of produce all year long, I'm guessing these were some leftovers from this winter.

I decided to make roasted butternut squash soup, because it's so good, easy, and healthy.

Butter Nut Squash Soup (very loosely adapted from Gourmet Feb 2009):
  • 4 small or 2 large butter nut squash, peeled and cut in half lenth-wise
  • 2 Tb olive oil + extra for brushing
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth (I only had one cup so I used it and 1 cup of water)
  • 5 - 6 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Brush the cut side of the squash with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle each half with about 1 tablespoon of water. Bake, cut side down, in large glass dish for 35min or until softened. Check half way through baking and add additional water if necessary to keep squash from scorching.
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Once hot, add chopped onion. Cook until browned. Add garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add squash and vegetable broth. Cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat.
3. Remove from heat. Using a hand blender or regular blender, puree the mixture. Stir in butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Add thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 15 minutes over low to medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves before serving.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pizza Two Ways

I've noticed something about myself: I ALWAYS crave desserts. It doesn't matter where I am or when it is, but I think I can always happily picture myself eating a brownie, or cookie, or cupcake. Of course some cravings are more uh, defiant, than others, and maybe these happen to occur around the same time every month...sorry, too much info?

I have to admit, though, if there is one non-dessert food item that I find myself craving -- dare I say -- as much as I crave brownies, it would have to be pizza.

I know there are a TON of great trendy and atypical pizza recipes out there: pizza bianca, pizza margherita, and even this new-fangled black and gold pizza, but I really prefer the typical (some might say boring) tomato sauce and mozarella cheese pizza.

See, this meanie was raised in New York City and grew up eating and loving New York City pizza. And although I had the occasional encounter with the non red-and-white pizzas, something always left me wishing I had a cup of tomato sauce for dipping and a sprinkle of mozarella cheese.

I never understood why pizza got such a bad rap as being unhealthy. Bread, tomatoes, and cheese...what's not healthy? For my version, I use a homemade whole wheat crust, part-skim mozarella, and tons of veggies. This pizza defies being labeled as junk food. The crust is crispy, wholesome, and sturdy -- which makes nice for holding up all those veggies. It is not like the typical chewy, floppy NYC pizza crust, but considering how frequently I make this recipe, I think this is a great healthy alternative.

I usually make my pizza the same way: dough, tomato paste/sauce, mozarella cheese - and then experiment with different toppings. And I ALWAYS make two pizzas, because you can never have too much.
This week I went with Pizza#1 - Greek style: fresh spinach, artichoke hearts, olives, and feta, and Pizza#2: roasted red pepper, roasted fennel, mushrooms, and fontina.

Pizza-making is an art, and I am far from mastering it, but with every pizza I make, I think I'm getting closer and closer to my idea of the perfect homemade pizza.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (makes enough for two pizzas; adapted from allrecipes):
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a damp towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll each ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is slightly crisp and golden at the edges.
  6. Remove from oven. Increase oven to 500 degrees F. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings, and bake for 10 minutes.