Monday, May 24, 2010

Fresh Semolina Pasta

Making your own fresh pasta is rather simple, there are only a few rules of engagement if you want to have any success at using your noodle. One, make a volcano. Don't ask me why, it's just what you are supposed to do, and it's what every great Italian chef since Marco Polo brought the noodle home from China has done. Two, work with wet hands until you get the right moisture content in your dough. It's always better to work the water in, little by little, until you have it right. Three, use a pasta machine. Pasta dough is notoriously hard stuff to work with, but a small, hand operated roller will really go a long way when it comes to mixing and rolling out the noodle to the proper thickness. Here is a simple recipe for one man sized serving:

Fresh Semolina Pasta

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour1 egg
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tap water

Form the flour into a small volcano, and add the beaten egg, water, and oil to the center. Using a fork, stir the egg mixture into the flour, until you get a crumbly, dry dough.

Next, wet your hands one time, and begin to knead the dough, working until you get a soft ball that does not crumble apart. If your dough is still too dry, wet your hands one more time and continue kneading. Do this until the dough is the right consistency. It should be very rubbery, and should not be too wet. Next, form the dough into a long snake, roll it flat, and pass it through the pasta machine, set to the thickest setting. Fold it in half, and pass it through the machine again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Do it until the dough is smooth and uniform. Fold the edges towards the center, and pass it through the machine again. Then, flatten the noodle out by making one pass through the machine, decreasing the thickness (my machine has a little knob numbered 1 to 7) until you get to the desired one. My machine starts out at 7, and I take the noodle down to a 3 for spaghetti. Finish the noodle off with the cutting attachment, if you have one (if not, you have to go old school and use a sharp knife). Fresh pasta cooks very fast, so only give it about 5 minutes, then drain and toss into your favorite sauce! OK OK. I know. I am sure that you want to know why there is a jar of Safeway Select brand Artichoke and Pesto Pasta sauce in the picture above. Yes, it is true. Sauce out of a jar. Now, before you choke in horror, let me remind you that I am on a really strict budget, and I carefully considered making my own sauce, if it was economically the best choice. I was shocked to find that the already prepared generic brand sauces by Safeway actually cost less per ounce than crushed tomatoes! If it were only a matter of price, I would spend the 2 cents more per ounce for my own tomato base, and I would have created my own sauce, because I am also concerned with using only natural ingredients. Well, there is absolutely nothing unnatural in the Safeway sauce! No high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or artificial anything. Now, I will say that I do NOT see pine nuts listed as an ingredient, and I don't know how you can say that you have a pesto sauce without them, so that part may be a bit of a little white lie on the part of the marketing department, but regardless, the sauce is good stuff, and I felt fine with it, and especially the $1.99 per jar price. Once the noodles were tossed into the sauce, topped with crumbled feta and paired with a nice blue cheese salad, there was no doubt. And take a look at the marginal cost!

Food Economics:

Eggs - $1.99 dz = ($0.498 for 1)
Bob's Red Mill Semolina Flour - 24oz bag $3.11 = ($0.259 2oz or 1/2 cup)
Gold Medal All Purpose Flour - 5# $3.99 = ($0.099 for 2oz or 1/2 cup)
Olive Oil = ($0.050 for 1/2 tbsp)
Safeway Select Artichoke and Pesto Pasta Sauce - 1 jar $1.99 ($0.995 for 1/2 jar)
Feta Cheese Crumbles - 3.5oz $4.39 = ($0.313 for 1/4 oz)

Grand Total = $2.21

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pennete Fideo con Chícharos

It is rather cold and gray today, and after a grueling softball game where I mostly sat around spitting out sunflower seed husks, I was ready for a hot meal. Investigating the larder revealed very little that was useful. Yes, I did say larder. And no, there is no lard in there. A larder is a cool area for storing food prior to use. Larders were commonplace in houses before the widespread use of the refrigerator.

Essential qualities of a larder are that it should be:

  • as cool as possible
  • close to food preparation areas
  • constructed so as to exclude flies and vermin
  • easy to keep clean
  • equipped with shelves and cupboards appropriate to the food being stored.
So, now you know. Well, hidden somewhere in the larder was a can of Campbells Tomato Soup, a can of chicken broth, a can of peas, some pennete pasta, and assorted spices. In Mexican cooking, pasta is often used in a tomato based soup that is seasoned with cumin and oregano. Looks like I had the makings of a nice lunch, "estillo campesino". Here's how to make it.

Pennete Fideo con Chícharos

1 can condensed tomato soup
1 can sweet peas
1 can chicken broth (or 1 cup)
7oz pennete pasta
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 tsp cumin seed, crushed
1/2 tsp whole oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp granulated garlic
pinch of fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Toast the pasta in the olive oil, stirring frequently until many of the noodles have browned in a stainless steel saucepan or pot over medium heat. Dice the onion and add to the pasta, cooking until the onion is slightly tender. Pour in the chicken stock (vegetable stock can be used if you want to make this a vegetarian dish). Pour in the can of condensed soup, followed by two cans full of water. Drain the peas and add to pot. Stir well. Turn the heat up to high. Add the spices and stir well. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add water if you want a more liquid soup, but I prefer my fideos to almost be more like a stew.

**NOTE - there is no Food Economics for this one. I have no idea what the stuff cost that I found buried in my larder!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bologna and Cheese Tortilla Scramble

Things have gotten pretty bad over at Chateau du Brockman, and lunchtime today presented a real challenge thanks to a rather dismal financial outlook and a fridge that was stocked with only an old package of meat bologna, a few eggs, one onion, some tortillas, American cheese slices, and fresh salsa. Is it humanly possible to create something edible while not spending any extra cash, using only these ingredients? I dare say so! I do not feel the need to give out the recipe as I am pretty sure that no mortal would attempt to re create this, but I have to show you the end result. Much to my surprise, it worked out rather well, and I actually enjoyed this...much more than you might think. The key was to cut the bologna, onion, and tortilla into thin strips and toast them all together until the tortillas were nice and crisp and the bologna was browned. This gives the scramble a nice texture. Then, the eggs bound it all together. Topped with the cheese and salsa, dare I say.....cest magnifique? OK, maybe not....but it beat the pants off a yuck meal #3 from the local fast place, and I cleaned my plate. Don't laugh.

Food Economics:

Eggs - $1.99 dz = ($0.498 for 3)
Fresh Salsa - 16oz tub $2.99 = ($0.186 1oz)
Corn Tortillas - 30ct $1.49 = ($0.149 for 3)
Large Sweet Onion - 1 $0.75 = ($0.093 for 1/8)
2% Cheese Slices - $2.79 12oz = ($0.349 for 2 slices)
Bologna - $0.99 16oz *on sale! = ($0.186 for 3 slices)

Grand Total = $1.46

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Artichokes and Hollandaise Sauce

While cruising around aimlessly in the grocery store, trying to find something to eat, I noticed a few things. One, that I had no idea what I wanted. Two, that jumbo globe artichokes were on sale. Problem solved. The only other question, what should I sauce my nice, heavy, purple tinted thistle with? Usually, a glob of mayonnaise or some melted butter work just fine, as these spring treats do not need much help....but not today. I needed to go the extra mile, mostly because I was kind of bored and needed something to do. Taking a cue from a recent film that I saw that shall remain nameless (about food blogging, of all things), I knew that I needed to attempt a hollandaise to drown my chokes in. I will demonstrate a fail-safe and easy way to make a really nice sauce using a stick blender. It works like a charm, and the best part was that I could make half the normal amount so there was no waste!

First, prepare the artichoke. Cut off the stem, and cut the artichoke in half. This will allow it to cook faster. Place both halves, stem side down, into a small pot with about 2 inches of water. Cover, and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until the leaves pull off easily. Prepare the hollandaise sauce about 5 minutes before the artichoke is done. Once cooked, using a spoon, scoop out the fuzzy part (the choke). Pour the hollandaise into the cavity that was vacated by the choke, and go to work!

Hollandaise Sauce (stick blender method)

2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 a stick)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt

Take a bowl, half full of water and throw it in the microwave for a minute to heat up the water. Meanwhile, use the stick blender to whip the egg yolks and lemon juice up in a glass jar or some other sturdy glass container, until it almost doubles in volume. Begin to drizzle in the melted butter, one spoonful at a time while blending. Once all the butter has been whipped in, place the glass jar into the bowl of hot water, whip for about 30 seconds, and let it rest until you have the artichoke prepared. Drown the artichoke and eat!

Now, just in case you have never seen an artichoke bloom, well, here is a picture of one that I took while strolling around in the Pacific Beach community garden. The flower is an awesome, bright blue color, and with it's great big fuzzy crown it really is an amazing blossom. Almost a shame that most of these end up on a dinner plate.....almost.

Food Economics:

Artichoke - $1.50
Eggs - $1.99 dz = ($0.332 for 2)
Fresh lemon = $.89 ($0.445 tbsp of juice, or about half a lemon)
Butter - $2.99 16oz = ($0.374 for 4tbsp)
Pinch of Salt & Cayenne = ($0.050)

Grand Total = $2.70