Friday, February 25, 2011

Making Pasta and How I Got a Brand New Kitchenaid Mixer for Free

I got a pasta machine as a gift for Christmas and finally got around to using it last weekend; it’s the Kitchenaid stand mixer pasta roller and cutter attachment.

Back in October, I wrote about making tortellini from scratch and rolling the dough out by hand. As I remark in that post, the entire time spent sweating it out, pushing and tugging at my rolling pin, I was wishing that I had a pasta machine.

Well, wish granted! Much to my excitement and to the relief of my unfit arms, this quick attachment makes enjoying fresh pasta at home much simpler. All you have to do is stick it into the mixer and it runs off of the motor, flattening pasta dough in seconds.

Homemade Fettuccine with Puttanesca Sauce

I made really nice dough, and all was going well. Beautiful long sheets of pasta dough were rolling through the attachment until just lightly translucent. Then, I noticed that the mixer was starting to get a little warm. A couple of minutes later, it started to make a funny noise and smelled like burning. Ok, that’s not right—I shut it down.

WTF? It can’t be the pasta attachment, I thought; it’s the same thing as just running the mixer. I let it cool down for a bit, and tried again, but when I turned it back on it was suffering real bad. Just like that, my trusty Kitchenaid mixer crapped out on me—and right in the middle of my much-anticipated pasta making!

While I never got the chance to try out the pasta cutter attachment, I was able to roll out a decent amount of dough before the mixer went AWOL, so I just cut out fettuccine myself. To cut pasta, all you have to do is loosely roll up the sheet of dough and slice into strips. When unraveled, the pasta will be long and generally uniform. I think my fettuccine came out pretty good, if I do say so myself!

As for the mixer, it turns out that the little switch on the side that changes the speeds was broken. We blamed it on age, saying that it was just its time to go. Time to get a new one—sigh. So long, mixer! We all know that the Kitchenaid stand mixers are pretty pricey, but they are a great investment if you love to cook and bake.

But listen to this…we brought it back to Bed Bath & Beyond where it was purchased--like 7 years ago, and they just gave us a new one. For free, no problem, brand new! It’s true! It turns out that no matter how effed up or old an appliance is, if you bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond and it breaks, they will just replace it. You don't even need a receipt, just bring back the old one with all of its parts. Sweet!

Here is my recipe for the homemade pasta and the puttanesca sauce that I put on top. Everything is from scratch—I didn’t even use canned tomatoes. Simple and delicious!

Homemade Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce:
Yield: 6 Servings

- 1 pound AP Flour + as needed
- Pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 fl oz water (or as needed)
• To make pasta: mix salt and flour together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; add eggs and water to well. Work as quickly as possible, gradually pulling the flour into the wet ingredients, and stir until a loose mass forms. As dough is mixed, you may need to adjust with additional flour or water. (The pasta dough can also be mixed in a food processor or electric mixer). Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the texture becomes smooth and elastic. Gather the kneaded dough into a ball, cover and let relax at room temperature for at least an hour. When the dough has finished resting, roll out by hand or with a pasta roller and cut into desired shapes.

Puttanesca Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- ½ onion, small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6-7 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced**
- ½ cup sliced green olives
- ½ cup red wine (you can use white if you want)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dried basil and oregano to taste
• Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Sweat onions, then add garlic and pepper flakes. After about a minute, add diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Let the tomatoes cook down, then add olives.
• Add wine and cook down for about 2 minutes, then add chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano, and let the sauce cook down until it becomes thicker.
** To peel and seed tomatoes: cut out the stem end with a paring knife, and cut a small “X” into the bottom. Bring a pot of water to a light simmer. Drop tomatoes into the water. After a few seconds you will see the line from the “X” begin to extend across the tomato. Remember, you do not want to cook the tomato, just loosen the skin. Immediately remove tomatoes from water and shock in an ice water bath. Peel and seed.

P.S. Don’t forget, homemade pasta take much less time to boil than dried. Keep an eye on it, and keep tasting. It will literally be done in like three minutes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Frankenfood: It's Alive!

I report for a local news website called Patch where I cover community events and write a weekly restaurant column for a nearby Long Island town. For one of my most recent articles, I volunteered to cover a lecture called The New Generation of Food.

During the program, a nutritional consultant who has dedicated much of his career to learning about the subject spoke about genetically modified foods or GMOs. He explained that almost 80% of food in the United States has been genetically manipulated.

These “Frankenfoods,” as they are sometimes referred, are injected with the live DNA of other organisms such as fish, insects, and bacteria, to create high-yielding crops and food products that are made to (among other things), resist high levels of herbicides and pesticides and have longer shelf life.We are talking ice cream made with flounder genes and tomatoes stemmed from bacteria.

To the rising concern of those who were in attendance, the lecture raised the question:

Do we really know what we are eating?

Since GMO foods are not required to be labeled in America, you may not. Furthermore, since this is still such a new technology, scientists still don’t know what, if anything, might be the effect of these space age-sounding foods on our bodies in the long-term. It was described during the lecture as an “experiment” on human kind.

There is much debate surrounding this topic and a lot more questions and concerns like: whatever happened to pure, naturally grown foods? Why are they becoming outnumbered? And without labels, how can you avoid GMOs?

In my article, there is a helpful guide to reading PLU/price lookup stickers--you know the tiny round stickers that you find on some fruit and produce? The first numbers on those labels can actually provide some insight to how a product was grown.

I am sharing the article with you here, as I thought that many of you might find it interesting. Check it out: Frankenfood: It’s Alive!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Piece of My (Red Velvet Cake) Heart

Happy Heart Day!

Here is my Valentine to you: a red velvet heart cake with classic cream cheese icing.
Isn’t it pretty?

This was my first time making red velvet, and looking at the ingredients list it is no wonder why it is so popular. Aside from the cream cheese icing (because who doesn’t like that?), this cake has got all the good stuff: buttermilk, tons of sugar, butter AND shortening, and of course cocoa powder.

Hey, Valentine’s Day is only once a year, and if it’s good for anything (besides, you know…love) it’s the sweets.

I have a heart cake pan, but a regular round pan can easily be Cake Bossed into the right shape; you can either free hand it, or cut a piece of parchment or regular paper into a heart and carve along the outline.

Hope your Valentine’s Day is delicious!

Red Velvet Layer Cake
Cake recipe derived from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, found at swEEts

Yield: 2-3 cakes (you can make a 3 layer cake, or do 2 layers and cupcakes)

- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 4 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1 cup boiling water
- 12 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4 tablespoons shortening
- 2 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Icing (3 cups):
- 3, 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
- Juice of ½ lemon
- About 3 cups confectionary sugar (use as much as you need until thickened)
• Preheat oven to 325. Prepare cake pans for baking with parchment paper/butter & flour/spray, etc. Also prepare at least half of a cupcake pan (6 cupcakes).
• In a small bowl mix cocoa powder, food coloring and boiling water- set aside.
• In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and shortening until blended. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg one at a time, beating after each addition.
• Stir buttermilk and vanilla into cocoa mix. Alternate adding flour and cocoa mixture into butter/sugar mixture.
• In another small bowl, sprinkle baking soda over vinegar and mix. Pour over batter and mix until incorporated.
• Pour batter into cake pans and cupcake tins and bake each cake for 30-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
• In the meantime, to make cream cheese icing, beat cream cheese until smooth; add lemon juice and slowly incorporate confectionary sugar until thickened.
• After all cakes and cupcakes are baked off and cooled completely, begin assembly: lightly apply icing to first cake; add extra on top ( ½ - 1 cup) for the middle filling. Place second cake on top of first cake and filling, and thickly ice entire cake.
• In a food processor, lightly pulse 4 cupcakes to make crumbs. Apply crumbs around the edges of the cake for decoration.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream Forever

You know what goes perfectly well with ice storms? Ice cream, of course!

What better suited occasion could there be for enjoying a luscious frozen treat than when frozen rain is falling out of the sky?

Ok, so ice cream tends to go a lot better with warm, sunny beach days, but I’m making lemonade here people—the lemonade being homemade strawberry ice cream.

Avoiding the crappy weather last weekend, I stayed busy indoors and tested out my brand new ice cream maker for the first time. For my inaugural batch, I kept it straightforward and used one of the recipes from the recipe booklet that the machine came with.

Watching my pureed strawberry, milk and cream mixture swirl around and slowly bulk up from a liquid to pure and bona fide ice cream, I was so excited! I could hardly wait the only 15 minutes that it took to complete. I was really making ice cream—how cool! (No pun intended).

When I could finally dip my spoon into my freshly churned strawberry ice cream, it looked and tasted like straight up Baskin-Robbins or something; smooth, refreshing, and delicious—it was the real deal.

Unless you have an ice cream maker, a recipe for ice cream may seem useless, but I know that seeing homemade frozen desserts on other blogs is what ultimately convinced me that it was something I needed to have.

I got the Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker. It is not that expensive and it makes the job pretty much seamless.

I can definitely see how this ice cream making business can get addicting. I’ll be making many more frozen desserts as the weather warms up!

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream:

- 1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• Put the strawberries into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse strawberries until rough/finely chopped (depending on preference). Reserve in bowl.
• In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed or whisk to combine the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla. Stir in reserved strawberries with all juices. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.
• Turn on ice cream maker; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours.