Thursday, March 12, 2009


Sometimes, I bring my computer into the kitchen. I put it on a chair that I also use as a step-stool, because even on my tippy-toes, five feet four inches (plus a very important half inch!) is not enough to reach the top shelf. The chair is mostly used, though, to balance my laptop. So many recipes come from the computer these days. There's obviously Epicurious. And also Orangette (speaking of, it was so exciting to meet Molly at her book-signing at the Ferry Building last night!). And over the years, my mom has typed up a treasure trove of family recipes (organized in a somewhat byzantine fashion with a major bias toward dessert).

Often, while the computer is in place, the chair is also used to hold Jackson, one of our cats. He thinks that by sitting on the keyboard and accidentally scrolling up or down in a recipe, he's helping.

He really likes being in the kitchen. He (mostly) knows that the counter is off limits, but roams freely through the rest of the space, sitting on the chair as above or occasionally batting at the hanging dried chiles from New Mexico. Jackson enjoys being near me while I'm in the kitchen, but he is also extremely interested in human food. Human food with the exception of anything citrus, that is, which makes him wrinkle his nose in disdain.

His brother Jasper is the fatter of the two but only, and I mean only, likes kibbles. Here's a skinny picture of him at his grandparents' house. Trust me, he has quite a belly in real life. At his annual check-up last December, he clocked in at thirteen (yes, thirteen!) pounds.

Jasper comes in and out while I'm cooking to check on the progress. I enjoy my two not-very-helpful kitchen companions, but my college roommate JB has a toddler-sized helper who is particularly enthralled by making pasta.

As JB has learned over the years she's known me, pasta is one of many food items that is often purchased at the store, but can also be made at home. While some families grew up with Bisquick and Campbell's, my mom's cooking, even on--believe it or not--camping trips, was very "from scratch." (Not coincidentally, "from scratch" is a phrase B used to describe me the first time I made French toast for him.) It was important to my mom to make things that other people bought at the grocery. The difference, to me, is that tortillas and crackers and marshmallows all CAN be made at home, but egg pasta is something that SHOULD be made at home (at least for special occasions).

Pasta-making is an impressive tool to store in your armamentarium. When completely fresh, egg noodles add a soft yet substantial texture to a celebratory pasta dish. Frozen, the noodles will stay for months, ready to jazz up any pasta dish in minutes! The ingredients are simple and logical, and the proportions of my Italian great-grandmother's pasta dough are tried and true. Getting the balance between flour and water right takes a little practice, but it is never to late to learn.

Most pasta dishes taste better with fresh egg noodles. Try the noodles tossed with a little bit of butter and Parm and basil pesto for an easy weeknight meal. Or, try the Pasta with Bagna Cauda I'm including below, which is a vegetarian adaptation of the cover recipe from Nancy Silverton's A Twist of the Wrist. The book has been critiqued for having hard-to-find ingredients, and some of the recipes aren't as quick as promised, but the cover recipe alone is worth the cost of the book.

I use capers instead of anchovies, and less butter, but keep the egg and the Parm and the wilted radicchio unchanged. Bagna cauda means "warm bath," per Nancy, and it is a luxurious sauce. Another recipe for the carbo kid, I guess.

Or a recipe for JB, now that she has a kitchen helper and knows the power of what can be made at home. Enjoy!

Egg Noodles (a.k.a. "Noo-noos" in toddlerspeak)
Makes approximately 1 lb pasta
Time: 30 min. active, 45 min. total

2 eggs
5/8 cup water
2 T. olive oil
dash salt
1 c. semolina flour
2-3 c. all-purpose flour

Mix eggs, water, olive oil, salt, semolina and 1 cup regular flour together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and has a firm, not sticky, consistency. Let stand for 15 minutes before rolling out with pasta machine, ending with the second-thinnest setting. Use plenty of flour throughout! I use a hand-crank pasta machine, but JB uses the Kitchen-aid attachment. Run sheets of pasta through the fettuccine attachment to make noodles each about 10 inches long.

Pasta with Bagna Cauda
Adapted from Nancy Silverton's A Twist of the Wrist

Serves: 4 for main course, with leftovers
Time: 30 min active and total

1 lb. egg noodles
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil
1 T. capers
8 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
4 large eggs
12 radicchio leaves, torn into pieces
Parmesan, for grating

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous amount of kosher salt. Cook the fresh pasta for 4-5 min, depending on the thickness of your noodles, or until pasta starts to float. If in doubt, taste the pasta for doneness.

While the water is coming to a boil, make the bagna cauda. Heat the butter, 1/4 c. olive oil, capers, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown. Turn off the heat, then stir in the parsley and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the remaining 2 T. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the oil is almost smoking. Break each egg and cook for about 1 1/2 min, until the edges are golden and crispy and the whites are set. Turn off the heat.

Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the water and transfer it quickly, while it’s still dripping with water, to the skillet with the bagna cauda. Place the skillet over high heat and add the radicchio. Toss to combine the ingredients and cook for a minute or two, until the radicchio wilts.

Serve pasta onto plates. Grate a generous layer of Parmesan cheese over each serving. Place one egg on each serving of pasta.

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