Posts Tagged ‘food’

How to Make Pasta from Scratch Even if You’re Half Irish.

Posted on April 17th, 2012 by Tonia 2 Comments

It has been a while since I have shared a recipe on the blog, so it’s very convenient that last night I had a dream that I was a rosy, round, jolly old Nonna {much like my own Nonna}, standing behind a kitchen island with a huge smile on my face, kneading a ball of perfectly smooth, yellow pasta dough.

This is hopefully exactly what will be happening in about 50 years when I am in fact a jolly old Nonna. It was a cute dream, but I woke up needing to eat pasta immediately. Only, the stupid pantry was void of store-bought pasta. NOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!

Ok, it’s fine, I can do this, right? The ability to make amazing homemade pasta from scratch is one of the perks of having Italian blood. It’s part of my genetic code. It’s the trade-off for having to share the race with Snooki. We have to put up with her, but we’re really awesome at cooking so it’s fair.

But…..I’m also half Irish, and everyone knows that Irish people think that cabbage and potatoes boiled in a pot of water is a delicious, flavorful soup that can be eaten every day forever without ever getting sick of it. Also they love capers on everything.

What ARE capers? Beans? Peas? Bugs? Tiny round green things that taste so awful that they need to be pickled and salted the hell out of in order to be edible? Bingo. {Don’t be mad, fellow Irishman. We have lots of great qualities that make everyone who’s not Irish envy us. But our food isn’t one of them. Besides Irish Creme. Good job there.}

So I get a little nervous every time I cook, because you never know which side of my genetic inheritance is going to surface that day. There’s a 50/50 chance this pasta is going to taste like the Blarney Stone.

I decided it would be wise to follow instructions instead of resting solely on my magical Italian powers unreliable cooking skillz.

Here are the steps:

Measure out 3/4 cup flour + 1 egg for each person that’s going to eat. I like to use 1/2 semolina flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour.

Spoon the flour on your work surface, form a well in the middle, and crack the eggs into the well. Add a drop of olive oil.

Use a fork to break the yolks and gently pull in the flour until the eggs are mixed in.

Scrape your work surface clean or move your ball of dough to a new surface that is lightly sprinkled with flour. Start kneading the dough with your hands, adding water if it’s too dry, or more flour if it’s too sticky. Knead until soft and pliable {about 7-10 min.}

If the dough springs right back after you poke it, it’s ready. It should look smooth and pillowy. Pat the dough into a ball and place a bowl over it. Let the dough rest under the bowl for 30 min {a good time to prepare a sauce to go with the pasta!}

Roll out or shape your pasta however you want, either using a pasta-maker or by hand. I went the easy route and rolled my pasta into a half-inch thick snake, sliced it like a banana, and pressed my thumb into each slice to form little “ear” shapes.

Toss the pasta with flour as soon as you shape it. Otherwise, the pasta will start drying and stick together, and will cook in a big yucky clump. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer pasta for 3 minutes. Test. Cook more if needed.

Drain and toss with whatever sauce you cooked up {fellow Irishmen: do NOT put capers on this pasta! Back away from the capers!}

Buying Bulk

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by Tonia 6 Comments

In an attempt to save money, Mike and I have started ordering some of our cooking and baking supplies in bulk from United Natural Foods, Inc. Although our local co-op has a great organic bulk section, the choices are pretty expensive {the other day, we filled a bag of bulk granola and were shocked at the checkout when we discovered we had just bought $25 worth of granola! We pledged to make our own granola from now on.}

UNFI is a much more economical option, plus we use/waste less packaging. For example, instead of continually buying the local co-op’s 3 lb bags of dog food, we can get the UNFI 15 lb bag.

Of course we still shop at our local co-op for produce and perishable items because we like to buy the locally-grown/produced options that they stock {nothing beats fresh Sassy Nanny goat milk cheese, made about eight miles from here}, but it sure is nice to cut back on the {scarily enormous} amount of money we spend on staples like flour, rice, chicken stock and oats.

We re-evaluated our household budget recently, and our motivation to try to grow most of what we eat was renewed. Food, especially high-quality organic food, is expensive! We will save so much money if we learn to successfully grow/raise/preserve the majority of our year-round diet.

Is it spring yet? I’m so ready to hit the dirt and make it happen.

{Image source}


Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

My family visited this weekend to celebrate my 27th birthday, which is today.

They cooked the most amazing meal: antipasti on fresh bread, chicken risotto {the original recipe of Nonna Tonia- my dad’s grandmother and my namesake}, salad, a browned-butter-hazelnut-pear cake with an orange-cranberry filling, and espresso poured over vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate shavings on top. Holy-moly it was all so good!

Cake, candles, and singing…because we’re never too old for that.

Games, laughter, winners and losers…

Birthday kisses from my favorite little peanut…

And the next morning, a big breakfast made by my handsome husband…how does he get the pancakes so perfect like that?

Thanks for the great birthday, family! I am so blessed!!…And my belly is very full and happy. ♥

Paella Party

Posted on December 12th, 2011 by Tonia 1 Comment

Our friends hosted a dinner party this weekend and made paella for everyone. Nothing tastes better on a cold winter night than a plate of spicy, smokey rice. The Italians have risotto, the Spanish have paella. Both are delicious and make it easy to feed a lot of people, so they’re perfect for dinner parties {or big Catholic families.}

We arrived early to help them mince the herbs, chop the onions, and get the fire started. Paella is traditionally cooked outside over a fire pit in a large, shallow pan. I wondered what the Spaniards would think of us, cooking paella this way in the middle of December with six inches of snow on the ground.

Folks started to arrive, and we all huddled in our coats and boots around the fire pit, watching the magic happen. First the pork, marinated in pomegranate juice and herbs, was browned in the pan. Then the garlic and onions went in, along with a healthy amount of oil. Then the sausage was added along with a big bowl of chopped watercress and other herbs. And finally the rice was poured into the mix and sauteed a moment before everything was coated with homemade chicken broth and hot wine, covered with foil and left alone to cook.

Our friends served the paella with a huge salad of greens, pomegranate seeds, and oranges. Dessert was homemade chocolate mousse, topped with whipped cream and homemade chocolate lace cookies. Everyone died and went to heaven. It was incredible.

Are you salivating yet? Good, because I really think you ought to make yourself a steaming bowl of paella tonight. Here’s a basic recipe, but you can get much fancier or creative with it if you’re brave. The meat is optional and flexible in this dish. We used pork loin and sausage in our version, because that’s what we have locally-raised and free-range around here. If you’re lucky enough to live near an ocean, by all means use seafood.

Cooking meals together is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend the cold winter months. This meal goes well with your most conversational friends and this song playing in the background.

Chicken, Shrimp and Chorizo Paella The Jewels of New York

serves 4

1 Spanish chorizo sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon spanish paprika
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 1/2 cups Arborio or other short grain rice
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

*special equipment: large paella pan or large shallow skillet

Season chicken with salt, pepper and a light dusting of paprika.

In a large paella pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute chorizo until browned and edges curl. Remove and reserve for later use. In the same pan, add chicken and brown skin side down until crispy but not cooked though. Reserve to the side.

Over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic and parsley until golden and soft. Combine rice and 3 cups of broth into mixture. Bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste and add crumbled saffron.

Add chicken, chorizo and shrimp and continue to simmer without stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cover with foil to ensure all rice cooks through. Finish paella by turning up the heat during the last bit of cooking, this gives a nice toasted rice bottom to the dish. Let the dish rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Stir in peas and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

{Images from The Jewels of NY blog}