Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sorry, we've been a bit busy lately...

Hey, we've been on a bit of a "blog-cation" while taking care of dayjobs, housework, and other Summer stuff. But have no fear, we'll be starting back up VERY soon, with plenty of new recipes, tips, tricks (sorry, none of us REALLY juggle chainsaws), hints and more!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The 50 Mile Circle Results

Our latest challenge on Any Ideas for Dinner was The 50 Mile Circle. Competitors were asked to create a meal using primarily ingredients from within 50 miles of their homes.

This was a hard-fought match between our two contenders: Matt's Upstate New York Memorial Day Cook-Out and Bill's Locavoracious Bostonian Cuisine. Unlike Round 2 (where I was soundly defeated), there was no clear winner, so I decided to break it down into highly scientific and quantifiable categories*

Usage of Personal Garden11
Locally Fermented Beverage11
Holiday-Themed Bonus1--
Homemade Cooking Contraption--1
Meal Completeness1--
Quality Prose--1
Plating & Presentation--1
*Not at all scientific.

So, this leaves us with a tie on the super-scientific scorecard. Way to go, science. Pah! I guess this comes down to my own judgment, then!

The lobster-stuffed uber-ravioli with handmade herb-pasta were certainly impressive and mouth-watering. Matt's Memorial Day cookout complete with grilled sausage, potato AND pasta salad, and finished with that rhubarb tart made me wish I had been eating that on my own back deck. Those who know me well enough would think the use of mushrooms in both of Bill's dishes would dock him some points -- well, I've grown to like mushrooms a bit now!

In the end, by the very narrowest of margins, I hereby declare Matt the winner of Challenge 3. (Give your rhubarb tart a thank-you...)

(This was some seriously tough competition. The bar keeps getting raised)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's a Memorial Day Cook-out!

Now THAT’s my kind of challenge! We have trying to eat as local as possible, and given the weekend of this challenge, there was only one way to go:


Heck, the great American cook-out originated in Western NY. From "real" hot dogs and classic mustards, to fresh salads and canned beer, nothing says "Honey! Hold onto the tater salad, I'm firin' up the grill!" like a traditional cook-out.

So go set up the sprinkler on the lawn, dust off the lawn chairs, put on your plaid shorts, and enjoy the "unofficial" start of Summer!

Cook-out Menu
*While we were able to get some local veggies and herbs, we're just a bit out of season for all of them. Our local farmer markets and grocery stores are great for local fruits and vegetables... when in season.

Here we go...
Barilla (Avon, NY Plant) Pasta Salad
1/2 lb. Barilla Plus Multigrain Rotini, cook as per package directions, drained and cooled.
1/2 c. orange, red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. red onion, diced
1 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. seedless cucumber, diced
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped
1” of pepperoni, diced
3-4 Tbsp Italian-style oil dressing

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine everything, except the dressing.
2. Mix in 2 Tbsp. of dressing and check coverage. You’ll want to just coat everything, but not drown it. Add additional dressing, if needed.
3. Move to a suitable bowl, cover and refrigerate. This is best when allowed to mellow in the fridge for a few hours prior to serving.

Marion (NY) Potato Salad

2-1/2 lbs. white potatoes, washed but not peeled, 1/2-3/4” dice
1/2 c. orange, red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. red onion, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped
2 large eggs, hard-cooked and chopped

2 Tbsp. spicy or Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
1-1/2 tsp. dried dillweed
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place the diced potatoes in a large pot, and cover with cold water. Add about 1 Tbsp. of kosher salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, let the potatoes cook for about 15 minutes, checking for doneness after 10 minutes. Potatoes should keep the shape, and not be mushy. When done, drain and let the potatoes cool in a large mixing bowl.
2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients in the large mixing bowl, and stir in the dressing

4. Move to a suitable bowl, cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to mellow for a few hours prior to serving.

"Really Local" Rhubarb Tart
3 c. fresh rhubarb, peeled, and cut into 1/2” pieces and blanched**
1 refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. tapioca
Fresh nutmeg
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
Whipped cream and honey, for garnish

** Due to the short baking time of a tart over a pie, I was concerned with how well the rhubarb would soften in the oven, so I decided to blanche the rhubarb for a few seconds in a pot of boiling water, and then quickly into an ice bath to cool. Peeling the rhubarb also helps. Oh, and did I mention the rhubarb is from our garden?

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Place rhubarb in a small bowl and sprinkle with the half of the sugar and the tapioca. If the rhubarb is particularly tart, go ahead and add the rest of the sugar. Let rest while the oven warms and the pie crust is prepped. This will draw some water out of the rhubarb.
3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. (Tip: a few shots of cooking spray will help hold the parchment in place on the baking sheet.)

4. Carefully roll out the pie crust onto the parchment, and repair any tears or holes.

5. Spoon the half the rhubarb onto the center of the pie crust, leaving about a two inch border from the edge. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar, cinnamon, and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Repeat with the rest of the rhubarb, and a bit more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
6. Carefully start forming the pie crust into a tart around the rhubarb by folding and overlapping the edge. Brush the folded crust with the melted butter, and lightly sprinkle on a bit of sugar and cinnamon.
7. Place on the center rack of your 400 degree oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes, but start watching it after 25 minutes, until it is golden brown and delicious.
8. Remove from oven and cool before serving. Garnish with local honey and whipped cream (please, make your own if you have the time… from local heavy cream, or course!)
All that's left to do is grill up the white hots (you DO have enough propane, right? Go here and check.), serve up the salads, crack open a beer, and enjoy.... Ahhhh..... That's the taste of Summer...



Lobster Quadrilles

Lobster Quadrilles and Grilled Portobello Salad

After last month’s grueling globe-trotting adventure, I was relieved to find out that the ingredients for this challenge were all within range of public transportation or bicycle.

We started our search for local delicacies in Wonderland:

The Mock Turtle sighed deeply, and drew the back of one flapper across his eyes.
He looked at Alice and tried to speak, but, for a minute or two, sobs choked his voice.
“Same as if he had a bone in his throat," said the Gryphon;
and it set to work shaking him and punching him in the back.
At last the Mock Turtle recovered his voice,
and, with tears running down his cheeks, he went on again:

“You may not have lived much under the sea—”
("I haven’t,” said Alice)—
"and perhaps you were never even introduced to a lobster—"
(Alice began to say, “I once tasted—” but checked herself hastily, and said, “No, never”)
“—so you can have no idea what a delightful thing a Lobster-Quadrille is!”

And delightful they are. However, unlike the Mock Tortoise, we don’t dance with our lobsters, we eat them. Just across the street from Wonderland (the last ‘T’ stop on the Blue line) is Revere Beach, where you can look out over Massachusetts Bay and see the lobster boats hauling their catch back to the docks. We bought three frisky crustaceans at a nearby fish market.

From Wonderland, we headed to nearby Chelsea, where good things were growing at Mario Cutone’s place.

"Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall”

Joni obviously wasn’t referring to a morning at the Cutone Mushroom ranch where they keep them all in the dark and feed them shitake-chow. Nevertheless, the Portobellos and shitakes there grow plump and flavorful.

"Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes."

It’s too early in the year for homegrown tomatoes in these parts, but at Volante Farms in Needham, they get a head-start on the season with their high-tech greenhouses. We found fresh tomatoes and scallions there. And some farm fresh eggs next door at Owens Poultry farm.

Next, we went in search of cheese.

WENSLEYDALE: Ah, hungry.

MOUSEBENDER: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself, 'a little fermented curd will do the trick'. So I curtailed my Walpoling activities, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles.

WENSLEYDALE: Come again?

MOUSEBENDER: I want to buy some cheese.

At Russo’s Farmstand in Watertown (where they actually do sell cheese) we found fresh Mozzarella and Ricotta made in Quincy from local milk. We found some butter from the Crescent Ridge dairy in Sharon, and some hot-house grown Boston lettuce too.

By this time, we had worked up a locavoracious appetite.

Grilled Portobello Salad:

  • 4 large Portobello Mushrooms (M. Cutone, Chelsea)
  • 2 large Tomatoes (Volante Farms, Needham)
  • 1 lb. Fresh Mozzerella (Purity Cheese Co. Quincy)
  • 1 head Boston Lettuce (Russo’s Farmstand, Watertown)
  • ¼ cup chiffonade of Basil leaves (picked on premises)
Clean the mushrooms and cut into 1/2” slices. Place in a bowl with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sliced scallions to marinate for several hours. Toss occasionally to mix, being careful not to break up the mushroom slices.

Slice the Mozzerella into 3/8” slices. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar and some thinly sliced scallions. Marinate for several hours.

Grill the Portobello slices for a minute or two on each side.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange the Portobello, mozzarella and tomato slices over a bed of lettuce.
Add dressing (below) and top with the basil leaf chiffonade.

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp coriander seed
  • ¼ tsp black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp chopped basil leaves

Grind the seeds and salt.

Blend the liquids and ground spices.

Stir in the basil leaves

Lobster Quadrilles:

Our Lobster Quadrilles are giant square parsley-pasta ravioli stuffed with lobster claws and mushrooms. This recipe is enough to make 6 Quadrilles - enough for 3 people.

  • 1 1/2 cup Lobster claw meat (Massachusetts Bay) steamed, shelled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup Shitake Mushrooms (M. Cutone, Chelsea) finely chopped
  • 1 cup Ricotta (Purity Cheese Co. Quincy)
  • 1 egg (Owens Farm, Needham)
  • 2 Tbs chopped chives (picked on premises)
  • 1 clove Garlic finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Saute the garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil until they are soft.Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.


  • Home-made Pasta Dough (See Pasta Unplugged)
  • Flat leaf Parsley (picked on premises)
  • 1 beaten egg (Owens Farm, Needham)

Sort through the parsley and pick out a few dozen nicely shaped leaves.

Using a pasta machine, roll the dough out to the second-thinnest setting (#6 on Atlas style machines).

Lay out half the dough and arrange the parsley leaves on it.

Cover with the other half and press firmly to seal. Then roll the dough once again to the second-thinnest setting. The parsley leaves will be visible through the dough.


Assembly can be done on any flat floured surface, but a simple mold will make forming the lobster quadrilles easier. Mine is just a piece of pine board with a 3 1/2” x 3 1/2” x 1/4” chiseled recess.

The dough should be in one or more strips approximately 5 1/2” wide. Cut the dough into 5 1/2” squares. Lay one square of dough on a floured surface.

Put a generous scoop of filling in the center and spread it to about 1” from the edges.

The filling should be about 1/2” thick at the center. Brush the edge will a little of the beaten egg and place another square over it. Squeeze out any air and seal well around the edges.

Ravioli this size can break apart easily, so handle with care. Gently lower them into boiling water, one at a time. Cook in small batches for 3-4 minutes, or until they float to the top. Carefully remove from the water with a strainer and drain.

Arrange on a plate (2-3 per serving) and drizzle with parsley-butter sauce (see below)

Serve with a glass of chilled Chardonnay (Neponset Winery, Needham, MA)

Parsley-Butter Sauce:

  • 3 Tbs olive oil.
  • 3 Tbs Butter (Crescent Ridge Creamery, Sharon)
  • 1 clove garlic – finely chopped
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf Parsley – chopped (picked on premises)
Saute the garlic in the oil until soft and translucent. Lower the heat and add the butter. Remove from heat when the butter is melted and stir in the parsley.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Challenge 3: The 50 Mile Circle

Bill v Matt

Last month the challenge had us combing Gondwanaland for our ingredients. This month, we make it local. Very local. Our two challengers will select ingredients predominately from their own backyard to prepare their dishes.


1. Create a dish which focuses on using ingredients raised/grown/baked/brewed/
picked/created within 50 miles of your home.
2. Prepare, plate, photograph & post by midnight on Tuesday.

Gentlemen, unleash your inner locavore!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gondwana Gold

I know I said I would post results of the Reunite Gondwanaland challenge on Earth Day - which is today.

I fully expected Bobby and Bill to come out with a tie - much as Bobby and Matt did.

But I have to be honest - Bill's "narrative" had me rolling on the floor, and since I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow (not following Bill's Gondwana route - staying on just one continent this time) and don't have the mental energy left to assign points and categories - I will just call this one.

Bill vs. Bobby C - round 1 goes to ....Bill
although Bobby's recipe is one I would more likely be able to make - and I really liked the volcanic plating!

Nice work, guys!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Around Gondwana in Seventy Two Hours

My pilot Joe was just topping off the fuel tanks as the orders came in over the wire.

“Where to, Boss?”
“Gondwana” I said.
“Where’s that?” he asked.
“Head south. We’ll pick up OJ in Florida, then head to Mexico.”
“OJ? Is this a jail-break?”
“No, just a grocery run.”

This wasn’t the first time my baby sister had sent me circling the planet for food. One time she had me deliver corn chips to her in Japan, by way of Bahrain. But this was for a greater cause: To reunite Gondwanaland.

For the next two days, Joe flew Miwa and I non-stop around Gondwanaland. We crisscrossed the scattered fragments of the ancient land mass scouring the docks and markets in search of Gondwanan foods and recipes. We brought back a plane-load of goodies and prepared a Gondwanan feast.


Ceviche prepared with fresh local ingredients is popular throughout modern Latin America. For this version, we imagined what it would be like with access to ingredients from all of Gondwana:
  • 8 Shrimp –boiled until pink and peeled (Australia)
  • ¼ lb. Tilapia – cut into 1”x1” pieces (Africa)
  • ¼ lb. Chilean Sea Bass – cut in ½” x 1” x 1” pieces (Chile)
  • 3 Lemons (Peru)
  • 3 Limes (Mexico)
  • ¼ c. Orange Juice (Florida)
  • 1 small Red Onion – finely diced (Mexico)
  • 1 Tbs. Fish Sauce (Thailand)
  • 1 Tbs. Sambal Oelek (Indonesia)
  • ¼ tsp. Murray River Salt (Australia)
  • 2 Tbs. Cilantro - chopped (Mexico)
  • 1 Kiwi (Thailand)

Toss and macerate the fish in a small bowl with the juice of two lemons. Marinate for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Add the juice from the remaining lemon and two limes and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and allow to marinate overnight. Arrange with Kiwi slices and serve with Moroccan Rolls (see below)


"Still like that old time Moroccan Roll
The kind of bread that just soothes the soul"

Yes, this is the legendary bread immortalized in Kyliomenolithic era song. A simple semolina sourdough, flavored with toasted sesame and anise.

"I know, it’s only a Moroccan Roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do."
  • ½ cup Sourdough Starter
  • 2 ½ cups Semolina (Morocco)
  • 1 Tbs. Sesame (Yemen)
  • 1/2 tsp. Anise seed (Thailand)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (Mexico)

Mix the starter with 1 ½ cups of the dough and about ¾ cup of lukewarm water. Cover and put in a warm place to rise for several hours.

When bubbly, mix in the remainder of the flour, the sesame, anise and salt. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes – adding more flour or water as necessary to make a smooth elastic dough.

Cover and allow it to rise until double in bulk. Form into rolls and allow these to rise again until double in bulk. Bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes.


This is what Satay would have looked like back in the good-old-days – before the continent got split up and you could still find all the ingredients at the local Gondwana-Mart. As the Aztecs knew, chocolate and hot peppers are natural companions.
  • 6 oz. Australian Sirloin – cut into ¾” cubes (Australia)


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil (Sicily)
  • 5 cloves Garlic – finely chopped (Mexico)
  • 3 Thai Chili peppers – chopped (Thailand)
  • 2 Tbs Ginger – chopped (Sumatra)
  • 5 Macadamia nuts – finely chopped (Australia)
  • 4 Brazil Nuts – finely chopped (Brazil)
  • 1 Tbs. Garam Masala (see below)
  • 1 Tbs. roasted Moka Coffee Beans – very finely ground (Ethiopia)
  • 4 oz. Coconut Milk (Sumatra)
  • Pan-Fried Peruvian Purple Potatoes – see below
  • Mustard Greens (Uganda)
  • ¼ tsp. Fenugreek seed (Turkey)
  • Sesame Oil (Yemen)
  • 1 Oz. 85% coca solids Chocolate (Ecuador)

Gently fry the garlic, peppers, ginger nuts and Garam Masala in the oil until the garlic is golden. Stir in the coconut milk and ground coffee. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is blended.

Add the cubed meat to the marinade and let marinate for at least three hours. Overnight if possible.Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers and grill.

Sauté the mustard greens in a little sesame oil and fenugreek until wilted.
Serve with Pan-Friend Purple Peruvian Potatoes (see below) and wilted mustard greens.


Garam Masala is the classic Indian spice mixture. There are as many variations as there are cooks in India. Similar spice mixtures are used as a flavoring base for curries across East Africa and much of southeast Asia.
  • 1 Tbs. toasted cumin (Iran)
  • 5 Green Cardamom pods (India)
  • 1 Tbs. black peppercorns (India)
  • 3-4 toasted Bay Leaves (Greece)
  • 1” piece of cinnamon stick – crushed (Indonesia)
  • ½ tsp. whole cloves (Madagascar)

Grind all ingredients to a powder. Store in a tightly capped jar.

  • 2 medium Purple Potatoes (Peru)
  • 1 Tbs. Peanut Oil (Brazil)
  • ½ tsp. Cumin (Iran)
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt (Spain)
Cut the potatoes into matchsticks. Heat the oil and fry the cumin for a few seconds, then add the potatoes. Stir fry until just tender. Do not brown.


To wash it down, we brewed some refreshing iced coffee (This time, from Guatamala), flavored with cardamom (India) and vanilla (Madagascar). We chilled the coffee with 100% organic Ice we harvested from a free-range Antarctic glacier. Gondwana was united at last.

I asked Joe to join us in the feast.
“No thanks” he said.
“What I really need right now is a Pan-Gondwanan Gargle Blaster”.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reunite Gondwanaland: Bobby

Interesting challenge. I got a bit of a late start on this one, but it came together...

Curried Lamb and Potato over Couscous & a Tropical Fruit Smoothie

I started with lamb, representative of Australia/New Zealand (where sheep outnumber people), potatoes (because Peru is home to the International Potato Center), cooking techniques and spice blends from South Asia/India and couscous from North Africa/Middle East.

To pair with this hearty, spicy dish, I created a tropical fruit smoothie, using fruits grown along the equator: mango, pineapple, banana and orange. All blended with ice -- you know, the same stuff that makes up much of Antarctica.

On with the recipes and plating!

Curried Lamb and Potato over Couscous
1/2 lb. cubed lamb meat
4 red potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 T. diced garlic
4 T. mild curry paste
1/2 c. diced tomato
1 T oil
1 c. couscous
1/2 c. chopped yellow squash

1. Start by sauteing the onions and garlic in oil over medium heat.
2. Add the cubed lamb and cook until just browned.
3. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the tomatoes and potatoes.

4. Simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give it a taste and add some extra cayenne if you like your food a bit spicier.
5. Meanwhile, saute the squash in a bit of oil.

6. Cook couscous as directed, mix in squash once done.

Tropical Fruit Smoothie
1 banana
1 mango
1 small can pineapple juice
1 orange, sliced
2 cups of ice

1. Skin the mango and cut around the core.

2. Add mango flesh and 1 whole (peeled) banana to the blender along with the pineapple juice and ice.

3. Blend, then pour into a glass with an orange slice to garnish.
...and to play along with the theme, I've plated the dish to look similar to a volcano -- I hear they're created with some of this plate-shifting action. Garnish with some fresh herbs, such as cilantro. The cool tropical flavors of the smoothie balance the spiciness of the curry dish nicely.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reunite Gondwanaland

The Challenge: Reunite Gondwanaland

One of the most enduring features of our planet, Gondwana (or Gondwanaland) was a composite continent, made up of South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, India, other parts of South Asia, and Australia. At one time it even included Florida and most of Southern Europe.

Your mission is to “go around the world” in 72 hours, collect ingredients from the different continents and seas, and reunite Gondwanaland in your dishes. Plan, prepare, plate and present no later than midnight on Monday, April 20. Results of the judging to be posted on Earth Day.

Entries will be judged on plating (both porcelain and tectonic) and originality.

So grab your passports and weigh anchor, chefs, it’s time to set sail!

The challengers: Bobby C and Bill

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pasta Unplugged

Here's another post from Bill. This time out, he's demonstrating his take on a classic kitchen tool, La Chitarra.

Delicious noodles made by hand (and foot)

Last weekend was the debut performance of my new kitchen tool: La Chitarra. ‘Chitarra’ is Italian for ‘guitar’, but this is not a musical instrument. It is an instrument for cutting noodles.
I have always been fascinated by my mother’s antique Italian chitarra which has been in the family for many years. Chitarras or ‘Pasta Guitars’ are available commercially from various sources, but I decided to build my own future family heirloom. I built a sturdy wooden frame and strung it with 96 strands of piano wire.
This chitarra is double-sided. One side is for cutting thin noodles, the other side is for wider noodles. I decided to test out both sides by making a batch of Fettuccini and a batch of Udon.

Fettuccini Dough
  • 2 c. semolina flour
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Water (as needed)
  1. Dump the four on the counter, add the salt and make a well in the center for the eggs.
  2. Add the eggs and start mixing. Mix with your fingers at first, then start forming it into a ball with your hands. Add a little water if needed to hold it together.
  3. Knead by hand for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Let it rest in a plastic bag for at least 2 hours.

Udon Dough
Udon dough is traditionally kneaded by foot. In an authentic Japanese noodle shop, this is done between sheets of plastic. For a batch this size, a one gallon freezer bag is just about right.
  • 3 c. bread flour (or Udon-ko if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. water (plus more as needed)
  1. Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. It will be very loose and crumbly at first.
  2. Gather the mixture together, mixing in a little extra water if necessary to hold it together.
  3. Turn the mixture out on a flat surface and knead by hand until it holds together in a ball.
  4. Put the ball into a 1 gallon freezer bag and throw it on the floor.
  5. Flatten the dough with your feet. Flip it over a few times and knead until the flattened dough fills the bag.
  6. Form the dough back into a ball and flatten it again
  7. Repeat for 10-15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
  8. Flatten one last time and let the dough rest for at least 2 hours.
Roll out the well-rested dough on a liberally floured surface. Udon dough should be rolled to about 1/8” to make nice fat noodles. For fettuccini, roll the dough as thin as you can make it.
Cut the dough into sheets small enough to fit on your chitarra (in this case, 8” x 16”). They will stretch a bit when you cut them, so allow extra room at the ends. Sprinkle the sheets with flour, stack and cover them and set aside to rest for another 30 minutes or more.

Wipe the strings of the chitarra with a little oil to prevent sticking. Place a sheet of wax paper under the strings to catch the noodles.
Place a sheet of rolled dough on the strings. Gently roll with a wooden rolling pin to press the dough between the wires. Increase the pressure until the dough is almost cut through. Then slide the rolling pin back and forth a few times until you can see the shiny wires through the dough.
At this point, the cut noodles should start to fall through the wires to the wax-paper below. If they stick, you can help them along by rubbing your hand over the wires.

Tip the chitarra to dump out the cut noodles. Clean off any dough stuck to the wires. Wipe with some more oil and repeat until all the noodles are cut.
If you are not going to cook them immediately, toss the noodles with some extra flour to keep them from sticking.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

ooo, someone got fancy

So I did this mostly to play around with creating a fancy looking dish you might get at a restaurant. Turns out, it was really tasty, too. I didn't take many... err... any pictures of the assembly process, so here's the end result, followed by a description of what went down.

The base is a parmesan cream sauce. I sautéed a shallot in olive oil, then added approximately 1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream. After simmering for about 10 minutes, I added roughly 1/2 c. grated parmesan, along with 2 T. or so of chopped chives and a bit of salt and ground pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare some baked chicken strips in the oven. I seasoned mine with cajun seasoning and a bit of paprika and ground pepper.

I picked up some really fantastic dry Italian sausage a couple weeks ago -- it's basically a mini-salami. I diced up a bit of this and threw it on a hot grill pan. Once the fat had rendered off a bit, I took it off and set it aside, then grilled slices of polenta in the sausage fat.

I also created a red sauce using reconstituted ancho chiles, a tomato, some oil & vinegar, and some spices such as cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and salt.

Time for assembly!

Puddle of cream sauce, grilled polenta in the center. Pile of baby arugula on top of that, then half of a chicken finger sitting on the arugula. Drizzle with a bit of the red sauce, sprinkle with sausage pieces, garnish with chives and toasted french bread.
Obviously, this is not nearly enough food for a normal person... get seconds!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


It's not real barbeque -- real barbeque is cooked slowly over hickory and is one of my favorite meals. Faux-b-que is cooked in a crockpot. It's not the real thing, but it's a pretty nice replacement that can cook while you're at work.

3-4 lbs. pork loin
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 t. liquid smoke
1-2 T. hot sauce
dry rub of your choice (including, but not limited to: sugar, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin...)

This really couldn't be simplier...

1. Apply dry rub to loin.

2. Place in crockpot.
3. Mix together vinegar, hot sauce and liquid smoke. Pour over loin.

4. Cook on Low for about 8 hours.

5. Take two forks and rip the pork to shreds.
6. Apply the BBQ sauce of your choice.

Being from South Carolina, I should naturally like mustard sauce. I'm actually partial to the Western North Carolina style sauces. These are similar to the vinegar/hot sauce concotions of Eastern North Carolina, except a bit of sugar and tomato paste is added back in help balance the vinegar and provide a bit more body.

Here's the rough recipe I use:
1 c. apple cider vinegar
2+ T. hot sauce (for this one, I went with Frank's Red Hot)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. tomato paste concentrate
crushed black pepper

Heat over medium for 30 minutes or so. Adjust for taste (more hot sauce if you like it spicy, etc...)

I like to add a portion of the sauce to the meat, and hold the rest back so that people can use as much as they'd like. Serve on a hamburger bun with some coleslaw either on top or to the side.

Friday, March 6, 2009

greek pork loin

I've made this a few times now, still tweaking it a little bit here and there... it's a Greek inspired pork loin, served over a bed of spinach with some feta cheese. The pork loin is rolled around a Greek salsa of sorts: kalamata olives, tomato, onion and spices. Served with some hummus and a pile of baked pita triangles ahead of time!

Greek Salsa:
1/2 c pitted kalamata olives
1/2 medium red onion
3 roma tomatoes, gutted/deseeded/whatever...
1 T oregano
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Blend, then set aside for later.

Pork Loin:
1 3-4 lb. boneless pork loin
1 lemon
feta cheese crumbles
grape tomatoes

1. Slice pork lengthwise, doing the best you can to create a flat piece of even thickness. You're going to be rolling this up in a bit.

2. Spread the greek salsa you made earlier all over the unrolled pork.
3. Roll the pork back up on itself. I do all this right in the baking dish. Lay it back down in the dish.
4. Some salt and fresh ground pepper across the top, then the juice of 1 lemon squirted all over.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in a 375F oven for about an hour. (Take it's temperature just to make sure.)

6. Let the meat rest for about 5-10 minutes, then slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Serve over a healthy handful of spinach, a few grape tomatoes on the side, some feta cheese across the top, and then a spoonful or two of the liquid from the pan back on top of the pork slices. Additionally, I drizzled some good balsamic vinegar over the entire plate.

Here's a parting shot of my hummus and pita appetizer. I'll leave that for another post...