Fresh Herb Pasta

Fresh Herb Pasta

Pasta made into Ravioli

I’ve watched the little Italian ladies on TV make fresh pasta on a board by just putting down the flour, making a well for the egg, adding a little water and maybe some olive oil and gracefully mixing it up into a beautiful dough.  Unfortunately my first few attempts were not nearly so successful.   I ended up with either the flour dam breaking and egg all over the floor, a struggle to get the dough to form and then the pasta was either too wet or too dry and stubbornly refused to make anything resembling a proper shape either by hand or with the pasta machine.   When I finally got something I could roll, apparently I didn’t do it enough and it was so thick it was like eating a wet sock.  I readily admit that I love fresh pasta but I also admit that for the few cents it costs, I was willing to just buy it.  Finally though, I have discovered this method that makes a great, easy to work with dough with very little effort.  It works with just a rolling-pin, or a pasta machine and cooks up wonderfully.  Of course, the use of the food processor is probably cheating, but that along with using the semolina flour makes all the difference in the texture.

Printable Version

Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 cup fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever  combination you prefer, this time I used lemon basil)

1 cup semolina flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons water (approx. add just enough to make the dough form a ball)

Procedure:

Add herbs to the food processor

Pulse several times until the herbs are finely chopped

Add the flour, salt and eggs

Pulse until well mixed

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, it shouldn't take long to become smooth and elastic since the food processor has done most of the work

Kneaded and ready to rest

Wrapped in plastic to rest - at least 10 minutes 30 is better

After the pasta has rested, you can roll it out with a rolling-pin or run it through a pasta machine and make whatever shapes you want.

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Italian four cheese blend (or mozzarella) cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup crisp bacon bits (real bacon please!)

Directions

  • In a  food processor, add the flour and butter, pulsing 5-6 times until the mixture is crumbly.
  • Gradually add water, pulsing until the dough forms a ball.
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it can be rolled easily.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. tart pan with a removable bottom.
  • Place the pastry in the pan and trim the edge.
  • Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned.

 

Pastry Baked

 

While the pastry is baking, thinly slice the tomatoes and place on paper towels, salt them and cover with another layer of paper towel.  This will prevent the dough from getting soggy.

 

Tomatoes sliced

Tomatoes drying

 

Sprinkle 2 cups cheese into the crust; top with basil and garlic slices.

 

Cheese and garlic

Add basil

Add tomatoes

 

Arrange the tomato slices in a circular pattern around the edge of the tart leaving three for the middle.

 

Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper

Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper. 

  • Sprinkle the rest of  the cheese over the tomatoes in the center.
  • Sprinkle the bacon bits around the tart.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts.

Ready to Serve

Click here to find out more!
Flaming Dulce de Leche Cupcakes and mini-bundts

Flaming Dulce de Leche Cupcakes and mini-bundts

Flaming Cupcake

I’ve been testing ideas for Daughter’s college graduation which of course we want to celebrate with the proper decorum (in other words parental glee).  She wants cake balls of course, but I did not want to spend the next week making hundreds of them after realizing that my original plan of making a replica of the OU logo completely of them would take a LOT of cakeballs.  Instead I’ve decided to add some flaming cupcakes and a cake to act as the white background for the red velvet cakeballs.   I recently saw where someone had used flaming strawberries on cupcakes (here is the post, they were gorgeous and inspiring) and thought that would fun.  I practiced a little on that as well with a few variations using some raspberries, lemon peel and marshmallows (didn’t happen to have strawberries and didn’t feel like shopping).  They actually all flamed but the raspberry picture came out best so that’s the one that is here.  I definitely plan on using the marshmallows again because not only do they flame, you get a roasted marshmallow – I’m working some sort of smores theme.  This cake is one of the several practice recipes I tried for the cupcakes and it worked out great for a Mother’s Day treat.  I put them in a couple different pans, some regular, some in a cute little flower shape and some in a mini-bundt pan.  The ones in the flower shaped pan worked the best for icing and flaming and the ones in the bundt pan were best for the full Dulce de Leche treatment.

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is a nice mild caramel flavor but when you add some Dulce de Leche syrup (or you could use caramel syrup) and toasted pecans it is amazing.

Dulce de Leche Mini-bundt cakes

The recipe for the cake is:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Add the butter and cream cheese to the mixing bowl and beat until well mixed without lumps.  Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  One at a time add the eggs, then the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then alternate adding the dry ingredients with the sour cream, beating until blended.  Spoon into lightly greased muffin/mini-bundt pans and bake for 13-15 minutes.  Cook pans on wire racks 5 minutes, remove from the pans to wire racks and cool completely.

Pans

Use your favorite icing (I used Swiss Meringue Buttercream from Epicurious) for some, leaving others plain, pouring the caramel syrup over them with some toasted pecans.

To make the flaming ones, you will need an alcohol that is at least 80 proof (I tried Grand Marnier, vodka and uzo as tests and they all worked) and some nice large raspberries (you can do one or more per cupcake).  I found that soaking the raspberries in the liquor in a small cup for a few minutes helped the flame last a little longer as it doesn’t burn long so you have to work quickly.  Make a small dent in the center of icing (to hold the raspberry) then refrigerate the cupcakes for a while so the icing is firm.  When you are ready to present them,  place the soaked raspberries in the center of the cupcakes, fill the raspberries with liquor (I found that putting the alcohol in a small squeeze bottle made it much easier to fill them) and immediately light.

Final graduation post to come soon!

White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Of course we had ham for Easter and with everyone gone home and just the two of us, there was a lot of leftover ham!  There is always freezing, but first I pretty much use it until we can’t stand anymore.  This week I’ve made ham and eggs of course, Ham and Lentil soup, which was delicious(and will be posted another time) and today I made White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham.  I had some leftover cheese sauce but if you don’t happen to have some made, here is the recipe I use for my white cheese pasta sauce.  I made it just a little differently, not baking it for as long to keep it more “saucy” and after taking it out of the oven I stirred it and added some steamed broccoli (or you can serve the broccoli on the side).  This recipe is for 4-6 servings, I only made half for us so it will be more than it looks in the pictures.

Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Ingredients:

White Five Cheese Sauce

1 lb pasta shells

1-2 cups cubed ham

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups broccoli

Procedure:

Make or heat the sauce in the microwave for about 1 minute just so it will pour while the pasta is cooking according to the package directions.

Brown the ham cubes

Fry the ham in a heavy skillet until nicely browned.  You can skip this step, but I like the flavor it adds.

Ready to bake

Add the drained pasta, ham and sauce to a baking dish and mix well.  Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt.  Remove from the oven and stir to mix well.

Cook the broccoli covered in the microwave for 3 minutes and mix into the pasta (or serve with broccoli on the side).

White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Daring Baker’s Challenge:  Maple Mousse in a Maple Syrup and Bacon Candy Bowl

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Maple Mousse in a Maple Syrup and Bacon Candy Bowl

Maple Mousse in Maple Syrup with Bacon Candy Bowl

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

My choice for the container was a maple sugar candy.  Growing up in a touristy area in the North, almost to Canada, every once in a while we would see maple sugar candy in the shape of maple leaves which was always a treat, so I decided that, along with a little bacon, would make a great container for the mousse. Making the candy was pretty simple, easier than I expected but making the bowls was a bit of a challenge.  For the mold first I chose a bowl that had a little lip in it which turned out to be not the best as it made it difficult to remove the candy and some of them broke.  Next time I used a nice smooth mold, although the broken pieces certainly tasted just as good were definitely not wasted!

For the candy containers:

Bacon Maple Syrup Candy

Ingredients:

1/2 pound bacon (you can use more or less to your taste)

2 cups maple syrup

Procedure:

Bacon sliced and fried

Cut the bacon in to small pieces about 1/4 inch and fry until very crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.

Cooking the maple syrup

Put the maple syrup in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  It bubbles up a lot so use a bigger one that you would think.  The one I chose barely escaped overflowing.  Over medium high heat bring the syrup to a boil stirring occasionally. Boil until syrup reaches 235 degrees F (110 degrees C) on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat  and cool to 175 degrees F (80 degrees C) without stirring, about 10 minutes. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon  for about 5 minutes until the color turns lighter and mixture becomes thick and creamy – being impatient (lazy) I used a mixer which works a lot faster. Stir in the crisp bacon pieces

Pour into molds and set aside to cool.  You do have to work fairly quickly as it will start to harden fast.  I had prepared several sets of two small glass heatproof bowls with a light coating of vegetable spray, one on the inside, one on the outside.  I poured in the candy mixture in the bowls to about 1/2 full, then placed the second bowl on top, basically squashing the filling between the two.  I let that cool, then removed the candy from between the bowls.  After the first batch using the bowls with a little rim, I switched to bowls without rims and it worked out better, as did the ones I made using two silicone muffin pans.  It was ok though, I used the pieces of the ones that broke (that we didn’t just eat) as a little garnish on top of the mousse.

Maple Syrup with Bacon Candy

Once cool, unmold candy. Store in airtight containers up to 1 month.

For the Mousse:

I used the recipe so graciously provided by Evelyne which turned out wonderfully.  I did end up with a double batch because I still had 2 cups of maple syrup on my mind from making the candy so I started with that and realized the mistake half way through.  I worked out fine though – there was mousse for all my friends!

Maple Mousse:

Ingredients:
• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)

Directions:
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Apple Slices in Maple Syrup bowl

For presentation, I used a maple syrup candy bowl, some freshly sliced tart apple slices (dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning), filled with maple mousse using a piping bag, with a few sprinkles of the maple syrup bacon candy on top.

Maple Mousse in Maple Syrup Bacon Candy Bowl

The Daring Cook’s Challenge Edible Containers:  Stuffed Meatballs in a Parmesan Crisp Bowl

The Daring Cook’s Challenge Edible Containers: Stuffed Meatballs in a Parmesan Crisp Bowl

Stuffed Meatballs in Parmesan Crisp Bowl

Stuffed Meatball with spaghetti in Parmesan Crust cup

This month there was another great challenge to create something to serve in an edible container.

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

I chose to make a simple Parmesan Crisp bowl and fill it with stuffed meatballs.  I made two versions, one for an appetizer and one with spaghetti that could be served as a meal.  I thought both turned out well and would be great for parties as you could make the bowls and meatballs ahead then just reheat and assemble.

First I made the crisps which are really simple.

Shredded Parmesan spread on cookie sheet

Place about 2-3 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan, depending on the size you prefer, spread into a circle.

Melted Cheese

Bake at 400 degrees for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts.

Making the bowl shape

Remove from the oven and quickly (but carefully as it will be hot) place in small heat proof bowls molding to the shape of the bowl.  You can do this either inside or with the bowl upside down, I chose to do it on the inside.  I would only do a couple at a time because you have to work quickly the cheese hardens fast.

Parmesan Cheese Crisp Bowl

Let cool and pop them out (or lift them off) and set aside.

Next the stuffed meatballs:

Ingredients:

1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed (hot or mild as you prefer)

1/2 pound ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs (I used some really good but stale ciabatta rolls)

1 small onion chopped very finely

4 cloves garlic chopped very finely

3 tablespoons mixed fresh Italian herbs ( oregano, parsley, basil)

1 egg

1 cup milk

1 cup Pizza sauce (homemade or purchased)  You could also use spaghetti sauce but it might be a little thin.

1 cup shredded mozzarella

Procedure

Mix all ingredients except the pizza sauce and cheese in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly, but don’t handle more than necessary.

Make the balls:

Make a disk

Start by making a flattened round disk.

Add some sauce

Add a small amount of pizza sauce.

Add cheese

Sprinkle with some cheese.

Cover the filling

Make a second flattened disk and cover the filling.  Make sure and seal the edges well, then pick it up and roll (very) gently between your hands to round it out and make sure all the edges are sealed.

Ready to bake

Place in a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes depending on how big you’ve made them.  I made two versions, one small for appetizers and one of large ones for the main dish.

To serve the appetizer size, just add 2-3 small meatballs to each bowl and sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan.  For a meal, serve a large meatball with a portion of your favorite spaghetti mixed with sauce in the bowl and sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan.

Ready to serve