Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday Dinner With Friends, Marcella Style

I hadn't even gotten the dinner invitation out of my mouth, when T replied in the affirmative. "Don' t you even want to know what I'm cooking?"  She always does. "No, what time should we be there?" "Well, I'm making homemade pasta."  That got her attention.

I was inspired to make pasta after reading an essay written by Italian-cooking doyenne, Marcella Hazan, in her last cookbook, Marcella Says.  Home made pasta was something I made often back in the days when our dinner parties were more formal, when serving course after course was, well, a matter of course.  Over the years life happened, we all got a little older, and informal entertaining seemed the way to go.  And somewhere along the way I stopped making pasta.

Well now was as good a time as any to pull out my decades-old Atlas pasta machine.  You know the kind that was to be had at any Italian grocery store.  The kind that had to be clamped to the table. The kind that you had to crank. That kind of pasta machine.

I clamped the machine to the table and I took out my large wooden board.  Next I dumped the unbleached flour onto the board and made a well.  Into the well went the eggs.

The eggs were beaten with a fork with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Don't tell Marcella about the oil.  Then, little by little the flour was taken from the sides of the well incorporating the eggs.

Eventually it formed a dough which you gather into ball and begin to knead after cleaning off the board. 
Then more kneading on the widest setting of the pasta machine.
After thinning and stretching, then drying.
And drying again

Finally, serving with Marcella's tomato sauce with onion and butter.

The pasta was light, delicious and just heavenly. I know what I said about courses, but I did follow the pasta with pesto meatballs and then a refreshing fennel and orange salad. 

My thanks to Marcella for the inspiration.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marcella Says...

As you can imagine, after forty years of cooking nearly every day, I have amassed a somewhat large cookbook collection. One hundred twenty-nine books to be exact.  And that is not counting the four books on wine and the numerous compilations of food writing, pamphlets and regional or promotional books, or the books I gave away when we moved.

I have five loose leaf notebooks of tried and true recipes including family recipes that I have used and continue to use; three notebooks chronicling thirty something years of dinner parties and holiday celebrations as well as a handful of magazines that I just can't seem to give up.
Of course, when I was first married I had the obligatory Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker Cookbook,  The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, and a small but authentic Mexican cookbook given to me by my husband's beloved cousin. It wasn't until we returned to the States in the mid-seventies, when my husband was a medical resident working those infamous 36 hour shifts, that I sought out some evening cooking classes--for companionship as well as the good food and priceless tips.

It was at a series of classes by a local cooking teacher that I was introduced to the cooking of Marcella Hazan. I had never heard of this woman who was presented to the New York food world in 1970 by the late Craig Claiborne of the New York Times.  She went on to write six books on Italian cooking which changed  forever the way Americans thought of Italian food. She taught cooking classes for years in her New York apartment and in Venice.

I am a huge fan of Marcella and have all six of her books.  But there is one that I had forgotten about.  Her last book, Marcella Says, is fabulous.  She takes you by the hand and stands by your side through each recipe.  It is a Master Class, with Marcella whispering in your ear. The essay she wrote telling us why we should be making our own pasta was so inspiring, I pulled out my old pasta machine and got to work!

I don't buy too many cookbooks anymore.  So much is available on the internet through magazine sites and blogs. But I treasure Marcella's books and hope to read her memoir next.  It's good to know at 87 years old, she is still drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes, and living with the love of her life.

A future post will show my pasta dinner.  Ciao.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Dutch Baby for Shrove Tuesday

During this past winter I have been revisiting some of my older recipes, and one thing I have been yearning for is a German Pancake aka Dutch Baby. And what better day to make a pancake than Shrove Tuesday?

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the end of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). It ushers in the season of Lent, the forty days of fast, abstinence, and penance leading to Easter Sunday. Traditionally on Shrove Tuesday pancakes were made to use up the fat, eggs, sugar and flour whose consumption was limited during Lent.

For chef Andrew Carmellini's Dutch Baby, the batter is mixed then set into the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning all you need to do is heat a hot skillet in a 400 degree oven, pour in the batter and wait for the eggy goodness to puff up on the sides.

 Pull it out of the oven and squirt with lemon and sprinkle with powdered sugar.   The flat bottom lends itself to being filled with cooked apples or fresh berries, or some jam for an alternative. You are good to go.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Have a Confession


Hello.  My name is Michele, and  I am addicted to Pinterest! Anyone out there hooked, too?

A few short months ago I had no idea what Pinterest was. Of course I had seen the icon on various blogs and websites, but paid no attention to it. It wasn't until I received an invitation from my son to join this social sharing website that I found out what Pinterest was.

According to Wikipedia, Pinterest is a"visionboard-styled social photo sharing website where users can create and manage theme-based image collections." The Apple App store describes Pinterest as a virtual pinboard to "organize and share beautiful things in your life."

Since I have never been a scrapbooker or visionboard maker, I wondered why my son thought that I would be interested. But join I did and went to his boards to see what this was all about. Evidently he joined, but never pinned anything! Typical. So I tried to find my way, none of it making sense to me at first.

But I eventually got the hang of it, and now if I'm not careful I can get lost on Pinterest and lose large chunks of time! One the the advantages for me has been finding great bloggers and photographers previously unknown to me. And this week I cooked a great meal from someone I found on Pinterest.
Who knew?

Pinterest is an invitation-only site, so if you are interested, just drop me an e-mail at cookingathome(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I will be happy to send you an invitation. Happy pinning.

Skillet Rosemary Chicken 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday or Eight Million Pounds of Guacamole

Somewhere along the way Super Bowl Sunday has practically turned into a National Holiday.  It's a great day to eat and drink with friends and family, watch the new television commercials and half-time entertainment, all the while rooting for your favorite football team--The New Jersey York Giants in this case. In fact, it is said to be the second-largest food consumption day in the U.S. after Thanksgiving.

So it is no surprise to learn, according to the Hass Avocado Board, that 69.6 million pounds of avocados are sold to produce the 8 million pounds of guacamole consumed on Superbowl Sunday.

My task is to make the guacamole to take to a friend's home for the Super Bowl. And I am very particular about my guacamole.  Some is too chunky, deconstructed guacamole if you please.  Some is too smooth with no texture whatsoever.  But mine is just right, well for me anyway.

I learned to make guacamole when I lived in Guadalajara in the early 1970's, and continue to make it this way. The above ingredients are my constants, Hass avocado, yellow onion, tomato and salt.  Depending on my audience, I will add cilantro and chile peppers, but no lime.  I will put the avocados in a bowl and coarsely mash to my preferred consistency then mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Of course, you can make this with a mortar and pestle with great results. Great served with small warm tortillas and, of course, tortilla chips.

Since today is World Nutella Day, I just had to bring these amaretti cookies sandwiched together with Nutella.