Cooking Italy~Fried Zucchini with Garlic, Basil and Pasta

16 08 2009


This is kind of a two for one post…I made the sauce, which is the zucchini fried in garlic oil tossed with butter, basil and parmesan and fresh fettucine.   That was Part 1.  Part 2 is the fresh pasta.  My first attempt (ahhhh….the drum roll…..)  I didn’t finish everything until rather late, thus the rather not-so-great photos…my apologies in advance, but…it was all quite edible and rather enjoyable! WOOHOO!  Mr. B got up this morning, looked me square in the eyes and said, “You made pasta last night.”  That rules out dream and hallucination.

Our group went back and forth on this dish, like and dislike-wise. I think the upshot is the 1/4″ stick cut didn’t yield the same texture and flavor, and those of us that broke form and went with disks liked the dish better.  Our zucchini had crunch, but a lovely soft texture too.  The sauce was not the star of the show in any way.  It was merely there as a shawl over the pasta while the zucchini performed gymnastics on the taste-buds.

We started with leaching water out of the zucchini by liberally salting the pieces and leaving them to drain in a colander for at least 2 hours.  Plenty of time to make the pasta.

Pasta.  Noodles.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Yeah.  But, I’ve never done it before and you’re first anything is just a little intimidating…y’know?  So, laughing in my husband’s arms…

“How many times have I said this…”

“Quite a few.”

How many times have I thrown it in the trash and collapsed in tears?”

“Can’t remember any?”

“What’s usually the end result?”

“Something wonderful.  So what are you worried about?”

“Mmmm…nothing…forget I said anything…”

Bolstered by that little reassuring conversation, and 28 years of cooking with and for this man, I set forth to make my first pasta, bound and determined not to have a failure my first attempt.  I measured my cup of unbleached King Arthur (had to buy just for this) flour into a stainless steel bowl (large enough to work in as though on a work surface; theoretically more contained mess; liked the theory!!); cracked in my 2 eggs on one side, blended the egg yolks accordingly and worked until I had a dough, and scraped and kneaded.  Next time, I think I’ll use a bowl scraper a bit earlier on to get all of the odd bits and stuff out of the bowl while I know it will take it.  This is the difference between a pasta dough that rests and one that doesn’t.  If you’re plowing straight through, don’t scrape your bowl. Those bits and pieces will give you problems.  If you plan to rest the dough, they’ll be absorbed into the dough just fine.  I kneaded in as much flour as I could by hand, wrapped the dough in plastic and let it rest about 20 minutes.  By that time, the elasticity had relaxed, but the dough wanted more flour.  This time I machine kneaded the pasta dough.  When it tested that it was finished accepting flour, I wrapped it and rested it for 30 minutes.   CI_pasta-dough

Now, it’s time to figure out the pasta rolling machine!  Easy enough… I rolled the dough through just fine….until I hit #7 – EEEK! It tore the dough to shreds.  It’s ok.  I knew enough to fold it up and let it rest, it could go through again later.  The second ball did the same thing. DARN!!  That’s ok… Step #6 looks pretty much thin enough for me at this point!  And so, here’s a sheet of pasta dough…

CI_pasta-sheetAnd this is what it looked like after I let it air dry enough to cut it up some


And then I piled it up on a towel and took it to the kitchen while I made the sauce….


And that’s when I was struck by the dreaded (echo chamber sound effects) Pasta Syndrome.  Yes, friends, sneaking out there amongst every insufficiently dried strand of fresh pasta near you is a strand just dying to remeld with another equally insufficiently dried strand of pasta.  The two may be dusted with flour, they may be cuts apart, but let them commune in a kitchen towel brief moments while the pasta water returns to a boil and the sauce is created, trust me, you too are in danger of the (echo chamber sound effects) Pasta Syndrome.

It wasn’t too bad…there was one clump that was beyond separation and I cut it out and tossed it.  The rest was fine. It served as a great object lesson though.  Use the drying rack dummy.  All in all,  the pasta experience wasn’t something that would put me off. But then, I’ve made Chinese dough from scratch, flour tortillas from scratch, and now pasta…it was a logical progression.  Actually, a little behind schedule! LOL!  Now I’m anxious to make some of the other pastas…  Only time will tell if this has created a monster!  Although, I don’t see me making homemade pasta after work very often…

Whisk Wednesday ~ Also on the back burner…

12 08 2009

In fact…my whole life outside of work appears to be on the back burner right now.  There are two things going on…  Major tension at work.  Mostly self imposed.  I’m having a difficult time getting all of my filters appropriately engaged.  I’m still angry with the grieving Gov. Schwartznegger over the state budget cuts to education.  I didn’t get enough of the kind of down time I needed during the summer.  Now, I’ve got this virus that’s decided to make a late summer visit, and it’s 102º outside.  I have to admit these things aren’t adding up to a happy cooking atmosphere.  Maybe this weekend.  Melissa of Laptop to Stovetop and I kind of have a cooking date…we’re both playing catch up because we both work and Life gets in the way.  And it’s fun to cook with someone else.

Thank you…If I could, I’d send you each a portion of what I pay my therapist….but that’s what insurance is for.  *Ü*

Cooking Italy~On the back burner

10 08 2009

I’m afraid my beloved shared a nasty little virus with me, so my dish will be delayed until I’m up to fussing with food. Right now all I want is cool liquids, and lots of them. And sleep. Comfort food when I want food. Although this hasn’t adversely affected my appetite, just my desire to cook. All things in their time. I’ll get it. I have everything….even if I want to make fresh pasta. I just need a little patience and energy.

Cooking Italy~Gamberetti all’Olio e Limone

3 08 2009

This week Cooking Italy is introducing us to a perfectly simple Italian shrimp appetizer.  I already have one very simple marinated shrimp appetizer in my repertoire, but who can’t stand a few more?  This is a keeper.  I’d serve this as a starter for lunch or dinner in a heart beat, or with a little bolstering, a luncheon entreé.

What could be easier? Poach a few little veggies, toss in a few shrimp and poach them just until barely cooked (big key to the best shrimp), shock them with ice water and peel, toss into olive oil blessed with a bit of wine vinegar and kissed with sunny lemons.  That’s it. Set it all aside and attempt to be patient. The two big things with this dish, set the shrimp aside to marinate at least an hour, and do not refrigerate them before serving. They’re best made and then eaten in a couple of hours.  Good luck with that.  That waiting thing is kind of tough…especially with them hanging around in the kitchen with you…Look at these pretties…


Cooking notes:
I used large shrimp, so following Marcella Hazan’s directions, cut the shrimp in half lengthwise. The shrimp are garnished with a rosette and sprinkling of lemon zest.

Tasting notes:
There is a freshness to the shrimp that is utterly delightful. The acids work together  creating a bright citrusy veil surrounding the succulent brininess of the shrimp.  I was sorry I hadn’t made the 5 minute artisan bread after all.  I plan to try to get tired of these.  Especially after I found a few recipes that would take these another step as an entree with pasta.

About Cooking Italy:
Cooking Italy is the creation of Angela of Spinach Tiger.  She graciously selects recipes from Marcella Hazan’s Essential in Italian Cooking, and we follow her lead, learning together. We communicate via email and celebrate our victories and our learning experiences together.  Follow the link here or on the side-bar if you’d like to come along on the journey with us!

Whisking Mignons de Porc Arlonaise~

3 08 2009

Sometimes you can’t quite imagine the complexity of a dish by reading the recipe…even when you work at it.  This was one of those.  I admit, the oven temp of 425º really put me off while it was over 105º outside, but it wasn’t on very long…45 minutes tops, including pre-heating.  And it was so very worth it.  This dish just kept bringing surprises to the tastebuds and to the tongue in the way of textures.


This is basically a very uncomplicated dish with lots of little bits and pieces to do.  I think it’s time to either shake this house until I find my scale (originally gotten to weigh my pet corns***e, instead used to weigh baby chinchillas-NOT sn*** food!!).  This recipe called for ounces of things.  I know Alton Brown says the only way to bake properly is by weight…and I’ll bet I know why…  Either way, I needed to weigh the carrots, leeks, celery, turnips (withheld due to convenient memory loss), and mushrooms (substituted due to inconvenient memory loss).  I also neglected to buy small waxy potatoes. All I had in the house were large russets, which I cut into chunks and “tournéd” dutifully, albeit not 100% successfully.  I did end up with some relatively same sized little barrels, some of which actually did have 7 (woo-hoo!!) sides.  I know I spent a lot more time on mise en place, than I did on actual cooking.  For my dark beer, I selected an Oatmeal Stout from an in-state micro-brewery.  California has lots of little micro-brew pubs that are fabulous.  I have to recommend doing all the mise en place with this recipe.  Once you get started with the pork, it all goes very quickly, maybe 30 minutes cooking time tops.  Please note, I halved the recipe as much as I possibly could, and it worked pretty well!!

This would have been a good spot for a shot of the pork, nicely browned, just before it went to the oven.  I used a cast iron skillet, since it would hold heat nicely, disperse it evenly, and go in and out of the oven with ease.  The pork browned off nicely while my potatoes were simmering on the back burner.  The pork would be 15 minutes roasting, and the potatoes need to simmer 10 minutes then set until needed.  My first glitch hit when I realized my hubby had set the oven for 200º when he lit it for me (yeah, I know, they make ranges that will light themselves, which this was once upon a time…it WAS on the priority list until I HAD to buy a new fridge).  Oh well…heat down on the stove top, heat up in the oven, brown a little bit more, and it will balance out.  The cast iron holds heat long enough for the oven to catch up.  We need the roasting pan for finishing the dish, but we can start the sauce now.

Combine the vinegar and the sugar…what a fragrant start this is!  At this point, the sauce doesn’t belie what cuisine we’re cooking…it could be Asian…German…French…Californian…  I was afraid I’d over-cooked this phase.   The sugar reached an amber color just as the vinegar evaporated leaving me with a pot with an amber sugar sculpture in the bottom!  Bring on the beer!  It didn’t sputter as much as I anticipated, but it sure did foam!  The next steps involved reducing the sauce ingredients as they were added, taking the pork from the oven to rest briefly before reintroducing it to the cooking pan, now filled with a julienne of carrots, leeks and celery (and well washed and drained canned mushrooms).  If nothing else, this dish fills the air with aromas that will have your audience filled with anticipation.


Voila! Mignons de Porc Arlonaise!  The pork is so tender and full of flavor that this could easily be a special occasion dish, and yet it’s pretty straight forward and forthright.  There’s a little prep, but no baby sitting. It’s kind of all right there.  The sauce makes this dish.  This was our photo plate, and the sauce doesn’t show up well (and wouldn’t have on any plate I looked at save one and that one washed out the appearance of the pork), so I served up some sauce on the side as well.


This shot pretty much says it all.  All gone. Every bit of it.  I cut it back to 3 servings, and every morsel went away.  Yes, Jasmine (sheltie cross) got her share.  No veggies (leeks included), but she enjoyed her nibble of the pork medallions.   This is a serious “keeper” recipe.  Kayte mentioned perhaps a holiday meal…I’d agree.  Another success from Le Cordon Bleu at Home!

*Editor’s note….Yes, that’s a can of Little Friskies cat food on the back of the island; no, it was not included in the dish we prepared. I don’t know why it was still there.  It simply was, and I’m not photographer enough to see “everything” in my shot.  I’m a Foodie, what can I say…!