Tag Archives: pasta

Homemade Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta and Branzino

Andrew and I are in the process of moving back to Santa Cruz. We are so happy to be leaving Santa Clara and to live in Santa Cruz again. As people who do not enjoy city life, suburban landscapes or 100 degree weather, Santa Cruz is a much better fit for our temperaments. We both love hiking in the redwoods, walking along the beach, and of course, banana slugs. Not to mention, New Leaf Market is one of the few places in the area that still sells raw milk, unless you want to buy it straight from the source or from the farmer’s market. Plus in Santa Cruz I can go foraging for berries and I’m closer to work.

Since we are in the process of moving, I needed to procure boxes this morning. Alas, when I arrived at Staples they were not open yet and I had half an hour to kill. I decided to hop on over to Whole Foods Market on Stevens Creek in Cupertino. I knew when I got there that I wanted pasta, tomato sauce, and fish. I wanted to cook a whole fish. Their selection of whole fish is meager at Whole Foods. They had branzino, sardines, and a large fish that I can’t recall the name of. I did not want to cook sardines. Nothing against sardines, but I wasn’t feeling it. Instead I bought one whole branzino which weighed in around a pound. I had no idea what a branzino was or how it was typically cooked or what you served it with. It sounded like a character from a 1970s John Travolta movie. Hard to pass up.

Branzino Head. Branzino is also called European Sea Bass. 

When I got home, I did not cook the fish straight away. Instead I packed a couple boxes and then got to work on my tomato sauce. I heated up a giant soup pot on the electric burner of death and inaccuracy on what my stove top considers high. High on my stove top means awful burning smell, fan blasting on high, all the windows open, and the pot getting to about what would be on any other stove medium-high. While I was preparing to burn down my house, I cut a dozen tomatoes in half. Note: always use a serrated knife when cutting ripe tomatoes. Much easier than a chef’s knife. Once my pot was hot I added a couple turns of olive oil. I don’t know how much olive oil it was. Add as much or as little as you like. It will smoke. Your pot is hot. That’s the point. Then add your tomatoes. It will splatter. You may get burned. I always get burned. It happens. Do not disturb your tomatoes. They want to be left alone as they die. While your tomatoes are charring on the bottom of your pot, roughly chop an onion, preferably white or yellow. Then peel as much garlic as you like. I like garlic a lot so I used a whole head. The recipe that I was following called for one clove. That is a recipe for pansies.

Tomatoes, onions, and garlic cooking. 

Add your onions and garlic without disturbing your tomatoes. Let it sit for about five minutes. Then add a good amount of red wine. I used a cabernet sauvignon. I don’t drink wine generally and most use it for cooking. You can use any red wine. You could use white wine. Please do not use plum wine or any other sort of fruit wine. Now is when you get to stir. Stir it a few times to distribute the onions and garlic in with the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper. You can also add oregano, thyme, etc at this point. I realized I had none of these herbs in my cupboard/fridge so I did not use them. Add as much as you like. This is your sauce not Prego’s.

Whole wheat pasta dough. 

I let my sauce cook for another ten to fifteen minutes while I made my pasta. Pasta is simple to make. Cookbooks make a big deal out of the well. Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to make a volcano. Sure it’s fun to make a volcano but it’s really not going to change a fucking thing and I think the only reason that people insist on the well is that they want to intimidate you. These people are members of the cooking masons and don’t want you to learn the secret handshake of hollandaise. I put in a generous amount of whole wheat flour. Purists will insist on semolina. You can use whole wheat, you can use all purpose, don’t use bread flour because it has too much gluten. Otherwise, have fun and experiment. This is your food. I then separated two extra large eggs, tossed the egg white aside and used two yolks for my dough. I did make a well and put my eggs in that well. Then I added a quarter cup of cold water at a time until I had mixed a firm dough. You do not want it to be sticky. You want it to be firm. Now set aside in a bowl and cover with plastic.

The sauce after it has cooked but before it went into the food processor. 

While I let my pasta dough rest (this is so the gluten in the dough relaxes), I began processing my tomato sauce. I hate chunky foods, especially chunky foods that are in sauces with crunchy onions. Yeah I have sensory issues, deal with it. I put my tomato sauce through a food processor in small batches. Make sure that your sauce is no longer boiling when you do this. Make sure you are not pouring boiling hot tomato sauce from a large pot into a small food processor. I use a ladle for this. I also cover the hole in my food processor with a towel so I don’t burn myself.  You don’t have to do this step. You can leave your sauce as chunky or smooth as you like. A food mill will remove the tomato skins and seeds leaving you with a chunkier sauce than a food processor.

Sauce after it went through the food processor. 

It makes a lot of sauce.

After you are done making your sauce, you can start rolling out and cutting your pasta dough. Find a flat wood surface and dust it with flour. Make sure there is enough flour so your dough does not stick. Then get a rolling pin and flour that. Now roll out your dough to desired thickness. You want it to be around 1/16 to an 1/8 inch. It will expand and get thicker when you boil it. Once it is rolled out get a knife and start cutting strips or whatever shape you want. Or you could do all this in a fancy pasta maker. I don’t have a fancy pasta maker and a knife does just fine if you don’t care about uniformity or aesthetics. Once you have cut up your strips lay them gently down on a floured surface and cover with a dish towel so they do not dry out. You can always boil them at this point, but I had other things to do.

Roll out your dough to a thickness of 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch.

Fresh whole wheat noodles before they’re cooked. 

Such as going to REI. At REI you will stand in front of the sleeping bags for twenty minutes waiting for a sales associate to help you which they will not because you are a single female surrounded by males and families. Then you will get annoyed and go up to a sales associate and demand they find your sleeping bag. Then bring your sleeping bag home and bask in its less than three pound backpacking appropriate glory.

Branzino stuffed with lemon slices and seasoned with salt and olive oil. 

Just stuff everything on in there. Unless you overcook it, this fish is quite moist. 

When you get home from your successful but annoying trip to REI where you also bought these awesome foldable camping plates and iodine tablets, you will then discover that your boyfriend has set an ENTIRE CASE OF BEER on top of your pasta. It is a mess. They are all stuck together and you have to roll out your dough all over again and cut them again. 😦

While I was cutting up my pasta for the second time, I got a large pot of water boiling and set my oven to 400 F. I then got my fish out from the fridge and washed it. They had gutted and scaled it at the market for me, which was very nice of them. I sliced up a lemon from the garden, stuffed as much as I could into the cavity, then squirted the rest on top of the fish. I liberally sprinkled it with salt and then drizzled it with olive oil. Cook on one side for four minutes then flip it over and cook for another four minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and let it broil for about three to five minutes then take out of the oven. Foil will greatly help in the clean up.

Whole roasted branzino

While your fish cooking, make your pasta. It will cook in about five to seven minutes depending on how thick and wide your pieces are. Then drain and rinse. Whole wheat pasta can get a little gummy, hence the rinsing. Pasta made from semolina or all-purpose will most likely not need to be rinsed.

Top with fish, sauce, and  maybe a bit of parmesan. Enjoy!

Thinking Outside the Box: Creative Ways to Enhance Store Bought Macaroni and Cheese

I go through food phases. The last month I have hardly cooked anything, be it from scratch, from a can, from the freezer or from the box. Most of my meals have consisted of Subway sandwiches or a combination of bananas and beef jerky bought from my morning pre-work 7-11 foray. I have had time to cook since classes ended in May, but I just haven’t felt the desire, the passion for homemade food lately. In the past week things have gotten better and I found myself “cooking” a little more at home. This cooking consisted mainly of boxed macaroni and cheese with added ingredients to make it more interesting, flavorful, and healthy. There was also one ramen dabbling that did not end well.

Annie’s Shells with White Cheddar, broccoli, and hot Italian sausage

First of all, I think it is important to start with a better brand of macaroni and cheese. I know Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese brings back memories of childhood with its nuclear orange powder and almost tinny taste, but there are better, healthier brands of boxed macaroni and cheese out there. The brands I use nowadays are Annie’s and Safeway Organic (I think Safeway Organic has more flavor than Annie’s to be honest and it’s much cheaper).

10 Ways to Enhance Store Bought Macaroni and Cheese

1. Add green vegetables. These not only makes it taste better, but fresher and healthier. I generally add broccoli or asparagus because they are not only some of my favorite vegetables but they cook quickly and can be tossed in with the pasta while it’s cooking or even after it’s done. What I generally do is put the cut up broccoli pieces in the colander then pour the pasta with water over it. The broccoli comes out crunchy, but slightly cooked. Frozen peas would also be a nice addition, but this is something you can experiment with.

2. Add cooked sausage or hot dogs. Slice these up and add in after you’ve mixed the pasta with the cheese powder or sauce. I generally make mine with hot Italian sausage.

3. Add tabasco, tapatio, or any hot sauce for a spicy, cheesy dinner.

4. Shred cheddar, jack, colby, or pepper jack for more cheese in your Macaroni and Cheese. I think this is especially nice with Annie’s brand because I found it distinctly lacking in cheese flavor.

5. Grill up some onions or shallots while your water is boiling for a more robust flavor and a different texture. I think this would go great with some sliced kielbasa in there as well or a bratwurst.

6. Add roasted bell peppers or hot peppers for a smoky, spicy flavor. Either use jarred or make your own fresh in the oven or on the grill.

7. Cut up luncheon meat such as ham, salami, roast beef, or turkey and toss it in. I think ham would complement the flavor best.

8. Make a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich. This definitely is overkill on the cheese factor but think of the different textures. Butter up some of your favorite bread, add a slice of your favorite cheese to each piece of bread and add your prepared macaroni and cheese. Press sandwich together and go forth as you would with a grilled cheese sandwich.

9. Add crumbled bacon, canadian bacon, or get fancy with pancetta. This will add a smokey flavor along with some crunch.

10. My friend Ian introduced me to this last one. It is definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone. Add sliced up hot dogs and brown sugar to the prepared macaroni and cheese. This creates a salty/sweet and smokey flavor that some people might have a hard time wrapping their taste buds around, but I found it delicious.

Offensive Dairy Post

I wanted to call this post Macaroni and Cheese or Rigatoni and Cheese, but I’ve read somewhere that blog entries will get more readers if their entries have more interesting titles. Macaroni and Cheese would also be false advertisement because this is not macaroni and cheese, it is rigatoni and cheese.

I titled it offensive dairy post because  Andrew, my boyfriend, finds dairy offensive.  He was grossed out by the smell of butter melting on the stove top yesterday and the strong smell of some delicious, strong cheeses. He said there was so much offensive dairy going into my lunch that he might have to take a walk. He was just joking about the last part, but the guy has some serious issues with dairy.

I hardly ever cook with dairy because of his aversion, but yesterday I was really craving pasta with cheese sauce, not necessarily macaroni and cheese, but some sort of pasta with cheese. I always hesitate to call something macaroni and cheese because mac and cheese conjures up images of neon orange powder mixed with little dried macaroni that we used to make into necklaces in pre-school. I loved that stuff.

The first step for making a cheese sauce is to make a roux. A roux is a mixture of melted butter and flour cooked on the stove top.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter

Add flour and cook on the stove top.

Add milk, whisk and cook until thickened. Add whatever spices you like. I used black pepper and salt.

Add sauce to cooked rigatoni. Enjoy!


Penne “Risotto” with Garlic and Green Beans

Yesterday I worked until six and had to drive back home over Highway 17. It was around seven when I got home in Santa Clara and I was exhausted, sweaty, and hungry. I did not want to cook. However, Andrew was waiting for me to make dinner and I had planned what I was going to make already. I made a penne pasta dish with green beans in a garlic lemon sauce.

I used the same technique that I used for the Israeli couscous risotto that I made the other day. This time around I used the multi-grain, gluten free pasta that Andrew had in the cupboard. The rest of our pasta is whole wheat and I can’t stand whole wheat pasta. I find the texture of whole wheat pasta to be tough and gritty. The result of the dish was a creamy, tender pasta with a well balanced sauce and crisp green beans (crisp=undercooked in this case :)). Andrew was impressed with how quick it was to make and how easy. I could tell he was a little lukewarm on how the sauce came out creamy.

Penne Risotto with Garlic and Green Beans

  • multi-grain, gluten free penne pasta
  • two tablespoons minced garlic
  • large handful of green beans
  • salt, pepper, and onion powder
  • vegetable broth
  • lemon juice

1. Prep your green beans by washing them, trimming the vine end off, and chopping them into small, equal sizes.

2. Heat a skillet with olive oil on medium high. Add garlic and pasta. Toast the pasta and brown the garlic. Looking back I would also add the green beans at this point. Add a small amount of vegetable broth and stir until liquid thickens, bubbles, and reduces. Then add more liquid and continue this process until the pasta is cooked.

Linguine “Alfredo” and Fruit Grunt

Today I decided to try out some recipes from the Vegan Yum Yum blog. I love her photos and I’ve looked through the cookbook as well. I hadn’t tried any of her recipes yet, but today I changed that. I decided to make rice linguine with “alfredo” sauce and a blueberry/raspberry grunt.

First, what in the world is a grunt and why would my fruit be grunting? What would I have to be on for my fruit to be grunting? Okay, enough with the lameness. A grunt is a kind of cobbler:

Grunts, Pandowdy, and Slumps are a New England variety of cobbler, typically cooked on the stove-top or cooker in an iron skillet or pan with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings—they reportedly take their name from the grunting sound they make while cooking. -Wikipedia Article on Cobble

In other words, delicious! Berries were luckily on sale today at Scotts Valley Market. I got raspberries and blueberries. I wanted a mixture of berries as opposed to just doing blueberries. The raspberries were absolutely perfect and delicious. The blueberries were also very good. I did not make my grunt on the stove-top, instead I cooked in a soup crock in the oven.

How do you make something heavily based on dairy vegan? Well, there are many recipes for vegan cheese sauces out there. These mostly rely upon nutritional yeast powder and cashews. This is one of those recipes and I have to say, I did not dig the consistency, but the flavor was good. The alfredo was runny and not creamy as I would expect an alfredo sauce to be.  The taste was a little heavy on the soy sauce, so next time I would reduce the soy sauce. I think I would also to pureed white beans instead of cashews.

Linguine  with “Hurry Up Alfredo” Sauce and Asparagus

Recipe adapted from VeganYumYum

Hurry Up Alfredo
Makes 2-3 Servings

  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 Tbs Low-Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbs Vegan Margarine
  • 1 Tbs Tahini
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 oz. brown rice linguine
  • 3 spears of asparagus

1. Add all sauce ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. It never actually gets creamy, but until it is processed.

2. Cut two large and one small spears of asparagus. Remember to snap off the woody stems. I’m saving mine for a vegetable stock later this week. Boil a pot of water. Once boiling add rice linguine and boil until cooked. Add the cut asparagus now. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus in the sink. Add the sauce and enjoy.

Blueberry and Raspberry Grunt

Adapted from VeganYumYum

I have to say this was an amazingly easy dessert. It does take some time, but its relatively simple. I adapted this recipe to make two portions of grunt filling and one portion of biscuit. I’m goint to use the leftover filling in my oatmeal tomorrow morning, yum! At first, I thought the biscuit was going to overwhelm the filling, but it was well proportioned.

Blueberry Filling

  • 2 Cups Fresh Blueberries (or frozen)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Simple Biscuits

  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1Tbs vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

1. In a large, heavy bottomed silk, add filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmmer for fifteen minutes until raspberries come apart and the liquid has turned a dark purple.

2. Mix together biscuit ingredients, working the margarine into the flour before adding the almond milk.

3. Add half the filling to an individual grautin dish or individual soup crock. Then spoon biscuit dough on top of the filling. Bake in 400º oven for twenty minutes.