Friday, June 4, 2010
Rachel here: When John and I were first together, one of our favorite things to do was cook. Prior to meeting John, I worked in restaurants and lived alone. Outside of work (where I was heartily fed), I mainly subsisted on grits and fruit. Though I would definitely relate differently to cooking for myself now than I did then, at the age of 19 or 20, my top goal in eating at home was to generate as few dirty dishes as possible. Anyway, enter John. Here was a man who not only enjoyed but excelled at cooking, who wanted to make me dishes of food I had never tried and who genuinely enjoyed eating. On our way home from work, walking our bikes instead of riding so that we could talk, we'd more often than not get to talking about dinner and stop by the grocery store en route to pick up the various ingredients we'd need to make whatever had struck our fancy. To shop and eat in this fashion felt incredibly luxurious. Fast forward five years and, as a general rule, we no longer spend our afternoons and evenings planning and generating whimsical meals. We are busy, busy bees these days and no longer live nearly across the street from a fantastic grocery as we did in our earlier days. Still, though, one of my favorite ways to spend the twilight hours of a weekend home with John is over a completely homemade meal that we have prepared together. The food tastes and feels so good and I couldn't ask for better company.
This past weekend afforded us just such a window to get into the kitchen together. A few years back, John convinced me that homemade pasta is significantly better than its store-bought counterpart and, though we usually end up eating the latter for its convenience, this weekend John taught me how to make pasta by myself. It is surprisingly easy, though it does take a little muscle, and we generated two lasagnas from our endeavors, one for dinner and one for the freezer for the days after M makes her grand debut. If you've never tried your hand at pasta making before, I highly recommend that you give it a whirl. It is simple and satisfying and really, truly the best way to eat pasta.
1 egg (supposedly the fresher the better)
1 c. all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, form the all-purpose flour into a well. Crack the egg into the center of the well and stir with a fork. As you stir the egg, it will gradually pull flour in. Keep at this until you are completely unable to stir anymore. At this juncture, add a teaspoon of water. Once all of your flour has been combined with another ingredient (either egg or water, or both), turn it out onto your countertop. Knead, twist and fold diligently until the dough becomes incorporated. Add more water, no more than a teaspoon at a time, whenever you are convinced that there isn't a single additional drop of moisture to be utilized towards forming a coherent ball of dough. This kneading process should take at least 15 minutes (in my experience). Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Roll it out as thinly as you desire (either using a pasta roller or a rolling pin) and then cut into your desired shape. I folded my dough, dusting it with semolina flour between layers so the pasta wouldn't stick to itself, before cutting so I could get uniform shapes. Voila! Cook as you would normally cook pasta, though you should know that homemade pasta will cook noticeably faster than the dried store-bought stuff.
For our lasagna, we mixed chopped scallions and basil in with the ricotta (along with some salt and pepper) and sauteed spinach and mushrooms with garlic before layering everything with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. Yum! What will you do with your delicious pasta?
Janet here: What I plan to do with the delicious lasagna I now know is waiting for me, not M, is eat it and enjoy every last bite. I know for a fact that homemade pasta is absolutely the way to go, but the likelihood that I will add this to my culinary life in the near future is, well, zero. I will, however, promise to fill the hole in the freezer that is made when I eat Rachel and John's lasagna.