Archived entries for basic techniques

Faux “Sun Dried” Tomatoes

Oven dried tomatoes with rosemary and thyme.

I can hear you asking what the hell are Faux “sun dried” Tomatoes.  No, the tomato is not a fake, its just the “sun dried” process which we’re going to expedite.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE sun dried tomatoes!  The drying process intensifies the depth and sweetness of the tomato flavor as it removes the extra water weight.  My love for these dried treats does not extend to their expensive price.  My default when confronted with expensive food items is to think how I can make it myself.  The rub is, I am also too lazy to actually sun dry anything!  I’m generally a bit too unorganized to think days in advance.  However, there is an answer.  We can speed up this process by using modern technology! Lets make “oven dried” tomatoes!

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • 2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Fresh herb sprigs (thyme, rosemary or sage) optional

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Dry in oven until slightly shriveled but still plump. About 2-5 hours depending on the amount of time you have as well as the level of dried-ness you want. If not using immediately, store the tomatoes in a sealed container with the herbs, cover with olive oil, and store, covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Flag of Italy pasta dinner: sauteed broccoli rabe, broiled chicken breast and oven dried tomatoes on fresh pasta with pesto.

Ok, so its not necessarily super fast, but a few hours is quicker then a few days!  Even if you’re really on a time pinch,  an hour will yield a nice result.  Last week, being short on time, I quickly oven dried a few tomatoes for only an hour  for a pasta dinner.  It was very delish!

Quick Tip: How To Toast Tortillas

A warm, supple, steamy tortilla is so much more delicious then a tough, cold lifeless one. So why ever serve them cold.  Toasting your tortillas is quicker then heating them in the oven and healthier then deep frying.  If you have a gas range oven, here’s a quick way to heat a hand-full of tortillas in seconds!

Turn your gas burner on.  Place a tortilla directly onto each burner.  Allow to sit until they begin to puff up with steam and are lightly charred, about 15-30 seconds.

Flip tortillas onto opposite side, until also charred.  Remove from burner and serve immediatly. For maximum results, get all four burners going at once!

Tender Meat For Tender Moments: Pork Tenderloin

Last winter, while grocery shopping, I found this pork tenderloin on super sale and it called out to me saying “Take me home!  I would make for the perfect candle lit romantic meal.”  (I never get freaked out by talking meat).  So I did, but I never got around to actually making it.  I’m still working on cleaning out my freezer and this pork tenderloin was at the top of this list.  After 12 months in the deep freeze, I finally hauled this little guy out and got to business.  Although, I’m sure it wasn’t as great as it would have been if I hadn’t neglected the poor thing for so long, but it did turn out very well and it was a very special meal full of special tender moments.

I’d never made a tenderloin before, so it was a bit of an adventure.  Although, I went maverick on it quite a bit, I based my recipe on this food network recipe with a few ingredient additions and substitutions. I used hard apple cider as the marinade and gravy base, since the apple flavor is such a traditional pork side-kick, although you can beer as the original food network recipe uses.

Tenderloin ready to be roasted

Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Cider Gravy

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 22 oz. bottle Hard Apple Cider
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 (3 1/2) pound boneless pork loin, tied
  • 1 Tbs butter, sliced into tsp slices
  • 1 large garlic clove sliced
  • sage leaves
  • 1-2 Tbs butter for roue
  • 1-2 Tbs flour for roue

Evening before or morning of meal, prepare your marinade: In a sauce pan, melt butter.  Saute onions and garlic in butter until nicely browned, about 5 minutes or so.  Stir in dried spices and allow to saute and toast for about 1 minute.  Add apple cider and mustard and bring to a boil.  Allow to cool.

Marinate your pork loin: Place your raw pork loin in a container.  Pour the prepared marinade over the pork and cover.  Refrigerate 8-24 hours.

Prepare your tenderloin for roasting: Remove loin for the marinade and set marinade aside.  Using a meat tenderizer or the flat side of a cooking handle of a random tool.  Hit the tenderloin a bit to make it flatten out a bit and to tenderize the meat.  Season the tenderloin on all sides with sea salt or kosher salt and pepper.  Place the butter and garlic slices along with some sage leaves, dried or fresh, along the center of the meat.

Truss your tenderloin:  Using string, tie your tenderloin up into a circular log.  I’ve never done this before, so I sort of just winged it.  I started wraping the string around one end, and then tied it off on the bottom of the log, or the opposite side of where the meat overlaps.  I tied a knot and then bring the sting forward, holding it in place.

Wrapping the string around the meat, I pulled the string behind where I was originally holding the string forward and pulled it around, securing the string in place.  I repeated this until I got to the end of the roast.

If you didn’t get that, which I can understand, check out this video demonstrating a slip knot method, skip to 54 seconds to see the process.  My garlic, butter and sage, did squeeze out a bit when tying up, but I just slipped as much of the filling under the string again as I could.

Brown Tenderloin: Using a skillet over medium-high heat, brown all sides of the tenderloin to prepare it for roasting.  This helps trap the juices inside the meat and keep your roast nice and juicy.

Roast Tenderloin: On a baking sheet, roast tenderloin at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads about 155-160.  Remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

Make Apple Cider Gravy: While the tenderloin roasts, prepare gravy.  Take half of your marinade and place in a sauce pan.  Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat.  Meanwhile, mix together your roue paste by forking together an equal amount of butter and flour until it forms a paste.  When sauce is boiling, add the roue paste and stir occasionally until your sauce thickens to a gravy.  You can start out with just 1 Tbs of roue paste and add the second if the sauce is not thickening quickly enough.

Get Ready For Romance: Slice your tenderloin.  Serve your tenderloin with mashed potatoes and a salad or vegetable side.  Spoon your apple cider gravy over the tenderloin and your potatoes.  Get plates on table, Barry White on the stereo, light the candles and step into something a little more comfortable! This meal is definitely going to spice up your life.  Have fun!

Pasta From Scratch Made Easy

I love scratching things off my to-do list.  I’m currently taking out my New Years Resolution list and x-ing out make pasta from scratch.  I did it.  Ha! Feels so good.

Fettucinne with Pesto

The pasta press attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer makes pasta from scratch super easy!  Although I wouldn’t catagorize this process as being super fast, its so much fun, the time seems to speed by!  I know a lot of you may not have a Kitchenaid or if you do, you may not have the attachment, but I can only say, if you have the opportunity or resources to get them, DO IT!

How It Works:

Make your pasta dough:  Although I usually like to be wild and inventive even when trying something out for the first time, I decided to go with the standard pasta dough recipe given in the book.  Here is the basic egg pasta recipe, along with my notes, which I have posted separate for easy future reference.

Attach the press to your blender:  The pasta press comes with a few attachments, one roller and two cutters.  They will all be labeled and easiy distiguishable from another.  The pasta press fastens into the motor port which is easily found covered by a circular metal cover which flips open at the top of your blender.  Slide the press atttachment in and screw down with the black nob.  Now you’re pretty much ready to go.

Press your dough: Now we get to the exciting part! This is where the magic happens.  Take your dough and seperate it into 4-8 parts.  The guide says 8, because it may be more easily handled, but I like four because it’s quicker (and I didn’t have any problem handling it alone).   Your press attachment will have a dial at the end with numbers 1-8.  These numbers designate the space between the rollers controlling the pasta thickness.  At 1, the rollers are really far apart and this is for starting the pasta out.  You keep tightening the rollers as you pass the pasta through the press to make it thinner and thinner.

Start Dial out at 1: Since we’re just starting, we want the rollers as far apart as possible.  Set the dial to 1 and set your motor to speed 2.  Take one of your chunks of dough.  I found it quickened the process to give a quick roll with a rolling pin to my dough to flatten it out a bit.  Feed the flattened dough roll into the press.

Hint: You can set your motor speed to 2-4 depending on your skill at this press. If you are just beginning use a slower speed, which will press the pasta slower, allowing you more reaction time.  If you are a seasoned pro, set it to 4!

The rollers will grab onto the dough and feed it through.  Don’t worry if the first time through or even the first couple of times through the roller, the dough comes out all broken.  After each time through the roller, its getting broken in, and will soon start to behave.

Take broken pieces and fold over themselves and keep feeding into the press, until a smooth sheet comes out.  (Don’t worry if the edges are a bit frayed).

Move Dial to #2 and on: Once the dough has been pressed into a flat sheet, dial up a notch and pass through the second dial a few times.  This will begin to flatten the dough out even more.  Once the dough comes through the press, fold it over on itself and refeed through.  This folding will provide a consistent thickness.  Once the dough is consistent enough at this thickness move on to the next dial number.

Hint: After feeding dough through press, do not hold dough but let it rest over the right edge of the pasta press.  This will let the press help feed the dough through the press and eliminate the rough edges.

Check thickness suggested for your pasta: Each pasta has a suggested thickness range.  If you plan to use the fettuccine cutter, this will require a thicker pasta then the spaghetti cutter and will require less passes through the press.  Keep passing your pasta through the various numbered stages until your desired thickness has been met.

Hint: Each dial number will require less passes through the press. When in dial 1 stage, multiple passes through the press are necessary to get the correct consistency.  In stage two you won’t need as many as stage 1 and on.  You don’t need to keep feeding the dough through multiple times when  the dial is set at 4 or 5. Once or twice should be enough. Just feel your way through.

Roller Settings For Noodle Types:
1 or 2:   Kneading and thinning dough
3:           Thick noodles
4:           Egg noodles
4 or 5:   Lasagna noodles, fettuccine, spaghetti and ravioli
6 or 7:  Tortellini, thin fettuccine and linguine fini
7 or 8:  Angel Hair

I chose fettuccine for this pasta test, so we only pressed the pasta through until the 5th setting.

Hint:  If your sheets are too long for you to handle, use less dough in the first stage. At each turn of the dial, your pasta sheet will get longer and longer.  This is where the size of dough ball you use in stage one comes in.

Sprinkle each sheet with flour and lay flat on a floured surface while you continue to press other dough balls.  Repeat this process until all your dough has been pressed.

Cut your dough: Now its time to cut this stuff up.  The basic pasta kit comes with a fettuccine cutter and a spaghetti cutter.  As I said above, I chose fettuccine for my first pasta, so I attached the fettuccine cutter in place of the pasta press.   If you’re making lasagna, ravioli, or tortellini, you can move on and cut it by hand.

Hint:  Before feeding through the pasta cutter, cut your sheets down to your desired noodle length. Once your noodles are cut, they are not as easy to deal with.

Feed Pasta sheets through the cutter: After place the pasta cutter attachment on to the blender motor in the same position the press was in, you can begin feeding your pasta through the press.  Feed the sheets through the press in the same way as before.  Allow the end feeding through to rest over the edge of the pasta cutter and this will allow the machine to guide the pasta through better.  Catch your cut pasta with both hands as it comes out of the left of the cutter.

Sprinkle with flour and set aside on your floured surface until all pasta is cut.

And that’s it!  You have just made your own pasta! Doesn’t it feel good.  Now you can cook it up and top it with whatever you feel like.  Making your own pasta is guaranteed to help you win friends and influence people.  Use organic eggs and flour to seal the deal.  So don’t be intimidated.  Get out there and make some pasta!

Hint: Oh wait. Don’t forget to clean up.  Never wash or submerge your pasta presses in water!  Just remove the excess flour with a brush.  Easy!

All the photos in this post were taken by and courtesy of Meena Singh.

Basic Egg Pasta Dough Recipe

This is the basic egg pasta dough recipe given in the Kitchenaid booklet for their pasta press attachment with a few of my own helpful hints..  I am posting it separate from the How-To post for future quick reference.

Basic Egg Pasta

  • 4 large eggs (7/8 c. eggs)
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 3 1/2 c. sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place eggs, water, flour and salt in mixer bowl.  Attach bowl and flat beater.  Turn to speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.

Exchange flat beater for dough hook.  Turn to speed 2 and knead for 2 minutes. At this point, my dough still was not kneaded together, but appeared in the bowl still crumbly.

The manual states: “A good pasta dough is firm and leathery to touch but also pliable. It should never stick to your fingers or crumble and fall apart.  Many factors, such as humidity, brand of flour, and size of eggs may affect dough consistency.  Pinch a small amoutn of the dough together after mixing with the flat beater.  If the dough stays together, without sticking to your fingers it should work well.  It may be necessary to add a small amout of water to reach correct dough consistency.”

I added a bit of water and beat with the paddle for 30 more seconds or so.

Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for a few minutes. I only got my dough to come together  during the hand kneading.  You want the dough to stick together, but don’t worry if it is still a little dry as it will come together when pressed.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes before pressing.

Use pasta press and cutter to press and shape the noodles.

Cook the pasta: You may opt to add salt and oil to the water if you choose.  2 tsp salt and 1 tsp oil for 6 quarts of water.  You can of course estimate that.  Boil gently to cook.  Pasta will float when cooking, but not when it is necessarily done.  Stir to keep pasta cooking evenly.  Take a noodle out and test bite.  The desired “al dente” should be slightly firm to the bite.

Cooking time:
Dry pasta: approx. 7 min
Fresh pasta: approx: 2-5 min depending on thickness.

5 Tips For Tearless Onions

Those damned onions!  Love to eat them, hate to chop ‘em.  I always get so damned weepy.  After posting my family’s recipe for our Thanksgiving Onion Casserole last year, the comments have been flooded with great ideas on how to stem the tide (or flood) of ocular moisture.  Since this info is so great, I’ve compiled it in one post so this holiday season,  you can keep the tears out of the kitchen and save them for those awkward family table conversations.

1) Put onions in the freezer for 20 minutes before you cut ‘em. Not only has this worked time and time again for me, but friends who love to cook have tested the theory as well…it has yet to fail. Good luck!

2) DON’T cut off the root end of the onion or through it! I peal the onion, cut off a small slice from the side (so there’s a level sitting area). Then make a horizontal cut down the center toward the root end – set on flat side and cut away – tear free half circle onion slices! It’s all in the root!

3) I light a candle near my cutting board. I think I read that in a Martha Stewart column. It seems to work.

4) Swimming googles make working with onions a tear-free experience. It also entertains any witnesses.

5) Slice them underwater, but that’s a bit of a pain. I just cry and let it happen.

Thanks guys for the great ideas. Feel free to add any more you all might know of.

Lamb and Goat Stock With Red Wine

Making your own stock is fucking awesome! If any of you shudder at my cursing, I can only say, you must never have made stock if you don’t understand that you need the expletive to fully communicate the awesomeness. I’ve had a freezer full of stuff, including those goat bones from the leg roasts we made this summer, just waiting around for a nice fall day where I could get all cozy in the kitchen with my kettles. This past weekend answered that call. Time for some hell-broth boil and bubble.

Stock is a great way to use bones and scarps left over from meals. I always throw them into bags and then into the freezer. Beside meat items, I also save any vegetable matter which is on the verge of going bad. When getting ready to make my stock the other day, in addition to the bag of goat bones, I also had a few lamb bones, as well as countless bags of frozen parsley, fennel stems, Chinese chives, broccoli stems, among others.

Making stock is as easy as just throwing all of this stuff into a pot and putting it on the stove top to simmer. You also want to include your basic flavor vegetables of onion, carrot and celery. Whole spices are good as well as bay leaves.

To finish this all off in style, I also happen to have a few cases of wine left over from our wedding. A couple bottles of red wine can’t hurt anyone! Fill the rest of the pot with water. Mix it all up, bring it to a boil and then down to a simmer. Simmer for as long as you want. I usually leave it anywhere from 4-8 hours. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Here’s a specific list of what I put into this stock. You don’t need to follow the recipe exactly. You can use it as a guide and add/substitute to your hearts content.

Lamb and Goat Stock

  • 5 lbs lamb and goat leg bones
  • 3 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3-4 large carrots, sliced in 2″ chunks
  • 4-5 fennel stalks
  • Chives
  • parsley
  • mint
  • 1 Tbs whole peppercorn
  • 1 Tbs whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 3-5 bay leaves
  • 2 bottles of red wine
  • 2-3 gallons of water, until pot is filled

When your stock is done, strain out the bones and vegetable matter and you’re left with a rich liquid which you can freeze or save refridgerated for a week or so.  Be warned though, your stock isn’t necessarily a tasty broth yet.  It doesn’t have any salt and it may be a bit watery.  Stock is used as a base for soup or sauces, which you add other things to.  If you want to make a broth out of it,  you can season with salt and any additional seasonings you want.  If its a bit watery, just simmer down until it has the concentrated flavor you want.

How To Make Soup: Any Soup

I love soup because its quickly thrown together, can be made with anything lingering in your fridge and it always warms me up.  I never follow a soup recipe, as its pretty easy to just throw together. I wanted to write a post with the basic process so hopefully after reading, you can go into your kitchens and make a quick soup with your fridge left overs!

While there are many different kinds of soup, the process can all be boiled (he he) down to a few simple steps. Once you know these steps, you can use any number of ingredients or added steps to create a variation on your theme.
Continue reading…

Canning Tomatoes: Roasted Salsa

My visit to my parents house this past weekend, produced a harvest of over 30lbs of tomatoes. I’ve been super busy lately (mostly working on a huge redesign of this blog which I hope to be launching in the next month!! More on this later) and I’m really short on time lately. I like salsa, but I don’t have time to chop the ingredients for one batch, let alone 30 lbs worth. What to do? Don’t worry I have a solution.

Check out this Instructable to see my time saving salsa recipe along with tons of canning tips. Also, check out the comments for links to tons of online resources for canning methods.

Canning Tomatoes: Roasted SalsaMore DIY How To Projects

Ok, here’s my cliffnotes for you lazy bones: My shortcut to hours of chopping and slicing is to roast all the ingredients together until they are nice and soft, then blend it in a food processor. And you’re done! Beside being a shortcut, the roasting also helps bring out the natural sweetness of the flavors which makes for a delicious salsa! I can get it taken care of this afternoon and and I’ll can it this weekend to preserve it.

Dilly Green Beans!

Dill pickles= dilly pleasure. Crunch cruch. I love dill pickles. But pickles doesn’t just mean cucumbers. Pickles can be anything that’s pickled! For the first post in our canning series, check out this crowd pleasing recipe (in instructable form) for dill pickles made of green beans. These are always a crowd favorite. Don’t believe me. Try them out for yourself.

Canning Dilly Green Bean PicklesMore DIY How To Projects

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