flavors

Fresh Pasta, and Why There is No Need for Boxed

I don’t think I would have fulfilled my role as a food blogger studying in Italy if I didn’t post about how to make fresh pastas. Quite honestly, that would be sacrilege! Last week I took a cooking class with the amazing Andrea and Julio, chefs of Florencetown, where myself and 20 other lucky participants got a tour of Il Mercato Centrale through a local’s eyes, and a hands on lesson in fresh pasta, Bolognese sauce, and tiramisu.

Prior to this class I had been to Il Mercato Centrale many times to buy my fresh, local produce, but was always so overwhelmed with the variety of butchers, fishmongers, and cheese counters to know which ones were the most authentic, a rip-off, or a diamond in the rough. Although, exploring it on my own has definitely helped improved my Italian. Thankfully, Julio was kind enough to introduce us to all of his favorite vendors, such as the butcher who sells the best Florentine steak, the bakery with the best olive and truffle oils, and tastiest cantucci, known to others as biscotti, but they are not the same! Throughout the tour Chef Julio was picking up the ingredients for our meal, and once we were ready we headed around the corner to the kitchen to get started.

The one thing I didn’t expect was how easy it is to make pasta from scratch! All you need is 2 simple ingredients!

That’s right, just eggs and flour.

  • 3 cups of “00” flour
  • 3 eggs

Now it’s time to get handsy. Pour your flour onto a cool, smooth surface and make a small well in the center for the egg. Crack the eggs into the well, and working from the center, begin to incorporate the flour with a fork until a thicker consistency begins to form and sticks to the fork. Then get in there with your hands and begin to knead. Be very liberal with the flour here folks and continue to add until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands.Lastly, wrap it up real tight in plastic wrap and let sit for 15-30 minutes. During this time you can start prepping your sauce or ravioli filling.


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Once the pasta is ready to be cut, roll it out so you can barely see through to the table underneath (about 3 mm thickness). Then fold the dough over itself using at 3-finger width and cut it length wise. The size of your pasta is up to you! Are you in the making a thinner, creamier sauce? Then go for linguine (0.5cm thick) or are you making a hearty Bolognese that needs a pasta strong enough to carry all that meat? If so, pappardelle (2cm thick) is what you’re looking for. You can also cut off the ends and make one wide panel to fill, and make ravioli. During this class our ravioli was a simple Tuscan ricotta and parmesan mixture, but the ingredients you can use are endless. Ravioli are receptive to pretty much anything you can squeeze into them! Just make sure you seal of each ravioli properly, free of air pockets, so they don’t burst. Make them extra secure by pressing down the edges with the prongs of a fork!

The final step, before you get to enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor, is to boil the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes, until al dente. Al dente here in Italy is slightly different from in the states. Italians would consider the way we eat our pasta overcooked. Upon tasting it, the texture should seem slightly more underdone than your used to. But, don’t second guess because it’s actually perfect!

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Ravioli w/ Tuscan ricotta & parmesan in sage butter sauce

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Pappardelle w/ Bolognese sauce

Serve with the sauce of your choice. In class, the chefs prepared a butter and sage sauce to accompany the cheese ravioli, and added the Bolognese sauce to our fresh pappardelle.

I had never imagined making fresh pasta would be this easy, and now I can’t wait to add my own innovative touches! Chef Andrea suggested adding chopped herbs such as sage and rosemary, or even pumpkin puree to the dough to create a more earthy flavor profile. I plan on experimenting with coffee grinds and cocoa powder as well!

It is really as easy as it looks. Also, notice we didn’t use a pasta roller. Everything was done by hand with a little flour, a rolling-pin, and some elbow grease. No, it’s not as quick as 10 minute, boxed pasta, but it isn’t that much longer. Plus, c’mon you gotta know that the texture and flavor is 10 times better, and you get this warm fuzzy feeling from enjoying something you prepared from start to finish!

Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America

Craft beer is one of the hottest topics in food, pop culture, and the blog-osphere at the moment. So, throughout the month of July, one of the pioneers of craft brewing in the U.S., Sierra Nevada and 12 other craft breweries from across the country made the smart move to capitalize on this recent trendiness of craft beers! It all started with a glorious 12-pack collaboration between Sierra Nevada and these 12 craft breweries, and continued onto this craft beer tasting festival across America. The variety 12-pack was distributed to grocery and specialty stores across the country, and the festival appropriately dubbed Beer Camp (the best kind of adult-only summer camp) made 7 stops across the country highlighting not only the collaboration brews but the scene of local craft breweries as well. And if spreading the knowledge and mouthwatering-ness that is craft beer across the country wasn’t enough, the proceeds from the tickets went toward supporting the local brewers guilds.

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As a recently proclaimed, avid craft beer junky, I was of course anxiously awaiting the release of this glorious 12-pack and began to panic was I wasn’t finding it in any of my local grocery or specialty stores. But thankfully, through the wonders of social media I reserved the last one from Whole Foods in Portland, ME (one of the stops on the Beer Camp tour) and picked it up during my weeks vacation at one of Maine’s glorious beaches. So lucky me, I got to taste, enjoy, and dissect each of these specially crafted beers while lounging in the sun with my feet in the sand. Sounds almost too good to be true, and that’s why it only lasted a week 😉

Let me pull you out of your day-dream and back onto the contents of this fabulous, orange box. The promotion of this one-time only variety 12-pack contains 10 bottles and 2 cans, and all suggested to be consumed ASAP to appreciate the flavors of the hops, malts, and barley at their freshest (like that would be a problem).

 

BEERS AND THEIR BREWERS

There and Back: English Style Bitter – New Glarus Brewing Company

Alt Route: Altbier – Victory Brewing Company

Double Latte: Coffee Milk Stout – Ninkasi Brewing Company

Myron’s Walk: Belgian-Style Pale Ale – Allagash Brewing Company

Tater Ridge: Scottish Ale – Asheville Brewers Alliance

Yvan the Great: Belgian-Style Blonde – Russian River Brewing Company

Torpedo Pilsner: Hoppy Pilsner – Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Chico King: Pale Ale – 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

Electric Ray: India Pale Lager – Ballast Point Brewing Company

Maillard’s Odyssey: Imperial Dark Ale – Bell’s Brewing Inc.

Yonder Bock: Tropical Maibock – Cigar City Brewing

Canfusion: Rye Bock – Oskar Blues Brewery

Since I am still somewhat of a novice when it comes to all the terminology that goes into craft beer and brewing (learning more and more everyday!) I can’t comment too much on the methods these beers were brewed with or get into the depths of their components. However, I can give you my opinion on their tastes, flavor profiles, and all-around drinkability! I’ll start with my top 3:

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Maillard’s Odyssey was my #1 favorite of them all because, really, it combined the best qualities of my 2 other favorites; the hopiness from the Pilsner and the richer sweetness from the Stout. It had a great bite and bitterness to it, and wasn’t too heavy so I could drink it all day long if I wanted (and oh boy did I want!). But this bad boy also comes in at a hefty 8.5% ABV, so beware!

The Torpedo Pilsner was on the lighter side, with a nice bite and was just so damn refreshing! With a nice, crisp finish and an ABV of only 5.2% I could keep this one flowing.

Double Latte comes in on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, and that’s what I also liked so much about it. I have never really been a fan of heavier beers and stouts, but this Coffee Milk Stout changed my entire outlook on life! (cue The Grinch voiceover). It’s most definitely a rich and creamy, more dessert-style beer (one will suffice at 7.6% ABV), but I got hooked on the aroma alone!

These next 2 beers stood out to m because 1) I am an avid IPA (of any sort, the hoppier the better) fan and 2) I have never heard of a Maibock before (still a craft beer newbie here).

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The lager base of Electric Ray puts the hops at center stage where their bitterness can come through in the best way. So since hopiness and a nice bitter bite have become one of my favorite qualities in a beer I thoroughly enjoyed what Ballast Point put together with this flavor-packed, 8.5% ABV brew.

Yonder Bock stood out to me because of its cleaner, crisper and lightly sweet flavors, along with my complete curiosity about what the heck a Maibock is. Turns out Cigar City Brewing knows a thing or two about making a damn good Maibock because when I did some background research this beer hit every key-note, and then some, of what the ideal Maibock should be. The delicious tropical flavors didn’t hurt either! Also dangerously light for a 7.7% ABV.

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The Empties

The rest of the Beer Camp family was quite tasty, and I wouldn’t complain if the breweries added these special edition brews to their regular line up. I also enjoyed the variety of cans and bottles. I think Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp was a genius way to bring craft beer to the masses and help spread the word about local breweries across the country.

Sriracha Lime Kale Chips

I have been pretty skeptical of all the pre-packaged and mass produced kale chips I have seen on the market lately, and I was totally aware of how easy they are to make from scratch, but like Pinterest Fails have proven to be true, it’s not always as easy as it looks. However, I was proved wrong when I tried out a simple spicy kale chip recipe myself a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to keep the kale pretty pure, to not lose its healthiness, but I still wanted some flavors to distract from the its bitter nature. I landed on using Sriracha and some kind of citrus as my focal flavors, and found an awesome recipe online that combined those things and more!

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Oven: Bake & pre-heat to 350 degrees

This recipe is very simple and takes about 30 minutes max, from start to finish. I recommend getting the fluffiest and leafiest kale you can find because the chips do shrink up quite a bit in the oven, and if you put multiple trays in at a time, keep an eye on the bottom one because it tends to cook at least 2 minutes quicker than the top! Now, down to the dressing. This delicious concoction is made up of Sriracha sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and olive oil (measurements below)

1 Tbl Sriracha

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 Tsp soy sauce

1 Tsp fish sauce

2 Tbl olive oil
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Pour the dressing over a bowl of  chip-sized kale leaves, and with clean hands (or not, totally up to you!) massage the dressing all up and into the nooks and crannies of the kale. Give it a good rub down! Then, once the leaves are fully coated lay them out on greased cookie sheets. Make sure the leaves don’t overlap and that they’re laying as flat as possible, so the chips can really crisp up.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on ’em because they can burn pretty fast!
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Once the chips are all nice and crispy take the trays out of the oven and put them directly onto a paper towel covered plate or metal rack to 1) stop them from cooking anymore and 2) to soak up any extra oils, although the majority should be cooked off. The chips will be very delicate, but that’s part of their natural charm and aesthetic, so if you feel so inclined to pat them dry just be careful not to break them. Within 5 minutes they should be all set to toss into a bowl for snacking!

I like to sprinkle mine with some  garlic salt for a little extra kick, but regular salt and even as is, is just as delicious! Fair warning, these babies do have a little kick, so if you’re not a huge fan of the spicy spice I’d recommend cutting the Sriracha down to 1/2 Tbl because it still does provide some yummy flavor along with the spice!

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Beer Ice Cream Floats

You read it right, beer ice cream floats! I have been SO inspired by all the artisnal ice cream flavors and craft beers that have been bursting onto the food scene. Something you all need to know about me is that I have a gigantic sweet tooth and have recently taken to a love affair with microbreweries and craft beer, so when I heard there was a way to combine my two great loves I new I had to try in for myself! Since I am home in New Hampshire for the summer and don’t really have access to the most up-and-comings in food (like I did in New York City) instead of just sitting and dreaming (aka trolling the internet for photos) of sweet beer treats, I set out to make my own. Believe it or not, this required a little bit of research. Since I am not the first person with the genius idea of combining beer and ice cream (in fact, there is a whole beer-centric creamery, Frozen Pints devoted to just that) I found a fair amount of information is available on the all-knowing internet; specifically, the 2 beers that blend best with ice cream are Pale Ales and Stouts and that the notes and flavors of the ice cream must balance out those of the beer.

Now onto the good stuff! I decided to go with some local brews; Shipyard’s Black IPA and Red Hook’s Long Hammer IPA, and keeping with my theme of supporting the small businessman I chose Steve’s Ice Cream (made in Brooklyn) Sunday Morning and Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla flavors. Sunday Morning consists of a buttermilk ice cream with maple syrup swirls and crunchy waffle pieces and don’t let the subtle Bourbon Vanilla fool you, its definitely more bourbon that it is vanilla. I decided to pair Sunday Morning with the deep and savory Black IPA, and thought the strong base flavors of the Bourbon Vanilla would play well with the bitter and citrusy flavors in the Long Hammer. I also picked up some old-time soda fountain glasses and straws from Homegoods.

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Steve’s Sunday Morning Ice Cream & Shipyard’s Black IPA

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Steve’s Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream & Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

To keep things cool I popped the glasses into the freezer for a couple of minutes before I loaded them up with love. In the 8oz class I poured about half a bottle of Black IPA in (like a pro so no foam here!) dropped in 2 scoops of Sunday Morning, and topped it off with (almost) the rest of the beer. I poured the Long Hammer IPA into the 6oz glass, just about half way, added 2 scoops of Bourbon Vanilla, and topped it off until there was about half left in the bottle. The frothy foam that rises to the top  was my first taste and it only had me wanting more, but I recommend mixing the ice cream in there to get the fully blended flavors!

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There you have it! A modern take on a nostalgic sweet treat. The dark float turned out just as I had hoped; the perfect combination of sweet, savory, and creamy, but not too sweet and it still retained a decent bitterness. The lighter float came out something like a creamcicle, but with an unexpected bite from the citrus and bourbon. Suffice to say my tastebuds and tummy were elated with how these creamy babies turned out! But don’t worry, my search for craft beer-infused recipes will not stop here. If you have a beer-themed recipe share the wealth in a comment below!

Luca & Bosco

Luca & Bosco is a local creamery pumping out ice cream flavors, sauces, and toppings that will make you reevaluate your entire outlook on the life! (Okay, well maybe not life, but definitely frozen flavor combinations) Sold in the Essex Street Market, this delicious gold mind is the workings of  Catherine Oddenino and Ruthie Vishlitzky and is made with all-nautral ingredients, organic whenever possible. Although Luca & Bosco is a small start-up, their flavors are anything but small. With exquisitely unique flavors like milky tea, goat cheese, and their superstar Drunk & Salty is impossible to pass by their cart without at least asking for a sample. They’ve also got some killer sauces which include Butterscotch Diablo, Cilantro Syrup, and the Drunk & Salty Caramel (match back to the ice cream flavor).

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Goat cheese ice cream w/ balsamic reduction

When I paid them a visit I was greeted by who I could imagine to be either Catherine or Ruthie, all smiles and willing to answer any questions. I sampled the Drunk & Salty and Goat Cheese. While the D&S was everything I could have wanted from a sweet and salty ice cream, the goat cheese had a unique and enticing, creamy, tangy flavor. The lovely lady behind the counter suggested I pair it with the balsamic reduction syrup, and I’m glad she did because it was fabulous! Even with my notoriously ginormous sweet tooth I was pleasantly satisfied with this tangy, savory treat!

Luca & Bosco is open Wednesday-Sunday to make all your artisanal ice cream dreams come true. You should also follow them on Instagram to get the inside scoop (sorry guys, couldn’t resist) on their newest creations!