Friday, January 28, 2011


Butternut Squash, Thyme and Bacon Risotto
{to serve 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side}

1 small butternut squash
3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8-10 Tbs butter
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 Tbs dry thyme
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Ahead of time:
-cook bacon (reserving 2 Tbs of the grease for later), cool and roughly chop

-cut squash in half, remove seeds and roast at 350 degrees, cut-side down in a pan with 1 inch of water for 30 minutes (or until soft).  When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes.

-bring stock to a simmer in a small pan over medium-low heat, then reduce to low and cover with lid until needed.

To make the risotto:
 -Melt 4 tablespoons butter with reserved bacon grease in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. 
-Add shallots and sauté until tender and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and thyme, and cook for another minute. 
-Add rice; stir and cook for a few minutes, until rice becomes translucent.  

-Add bacon, 4 Tbs butter and 1&1/2 cups hot broth; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. 

-Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 20-30 minutes.
-When rice is no longer hard in the center (take a bite!), add the squash.
 -Stir in cheese. Season risotto with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fresh Pasta

This week in class we made our own pasta.  It is a relatively simple process with surprisingly few ingredients and equipment.  However, because it is also hands-on and messy, we were unable to take many photos!
One thing to know is you do not have to have a pasta roller like this one, in order to make your own noodles:

It is also fun to roll out the dough with a good, old rolling pin and cut the strips with a pizza cutter or knife.  We got the chance to do it both ways in class, and you can see in the first photo at the top, how wonderfully delicious the hand-cut version looks (and tastes)!
Do keep your eye out for one of these pasta roller/cutters, however, at garage sales and flea markets.  I was able to pick this one up for only $5.  Also, you may want to ask around to friends and neighbors.  Many people have these stashed away, seldom used, and they are more than happy to lend them out. It may inspire them to give it a try, or join you for a pasta-making party.  

Marcella Hazan has wonderful books on the classic Italian methods of cooking, and I refer to Marcell's Italian Kitchen
whenever making fresh pasta.
According to her, the dough for homemade pasta consists of flour and eggs, nothing else.  

To produce approximately 3/4 lb of pasta (or 4 small servings), begin with  
1&1/2 cup flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
 and 2 eggs. 
 The exact ratio will vary depending on the size of the eggs, their flour absorption capacity, and even on the humidity of the environment.  Therefore, Marcella suggests the following method of combining ingredients:

-Pour the flour onto a work surface.
-Shape it into a mound.
-Form a deep hollow in its center, like a bowl to hold the eggs.
-Break the eggs into the hollow.
-Beat the eggs lightly with a fork as though you were making an omelet.  Draw some of the flour over the eggs, mixing it, a little at a time, until the eggs are no longer runny.
-Draw the sides of the mound together, pushing to one side any flour you think you may not use.
-Work the mixture of flour and eggs with your fingers and the palms of your hands until it is well combined.  If it is still too moist, work in more flour as needed.
-Put the dough to one side and scrape the work surface clean of all loose or caked bits of flour.

 Push against it with the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent, fold it in half, give it a half turn, press hard again and proceed like this for about 8 more minutes.
(I liken it to giving the dough a muscle massage!)
Note: If you are not sure that you have put in enough flour, push a finger into the dough as far as its center.  It should come out clean and dry.  If it is moist or sticky, sprinkle on some more flour and work it into the dough.

Now wrap the dough in plastic to keep it from drying as you prepare to cut and cook it.

Bring a large part of salted water to a boil on the stove as you are cutting your pasta.  Have a pasta grabber (or tongs, or a fork) ready nearby, as well as some olive oil (or warm pasta sauce).

If using a hand-cranked pasta cutter, as in the photo above, divide your dough ball into four equal pieces.

Set the thinning rollers at their maximum opening.  Flatten one of the pieces of dough by hand and run it through the machine.  Fold it in thirds, give it a quarter turn, and pass it through the machine again.

Repeat this two more times.

 Close the rollers one notch and run the dough through.  Do not fold it anymore.
 Run it through once on each subsequent notch until it is the desired thickness. 
NOTE: Be careful to dust it with flour, if the dough becomes sticky at any point in the thinning process.

We then cut these long strips in half to make it easier to feed them through the cutting rollers.
Fettucini was the size of noodle done in class, but your shape/size preference is up to you!

If rolling dough out without the use of a machine, remember to sprinkle the table and rolling pin with flour.  However, only a light dusting, so that you do not make your dough too tough.

This method takes muscles and patience. 

 Firmly press and roll the dough  into a long rectangle(-ish) shape.
It takes a while to get it thin enough, but you will want to see light through your sheet of dough when lifted.

Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut into strips.

Drop the pasta into a pot of boiling salted water.  Immediately stir it and separate it to keep it from sticking together.  Stir frequently while it is cooking, for about 2 to 3 minutes depending on it's thickness.

Have a bowl of warm pasta sauce or some olive oil ready to put the pasta in after draining.  In class we ate ours after tossing it in butter melted with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gyoza (Potstickers)

Today's recipe is adapted from a cooking blog called Steamy Kitchen.  At first, she talks about her time living in Japan.  Then she posts great pictures showing step-by-step instructions and a recipe for making authentic Gyoza.  
So, here's a link to that post:    (click here)

We modified the recipe a bit in Thursday's class, to tweak the flavors a bit.  Just a bit more sugar in the filling, more scallions as well, and the addition of fresh cilantro.
Also, in the dipping sauce, we changed the ratio to equal parts soy sauce and vinegar, and the addition of 1/2 tbsp sugar.  The original version turns out way too salty!
When cooking the dumplings, I used canola oil instead of sesame;  much less expensive and more sensible for heating.

When looking for ingredients for asian recipes here in Olympia, I usually try the following stores:

On the west side:   Capital Market  2419 Harrison Ave. NW
In Lacey:    Hong Phat Market 1107 College St. SE

Not only are these some of the only places I know to find gyoza wrappers (in the freezer section), but also really good prices on produce (cilantro, napa cabbage, scallions) and meat.  The soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, miso paste and sesame oil are all found there too.  And at much better prices than the chain grocery stores.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls - Warmth in Winter

What is it about January that makes cinnamon rolls so perfect?
Cold, grey, wet, dark January.  
Warm, spicy, sticky, sweet cinnamon rolls.

We made this same recipe last year.
  In January, believe it or not! 
You can get to it by clicking here.

The photos from class, however, are much better this year (thanks to Danny!), so I've included them in this post: