Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Peanut Pasta Noodles with Sauteed Tomato Bacon Dressing

I am still in the infatuation phase with my pasta machine, and I have posted enough pasta experiments to now see the pattern: Find an odd ingredient, and see if I can make a noodle with it, and then improvise something to put on the noodles. I have been wanting to make a thousand different kinds of pasta all at once, but what works at the moment is just making a small experimental batch with what's on hand. So I have been thinking about adding peanut butter to the dough, just to see if it could hold some flavor, stay together long enough to roll out, and then not be too peanut buttery to hold together when boiled. I found no recipes on line of actual peanut noodles. All I found was noddles in peanut sauces.

In the Deetz family, we grew up eating BLT sandwiches with peanut butter spread in them. I would say most people trying this have been converted, or at least come to understand it. Recent discussions with siblings have clarified that my mom never gave them to us with the L, just the bacon and tomato and PNB on toasted bread. So this morning I decided to give a similar set of flavors a try. I made a basic pasta dough with added peanut butter, and then sauteed down some cherry tomatoes in some bacon drippings I had left from breakfast. I added a few sliced scallions, and chopped some whole peanuts to sprinkle on top to add texture.

I kind of snuck up on the dough, and ended up adding more PNB and more egg than planned. I got a nice ramen sized noddle with a nice nutty taste.

1-1/2 c flour
2 eggs
1/4 c of peanut butter

Put flour into a bowl, and crack in both eggs. spoon in peanut butter, and stir until you get some clumping. I used my fingers at this point and squeezed the crumbly bits together until they all held together nicely. I kneaded it a few times on a very lightly floured surface and then covered it with an inverted bowl and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.

I like to keep the pasta slightly dusted with flour as I roll it.
I set up my pasta machine (hand cranked) and rolled the dough out, starting at the thickest setting and moving thinner. Then I chose the thinnest cutter setting and ran the dough strips through, putting the ones I could keep untangled onto a drying rack, and bundling the rest in little piles. I would say I cooked about half of what I rolled out for the following sauce/dressing.

I like a small amount of sauce on pasta, and this to me seems almost more like a dressing, maybe because it reminds me of bacon dressings for salads.

about 8 large, ripe cherry tomatoes, maybe about 3/4 c diced
1 large green onion, sliced
2 Tbl of bacon drippings
scant amount of salt
2 Tbl. of chopped salted peanuts

I heated the pan with the bacon drippings, and added the tomatoes and scallions, and a little salt. I sauteed them until the tomatoes softened up and made a saucy consistency.

I cooked the noodles in salted boiling water for about a minute, drained them and put them in a serving dish, topping them with the tomato bacon dressing and sprinkling with the chopped peanuts. I tossed it all together to serve, and the little crunchy bits of peanut were really nice with the nutty peanut noodles, and the more acidic tomatoes. The noodles actually held the peanut butter taste quite well, and reminded me of noodles served in an Asian peanut dressing. I would do this again, and also add some crumbled bits of bacon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cheddar and Black Pepper Dumplings for Your Favorite Soup

I very regularly make chicken soup, leftover chicken, maybe cook down the roasted bones to make a broth, add whatever vegetables I have on hand. Some carrots, maybe some celery and onions, some fresh spinach, some frozen peas, anything I have on hand. I often have a carton of commercial chicken broth in the fridge, I add it to a lot of things, so if I have any of that, I add it in too. I recently found a really good biscuit recipe, King Arthur Flour's Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits. One night when I made soup and biscuits, I had some scraps left over and tossed them in the soup pot and found they made wonderful dumplings.What follows is a liberal adaptation of the recipe, as I cut a few corners.

I will assume you have your fairly brothy soup already made. I would guess you would want about a gallon or so, and a wider kettle will work better than a deeper narrow one.

1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp. sugar
4 Tbl. softened butter
1/2 c grated cheddar
1 tsp course ground black pepper
1/3 c milk

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and cut in the softened butter. You should do this like making a pie crust, you want it crumbly but not completely incorporated. You can do this with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Add the cheese and mix. Add milk and mix just until it holds together. Add more milk if needed, but this should be enough.

Pat or roll out on a lightly floured surface, until about 3/4 inch thick. Cut with a knife or pizza cutter into 1-1/2 inch squares. You should get about a dozen.

Bring soup to a moderate boil. Drop dumplings in, and stir carefully to make sure they all get into the broth. I would say it takes about 5 minutes or so until they get softened and moist. You can check them as you go along. Stir occasionally to make sure they all cook evenly and get into the broth evenly. One of the things the dumplings will do is add some thickening to your broth, so make sure you stir to the bottom every now and then to make sure you don't get anything sticking. Dumplings are done when they are soft and tender all the way through.

These could easily be converted to vegan, by using margarine instead of butter, omit or replace the cheese,  and another liquid, like almond milk in the dough, and then just add to a nice vegetable broth soup.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Avocado Pasta with an Improv Tomato Sauce

This is another total experiment with my pasta phase. so this is more stream of consciousness than a specific recipe, following is what I used for the pasta, which was a beautiful green, with a good rich avocado aroma. I need to add some dried citric acid to the dough to help retain the color, but the first go round was really good. The flavor is fairly delicate, so I added a simple tomato sauce made in a few moments while the pasta cooks.


2 eggs, 1 very ripe but not browning avocado, 2 c or so of flour, salt  I put the eggs and avocado and some salt into the blender and mixed it up until it looks like green mayonnaise, placed it in a bowl, and added a little flour at a time until it made a good pasta dough, kneaded it till smooth, wrapped in plastic and allowed it to rest for 20 minutes

then rolled out and cut with a hand crank pasta machine, the angel hair took about a minute to cook. I tried fettuccine, but the softness made a thinner noodle more practical.

I tried to dry some noodles overnight but it has a high fat content so it just got kind of soft and stuck together.  I rolled the rest out though, and cut it and cooked it right away.

Tomato Sauce

I was basically just playing around to see if I could make pasta with avocado in it, so the next step was creating a sauce that would go well taste wise and visually contrast the lovely green of the avocado noodles. I didn't need much, so I took about a dozen cherry tomatoes and sauteed them with  sliced green onion and garlic in some olive oil.

I have some sea salt flavored with Kalamata olives, so I used that as well, and as the tomatoes cooked down, I mashed them a little with a spoon and added a little pasta water.

The pasta only took a few moments to cook, so this quick, impromptu sauce was perfect. My chef sister Cindy pointed out this would be great with scallops, so I may do that very thing next time I play with avocado pasta. I feel like I am tempted to make the rest of the vegetable kingdom into pasta before I revisit this, but really, I may do this again soon and often . . .