One of the first things I made when I had my little studio apartment was fresh pasta. I was completely amazed that something that I had absentmindedly purchased at the store so often was actually quite easy to make at home. The basic premise is this: flour, eggs, water. And not too much of them. Then a floured surface and some diligent rolling with a rolling pin and a sharp knife. Into boiling, salted water and KABAM! Deliciousness.
Fresh pasta takes much less time to cook, and tastes incredible. You forgo all the junk they put in dried (and even “fresh”, refrigerated pasta) to keep it from spoiling on the shelves. Fresh pasta freezes and dries well, but it’s so good that you may just eat it all in one sitting!
Recipe 16: Homemade Pasta-Stained-Glass Ravioli
Note: This recipe is from Cook with Jamie, by Jamie Oliver and The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary edition. I always look to these books when I need inspiration.
(Yields 1/2 lb dough)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, sifted onto a clean work surface.
1/3 cup large eggs, about 1 egg and 1 white.
pinch of salt
Fresh herbs for the dough and the filling. About 2 tbsp loosely packed.
3 tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tbsp or more of parmesan cheese.
Create a well in the flour and put your eggs and your pinch of salt in the well. Gently whisk the eggs with a fork and use your fingertips to combine the eggs with the flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough. Start kneading, adding flour if it’s too sticky. Knead until smooth, then wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Clean and lightly flour your surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. Flip, and roll out wider. Repeat this until you can barely see newsprint through your dough (it’s paper thin!).
Then, locate an axis of symmetry. Spray one half of the dough with a spray bottle and sprinkle most of the herbs onto it. Fold the other side over and roll out thin again. Find another axis of symmetry and this time, cut along that line. Arrange your filling in about 1 tsp size dollops and make sure they’re an inch apart. Use a wet pastry brush or paint brush (or your fingertips) to make a grid pattern around the filling. This will act as a sealant. Pull the other sheet over the filling squares and use the paintbrush or your fingers to press along the grid. Pierce each center with a fork to release air and cut along the grid. Crimp the edges with a fork and bring your salted water to a rolling boil. Cook your pasta for 2-3 minutes until it floats to the top.
Crêpes are one of my favorite things to make. They’re easy, use few ingredients, and don’t require much technique and still, the results are so pretty. Here I’m making savory crêpes, if you want to convert it to sweet crêpes, instead of 1/2 tsp salt, only at 1/8 tsp and then add 3 tbsp sugar to the batter.
There is a large variety of fillings which lean more towards sauces and spreads. My favorite filling is cream cheese and raspberry chipotle sauce. Trust me, it’s heavenly.
The only thing that may be tough about this recipe is making sure you have the right temperature and the right cooking surface. I use a cast iron crêpe pan, but I’ve seen these done on nonstick surfaces as well.
Recipe 15: Crêpes
Note: This recipe is taken from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary edition. (pp. 649)
1 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
**best to have all your ingredients at room temperature before adding the melted butter. This way it won’t separate out into butter globules.
Make sure everything is a room temperature and mix together until smooth. Then, cover with plastic wrap and press the plastic down to the surface of the mix so that a skin doesn’t form and let rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. If you’re making this ahead and plan to refrigerate, make sure the batter is at room temperature before you start pouring your crêpes, it makes a huge difference in how they stick to your pan.
After the 30 minutes are up, lightly grease your crêpe pan with butter and heat on medium-low heat. Pick up your pan and hold it at a slight angle. You’re going to pour 1/4 cup of your batter and rotate the pan (away from the flame) so that the batter can evenly coat it. If there are pockets, don’t worry, they add character. This takes a little practice, so no worries if you don’t get it right off the bat. That, and the first crêpe or two will suck because the pan isn’t hot enough or you’ll be trouble shooting the cooking time.
Once you have it poured, the edges will start to curl away from the sides of the pan. At this point, you can flip the crêpe or peel it up with your fingertips and flip it that way. If it’s too soft, give it a bit more time. After you flip the crêpe, the cooking time on that side will be about half of the initial side, so get ready to transfer it to a plate. Slide your crêpe onto the plate and pour your next one.
I’ll start off with this: These cinnamon rolls use a yeasted dough for the roll, so give yourself some extra time for a rise of 1.5 hrs on top of the rest of the preparation and baking time. You can make and construct the rolls the night before and refridgerate until the next morning just fine, but if you’re looking for something quick, this isn’t it. What this recipe is is quite delicious and well worth the time. These rolls come out sweet and full of cinnamon with a center worth fighting over. So roll up your sleeves and get ready for a great classic.
Recipe 14: Cinnamon Rolls
Notes: This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 75th edition. This book is my cooking bible. Thanks mom. <3
1/4 cup warm water (105-115F)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet if you’re using those)
1/2 cup and 2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour (you’ll add them at separate times)
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar plus extra for sprinkling on the dough (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup butter plus extra for brushing the dough.
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 6 tablespoons hot water (until desired consistency reached)
Since the only limiting factor in this prep is to make the dough, make sure you have your butter softened for it well in advance (just set the block out a couple hours before). Mix your yeast and the water (at 105-115F) and let it activate for 5 minutes. This is evident by little patches of bubbles forming here and there. No worries if you aren’t getting those, some yeast is slower.
Mix the initial 1/2 cup of flour, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt and then add the the rest of the flour one cup at a time. When it’s a smooth, non sticky dough (after about 7 minutes of kneading with a mixer on low (use dough hooks), and then add your butter slowly. Knead until smooth again, and then place into a large greased bowl , cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1.5 hrs until doubled. In the meantime, prepare your battle stations.
Before you start the construction:
The general premise of a cinnamon roll is to roll your dough out thin to a 16″x12″ rectangle. Considering that a piece of paper is 8.5″x11″, you can estimate from there on the size. Then you butter, add your brown sugar and cinnamon, and roll up and slice so that you get the pretty spiraled pastry rounds. You then set them into a greased baking dish (I use glass lined with parchment paper). You make a syrup for these that gets poured on top before you bake them. Then you bake them for 30 minutes at 350F, remove from the oven, cool 5 minutes, and invert over a foil-lined, rimmed baking pan. This keeps the syrup that cooked down to the bottom of the dish on top of the rolls, which is why the icing is optional.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Now, to make your syrup, add the butter, brown sugar, and honey to a sauce pan and cook over medium until the solution is boiling. Remove from heat and cool slightly. If you wanted to incorporate nuts into your rolls, this is where you’d add them.
Press your dough out with a light hand. Oil/butter your hands to prevent sticking, and you can roll this out on a greased cookie sheet to make sure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to spread a thin layer of melted butter on the dough, then sprinkle your brown sugar and cinnamon (I love cinnamon, so I used much more for this than it calls for), and starting with the long side, roll it up.
Slice in half, then slice the halves in half, and then slice those four pieces in half each to yield 8 pieces and arrange them cut side down in your baking dish. Pour your syrup evenly over them. Cook for 30 minutes and then remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before you invert over a foil-lined baking pan.
If it isn’t apparent yet, I love spicy things. I love how you can take an ordinary dish and add a completely new, nose-running, facet to it. There are many types of heat as well as many degrees. In chili paste like the one I use here, the main element of heat is a compound named capsaicin. This compound is hydrophobic, which means that it shuns away from water. This is why no matter how much you try, drinking water won’t make your mouth stop burning. Capsaicin is soluble in fats/oils, so such is why drinking milk can soothe your burning mouth. Now, this is also why including a little fat can completely augment the heat of a recipe. When soups are too spicy, sometimes it helps to add cream to take up some of that heat.
Like many other spicy dishes, Kung Pao Chicken relies on oil to dissolve the spiciness from the chili paste and deposit it on your tongue. But enough of the chemistry lesson, lets get cooking.
Recipe 13: Kung Pao Chicken
Note: This recipe is an adaptation of this version, on Allrecipes.com, with some changes due to my laziness to go to the store.
2 tbsp olive oil (I had some garlic olive oil handy, but sesame oil works just as well)
2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
1 oz chili garlic sauce (about 2 tbsp+)
1 tsp distilled vinegar (white)
2 tsp brown sugar
4 green onions, chopped
4 oz sliced almonds (this came out to about 1.5 cups, I buy mine in bulk, and you can use any nut you like)
First thing you want to do is thaw your chicken. If it’s fresh, cube it and place it into a bowl. Next, get two small (1-cup) bowls and mix the following:
1 tbsp wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
half of the cornstarch/water mixture
1 tbsp wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
other half of cornstarch/water mixture
chili garlic sauce
You want to pour your marinade mixture over the chicken and give it a toss to coat the pieces. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. At this point, if you’re going to make rice, you can add your rice to a bowl and cover with cool water to soak at the same time.
Once the chicken is ready, add your sauce mixture to a skillet and saute on medium heat until aromatic. Add your chicken and cup of water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Put a lid on it and let it cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the lid and ramp up the heat to medium again until the sauce thickens. Add your rice to the rice cooker (or to your pot on the stove) and cook it as well.
Once done, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes to thicken further and then serve atop your rice.
If you want to add vegetables, such as a frozen stir fry mix, add them with the chicken. You can garnish it with some sliced green onion and if you can find them, either some slivers of dried red chili (Asian markets will have them) or a pinch or red pepper flakes (think those packets that come with a pizza delivery).
Additional Science Nerdity:
Cornstarch and water is the classic mixture to exemplify the theory of a Non-Newtonian Fluid. If you’re wondering what the heck I mean, check it out:
The basic idea is that this mixture behaves weirdly. If you took a hammer to water, well, you’d just make a splash and pass though. If you take a hammer to a mixture of cornstarch and water, it momentarily turns to a solid and can be seen to “crack” under the pressure. Just another excuse to make a mess in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Pho is a Vietnamese dish that involved a broth and noodles, often including very aromatic and rich spices such as cinnamon and star anise. It is salty and slightly sweet and is usually topped with fresh mint, thai basil, and sliced chili.
I wanted to recreate the distinct smell that fills my nose whenever we get pho, and we did just that.
Recipe 12: Pho
Note: This recipe is adapted from a book called Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis
1.5 lbs beef ribs
1 large onion, halved
1 3-inch piece of ginger, unpeeled but roughly chopped
6 quarts water
1 star anise
1 small piece of cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp whole cloves
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
1 lb dried rice noodles
Garnish: mint sprigs, basil sprigs, cilantro sprigs, 1 serrano chili (sliced), lime wedges, scallions, sriracha, etc!
First thing you want to do is put your ribs in a large soup kettle with enough water to cover by a few inches. Boil on high for 10 minutes, then remove the meat (reserve) and discard the liquid. I know this seems totally counter-intuitive, but it makes for a cleaner broth. Trust me, you’ll still get plenty of flavor later down the line.
Add your ginger and onion cut-side down in the soup kettle and char the bottom for 2-3 minutes until dark brown (not burned). Add the water and then beef ribs, and boil on high. Once a rolling boil is attained, reduce heat to simmer and add the rest of your spices. Allow to simmer for another half hour or so until the beef is tender. Turn off the heat.
Start boiling water, enough to cover your noodles and cook them. You’ll cook these separately so that they’re soft when you add the broth. Pour the boiling water over your noodles in a heat-safe bowl and allow it to “cook” until the noodles are soft. Drain and place the noodles in bowls. Add your broth and garnish. Enjoy!
This recipe is one that I came across in an Indian cookbook. I’ve always loved samosas. The flaky crust and the warm, aromatic filling have always been so soothing. This is definitely a comfort food.
Recipe 11: Samosas
Note: This version is vegetarian. Meat can be used, but all I had on hand were peas and potatoes. Make it your own, add what sounds good!
Adapted from Meena Pathak Celebrates Indian Cooking
1 large potato, peeled and cubed.
3/4 cup peas, thawed
3 tbsp oil
1 & 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
3 tbsp minced garlic (about 5 cloves)
1 green chili, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of salt
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Phyllo dough (it comes in a roll in the frozen foods section)
water (for sealing edges)
olive oil for greasing the cooking pan
You want to split your filo sheets lengthwise into 4 strips. You can use a sharp knife, and this is after they are thawed and rolled out. Keep a damp cloth over them to prevent them from drying out.
Prepare all of your ingredients, and add the potatoes to boiling salted water and cook until soft. Cook the peas for 5 minutes in boiling water as well. Drain both and add to a bowl. Lightly mash the potatoes as you mix them with the peas. Lightly cook your spices in a skillet until aromatic and browned slightly. Pour this mixture over the top of the potatoes and peas and mix to combine.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
To roll your samosa, take the corner of the phyllo strip and fold fold over to make a diagonal angle on the bottom, then fold again, along the top flap and again. It’s similar to a flag fold. See the gallery for folding, but after 3 folds, you should be able to see a pocket. Grab a small handful of the filling and press it into an egg-shape with a point on one end. Slide it into this pocket, point first so that it fills out the small triangle. Once it’s sufficiently full, continue folding the phyllo until just a flap remains. Moisten this end with a little water and press to seal.
When all of your samosas are made, oil a pan and arrange them on the pan and lightly drizzle oil on top. Cook 15-20 minutes each side or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Lumpia is the Filipino answer to the egg roll. It is usually a mixture of pork and vegetables rolled in a wonton wrapper and then fried until golden. It is typically served with a tangy sweet & sour sauce, but the combinations are endless. I love these things, and I have never had the guts to attempt a new take on them until now. Some surprising ingredients went into these, and I promise they deliver just as much taste and texture as the original.
Recipe 10: Lumpia
Note: This recipe is my take on lumpia. I use SPAM because I was curious to try it and I’d heard that it was possible to make lumpia with it. I didn’t have wonton wrappers at my Vons, so I used phyllo dough instead. Also, I baked mine because I didn’t want to fry them and I wanted to reduce the oil involved.
Phyllo dough,( you can find it in the frozen section of your grocery store) thawed.
1/4 large yellow onion, minced.
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 large carrot, minced
about 20 bean sprouts, minced
1/2 can of SPAM, diced
2 tbsp minced green onion
(garlic is optional)
water for sealing ends
So the first thing you want to do is make sure your phyllo dough is thawed. You can use wonton wraps as well, but I didn’t have any at the time, so I improvised and they turned out nice. Roll your dough out and cover with damp kitchen towel.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Mince your fillings and add to a mixer to break up the SPAM and make it into a coarse mixture.
Cut one sheet of phyllo dough into about 8 squares or however big you want. Stack them up on top of eachother and return under the damp towel. These dry out REALLY easily, so work quickly when you’re ready to roll your lumpia.
Place a teaspoon of filling at the bottom of one of your squares and spread it into a line parallel to the bottom edge. Carefully, using a light touch, roll the lumpia away from you and moisten then end flap with a bead of water, pressing to seal. Place it on a plate and grab the next wrapper. Roll just as before until you have as many as you like. Then, oil a baking pan and place the lumpia about 1/4 inch apart. Drizzle oil over the top and cook for about 15-20 minutes on each side, flipping after the first 15 minutes. Be gentle as the phyllo dough makes them delicate. Once browned to your liking, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve with whatever dipping sauce you like. Enjoy!