Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baked Fresh Fettuccine with Spinach

This recipe is adapted from the same cookbook, The New Complete Book of Pasta, by Maria Luisa and Jack Denton Scott, that I got the pasta recipe I posted earlier from. My recipe has been tweaked in several areas.

Baked Fresh Fettuccine with Spinach Serves 4
3/4 lb to 1 lb Pasta (depending how much sauce you like - this is not a super saucy dish, it's supposed to just coat each strand). You can substitute store fettuccine - not as good, but is a whole lot faster to use.
1 Pound spinach (to be honest, we use 10 oz. because that's the size of the bag that we use. I think it'd be great with the whole amount, though)
1 large white onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4-8 slices bacon, diced (Whatever amount makes you feel yummy, but still pretend healthy)
1 tsp butter (If you like your fats a lot, you can use more here.)
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbs flour
1 and 1/2 C. light cream
Juice of one lemon - about 1/4 -1/3 of a cup (You can use the bottled stuff, but the fresh does taste better - it's more potent somehow.)
1 tsp. salt
liberal black pepper to taste
4 Tbs. Parmesan Cheese

1.Make fresh pasta and cut into fettuccine and dry.
2. Cook spinach without any water in a covered pan until soft (check often)Spinach before cooking.
The same spinach after.

Let the spinach cool, then drain out all the liquid (by standing over the sink and squeezing it, is our method) and chop finely.

3.Finely dice onion, bacon and mince the garlic. Saute over medium heat in the butter and oil until soft. Drain out any bacon fat, if desired. Add the flour and blend it in, then let cook for about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the cream, until the sauce is smooth.

4. Blend in the spinach and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

5.Meanwhile have water boiling, in the largest pot you own. Cook the noodles less then al dente, which for fresh noodles is 1 to 2 minutes only. For store bought noodles cook until almost done.

6.Drain, put in large hot oven proof bowl.
Toss with spinach sauce.

7. Sprinkle the 4 Tbs. Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake at 375 Degrees for 10 minutes.
You can also skip the baking step, if it's summertime and there is no way you'll turn your oven on. In that case, cook the noodles until they're done.

The original recipe used Pancetta instead of bacon, 1 1/2 pounds of Fettuccine (the whole fresh pasta recipe), 2 Tbs. butter and 2 Tbs. Olive Oil, and 2 pounds of spinach. If you want to make it really authentically, then by all means, please do so. I cut the pasta, because American tastes usually prefer a saucier dish than Italian ones, in my experience.

We love this dish. It has just the right amount of lemon zing with creamy, spinach undertones. (Now I'm going to start describing the bouquet, like it's a fancy wine). Also, especially if you use store pasta, it's really not a difficult dinner to bring together. We eat this with a salad, and it makes a complete meal. This reheats well the next day, but I often add some extra (reconstituted in a bottle) Lemon juice, because somehow the reheating makes it lose it lemony goodness. The recipe is best when made with Fresh Pasta, and Baked, but the fact we love it even half followed says something.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Our last week in England an Australian/New Zealand family (the mother from one and the father from the other) had us over to dinner. For dessert we had a Pavlova, and although I was worried at first, not being a fan of marshmallows, I loved the contrasts of textures, and I have been in love ever since. You can read about the history of Pavlova here, which like out dinner hosts comes from Australia and/or New Zealand. Pavlova is a simple dessert, with a baked meringue crust (that should still be soft and marshmallowy in the center), filled with whipped cream, and traditionally topped with strawberried and kiwis, although any fruit can be used as a topping. A seductively simple dessert, Pavlova feels like the essence of Summer cooking, with light flavors and intriguing texture. Pavlova is also a popular dessert in England. I suggest for your next dinner party, or just when you have some extra fruit and whipped cream, to try this for a change. I love Pavlova for entertaining, because the meringue needs to be made ahead, and the fruit can be prepared ahead, so all you have to do at the moment is whip the cream and assemble the dish.

Pavlova is not a picky dessert, and although it helps to use a recipe for the meringue base, anything goes for the rest. Some popular toppings are tropical fruit, berries of any kind, and I have even seen in cookbooks chocolate pavlovas topped with nuts. Personally, I think the fruit idea is more refreshing, but I wouldn't pass up a chocolate strawberry pavlova. (Avram would though. How did I end up married to a man who doesn't like Chocolate? What little old lady did I diss in the pre-existence?) A good recipe for Pavlova can be found at the Joy of Baking site.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Often Imitated, Badly Substituted, but never Duplicated, 100% Whole Wheat Bread!

After a three month hiatus (oops), I'm finally back, inspired by my latest food adventure (making cheese, per this website. Go forth, make cheese today) to continue blogging about food. Before reading this, you may want to review my ingredients, since I posted it so long ago. Also, just a reminder - I use half white whole wheat, and half red whole wheat for this recipe. You can use any mixture of whole wheat, and even of whole wheat flour and white flour as well (although I would recommend not using this recipe for all white bread). So here it is - the recipe you've all been waiting for, Whole Wheat Bread! (cue the cheesy intro music).

100% Whole Wheat Bread -
Makes two large loaves, or two medium loaves plus a small third loaf.


1 Tbs yeast
2 and 3/4 c. warm water
3 Tbs. honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 c. dry milk
2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. Wheat Gluten or 2 Tbs. Dough Conditioner
4 -6 cups of whole wheat flour


1.Mix together the 1 Tbs. yeast, 3 Tbs. honey, and 2 and ¾ c. warm water in in a sturdy mixing bowl or stand mixer, and let sit for 5 minutes. Before adding the honey, I spray the Tablespoon with spray oil, and that way the honey comes out very easily, instead of sticking to the surface. The mixture should foam a bit at the top - this lets you know your yeast is active and working. This particular picture has superman powered yeast on steroids - normal foaming is much smaller.

2.Add 3 c. flour, 3 Tbs olive oil, ½ c. dry milk, 2 tsp. Salt and 3 Tbs. Wheat gluten. This is the wheat gluten I use, or the dough enhancer if I don't have wheat gluten. Sadly, these cheap products come from Utah. In other places, without Grandma's Country Foods, you can get Wheat Gluten, but it's not as nicely priced. Still, you only use 3 Tbs every batch, so it lasts a really long time.

Mix with a stand mixer at a level 2 or 3(and the paddle), or with a handheld mixer on medium for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and the gluten has began developing. This has not been mixed long enough. There are still lumps.

This has been mixed long enough. The gluten is starting to develop, and it's a smooth mixture.

3.By Stand Mixer: Change the paddle to a dough hook. Gradually add four cups of flour, mixing at a level 2. You will probably need more flour. The dough after four cups of flour. It needs more. I add about a half cup at a time after this, until it is ready. This probably has enough flour, but if as it's kneading the ball dissolves, just add another quarter cup or so, to keep it ball shaped. The dough does not technically need to form a ball - it is being kneaded regardless of its shape, but I like to have a stiffer dough for bread. Usually I will add another cup to cup and half total, but it changes from time to time. Making bread is not a science.

When the dough is ready, it will spring back to a light touch, and be smooth and elastic.

4.By Hand: stop using the hand mixer, and change to a fork and then your hand, as the dough stiffens. Gradually add four cups of flour to the dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 15-20 minutes. You will need to periodically add flour - at a quarter cup at a time. When ready, the dough should be smooth and elastic, and will spring back to a light touch.

5.Lightly oil a large bowl and the surface of the dough. Place dough in the bowl, cover with a damp towel or saran wrap (sprayed with spray oil) and let rise in a draft free place (I often use my oven during the winter, which I turn on to 350 degrees for 1 minute, turn off, and place the dough in there) until double in size, one to two hours. Sometimes, I'm lazy, and use the same bowl I made it in. But it'll rise farther if I don't.

6.Punch down the dough, and turn out and knead a couple of times. Cut the dough in half with kitchen scissors or a knife. Form two loaves. I do this by flattening out the dough with my hands, into a rectangle, than folding the two shorter sides into the center, until they barely touch. Then I pound this down with my hands, so it won't separate while cooking. Then from the top down I roll it up into a cylinder, squeezing it all the way so it will mesh together. This was the first time I used this method, so it looks a little ghetto, but it should be as long as your pan. I use really long pans from Ikea, that I love for making sandwiches, because then your slices aren't huge. If you have normal pans, you may have too much dough for them, in which case just make a small third loaf free form, and then lightly butter or oil a piece of tin foil, and put the loaf on that. You can bake the loaf on the tin foil - it's great for any free form bread you make, because then you don't have to wash up afterwards. If you make three loaves, and you don't need to make monster long ones because you have an IKEA bread pan, you shouldn't need to follow this method of shaping the loaves, but instead just make the rectangle, and then roll it up (with pounding it as you roll). Put the seam on the bottom.

Spray the pans with oil. Place the loaves in the pans, cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with oil (I reuse the same plastic wrap I used to cover the dough while it rose). Let the loaves rise until an inch above the pans. Turn the oven on to 375 degrees.

7.When preheated, cook the loaves for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and let cook for 20 minutes longer. Take the loaves from the pans (this should be easy, with the greased pan, but if they don't come right out, run a butter knife between the bread and the pan, and then turn over and bang on the bottom really hard, and that should do the trick). Let cool on a rack. I usually freeze one loaf, by wrapping it thoroughly in plastic wrap, and then a layer of tin foil. I let defrost either at room temperature, or in a moderate oven for 15 minutes or so, after first removing the plastic wrap, and then rewrapping with tin foil. The other loaf I wrap with plastic wrap, and keep at room temp. It will last for several days, and usually goes stale, instead of molding. I also keep the stale bread and use it for breadcrumbs in recipes.

And voila! Yummy bread. Although there are a lot of steps, it does not not take that long - it's just a spread out process. And with a kitchenaid, it's almost totally hands off. Some people would see that as cheating, or missing out on the earthy goodness of dough in your hands. I just think as long as you end up with a great product, who cares how you get there? (Barring breaking any major laws or the ten commandments, of course).