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This page is a culinary catch all for recipes and ramblings about anything from world cuisine and gourmet food products to unique dining experiences and new kitchen gadgets.


The Sea of Pasta
Wednesday, March 3- Mandy and I got into the sauce! Anyone who knows us would assume that means red, red wine, but since Mandy has a bun in the oven and is 'off the sauce', vino was used in more of a cooking capacity than a drinking one. A few times a year, I make bulk pasta sauce and freeze it. This time around, Mandy and I decided to get together for a pasta-making extravaganza at Big Brown. What began as "whipping up a batch" of pasta sauce quickly evolved into two giant stock pots amounting to four gallons of sauce. It was fun, especially since I didn't have to cut the onions. Mandy taught me a clever technique of turning on the stove burners to help absorb the onion odors-  and it worked brilliantly. Not one tear! I on the other hand, smelled like garlic for about two days, despite using the highly effective gadget called a Garlic Zoom (see entry below). It's all worth it in the end. 

My scratch pasta sauce recipe is a work in progress, but the base ingredients are always the same. Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes. Onions, onions, and more onions. Garlic, garlic and more garlic. Vino, vino and more- oh wait... a splash for the sauce and a splash for me. Actually, I use about a half bottle of table wine, as well as lots of seasalt and pepper. Eventually, a pile of dried herbs from last summers garden finds its way into the pot. This round included parsley, oregano and a little thyme. I find basil too overpowering and prefer to add when I cook, rather than include it in the sauce.  At Mandy's request, we added mushrooms and peppers to half the sauce, which I've never done before. Good call!

With all this sauce, we figured we should at least make dinner for the husbands, which was good fun! Mandy and I have never made pasta together, though we have both made it on our own. We chose a very simple egg pasta recipe: flour, eggs and olive oil. Easy peasy. My Imperia pasta roller (formerly Kevin's pasta roller) is pretty old, but it only sounds like it's on its last leg. Despite a painful squeal with each turn of the handle, the machine works brilliantly. I cranked out a pile of linguini and giant flat noodles, which Mandy stuffed with ricotta and spinach. It was quite the production, especially when you throw Brian in mix, doing his own domestic chores while researching tunes for The Randys Comfest setlist (YES, we are already talking about Comfest!). By the time Kevin showed up, we are all ready to strap on the feedbag. Three minutes later, dinner is served. "Mamma Mia!" it was good stuff. I always revel at how easy it is to make fabulous homemade pasta, but don't do it near enough. Now that we each have a dozen pints of sauce, there should be no qualms about turning out pasta from time to time. Mandy and I are already plotting our next batch of sauce. What will it be?

(photos: Mandy Kelley Jones)

The Garlic Zoom
I first saw the Garlic Zoom at William Sonoma last fall and shook my head thinking, "what a silly little gadget for $15"  I was not sold on the idea of popping cloves into the pod and rolling it back and forth while little blades mince the heck out of the garlic. This coming from a girl who finds the repetition of chopping vegetables quite soothing...

Epiphany: I used it at William Sonoma during the holiday season. This little bugger made the task of chopping garlic unbelievably easy! Which, in turn, made a heap of difference when the store was busy and we were making mulitple holiday dishes for sampling. I was an instant fan and tried to sell them to anyone who would listen.

So basically, you take the paper off the garlic, put one - or several- cloves into the pod and roll it back and forth. Do this just a few times for a courser chop or several times for super minced garlic. I usually turn it upside down and tap the garlic into the lid, which you can open and dump into your bowl. This tool might look corny, but it works very well and made the task of chopping bulk garlic (for our four gallons of pasta sauce) quick and efficient. The best part? It's dishwasher safe.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom....

Strawberry Mascarpone Bread

Sunday Feb. 28. - This is my first go at making Strawberry Mascarpone Bread, a recipe I saw on a friend's blog and have been drooling over it ever since. The key ingredient (according to Genevieve) is the Vietnamese cinammon, which I must confess smells and tastes far more heavenly than expected. I popped into Penzeys yesterday to pick up a small jar and it was worth every cent and plan to use it frequently in Asian dishes. 

I am not a baking type as the process too strict and exacting. Cooking is a better match for my personality as one doesn't have to follow a recipe to the tee. An appealing freedom to experiment. That aside, I was hell-bent on making this lovely bread.

The dough is extremely dense and the aroma (as it cooks in the oven now) is heady! My sweet tooth anxiously awaits being sunk into a piece. Fingers crossed that it tastes as good as it smells. And yes I am making a mini-loaf, as promised, for Louie.

It turned out beautiful, but I should have used a few less strawberries. The center was a little goopy and ended up requiring some overcooking. The edges are a teeny bit dry, but overall, it was a decent first attempt. I will certainly make this again for our Derby brunch since it actually tastes pretty darn good.

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