Sourdough Surprises April 2013: Sourdough Pasta.

The Sourdough Surprises challenge this month was pasta.  I have to confess that while I have tried a whole lot of sourdough things, I have never considered adding starter to pasta before this challenge.  Sourdough starter really makes good pasta.

sourdough pasta

Since I am still obsessed with the Ken Forkish bread-making ratios, I often have extra 80% hydration starter to use up.  The day I mixed up this pasta, that is exactly what I used.  The recipe that The Gingered Whisk suggested worked well with my starter, I just added flour to feel (about a cup if I remember right) and kneaded by hand for several minutes until the dough felt most like the many traditional pasta doughs I've made in the past.  I also used a whole egg and 2 egg yolks, because I had a couple of extra yolks to use up.  Then I sealed it up in a glass bowl and just tried to be patient.  I actually had to punch it down a couple of times, as the starter was active enough that it was raising the dough...

I let my pasta ferment at room temperature for a full 7 or 8 hours, ensuring it was a truly fermented food.  By the end of that time frame however, it was late afternoon when I started rolling it through my Pasta Queen; I hadn't planned a meal around fresh noodles.  I rolled them to the level 6 (of 7 levels) thickness, then tossed them in plenty of flour, as my Mom does when cutting rustic soup noodles... then I decided to dehydrate them for using another day.

sourdough pasta

I only recently discovered drying out pasta in the dehydrator, and it really works well.  My only problem is that I need to keep my dehydrator in the basement for space reasons, and in addition to sometimes several trips up and down the stairs with loaded screens, sometimes I forget that I've left something in there for days after the drying has finished.  Not so much a problem I guess, but this pasta I forgot about for about a week before the Sourdough Surprises Facebook page posted a challenge reminder!  Then, I carefully brought my screens up and packed the fully dried noodles into jars.  They were more fragile than traditional noodles I've made, but when I boiled some quickly (as in fully cooked in three minutes) they were delicious and tender.  Maybe tender to the point of nearly falling apart... but that could have something to do with the dehydration.  Next time, I'll mix up pasta early in the morning and cook it fresh for comparison.

sourdough pasta

My boys devoured my sourdough noodles, which I only buttered and salt-and-peppered.  It was the fastest meal ever, since I pulled some frozen beef stew from the freezer and pan fried some finally here spring asparagus.  It really had a marvelous texture, despite being robbed of some looks.

I was very happy to be challenged to make pasta this month - and I can't wait to see some of the pastas that others have made.  I certainly want to try some stuffed pastas when I remember to allow more time, and I know this isn't the end of my sourdough pasta-making!

No Waste: Radish Green Pasta

As you may or may not know, I planted radishes for the first time this year. I've always liked them, but never grew them - and I think all of my excitement for this bright red taproot is seriously messing with my brain. I finally began to harvest some of the first sowing, and being the diligent, industrious person I am, I vowed that this would be the year that I will eat (and enjoy eating) radish greens. Last year, I tried to like them. I tried to pickle them in a slightly sweet vinegar solution. I tried to convince myself that they were good, but in fact I ended up ditching them every time. It seemed such a shame: the radish root is so lovely and crunchy and addicting, but the beautiful tops I just couldn't stomach. I recently read a post by Annie Wegner-Lefort in which she minced up the greens to add to a salad, and it was her example of zero waste that inspired me to do the same.

Radish greens are beginning to remind me of parsley. One summer when I was younger, I worked on an organic farm tucked into a dead-end road that led to the end of a bluff in southwestern Wisconsin. I started in the greenhouse in March, mixing potting soil and starting seeds while cursing my employer's belief that the plant pores opened up to this high-pitched "warbling" sound that they piped into the greenhouse and out into the fields. I'm not sure if it helped, but I disliked the constant noise in an otherwise idyllic setting. I still find it sad that the constant sound is etched more into my memory than the gorgeous surroundings...

It was a small farm and I was their only non-family help. We did everything by hand, the weeding of the parsley that year fell to me. I never really liked parsley, but had read how good it was for you. I had also read that you can make yourself like something if you try it enough. I swear that by the end of an 8 hour stretch of weeding parsley, I had an indescribable taste for it, and I still have it to this day. After a day of playing around with radish greens, I feel like I'm on my way to appreciation, if not full-out enjoyment of them. I made myself the most incredible lunch today, and it was inspired completely by using up the part of the radish that normally I just get rid of.

When I posted a picture of my radish harvest on my facebook page, Neil commented with a link to a fermented condiment called gundru. Made of radish greens and a being a condiment, it sounded right up my alley! I didn't have huge amounts to contend with, just the prolific tops to about 6 radishes. I figured it was worth a shot to mash them up.

I ran the greens through the food pro first, then started mashing them in a jar.

Gundru uses no salt or whey to preserve, just radish greens, the juice they create, a glass jar, and some sun. I have a few tablespoons sitting on the counter near the window for a week, but figured that I needed more instant gratification for the bitter green sludge that I was trying so hard to like. (I also wasn't quite sure I had enough liquid released from the greens to prevent them from rotting, and I was grinding away with a mortar and pestle for about a half hour.)

For some reason, the only thing I could think of (other than adding garlic and nuts and using it on pasta) was to turn it into some pasta. I have made pasta with flavorings before, but usually prefer not to. I think this is because I first started making pasta according to Marcella Hazan's expertise in Marcella Cucina, which includes that you flavor a sauce and not the noodle. I figured Marcella would agree with the spirit of adventure, and then my radish green pasta was born.

Radish Green Pasta
  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • about 2 T. pureed radish greens
Make a well in your flour, I do this in a bowl, and add the eggs and pureed greens. Whisk with a fork, whisking in the flour a bit at a time until all of the liquid is incorporated and a dough begins to form. Transfer the ball of dough to a floured surface, and knead until it is smooth. Marcella says to knead for 8 minutes, but I don't do it that long. Wrap it in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour.

Roll out dough either by hand or machine. I roll with plenty of flour to make sure the dough doesn't tear as it rolls through. I also make sure there is an extra coating of flour on the last thinness of dough rolled (6 on my machine) before putting it through the cutters. This is more important with pasta dough that has any kind of herb or green added, since the little fibers in them can cause the dough to tear. (If it does tear, just fold it back up, and start over on the thickest setting; it may make it a tad tougher, but not noticeably so.)

When cooking fresh pasta, it really only needs to cook for 4-5 minutes. It will be floating, and should taste al dente.

Yesterday afternoon, I admired my celedon noodles hanging in the kitchen as the day progressed alternately with sun and rain. Tasting it raw, I couldn't even detect the bitter radish green - it just tasted eggy and fresh. Knowing that I couldn't expect my Husband who insists he doesn't like radishes to enjoy a dinner centered around their greens, I made myself a lunch of them instead. When he saw what I was eating (having just come in from work), and after I explained it, he said that I could make it for him for supper tonight. My Husband, eating radish green pasta with butter-sauteed radish "sauce"? You couldn't have sold me that idea 24 hours ago... but it is so amazing, I'd bet anyone would love it.

A flickr contact of mine, leedav, has been making all sorts of inspired "garden grub" that I have been amazed looking at. She has inspired me to look at my little backyard plot and make something with what grew there today, which turned out to be radish roots, green onions, Russian tarragon, lemon thyme. I sauteed all of that in a little bit of butter and olive oil (or maybe it was a lot of butter, I'll never tell), a sliced garlic clove, lots of black pepper and some coarse grey salt. I think this was the best Spring lunch I've ever had, and I ate it up in my messy kitchen, wishing I had gotten up in the middle of the night to make the bread so that I could have a thick slice of it fresh on the side.

I can't stop thinking about all of the people I don't really know, but I feel like I do. These Internet acquaintances inspire me daily to be better in the kitchen, in the garden, to make the most of my free time, and to focus on what is important in life. The busy people that have time to respond to emailed questions about recipes, to give little boosts of encouragements when I need them most. This pasta and sauce would not have happened without them, and I would not be nearly as happy as I am right now. Whenever I think that maybe the whole blogging thing is a waste of time, I am overwhelmingly reminded that is is not.

Homegrown Philly in Milwaukee

When I was contacted at the end of March by Marisa (from Food in Jars) and Caroline at the Philadelphia Tourism department about checking out some local foods from Philadelphia, I was very excited. With the current state of the postal service and the ever upward rise in electronic communication, I rarely get any personal mail. I even more rarely get mail that is any fun at all. I was really looking forward to getting a box of mystery foodstuffs to sample, and the chance to travel just a bit without leaving home.

If I am honest, I have been hugely influenced by Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars. When I started my blog two years ago, I started reading more blogs and being influenced by great blogs like Food in Jars. What I didn't expect from the experience of sharing a bit of myself with the world was that I would find inspiration to do that which I always had in me to do: home preservation.

Growing up in a canning household, I rested comfortably on the laurels of my family, while only doing a batch of jam here and there myself for something to do. I could have had a pantry full of things for each time I told someone "My Mom cans that" or "My Gram used to can that". In the past 2 years, I've seen myself change completely. There are more homemade (and fermented!) foods in my diet than ever before and I have to thank Marisa for making home preservation look so attainable. If she could do it in her tiny apartment kitchen (and with a full-time job), then I could do it in my larger-by-comparison kitchen (in my current state of "unemployent"), right?

I have made many of her recipes, and even enlisted my Mom to make the ones that I ran out of time or ingredients for. While I come nowhere close to putting by the food that she does, I feel like I have become a competent preserver, and for that I thank her sincerely.

Since I have spent a lot of time reading about Philadelphia through Marisa's food, I think my anticipation of my box of Philly food included added dimension of excitement. Philadelphia always seemed like an interesting city through her eyes, even though I've never been. I immediately began my usual method of obsession, of future plans to include traveling to Pennsylvania. Then, my box came:

Click the picture to read more about the contents on Flickr...

I know we are in a time of Green everything, and that's not really a bad thing. It is certainly uncool to want excess waste, but I am still the biggest appreciator of great packaging. This box was no exception. It was great packaging that I saved every bit of to reuse. It was actually packed in a sturdy styrofoam cooler; this will have new life for years, since my Parents do a fair amount of traveling with food and are in need of such means of keeping things cool for short periods of time. The With Love packing paper that cushioned all the goods (pictured at top) got smoothed out and folded, most likely to reuse as wrapping things to send in the mail. I was even happy that the glass jars were of canning size - I have seen canning lids at the Amish bulk store that are the screw on type, and maybe this will be the summer I will experiment with that. Once I got past all the packaging, I laid everything out on the table. I had mail, great looking, edible mail. Isn't that the best kind?

The best part about a box like this is that these were all things that were unique to an area. I am proud of my state, and I got to peek just a little into another and see that same pride. I waited until the next morning to try the biscotti which was grainy and delicious, cut much thicker than the stuff I make myself. (And, studded with orange peel. So good.)

And I tried that tiny, darling jar of honey on a sourdough English muffin... and honey is so much one of my favorite things. All the nuance of place can be tasted in good honey.

And cheese. I am in Wisconsin, and still I am in no way a cheese expert (although I do eat my fair share). This raw cheddar was very good, stiff and buttery. I still have some left - and will try it with apple as suggested. I had some with the gluten free crackers and the sprouted grain crackers I had stashed in the freezer. (If you freeze crackers, it's marvelous. Fresh crackers whenever you demand them. I have my Mom to thank for that tip!)

So after a week or so of tastes, I thought I'd like to make up some kind of dinner using things I rarely have on hand like jarred tomato sauce. I opened the sauce and had a spoonful to see what I was working with. I have to preface that I don't buy jarred sauce, and I was surprised that this one tasted like summer tomatoes. Bright, tangy, delicious.

I had a half pound of crimini mushrooms that I knew I should use when they were still in optimum form, so I figured I'd make pasta with two types of "sauce". My pickiest eater, the Boy-O, has just recently started branching out. Slightly. If I pair something he likes with something unfamiliar on the side, chances are if I'm looking the other way he'll combine the two. The Stepped in What sauce lay in wait in a bright red pool... and mysteriously disappeared completely, sopped up by those delicious noodles.

It was actually difficult for me to open this package of pasta. It felt heavy and beautiful, and well cared for. It had two ingredients on the label and was a luxury item - if pasta can be considered luxury (and I'm pretty sure it can). I felt like I would be perfectly happy eating it with butter, salt and pepper only, but instead I sauteed an inch and a half of the cubed salame with some onion and garlic in a little olive oil and added some quartered mushrooms. Simple, but was it good! The salame is rich, and flavored everything for using such a small amount.

On the sourdough front: I haven't made a loaf of bread in more than a week due to the English muffin mayhem. For the past 2 weeks, I've been feeding the starter more (by more I mean half it's weight each in water and flour every morning), and can I ever tell the difference. It is much more active, and has much more rising power. I also folded the dough during the first fermentation, which incorporates air into the loaf. It could also be that we've had a string of gorgeous, warmish days as well, but my bread was perfect. I half suspected it to be hollow in the center it was so uniformly round and risen, but no - just perfect with small airy holes.

So, my dinner was maybe a little unconventional. I layered the oily salame sauce over the pasta then added a bit of tomato sauce on the side. When mixed, the assertive tomato sauce took over, but when eaten segregated, both were very delicious. I made a salad dressing reminiscent of a Caesar by boiling an egg for 45 seconds (oh, those Cook's Illustrated people!), then whisking it with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Sopping up the plate with bread was one of my favorite ways to end the day.

I'm not lying when I say that if I have a bit of money and a weekend to spare this Summer or early Fall, I want to go to Philadelphia. It's a place I never considered, and neither is a "foodie vacation". I know just the person I'll invite to meet me there, too. Thank you to Marisa and Caroline for sending me such a fun box, and no doubt hooking me on the food culture of Philadelphia just a little bit.

Vegan Monday: Pasta!

Well, a whole week has passed without a single word from rcakewalk. The truth is, I had a lovely Summer Cold most of last week, and really didn't do much cooking until I needed to get ready for the Boy-O's birthday on Friday. I feel like I have a lot of time to make up for, since being compromised in taste and smell faculties rendered me a pretty poor kitchen experimenter for many days. (Though, I did manage to read all the way through Wild Fermentation - and start a "ginger bug", and then after the bug was going, I bottled a little batch of ginger beer.)

Last night, I knew that I was feeling better, when I was automatically planning what I could come up with for my continuing Vegan Monday postings. Since my basil was in need of pinching back again, I figured pasta and pesto would be a good choice for supper... and it was a happily sneaky one that my Husband ate without knowledge of its delicious vegan-ness.

I really love making pasta from scratch. I've done it now for probably 12 years, and can't say that I've ever tried to make it without eggs. What's even worse, is that I wrote a post about beet pasta, in which I tweaked a recipe I saw in the Outpost Exchange that did not contain eggs, and I actually said that I prefer pasta that does. I can now attest that this is because I never had homemade semolina pasta. It is wonderful, and easy to do, and I may just have to take back the song previously sung about the wonders of egg pasta.

Semolina flour, in it's sand-like peskyness, is very high in gluten - which enables it to stretch and not break when cooking. I noticed the difference immediately when working with the dough. It was a resisting, silky thing; when rolled thinly (notch 6 on my Atlas Pasta Queen), it felt as if I were feeding a sheet of peached cotton through the cutters. The strands of finished fettuccine did not stick together either, and I could see myself actually able to roll little nests like Marcella Hazan without much difficulty. The dried pasta (seen in the first photo, above), did not break or crack when I moved it to a sheet pan. I was excited, since already I could tell that I was going to be so happy with the cooked result.

This morning, I mixed up a small batch using proportions from A Life(time) of Cooking. I needed almost twice the amount of water she recommended, but went by the feel of my egg pasta past, and was indeed rewarded with the pretty little dough seen above. Then, Boy-O (now a proud 4 year old!) and I went for a walk. As I like to err on the side of gluttony (a phrase coined by my Husband and Maeckel), I decided I had to make a second little batch, only whilst walking, I figured there was no reason not to try it with wheat flour and semolina.

Since the recipe calls for equal proportion of all purpose flour and semolina flour, I'm imagining all kinds of whole grain flour combinations are going to be tried sometime in the future. I used a white whole wheat flour from King Arthur Flour. The dough was just as nice to work with, and cooked up into a mildly, wheat flavored pasta. I heard no complaints from either of my guys, so I'm taking it that they couldn't even tell. I think the truth of the matter is that homemade pasta so far surpasses store bought pasta, that you would be hard pressed to find someone who thought otherwise.

The base recipe suggests that for each generous serving, these are the proportions to use. When I had two batches (using different flours), the total weight was just shy of 1 lb... The best thing about homemade pasta, is that it does store well. Just make sure it's dried well first, and then seal it in a zip top bag. It's even more of a convenience food than it's supermarketed brethren, since it takes mere minutes to cook. Even more reason for you to give it a go!

(Vegan) Semolina Pasta (adapted from A Life(time) of Cooking)
  • 1/2 c. semolina flour
  • 1/2 c. AP flour (or white whole wheat - I used KAF)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t. olive oil (eyeball it)
  • 6-8 T. water, to feel
In a medium sized bowl, mix the flours and salt. Add the olive oil, then 4 T. of the water, while stirring the forming dough with your fingers. Add enough water to get the dough to form into a ball. (The semolina flour, and the wheat flour, will soak up a bit more liquid than regular AP flour.) When the dough is formed into a ball, knead gently for a few strokes on a wooden board to be sure everything is incorporated well.

Let the dough rest for at least a half hour. Roll out either by hand on a well floured board, or by hand cranked or stand mixer attachment, using regular AP flour as necessary. Cut into desired shape, and let dry (or cook right away).

When cooking, bring an ample amount of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Watch it carefully, it takes just a few minutes to cook. I start testing it when I see it boil up to the surface, usually around the three minute mark.

Semolina/AP flour pasta on the left, semolina/white whole wheat pasta on the right.

Of course, since I went through the trouble of making eggless pasta, I made a vegan pesto as well - from another winning recipe from Dreena Burton's Eat Drink & Be Vegan. I found the recipe printed for you here, from an interview that Dreena did for Vegan Freak Radio, and let me tell you - you may never find yourself buying a pine nut ever again. It was so creamy, fresh, and when I first tasted it, the bite of raw garlic perfectly complemented the other ingredients. (The only thing I did differently, other than not really measuring anything, was to omit the dried mustard. Why oh why do I always remember that I don't have this spice stocked until the last second? The amount needed was too little to be processed out of mustard seeds in my coffee mill/spice mill... so I just left it out.) I'm looking forward to having some of the leftovers on a pizza tomorrow...

While the final dish left something photographically to be desired, the taste did not. The pasta had perfect bite, just a tad more toothsomeness in the whole wheat version, and because I remembered to save some of the pasta's cooking water, I had a nicely thickened pesto sauce that gently coated the noodles. You could go all out and load up on the sauce, like Dreena does, but I have hopes for my leftovers tomorrow, so I restrained.

I'm sure I'll be back to my cooking self this week, and already I'm behind on my weekly fermenting/culturing duties. I actually have to start my next kombucha batch now before I hit the hay...

But before I do go: A non-vegan bit of information I must pass on! I got the best tip ever from my reading of Wild Fermentation for all of you yogurt makers out there: for every quart of milk you are inoculating with the yogurt culture from a previous batch, only use 1 Tablespoon of culture. 1 Tablespoon! I always use much more, but thanks to Sandor (and The Joy of Cooking) - who explained that less culture gives the bacillus room to move and creates a thicker, creamier result. I did this today, and in just 7 hours had beautifully thickened yogurt, with no separation!

So how is THAT to end a Vegan Monday post! From what I've read, you can make a soy or alternative milk yogurt from a culture, but the culture will not perpetuate. Also, I do not believe that the cultures can be dairy free to start... so now I'm curious, and have some label reading to do on my next Outpost trip. Maybe I know what direction I'm heading for next week's vegan post...

hidden mascarpone

hidden mascarpone, originally uploaded by Rcakewalk.

True to my word, here is today's usage of mascarpone: Pasta with Mascarpone-Tuna Tomato Sauce.

I heated up some frozen homemade pasta sauce, and then added a hefty spoonful of mascarpone. I know it's pathetic to get excited about watching cheese melt into hot sauce, but I was. (I couldn't help but wish I had made a Vodka Sauce, since this addition made it so silky, and Vodka Sauce is one of my favorite things.) I added one drained can of imported tuna in olive oil, my favorite, and stirred in about 2 cups cooked pasta. Topped with dried Lahey bread crumbs mixed with a bit of Parmesan cheese and olive oil, I baked it covered in foil until the carrots were done roasting: about 30 minutes give or take. It was liked by all, even the pickiest Boy-O who even ventured out of his fail-safe granola mode and ate several noodles.

Looking forward to tomorrow morning's application thanks to Lo: Stuffed French Toast. I'd better hurry up and get to bed!