Posts Tagged ‘Olive oil’


13 January 13

I’m going to tell you that the greatest hoax in town is packaged spaghetti. The real stuff is so easy to make and so much more delicious that you will never want the packaged stuff again. Italian mamas knock this stuff out without blinking an eye. The big secret is that anyone can do it.

Here are the complex and arcane ingredients:

100 g
flour per person (4/5 Cup)
1 large egg per person

That’s all folks!

Some discussion about the flour. You can use all-purpose or Semolina (made from Durham wheat), or a mixture of the two. I like 50 g of each per person.


Adding Semolina flour to AP flour. Note processor container on scale, which has been tared.

Mixing is no big deal: the traditional is to make a bit of a mound of the flour on your counter, put a well in the middle, put the eggs in the well, and scramble with a fork. As you stir in more and more of the flour it will get to the point that it is too stiff for the fork and you should switch to your hands, kneading until all the flour is mixing in and the dough is smooth. An easier way for the lazy or old or puny (I’m getting to be all three): put the flour into a food processor and pulse a couple of times. This mixes and sifts the flour the easy way.

Add eggs - in this case, 2 - to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add eggs – in this case, 2 – to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add in the eggs and pulse around five or six times or until all is mixed together. You will have a crumbly sort of mixture which you dump onto the counter and knead a few times until the dough is formed.

There is argument here. Some favor making a ball, wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerating for a half hour. I don’t bother, I just get on to the rolling stage.

Knead until the dough holds together

Knead until the dough holds together

Rolling it out: You can use your favorite rolling pin or whatever technology you like to get a nice thin, pliable, dry dough. It will take you a bit of work to get the dough down to the 1/16” that you need. A test: with the dough rolled out near the edge of the counter put your mouth at the edge and blow air between the dough and the counter surface. If it flutters you have achieved thinness. Almost all Italian mamas seem to say that they do it this way. However, they sell a ton of pasta machines in Italy. As one commentator noted: The mamas say that they do it by hand, then hurry home to their machines. Look here – pasta machines go from $30 to thousands on Amazon. Then there are the powered machines. I got the $30 jobbie and it works just fine. The only caution is that your countertop must have enough of a lip to clamp the machine firmly. The Kitchenaid goes somewhere around $160 and, although I love Kitchenaid, I didn’t want to spend that much. A word of caution: do look on YouTube for various people using the rolling machines. Be aware that it takes a bit of practice before it is as easy as they make it look. You will probably cuss right salty the first time you try to use one.

[Herself Sez: more photos and a movie coming later.]

After you get the dough thin enough you can cut it up into strips. First off, whack the dough into reasonable lengths, a foot or so will do. If you are doing the hand thing or don’t have a cutter of the width you want, no big deal. Just roll up the dough or fold it loosely and cut strips with your knife. If you have a machine you probably have at least a spaghetti cutter and a linguini cutter. The more expensive jobs have all sorts of widths available. Be sure that you have the output going into a bowl or onto the counter and not the floor.

Look! Spaghetti!

Look! Spaghetti!

Sprinkle the strands with a bit of cornmeal and separate any strands that are sticking together. Cornmeal is used because when you cook it will drop to the bottom of the pot. If you use flour it will make a sticky mess when cooked.

There is no big secret to drying it. You can buy fancy drying racks or trees. No need. The mamas just have little mounds of pasta around the countertop drying for an hour or two.

When ready to cook use a big pot and lots of water – you already knew that. Use at least twice the salt you normally use.  Like a heaping tablespoon or more. The water should be like seawater. Don’t add the salt until the water is really boiling, just before adding the pasta. This is not like the dry stuff out of the box; it only takes a couple of minutes. Test at 1 minute intervals after coming back to the full boil. Drain thoroughly, and do not wash. Don’t add butter or oil to pasta if you are going to want a sauce to stick to it.

There are those who add salt to the dough. There are also those who add oil to the dough. I don’t, but try them sometime. About a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of oil per serving for starters. Adjust to your liking from there.

I did a marinara gravy/sauce recipe somewhere previously. But here are a couple of simple ones:

Drizzle olive oil over the pasta, add some finely minced garlic and some shredded Parmesan. Get good Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can afford it. This is kind of a traditional Italian snack.

Another way: Sorta’ depends on what’s in the fridge and your mood.

Cook the spaghetti somewhere in here so that it is ready before the last step.

Some trinity: onion, celery, carrot, chopped. Mushrooms, rough chopped. Ham or beef or chicken or shrimp or scallops or whatever you’ve got, thin cut or rough cut, depending. Anchovy – be sure to get good stuff – a couple mushed up in their olive oil. Remove bones as needed.

We use the King Oscar anchovies, packed in olive oil. Heat the olive oil, mush them with the back of a spoon in the hot olive oil, then rub through a fine strainer with your fingers (carefully), which will leave the bones behind. A wonderful treat: take a nice cracker (I’ll teach you to make crackers another time), spread a bit of Philly Cheese and put just a dot of this anchovy paste. Much goodness. It may take a time or two before you know how you want the proportions. Too much of this or too little of that and they are terrible. Get it right and they are heavenly.

Lessee – back to the spaghetti. Sauté the trinity and the mushroom slowly and gently until nicely softened, but not brown. Toss in the garlic and, when it smells good – about 30 seconds or so, add the meat and anchovy. Stir gently or toss if you can. I’ve lost too much wrist strength to do the one handed jerk, toss and roll anymore, so I stir. When everything smells right add the previously cooked spaghetti and stir in some more olive oil or butter. Butter gives a smooth, sweet taste. Finish with salt and pepper as needed. You don’t always need either.

Someone who knows how can make spaghetti in less than ten minutes. Closer to 5 minutes after practice.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention macaroni, rigatoni, and such. These are formed by extruding. Made with pretty much the same dough, and extruded through a machine with the proper forming plate. There are attachments for Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, but they are kind of pricey. There are also some manual machines that look (and work) a lot like a meat grinder. I get the sense that they are more trouble than they are worth, but you can check them out on Amazon and YouTube if you are interested. Mostly what I see on YouTube is industrial stuff.

It has been said that some of the poorest people in the world have some of the best food. This can be true. What can be cheaper and simpler than flour and an egg? Topped with olive oil, garlic, and a good local cheese this is about as cheap as it gets. Remember, no matter how expensive or status-y a cheese is – somewhere in the world it is just everyday cow, sheep, or goat juice that has gone bad.


Marinara Gravy

7 December 12

2012-09-06 - Spicy Marinara Sauce - 0002

2012-09-06 – Spicy Marinara Sauce [Gravy] – 0002 (Photo credit: smiteme)

Kind of a funny name. You have heard of marinara sauce forever. OK – let’s clear up that little bit of linguistic mystery. To the Italians, sauce has no meat in it. If it has meat or meat juice it is gravy. So – this is a marinara with meat. You can make it without the meat, of course, and then it would be marinara sauce. You will find this to be totally superior to the heavy tomato paste based Americanized stuff.

 olive oil
 1  small onion, finely chopped
 1  large garlic clove, finely chopped
 1  stalk celery, finely chopped
 1  carrot, finely chopped
 1  small handful mushrooms, rough chopped
 1/4  tsp  sea salt
 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper
 1  28-oz. can diced tomatoes
 several fresh basil leaves chiffonade
 1  sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled

Chop up the veggies, heat up the oil in a pot large enough to hold all the stuff. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and sweat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. If you want to increase the garlic to a maximum of 5 cloves and gag your neighbors feel free. The Italians range from reasonable garlic use to totally ridiculous. Too much garlic and you can’t possibly taste anything else.

Oh yeah, chiffonade, just a French word for shredding or making rag-like. Easiest way is to take some sharp scissors and snip the basil up. Traditional chiffonade method is to stack the leaves, roll them into a tight tube, then cut into narrow strips. Either way is OK. The traditional method does produce prettier, more uniform strips. There are some good videos on YouTube and other places to learn good chiffonade technique.

Add the celery, carrots, sausage, salt, and pepper. Sweat until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. Simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Don’t let it dry out, add a bit more water as needed. Serve over spaghetti or as a side dish.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true "par...

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true “parmesan” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste only if needed.

You could shred a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but don’t use the powdered crap in the can. I advise tasting before adding anything.

Mushroom Duxelles

13 October 11

1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped fine
1 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs shallot, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry sherry

Chop up the mushrooms very fine. If you’ve got good knife skills – go for it. If your life skills are on the blink or your get up and go got up and went then use a food processor. You probably want to do about 1/3 of the mushrooms at a time. You can also chop the shallots in the processor if you like. Use any kind of mushrooms that you really like, but I advise that you do not use those that are too strongly flavored. Good old button mushrooms work very well indeed.

Wring the moisture out of the chopped mushrooms. If you haven’t done this before you are likely to be plumb amazed at the amount of liquid that comes out. For those who haven’t done this before – take a clean non-fuzzy kitchen towel, place the mushrooms on it, fold the towel so that you’ve got the mushrooms in a ball. Start twisting the ball around while holding on to the towel with the other hand. Continue wringing until you’ve gotten all the water that you can. Be amazed. If this is still unclear look around on YouTube and you can probably find a video showing this. This same technique is useful for wring out frozen spinach. If you like you can save the mushroom juice for use in a stew or sauce. I don’t usually bother.

Add a bit of oil and a tablespoon of butter to a good, heavy skillet. When the butter is ready add the mushrooms and shallots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme. Sauté over medium high heat stirring frequently for about 8 minutes. At that time the mushrooms should be nicely browning.

Add another tablespoon of butter and stir. Add the dry sherry. You can use any dry wine or vermouth that you have. Keep the heat up and keep stirring until the liquid has evaporated.

Remove from the heat, let it cool down, and cap it in a jar. This makes about a cup. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Makes a nice addition to many things.

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

30 July 11

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple vinegar
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
3-6 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

The amount of garlic depends on the size and strength of the garlic at hand and how stout you like your garlic dressing. Of course, if you don’t like garlic you won’t want this dressing anyway.

Put everything except the oil into a blender and puree pretty fine. Drizzle the oil in and

blend thoroughly.

This is outstanding with avocado. Just take a nice Haas avocado cut in half lengthwise and the seed removed and fill up the hole with the dressing. Then scoop it up with a spoon, very tasty.

This stuff benefits from sitting and mellowing awhile.

If you want to make this sort of Frenchified just add a blop of Dijon mustard to the mix.

Black pepper

Image via Wikipedia

Herself Sez:  Himself uses Madagascar Tellicherry peppercorns which he orders from Fantes’ Kitchen Wares. They have many excellent items that we use. He orders our usual sea salt for grinding from Salt Works. We also use some of the different sea salts found at Whole Foods. (Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Sea Salt) While Whole Foods is pretty much overpriced and thinks much of itself, it does carry many necessary items.

Focaccia from Poolish

25 December 09

Focaccia is Italian, poolish is Polish by way of Vienna through France. Focaccia is quite well-known in French cooking. The Burgundy region knows it as foisse. Provance and most of the rest of France knows it as fougasse.

Poolish fermentation gives a much fuller flavor to just about any bread, so this is a nice variation. It takes much longer than the simple focaccia recipes that can be whipped together in almost no time at all. But – longer fermentation generally means more flavor – and so it is here.

Focaccia is quite ancient. It goes back past ancient Rome to either Etruscan or Greek roots. There are as many variations as there are cooks. You can use herb infused oil. You can add meaty toppings. You can add sweet toppings. You can treat it like pizza dough or sandwich bread. It is frequently served as a side and dipped into olive oil. You can do anything you like with this basic recipe. This is pretty much a large flat bread. The recipe can be scaled up or down to your needs.


188 g bread flour (1-1/4 cups)
180 g water (3/4 cups)
1/8 tsp yeast (a good pinch from a standard pack)


all poolish
200 g bread flour (1-1/3 cups)
7 g salt (1 tsp)
the rest of the yeast package
45 g olive oil (3 Tbs)
90 g water (3/8 cup)
60 g Herb Oil (1/4 cup)

—–Herb Oil—–

120 g olive oil (1/2 cup)

—–Poolish —–

Mix the flour and water with a good pinch of yeast until it is all incorporated. Cover and let rise overnight.

If you are going to make an herb-infused oil now would be a good time to warm the oil and add the herbs. Crush the herbs with a mortar and pestle as needed and dump them into the warm oil to soak overnight is the simplest way.

—– Dough —–

Mix everything together for 3 minutes on low speed and then 3 minutes on second speed. If you are masochistic enough to mix by hand then just keep stirring until you arm falls off. It is too sticky a dough to be kneaded.

—– Stretching, Folding, Forming —–

Turn out onto a heavily floured work surface. Flour the upper surface and pat it out into a large rectangle. Stretch and fold in half, then fold the side in by thirds. Pat the folded sandwich down so that it is about the original size and thickness. Lube the top with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.

  1. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  2. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  3. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.

Place the sandwich onto a jelly roll pan lined with oiled parchment paper and lube well with oil. A double recipe takes a 17” x 12” pan. Use a pan sized to your batch.

Ferment one hour.

Pour 1/4 cup of oil (infused if you are using it). With only your finger tips poke the dough down and spread it out without getting it too thin. You do NOT want to flatten that last rise. The dough should pretty well fill your pan and be dimpled all over where your finger tips have pushed into it.


Photo from “Flour on My Face” blog by Arlene Mobley

Ferment 2 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

Add some more oil and poke it down if it looks like it needs it. Sprinkle with salt to your liking. Add any doo-dads that you want. If there are any really big, thin bubbles you might as well pop them now.

—– Baking —–

Preheat the oven to 500°F. When you put the dough into the oven then lower the temp to 450°F. After 10 minutes turn the pan if your oven does not cook evenly. Total cooking 20 to 25 minutes. So if you rotated the dough give it another 10 to 15 minutes. What you want is about 200°F at the center of the bread. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before indulging. This – by the way – is what is called baking in a falling oven. This is an attempt to mimic the action of the old stone ovens – quite historical, actually.

If you are using toppings that burn you might want to add them during the last few minutes of cooking. If you are doing an infusion with your oil do try to use fresh herbs. They work better. A real traditional would be some onions, some olives, some garlic, all chopped up and slowly infused overnight.

Yeah – this is where the pizza joints got their idea for their bread sticks.

{Herself Sez: I LOVE focaccia! I like the rich, olive-oiliness of it, and the flavor of the herbed oil that I dip it in. It’s a good thing the Ol’ Curmudgeon only makes it in half-batches, and freezes it in small-serving sizes. That keeps me from eating it too fast. (I’d eat it all – ALL – at one sitting, given the opportunity!) The Ol’ Curmudgeon doesn’t like it very much, so he makes it just for me. It is such a warm, rich experience being cherished this much! Kind of like focaccia dipped in warm herbed oil!}

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