“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” Okay, I’ve got some time left, still I’m cutting it pretty close this week. Tomorrow I’ll spend the day at the yearly Urban Photo Race, so I need to share my pizza tonight. In one word: delicious. I kept it really simple, sticking to the recipe (other than replacing ‘00’ flour with semola, which was all I had). I was afraid of the dough and still highly doubt I nailed it, but it was pretty easy. I had to start in time though, to let it rest for 6-8 hours. And then…the soft and sticky dough covered in a rich red tomato sause with pieces of snack tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on top. Some basil and some seasoning and 20 minutes later diner was served!
Cannelloni, which means “large reeds”, look a lot like penne, but bigger. And - not to make this sound dirty - if it’s big and has a big hole - it can be stuffed. Which is exactly the way cannelloni are (is?) prepared: pasta stuffed with some yummy filling. Now I guess there’s plenty of ways to stuff cannelloni, but Scuola di Cucina suggests a filling of broccoli and cheese. Tasty combination, that much I know from soup and quiche recipes. And it’s vegetarian, so what else could I possibly dream of?
Well, for starters, it would be nice if Dutch cheese stalls would be familiar with Italian cheese. No, obviously they know their Parmesan and Pecorino, but when I asked for Caciotta… “Ca-ci-ot-ta? Never heard of it.” The guy clearly thought I either made or mixed it up. In the end, I settled for pecorino (which was also in the recipe) and some cheese I still had in the fridge that wasn’t in the recipe, but looked slightly similar to the mentioned Ca-ci-ot-ta.
Once I got the groceries everything else proved pretty straightforward. I must admit I was a bit worried, because I wanted to make the whole thing from scratch. Not just the filling, but also the pasta and the bechamel sause. All at pretty much the same time. Luckily it all went quite well. The cannelloni turned out a bit heavy, probably because I don’t own a pasta machine and just can’t get the dough quite thin enough. Other than that - yumm. Definitely something I’m going to do more often. And of course this is great to experiment with the filling. Spinach, pine nuts, bell peppers…. Mmmouthwatering!
Zucchini baskets were on next week’s schedule and once again I decided to start early. The recipe was easy enough: make baskets out of grated parmesan and filled with slices of zucchini, carrots and celery. While a great side dish it’s not nearly enough diner, so I decided to utilize the rest of the zucchini (if there’s one thing I learn from this book is that my guts are more trustworthy than the amounts in the recipe and three zucchini’s definitely seemed like an overkill for four tiny parmesan baskets) and make a zucchini soup. Or, as the book calls it, a zucchini cream. There’s no actual cream in it, but the soup did turn out deliciously creamy. I’m guessing it’s because of the olive oil blended in. I might use some more spice or stock instead of water and salt the next time, just for a bit more flavour, but other than that it’s a great diner soup, rich and delicious.
So what of the parmesan zucchini baskets, the ones this week was all about? Well, those are definitely a treat. The taste is very balanced, especially for such a simple dish. I’m also thinking of experimenting next time: maybe some pine nuts on top, or using some apple slices with the vegetables?
Last weekend we went camping. Now we’re not usually the types to camp, preferring the comfort of… a bed, for example, but this is the one weekend a year we make an exception, celebrating midsummer with a pagan group. Surprisingly, usually these midsummer weekends don’t have much summer about them. This year was no exception. Showers, showers and more showers, the worst one hitting us when we just set up the barbecue and totally soaking us.
Well, there’s not a lot a good glass of mead won’t fix, but like said - it’s not exactly my idea of summer. So I’ll just pretend it’s spring (not that showers should be typical for spring, of course, but well… we áre in the Netherlands) and use that as an excuse to cook with asparagus. The recipe for the clafoutis was pretty simple, though I couldn’t find the required “caprino fresco”, which is a very young variety of goat cheese, so I used cottage cheese instead. It was al right, but I think I’ll try feta next time. Still, it turned out a very nice dish, perfect for a lunch (if you have time, that is, because it took my oven 40 minutes to get the clafoutis right, as opposed to the adviced 10-12mm).
It looked pretty easy on paper. It often does. An easy pasta, without eggs even, combined with just several other ingredients made for the ultimate sunny-summer-feeling-pictures - perfect for the last week of spring. The result on the picture below is all mine and… I think it looks pretty good!
Well.. it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. Apparently I messed up somewhere in the process. Or more than once.
First of all the fresh pasta: semola flour combined with ‘00’ flour. I got my flour in a tiny Italian shop, where the sales lady firmly adviced me to stick to just semola, which I did. Nor sure if that’s why the dough was so… soft. The recipe was pretty vague, too: combine the two sorts of flour, add lukewarm water until you have tough dough, then add olive oil for elasticity. Okay, but somehow my dough skipped the “tough” part and went from flaky, straight to… soft. Hmm, maybe I added too much water? Let’s add some more flour! And whoa… it’s flaky again. Back to water then… Noooo, why is it soft?. Okay, never mind, let me just add the olive oil and move on…
Second thing that went wrong: the pasta was too big. Gnocchi-size big. That’s big. Thick, too. Surprisingly it still cooked okay so it tasted like thick pasta, not like a shoe (can I unlock an achievement for that)?
And I’m still not sure if I had to let the pasta dry for some time. Book says no, computer says yes. I went for no, but that’s more due to hunger and laziness (deadly combo) than anything else.
Last but not least (literally): I also have this slight suspicion I might have made too much. Because pasta for two should comfortably fit into a large pan, right? Well, it didn’t. The book didn’t specify the number of servings, too. Mental note for next time: turns out we don’t eat as much as I think we do.
Surprisingly, despite this first battle with fresh pasta, the result was alright. Rapini, garlic, capers (which I used to replace the recipe-prescribed anchovy) and parmesan cheese could make worse things good and this wasn’t actually bad, it was just well… simply too big pasta. Still… I might have to encorporate more fresh pasta recipes in the challenge. While I deem the result acceptable (for a first time try) the Italian maffia might just come after me for ruining their dishes like that. Gonna try to fully stick to the recipe next time, see how that works out.