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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Time...forever moving too fast.

  I know I said I would check in a few times in February, and looking at the calendar, I see it is already March--my bad. Hopefully you will accept my explanation that my remiss on checking in here was due to having two research papers due for my classes. I do tend to get intensely involved in my research these days, as a way to make up for my lack of effort I put forth when I would have been a traditional college student. And so far, my efforts have indeed been paying off. 
  Back to the matters at hand, however; it is March already. Do I have to go into the rant about where does time go? Let's not waste the precious cyberspace and get on with this month's  food celebrations.
   March is National Celery Month; National Flour Month; National Frozen Foods Month; National Nutrition Month; National Noodle Month; National Peanut Month; National Sauce Month; National Caffeine Awareness Month and; in the United Kingdom, National Veggie Month. I can safely day that March is another month filled with diversity, and that is a good thing, in my opinion--who likes to eat the same thing day after day? Certainly not me, and if I have never mentioned this before, my husband abhors repeats--especially when it comes to his meals. He used to, however, like to make a HUGE pot of pasta fagiole, but don't try to serve it to him for consecutive dinners, he not only gets testy, he gets downright ugly. I finally convinced him how we could make a smaller portion and have it twice within a week, then freeze the rest for another dinner during the winter months, or when the food budget is short. That plan works much better.
   There are a few weekly celebrations during March, as well. The second week of March is both Chocolate Chip Cookie week and National School Breakfast Week, but I am sure the schools don't use chocolate chip cookies for their breakfast fare, more's the pity, if you ask this cookie-monster. The third week of March is American Chocolate Week, the third Saturday is Maple Syrup Saturday, and when either Lent begins or ends in March, which it does some years, you might also have Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras)--which is International Pancake Day, Good Friday--which is Hot Cross Bun Day, or Easter which is National Baked Ham with Pineapple Day. Alas! None of those fall in March this year, but I felt I would have been remiss, had I not at least told you about them.
   The daily food celebrations are just as varied this month as they have been all the previous months I have so far reported. A few notables for March are: the 1st is National Peanut Butter Lover's day; the 4th is National Pound Cake Day; March 17th is Saint Patty's Day, and with that National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day; March 20th is National Ravioli Day; March 21st is California Strawberry Day; March 25th is Waffle Day; March 28th is Something on a Stick Day, they seem to always have one of those questionable celebrations every month, have you ever noticed? March 30th is Turkey Neck Soup Day; and we wind up the month with Clams on the Half Shell Day, Tater Day and Orange and Lemons Day on the 31st.
   Seems that this month has just as many celebrations that interest me as any previous month, so maybe I can motivate myself into some cooking marathons. Or not. Maybe we'll just talk about the celebrations if I don't have time to do the cooking experiments and take the photos of the dishes step by step. Does that grab anyone? Well...I think it grabs me, so whether I do a cooking lesson or just a commentary on a celebration, I hope to get back on a regular posting schedule again. 
   Hope to see you and hear from you soon!

Homemade Ricotta Cavatelli

   Oh, yeah, I love cavatelli, even the kind you buy in the freezer section of a grocery store, but boy, do I remember my little old Italian grandma making these by hand and having trays of them sitting on kitchen towels drying all around her house when we'd come for a visit. Funny, but until now it never dawned on me that after dinner those trays were nowhere to be found, yet I never actually saw anyone go around the house and collect them. I guess Italian grandmas are magicians, after all!
   After my recent foray into homemade pasta I started telling my husband that I wanted to try my hand at ricotta cavatelli--I already make the ricotta--it was just a natural progression, if you ask me.
   The recipe is quite basic--flour,eggs, ricotta, salt, and the kneading part can be handled by my trusty old KitchenAid® stand mixer.
   The most difficult part is with the shaping of the cavatelli. You know the drill, you have to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes; cavatelli needs to be wrapped in plastic wrap,and the rest period takes place in the refrigerator. After the dough has rested you split it into  quarters, using one quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered with the plastic wrap and a damp towel; all the standard rules for working with dough.
   You then split the quarter into half so you are working with 1/8 of the dough at a time. Roll the dough into a rope about 1/4 inch in diameter. Cannot tell you how long the rope should be, as it will vary on the accuracy your split, but you want the width go be close to 1/4 inch (some of mine were thicker, but it did not cause a problem.) Then cut the rope into 1 inch pieces, they will look like little pillows. Here's the part that really takes practice: using a putty knife or other flat tool (I switched to a kitchen scraper which worked fabulously), gently drag the tool across the dough from the long edge furthest away from you towards yourself. You only need a drop of pressure, the dough will curl up over the edge of the tool and end up looking like a tiny hot dog roll. Perfect. Toss the pasta onto a sheet pan that has been lightly sprinkled with flour. And continue with all the dough---oh, yes, you are literally making the pasta piece by piece, although I was able to line up about three next to each other and do three at a time, with only minor adjustments at the end. Pretty impressive for my first try. Here's what they looked like:

And here's a closer look:

   Beautiful, don't cha think?
   Home made spaghetti sauce, home made Italian bread, mixed green salad, and maybe a bottle of Chianti to finish this off. Perfect, perfect perfect.
   Talk soon!