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Sunday, June 2, 2013

May, she will stay.....

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       Spring has  sprung here in Central New York! Halleluiah! Classes are O-V-E-R! Yippee quay-aye!  Although I do have a few more classes to complete my degree, and I am toying with the idea of a Masters as well. But for now, I am free to cook!
     First on the menu is my famous macaroni salad. Nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing crazy just good ole macaroni salad. Period.
    To start with macaroni salad, regular macaroni salad is made with elbow macaroni. You can use any other short pasta you like, but in my mind real, regular, comfort food macaroni salad is plain and simple elbow macaroni. I do, however occasionally use mini-penne, or ziti, or penne and while the taste is the same, the mouth feel is quite different. To me, that makes it not regular old fashioned macaroni salad. Have I whined enough?
      Due to the nature of pasta, that it will continue to absorb liquids it is mixed with, I make extra dressing to add to the mix right before I serve it, but no so much that the pasta is swimming in it like you sometimes get if you take a chance and buy it from a deli. While some delicatessens certainly make good macaroni salad--there's a place in Stony Brook that I love their macaroni salad, most are not that good--too runny or too vinegar-y, or mushy pasta. Ugh! No thank you!

For one pound of pasta you need a dressing that consists of two cups of mayonnaise- extra heavy if you can find it, but that is becoming more and more difficult to find in my little corner of the world; 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 to 3/4 cups of either cider or white wine vinegar, okay you can use white distilled vinegar if that is your staple. Added to the pasta is also 1/2 of a green pepper diced small; 1/2 of a red pepper diced small; and if you want you can also add 1 seeded and chopped tomato. The tomato is totally optional, the peppers, however are not. The difference in the taste of the pasta without the peppers is so remarkable and downright bland, that if you want to truly experience good--check that--great macaroni salad you simply MUST include the peppers. Even if you only have one color--use it. That's one more of those "trust me" deals.
     Cook the macaroni just until al dente--no matter what you make pasta should be slightly resistant to the tooth; drain it well, and while still hot mix in 1/2 of the dressing mixture and the peppers. Toss to coat. The heat of the pasta releases the flavor of the peppers and big things will start to happen. Wait 10 minutes and add 1/2 of the remaining dressing, mix well. Hold the balance of the dressing until serving time--if the salad is too dry for your taste, add more, if not, you can refrigerate the dressing for a day or two, use it to continue to freshen up the salad before serving. But I do not keep it beyond two days, not because it goes bad--the vinegar does preserve it a bit, is just looks nasty. I usually do not have anything left to dump--the macaroni salad is usually long gone before the two days are up. I have a mac-salad hound around here. 
     STOP the presses! I have recently tried another method! I admit I am usually totally against rinsing pasta, however,  I started rinsing the pasta for mac salad, and I must report satisfactory results. I should know there is no "never". 

I did it...

     I did it, I did it, I did it!, What did I "did", you ask?
     I went an got myself a pasta roller, and now I don't know why I waited so long. My new love is my hand crank pasta roller--bought under the guise of a "modeling clay" roller in the craft section of Ebay. This thing is the bomb--no understatement here. the Pasta rolls out into beautiful thin elastic strips that cook up tender in minutes and hold onto the---okay, I confess, homemade Alfredo sauce in a way I have NEVER had Alfredo sauce hold up.
     I used my usual recipe: 3 cup of flour to 3 eggs, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, 3 teaspoons of olive oil, and up to 6 Tablespoons of water mixed to a tight dough consistency in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. That makes plenty of pasta for a family of 5-6 big eaters, especially if you pair the meal with homemade fresh Italian bread and a salad of lettuces tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, grated parmesan cheese and olives, with fresh mixed Italian dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and a good red wine or balsamic vinegar, a bit of salt, some parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.
      Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then working with 1/8th of the dough at a time, press it into a flatish piece that will fit into the widest setting of the roller machine. Roll it out, turn the dough, and reduce the thickness of the roller, and pass it through the roller =several times skipping a thickness or two every successive pas through. i went down to #2. then with a sharp pizza cutter, cut the fettuccine noodles as wide as you like--I do about 5/8 th's of an inch--we like them wide. Remove the strands to a drying rack---I use my cake cooling racks propped up and use as many rungs as I can and let the strands dry for anywhere from 1/2 hour to several hours.  They never dry out like the ones you buy in a box in the pasta aisle, and if you are not going to use them on the same day they do need to be refrigerated.
     To cook the noodles, boil 8 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of salt. YOU MUST USE AT LEAST THE 1 TEASPOON OF SALT in order to get any taste out of that pasta--all pasta for that matter. So use the 1 teaspoon--go ahead-measure it- and trust me.
     Fresh pasta does not take as long as the dried box pastas, and when it starts floating to the top of the water it is generally done. Always test it, however, and you are going for an ''al dente" slight bite to it--you do not want this mushy.
     The number 3 son helped with the rolling of the dough. It can get pretty long, and you need to feed the dough, and catch it to guide it out to the counter top all while turning the crank. You really need three hands, so having a partner in crime works wonderfully. It is also a great way to have a child assist in the preparation. Sometimes little helping jobs like that can spawn an interest in cooking, and then, who knows, maybe the next generation will begin to get interested in cooking and preserving family traditions and their heritage? It cold happen. I am attempting to plant the seeds in my boys--just don't tell them, okay?