A Noodle By Any Other Name

Noonles

It’s no secret that I love pasta.  (Understatement of the year…)

But prior to this, the only pasta I’d made from scratch was plain ol’ noodles.  (Insert happy memory here:  When my son was a wee babe, he called them “noonles.”)  Family food memories are a delight, aren’t they?

During my early noodle-making years, I seriously underestimated how large uncooked “noonles” can grow when they simmer (after cutting them in a hurry, I might add…)

The result was a hefty batch of noonles, which my kids promptly dubbed 2 by 4’s!  To this day, we refer to my homemade chicken noodle soup as “2 x 4 Soup.”

Homemade 2 x 4 Soup

But, this kitchen exploit involves grown-up pasta…

Laced with spinach, toothy, and as large (or small) as you care to cut it and tossed with freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil or, my favorite — butter, sea salt, & freshly ground pepper — Spinach Pasta is sure to bring out the kid in you.

The grown-up kid.

Homemade Spinach Pasta

(adapted from bell’alimento — thanks, Paula!)

6 oz. fresh spinach

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

Extra virgin olive oil (enough to lightly coat skillet)

Pinch of Kosher salt

Grind of black pepper

2 1/2 to 3 c. flour

3 eggs

Salt, to taste

In a large skillet, saute the spinach in olive oil until it begins to wilt.

Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about a minute.  Remove from heat; season with salt & pepper to taste.

Transfer spinach to a sieve; allow to drain.  Press out as much moisture as possible with the back of a spoon and place drained spinach in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

In a large bowl, measure 2 1/2 cups flour.  Make a well in the center; add the eggs and a pinch of salt.  Mix with a wooden spoon — or your hands — it’s fun!

Add pureed spinach a little at a time until the dough comes together in a ball.  (I left mine a bit “sticky” to compensate for the flour used when rolling out “noonles” with a rolling pin.)  If you happen to be the proud owner of a pasta machine, please refer to your manufacturer’s instructions.

FYI… you may not use all of the spinach.  (If not, reserve the rest for another use.)  You also may (or may not) use the remaining flour.  It was humid the day I made this batch, so I used less spinach and the resulting “noonles” weren’t as green.

Also, I wish I could be more precise, but pasta-making isn’t an exact science!  Use your judgment and have fun with it.

Cover the dough with a clean towel; allow to rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into fourths; roll out a portion at a time to your desired thickness.  (Sprinkle with flour as needed to keep from sticking.)

With a sharp knife or pasta machine, slice “noonles” into desired widths, bearing in mind that they swell when they cook. :)  Allow them to rest (covered) while you roll/cut the remaining dough.

Meanwhile, bring a large kettle of water to a boil; add salt to taste.

Throw in your desired portion; cook until al dente and serve immediately.  The remaining uncooked noodles may be dried on a rack (or your counter top if need be…) and frozen for later use.

On a roll

No matter what you call them, a noodle by any name is worth it.

I’m not kidding!

Enjoying grown-up “noonles,”

~ Kimby

Confessions of a Food Network Wanna Be ~ Spanakopita “Three Ways”

I can live with a certain amount of tension.  Expected tension… like a dentist’s drill (which thankfully, I haven’t experienced in many years), or an air conditioning bill after the 100° heat — a given this summer.

But when it comes to tension “so-thick-you-can-cut-it-with-a-knife” (on Food Network Television), I’m just not ready for it.  (Yet…)  How ’bout you?

Sure, there are stress levels unique to each show, from the clock-ticking, nail-biting, make-something-and-make-it-look-pretty phenomenon known as “Chopped,” to the drawn-out-drama of “The Next Food Network Star,” to the ever fun “Cupcake Wars,” and myriad shows in between.  (FYI, a dozen cupcakes is all I can handle at one time — never mind the show stopping display — but if you ever need a taste-tester…)

If I had to name my poison, I’d pick “Chopped” — fast, furious, and concluded within an hour (at least in TV land.)  I’m also mighty handy with three or four ingredients — just open my fridge. :)

For now, I opt to watch from the sidelines.  (Wise decision, Padawan learner — your knife skills need work…)  Which leads me to ask, “Do you really think it’s possible to hone knife skills in one triumphant onion-chopping scene, ala ‘Julie & Julia?’

One thing all of the shows have in common (and which I admire) is that every “wanna be” loves food.  From their upbeat bio’s to their passionate presentations, they believe in themselves and love what they do.  (I like to think we all do, or why else would we be here?)

My favorite contestants are the ones who attempt to wow the judges with something made “three ways.”  (Admirable?  Yes.  Realistic?  Not always.)  I’d be happy to plate something in any way, shape, or form, let alone multiple versions in the given amount of time.  But I can dream… and I did… this past week.

I present to you:  Spanakopita “Three Ways.”

Yup, there’s more than one way to deal with “mystery ingredients.”  (Generally this time of year, a grocery sack full of zucchini — but in this case, spinach.)  After prolonged pondering about plating (such are the luxuries of in-home installments of Chopped), I thought to myself, “Why make one batch?”  There’s just The Man Of Few Words and me, and variety is the spice of life.

So, I did what any self-respecting Southern cook would do.  I tossed the leftover filling into some ramekins, nestled a crust over one and proclaimed, “Pot Pie!”, then threw a mess of cheese on top of the other and declared, “Kiss My Au Gratin!” :)

Chopped?  Only the filling…

Spanakopita

(slightly adapted from… Food Network)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided (plus additional, for brushing)

2 T. butter, divided

8 oz. baby spinach, washed and drained

2 scallions, chopped (I used Vidalia onions — they were in the Mystery Basket)

2 T. finely chopped fresh parsley (omitted because mine shriveled up in the heat while I was away)

1 T. fresh dill (I used 1 tsp. dried.. mine was shriveled up, yada yada)

1 (5 oz.) containter Feta cheese

1 egg, beaten

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste (be judicious — it depends on the saltiness of your Feta — but don’t under-season either!)

Pastry for one 9″ pie crust, brushed with melted Hope Butter (bear in mind, I just got back from Minnesota) — or, use the traditional phyllo dough brushed with copious amounts of butter per the Food Network link above; it’s up to you.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté spinach (in two batches, if necessary) in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter until wilted, stirring with tongs.  Remove from heat.  (Alternatively, blanch spinach in boiling salted water for 1 minute; plunge into an ice water bath.)

Transfer spinach to a colander and squeeze out excess moisture.  Remove spinach to a cutting board; chop finely and set aside.

Drain liquid from skillet; add remaining oil and butter and return to medium heat.  Add scallions (or onion); sauté until translucent.  Remove from heat; cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, scallions (or onion), parsley, dill, Feta, and beaten egg.  Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Meanwhile, roll out pie crust and cut into 3″ x 3″ squares.  Place a teaspoon of filling on each square; brush edges with water, fold over to form a triangle, and seal.  Place Spanakopita on prepared baking sheet.  Brush each triangle with olive oil before baking.

Note:  If you happen to have extra filling and pie crust dough (I did), place the filling in a buttered ramekin.  Top with crust, trim and crimp edges, cut a steam vent in the center, and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes (keep an eye on ’em — the edges brown faster than the middle — move up a rack, if necessary) until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Note:  If you don’t have enough pie crust left over to make a “pot pie,” simply place the remaining spinach filling in a buttered ramekin and top with grated Mozzarella or other “melty” cheese.  Bake as directed above.  While it doesn’t have the traditional “crust” associated with Spanakopita, I submit the following photo and ask, “Does it matter?” :)

I truly don’t know if I could handle the tension of Food Network or not… but if I keep practicing, I’ll be able to cut it with a knife. :)

Enjoying “good” tension,

~ Kim

Which cooking show do you dream of being on, and why?

Summer Salad

The sun-drenched days of summer are upon us at last and my thoughts turn to simple meals…

Spinach.  Mushrooms.  Grilled chicken.  Olives.  What could be better?

Except, perhaps, a drizzle of Honey Mustard Vinaigrette and bacon.

Summer Salad

Fresh baby spinach leaves

Fresh mushrooms, sliced

Grilled chicken breast, sliced  (great way to use up leftovers!)

Assorted olives

2 slices of bacon, diced, cooked & drained (for garnish)

Cook the bacon; set aside.  Arrange baby spinach leaves on a plate.

Alternate chicken and mushrooms around the circumference.

Mound olives in the middle.

(For a less fancy schmancy version, just toss everything in a bowl — it tastes the same and it’s faster.)

Prepare the vinaigrette.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1/2 Tbsp.  honey, or to taste

1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, or to taste

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Combine vinegar, honey, and mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle over salad.  Garnish with bacon.

Lots and lots of bacon.

Enjoying the simplicity of summer,

~ Kim