Monday, July 27, 2009

Homemade Orecchiette with Arugula and Pepita Pesto

If you read my last post, while I was waiting for my bagel dough to rest and rise, I decided that instead of relaxing or cleaning up, I would make fresh pasta. I mean, I already had the flour out, and I had some eggs in the fridge, why not? Just for future reference, I recommend not hand-kneading pasta dough and bagel dough all in the same day. Get yourself a Kitchenaid if you are going to get ambitious. Trust me on this, your arms will thank you.

To me there is almost nothing as comforting as fresh, homemade pasta. After thanksgiving each year, I pretty much make my mom use the turkey carcass to make stock, whip up some fresh egg noodles, and make the best turkey noodle soup I have ever had. I have made fettuccine, tortellini, and ravioli. Now since I don't have a pasta rolling machine, I decided to give my rolling pin a break for the day and make something a bit easier on the biceps: Orecchiette, or Little Ears.

These were fun to make, almost therapeutic even, squishing and twisting each little teeny ball of dough out over a kitchen towel until I had a little army of ears sitting to dry on my kitchen counter. Getting ready for me to boil them up and toss them with some fresh pesto and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Homemade Orecchiette

3 1/2 Cups All purpose flour

4 extra large eggs

1 tablespoon salt

You can mix the dough together by hand, but I cheat and start it in my food processor. Place all ingredients into food processor and, using the dough blade, pulse until it forms a ball (or comes close, mine never really forms a complete ball, there is always some stragglers).

Turn dough out onto counter on a floured surface and form into mound. If it is too dry, you can add a few drops of water and work it in to the dough until it is holding together, but not sticky. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes pliable, working in flour if it becomes tacky.

When dough is smooth, either wrap in plastic wrap or put underneath an inverted bowl for one hour. This will let the gluten relax and make it easier to shape your pasta.

At this point you can do whatever you want with this dough. You can roll it into sheets you make lasagna or fettuccine, or roll out little circles to make tortellinis. This is a good basic dough for making any type of pasta. I however chose to make the little ears.

Once the dough is fully rested, cut into 4 equal parts. Start with one of the quarters and wrap the rest in plastic wrap until you are ready to use them. Roll out the dough into a long log shape (think back to when you were a kid and used to make worms and snakes out of play dough, it'll help) until it is about 1/2-3/4 inch thickness.

Cut this log into a million little pieces (okay maybe not a million but it sure felt like it) with a pastry cutter or knife. They should be about 1/4 inch wide. Cut them smaller than you think you should, the pasta plumps when you cook it (yes, just like ball park franks) and if you make them too big, you will have more dumpling, than pasta. Which for you, may or may not be a bad thing.

Lay out a slightly damp clean kitchen towel at your work space. I remember hearing somewhere that orecchiette is suppose to have the texture of a cat's tongue, meaning it is supposed to be rough one one side. This helps sauce adhere to the pasta, and gives it a very unique characteristic. I have no clue if this is actually true or not. I didn't have the time to wiki-it.

Now, take each of the little teeny tiny pieces and roll them into a ball in your palms (if we are going back to the play dough analogy, this would be the head of the snake, or...depending on your ball shaping skills, maybe a misshapen rock for the snake to hide under)

Take your thumb, you can dust a little flour on it if you want or if the pasts starts sticking to you, and press straight down to flatten, then twist and lift you thumb to roll the piece off. Hmm....this was kind of hard to explain. Here watch this guy do it:

Watch this guy.

Except use a towel, it will be easier and you will get the cat tongue texture.

Once you have your shape, lay them in a single layer and let them dry for at least an hour before cooking or freezing them.

Arugula Pepita Pesto

I am sure I am not the first one to come up with this combination, but I didn't use a recipe.The peppery, slightly bitter arugula paired nicely with the salty nutty pepitas, but the combinations are endless when it comes to pesto. Try experimenting with different greens and nuts, its one of my favorite base sauces to play with.

4 cups packed arugula

1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic (mine were small, but feel free to alter depending on how much you like garlic...I clearly enjoy it very much)

Olive Oil (enough to thin out, this amount will vary)

Place garlic in food processor and pulse a few times until minced. Add pepitas, arugula, salt and pepper, and process until a paste forms (about 30 seconds). Stream in olive oil until paste thins out and you achieve your desired consistency (this will probably be anywhere form 1/2 cup to 1 cup of olive oil). Add parmesan cheese and pulse a few times to combine. Leave at room temperature until ready to use.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, throw in your ears, I mean pasta, and cook 3-5 minutes, possible more depending on how not-so-itty-bitty your orecchiette turned out. Taste testing is the best answer for deciding when pasta is done, plus its like appetizers without the hassle. Drain, and toss with pesto to coat.

I also had some leftover chicken basil sausage that I threw in as well, but grilled chicken, or shrimp would be a delicious addition as well. I had a ton of pasta and pesto leftover, which I froze separately to be used later. And by later, I mean the next day. Bon appetito!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday America, have some bagels.

The fourth of July here this year was miserable. It was cloudy and rainy all day, which left me in no mood to go to a picnic or barbeque. I figured it was a great day to do some cooking, I just wasn't sure what. I have been doing some major food blog browsing in the recent weeks and I came across the same recipe and rave reviews in more than one of said blogs and decided I needed to try it. Only one problem. It was a recipe for bagels.

Although I have watched multitudes of celebrity chefs, not to mention my Mom, bake all kinds of breads and mix up all kinds of doughs on the food network, (this was way back in the day when I had cable tv and tio...okay it was only a month ago, but it feels like decades) I have never actually done this myself. Somehow I got it into my head that it would be a great idea to skip regular sandwich bread, or artisan bread, or french bread and just jump straight into the two day long process of making fresh, chewy, new york style bagels.

No kitchenaid mixer, just me, my big beefy arm muscles (ha!), a Saturday afternoon, and a giant ball of bagel dough.

After reading one of my favorite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen, I decided to use Peter Reinhart's Bagel recipe. It seemed basic enough, and the author of Smitten Kitchen laid out some pretty detailed instructions to go along with the recipe. So I laid out my battle scene and away I went.

After two trips to Dominick's, and one to Whole Foods, I was fully equipped with the right kind of flour mixture (or close enough), yeast, and last but not least: malt syrup, of which now I have an entire jar and will have to find something else to make with it.

I started this crazy process on a Saturday early afternoon, and by noon on Sunday I had fresh bagels.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels
Adpated from The Bread Bakers Apprentice - My notes in green

So the recipe says that it makes 12 bagels, but I ended up with about 35 baby ones. They are perfect size for a light breakfast and don't leave you wanting a nap ten minutes later.

1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I could not find bread flour, let alone high gluten bread flour, but I did find Vital Wheat Gluten Flour which I swapped one tablespoon of all purpose flour for the vital wheat gluten PER CUP of flour. So I ended up with 4 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and 4 cups minus 4 Tablespoons of All Purpose flour)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (see note below)

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting baking sheets

I made plain, sesame seed, and salt bagels, but you can try garlic, onions, poppy seeds, parmesan cheese, herbs, or whatever else floats your boat.

1. Day 1: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop - mine did not fall, and it wasn't super foamy or bubbly... but they still worked out just fine. During this wait period I decided it would be a good idea to make fresh pasta, that will be the subject of another post, though I would recommend just relaxing instead of tiring out my arm muscles kneading the pasta, before trying to tackle the bagel dough. But that's just me.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough - again, mine did not go quite so smoothly, I had to skip to the next step way before I was able to incorporate the 3/4 cup of flour in the bowl. Its okay, you can just work it in as you are kneading.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour - all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls - I pretty much just kept cutting the dough in half until the pieces looked like a good size.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment (I used sil-pats, but parchment works as well) and mist lightly with spray oil. Poke a hole in each ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. Day 2: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side . While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown - Mine took quite a bit longer, almost 15-17 minutes to cook through, judge by look and if you need to, you can apply the same culinary expert trick that I used on my burgers: cut one open and see if its done.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving - or very carefully cut one open while its steaming hot and enjoy. I have no patience.

And after two longs days, PRESTO you have bagels. They are delicious, chewy, moist and were way cheaper than buying 35 bagels at Einstein's. I froze most of mine, and when I am in need of some yummy carbs, I pop one in the microwave for 20 seconds and then into the toaster. Try it sometime, I promise its worth it, even though everyone I told that I made bagels thinks I am crazy. But I am okay with that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mile High Turkey Burgers

Ah Thursday again....where did the week go? I am here on the deck again, with some leftover French Pinot Noir that I bought to celebrate Bastille Day (any excuse to buy a good bottle of wine right?). The grill is roaring, the rain has passed, and its almost Friday. Ah, life is good.

Some of my friends and I have instituted what has been dubbed 'family dinner'. It rotates apartments and whoever hosts, cooks dinner for the rest of us. Last week was Steve and I's turn and it was the perfect excuse to give the grill the second go around.

Side note in real time: I just burned myself on the grill. I can't seem to cook without burning myself, I blame it on my genes. My dad can't cook without slicing one of his fingers off. (okay that may be an exaggeration, but I'm in a bit of pain right now and have had a glass of wine, so...moving on).

So back to family dinner. We threw some mean turkey burgers on the grill and some baby potatoes in the oven for an easy fantastic summer meal.

The best part of the burgers though was the toppings buffet. I think I went a little overboard but it worked out great since everyone got to put together their optimal version of a burger. We had dijon mustard, grilled peppers and onions, avocados, tomatoes, mushrooms sauteed with balsamic vinegar, arugula, and goat cheese. We piled it high onto grilled english muffins and created the tallest burgers I have ever seen. You would absolutely never know that they were turkey, you just don't miss the beef.

The key I have found when using ground turkey in place of ground beef, and not having it turn out a big dry disappointment, is to get the turkey from the butcher or buy the lean (not extra lean). With ground turkey, you need what little fat there is to get the rich juiciness of ground beef. While extra lean is a bit healthier, it usually leaves me wanting to eat something else for dinner, which ends up defeating the purpose anyhow.

A burger buffet is great for a crowd, throw in some gourmet toppings and a few unexpected items, and it will be a hit. The possibilities are endless, different cheeses, bacon, grilled zucchini, roasted garlic, aioli, tapenade, chutney, I could go on, but my food is almost ready so I will stop.

I served the burgers with some roasted baby red potatoes and also provided homemade salsa and chips for people to snack on while I was grilling. Everyone ate just a little too much, but I guess that's what makes for a GREAT family dinner.

Turkey Burgers and Roasted Potatoes

Makes about 12 burgers

3 pounds lean ground turkey
1 egg
3 shallots, diced
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 egg
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and Pepper

12 English Muffins

2 small bags Baby Red Potatoes, quartered
Olive oil to coat
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix the turkey, egg, shallot, garlic, parsley, thyme, chili powder, salt and pepper together in a large bowl, just do it, use your hands. Its fun, I promise. Form into about 10-12 patties and let rest in fridge until grill is ready.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the potatoes, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper and spread on baking sheet. Cook until golden brown, tossing a few times throughout, about 40 minutes to an hour depending on how large the potatoes are.

Grill the burgers over direct medium heat about 10-12 minutes until no longer pink in the middle or your thermometer reads 160 degrees. I still do not have a thermometer so I go the classy route and cut one in half on a plate on the ground next to the grill. I continue to be baffled as to why people still want me to cook for them?

After the burgers are finished, put oiled english muffins directly over coals for about a minute until toasted. Serve with any and all, but not limited to, the toppings listed above. Oh and beer. There must be beer. :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turmeric and Mustard Chicken Satay

Happy Thursday!

Sitting out on the deck again, this time with a glass of wine and a beautiful rainbow to the south. Its pretty chilly out again today, this summer has been pretty wimpy so far here in Chicago. We had a few 90 degree days, but its almost halfway through July and I feel like its not even summer yet. How do we deal with this? Put on a sweatshirt and sit out on the deck anyway.

Or grill. Steve (my boyfriend) and I moved again in June -that makes three years and three apartments- but this time to a place with not only a deck but a second bedroom. The deck is by far my favorite spot and we have gotten quite a bit of use out of it in the month and a half or so that we have been here. Back in June I was up in Minnesota joining my sister on the MS 150 Bike Ride, and figured it was time to dig my old 22" Weber Charcoal Kettle out of the garage.

It was like uncovering a relic, still in the torn black garbage bag that it was put into two years ago when I graduated and moved to the city, and covered in dust. I work (indirectly) for Weber so it was sort of a sin that I had a deck for two weeks and had not grilled anything yet. Trying to put the ridicule to rest, the next weekend my best friend Stefanie came to Chicago to visit and we put the kettle to good use. We threw some chicken and vegetable kabobs on the grill served with some orange rice, and spicy oranges peanut dipping sauce, oh and don't forget the wine, that is key :-)

I am not known for measuring things, so I can give an approximation of what I used in these recipes, and I vow to keep better track of ingredients. It was a fatanstically easy meal and pleased the crowd (okay just me, Stef, and Steve, but we were pretty happy campers) Enjoy!

Turmeric- Dijon Chicken Kabobs

This marinade I kind of threw together from stuff I had in my pantry, so taste often and add more of whichever flavors you want to bring out the most. I served the chicken with Rachel Ray's Orange Rice and Peanut Satay Sauce (thanks for the suggestion Rian!).


1.5-2 lbs. chicken breast tenders (about two packages)
2 tablespoons turmeric
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 inches crushed ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste


2 Zucchini
1 Red Onion
2 Red Bell Peppers
(I also had the brilliant idea that carrots would be delish and quickly realized that no, they do not enjoy being put on skewers, so that idea got scrapped)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper


Zest of 3 Oranges
3 Cups Jasmine Rice

Satay Sauce

4 rounded tablespoonfuls chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons dark soy, Tamari
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 orange, juiced


The night before the meal, I combined the turmeric, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, worcestershire, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag with the chicken and let it hang out in the fridge overnight.

I had a hell of a time trying to skewer these the next day, plus my hands turned yellow so I would highly recommend skewering first, THEN marinading.

The night of the actual meal, I cut up the zucchini, onion, and bell peppers, tossed them with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and put those on skewers as well.

I use a charcoal grill so right after I set the coals up in my chimney, I combined the rice and the orange zest and cooked it according the the package directions. Rice can be a great accompaniment for grilling especially since it can be taken off of the heat and rest covered until the rest of the meal is ready.

While the rice was coming to a boil and the charcoal was lighting, I combined all of the satay sauce ingredients and put the mixture into a sauce pan and set aside.

Once the charcoal was ready, I put everything on the grill at once, with the chicken directly over the coals, and the veggies around the sides. I turned them occasionally and moved skewers off the direct heat as they cooked through.

Meanwhile, I set the satay sauce over medium- low heat and stirred occasionally just to combine ingredients, until meat and vegetables were done grilling and rice was done cooking.

This made A LOT of food, which was great because we had leftovers for days. Even the rice, as simple as it was, was so flavorful and was a perfect compliment with the chicken and satay sauce.

I apologize if this recipe is hard to follow, seems erratic, doesn't make ANY sense whatsoever, it is my first shot at writing a recipe out start to finish, and it was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Heres hoping it gets better from here. More food fun to come, next up Mile High Turkey Burgers....mmm.....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

back again...this time with purpose. and pictures.

This post finds me sitting outside on my deck, its a gorgeous if not a bit chilly july evening. After a wonderful holiday weekend, I have returned after several unsuccessful attempts at this whole 'blogging' thing. Maybe it is out of boredom, and it very well may have something to do with me being to cheap right now to buy cable television, but something said 'hey, get back on your blog!'. 

So here I am, and instead of writing about random crap that no one really cares about, I have made a decision. The only post on here so far that I actually enjoyed writing was the one about the epic battle of baking potatoes versus micro-plane versus my poor fingers.  I am going to simply write about my adventures cooking stuff, elegantly put if I do say so myself. 

I find myself constantly on random food blogs (just on my lunch break I swear), ones not by famous chefs, or ones that are heavily sponsored, just the ones by regular people who like to cook and share what worked and what didn't, and best of all pretty pictures of what they cooked. This web surfing over the past few months has inspired me to cook much more than fruitlessly searching for recipes on Also it has inspired me to cook things other than my usual go-to's, expanding my horizons, if you will.

Now, I cant guarantee that this is going to be frequent, but I think I am going to give it a shot anyway. This will be a way for me to document what I feel are accomplishments, and easily share recipes and methods with friends and family, and anyone else who stops by.

I am by no means a great cook, but cooking is by far one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday, I love to eat, and I enjoy sharing what I have made with others. So here we go. 

My one reader informed me that I advertised 'purpose and pictures' yet I had failed to deliver on the pictures part. A post about my cooking escapades will be up shortly, but in the meantime, enjoy these pictures of the newest addition to the Helgerson/Paarlberg household, Wrigley the Cat. 

Pin It


Related Posts with Thumbnails