beet fettuccine with almonds + thyme


beet fettuccine with almonds + thyme

Making your own pasta is a simple process and if you’re willing to put in a little muscle, it does not require special equipment. The star of this recipe is really the pasta dough itself — what you serve it with is up to you. I garnished mine with the same beets that flavor and color the pasta dough, along with a drizzle of olive oil, almonds, thyme, and ricotta cheese. If you wanted to dress things up a bit, a white wine cream sauce would be lovely, as would a simple browned butter with sage. The options are endless.

 

for the pasta dough:

4 medium to large beets, greens removed and peeled [some will be reserved for garnish]

1 egg

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

 

for garnish:

extra virgin olive oil

fresh thyme leaves

flaked or coarse salt

sliced almonds, toasted

ricotta cheese

reserved beets from pasta dough

Cut the peeled beets into large chunks and add to a stock pot. Fill with enough water to cover the beets by 1/2 of an inch. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40-45 minutes. Remove beets and reserve the water for cooking the pasta later.

Reserve about half of the beets and set aside [these will be used for garnish when plating]. Place the other half in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, add 3/4 cup of the beet puree, egg, egg yolks, and olive oil to a medium bowl. Whisk gently until everything is completely combined.

Add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the beet and egg mixture into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth, dusting your work surface lightly with flour if it sticks [be careful not to add too much flour, as it will make the dough too dry]. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.

Once rested, divide the dough in four equal parts. Working with one section of dough at a time on a floured, large work surface, roll out the dough until about 1/4-inch thick. Fold in half and repeat 2 more times. Lastly, roll the dough in a large rectangle until as thin as possible [about 2 – 3 millimeters thick]. Make sure to move the dough often while rolling to ensure it does not stick to the work surface, and make sure to keep all dough that is not being rolled covered to prevent it from drying out.  This whole process will take some muscle. Alternatively, if you have one, you can use a pasta roller to roll the dough in the same manner. Cut the rolled dough into strips, about 1/4-inch in width. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook to avoid them drying out. 

To cook the pasta: bring a large stockpot of water and the reserved beet water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Add the fettuccine strips and cook until just al dente [about 2 – 3 minutes]. Drain and toss immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

To plate: arrange the pasta on a plate and drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, coarse salt, and toasted almonds. Serve each plate with a spoonful of ricotta cheese and the reserved cooked beets.

Yield: 1 1/2 pounds of dough


heirloom tomato + watermelon salad

Three weeks have passed since the start of culinary school. In some ways the time has flown — some days I wake up feeling as though I have yet to begin, until I flex my feet against the steady ache that I can’t seem to shake, and realize that I already have. Other times, especially when I’m in the kitchen, I feel as though I’ve been there forever, so far removed from the massive uncertainty and apprehension that I felt in the beginning.

It has been quite the experience so far, and we have learned more than I could have ever anticipated learning in a few short weeks. We’ve made stocks, gallons of stocks, from veal to fish fumet and everything in between, and have learned the power they hold in elevating a sauce from something good, to something truly exceptional. We’ve made the mother sauces — béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise, and tomato — and many of their variations. We’ve made mayonnaises and sabayons, soups and consommés, perserved lemons and cured salmon. We’ve fileted fish, butchered chickens and ducks, stuffed quail until they were plump and roasted them until browned and juicy. We’ve shucked oysters and clams, carefully shelled lobster, and sauteéd mussels until they released their salty brine. We’ve made the most succulent duck confit of my life in a rondeau that I’m pretty sure weighed more than I do, and braised duck legs in a rich brown veal stock until tender and rich with flavor. We’ve made more variations of potatoes than I thought possible, including a gratin dauphinois that consisted of not much more than cream, gruyere, and potatoes, but that blew my mind. My knife is starting to feel more like an appendage than a tool, and the red, raw spot that I formed on the inside of my index finger from days and nights filled with slicing, cutting and shaping has already formed a hard callous. I still come home exhausted, and my feet ache from all of the hours standing, but I’m sure that adjustment will come too, with time.

Of course going into this, I had an idea of the happiness I would feel doing what I love every day. What I was unaware of, though, was how profound that sense of fulfillment would be. The boundless joy I feel in the kitchen — the sharp, methodical swishing of knives being sharpened, the clanking of pans hitting the stove top, the first, welcomed smells of sizzling onions, sauces erupting into balloons of fire with a splash of brandy — it’s all so surreal. The satisfaction I feel to get home [soreness, exhaustion, and all] after accomplishing a day of hard-earned work is unlike any I’ve ever felt. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my classmates: my classmates who come from different continents, speak different languages, and span in age by almost 30 years. So many of us couldn’t be more dissimilar, but we are all bound by the same passion, and a drive to pursue what we love. How fitting it feels to spend my days with them.

Of course amid all of my joy, there are hard moments — like having to cancel on time with my friends, including one visiting from Wyoming, because of an all-consuming, show-stopping migraine from a hot, dehydrating day in the kitchen, or times when I question what I want to do with this when it’s all over, or if I’ll ever make enough money in this industry to justify this expense. Even still, I find myself waking up excited to start each of my days, and going to sleep knowing that I’ve made the most of them. If that is not exactly what we should reach for in life, I’m not sure what is.

It feels unfair and a bit cheap to share a dish that requires no recipe, nor cooking, after boasting about how much I’ve learned in the kitchen. But, for all the joy that a day at the stove brings me, there’s also something to be said for taking a rest every now and again. Cooking or not, I promise this dish is worth sharing.


heirloom tomato + watermelon salad

There is no real recipe to this salad, just a loose, yet beautiful combination of contrasting flavors. Salty, crumbly feta cheese is mellowed by the sugary watermelon and summer-ripened tomatoes, both bursting with juices. Fragrant basil and a drizzle floral olive oil complements everything, and brings it all together. 

 

ingredients:

4 – 5 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced or cubed

a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

a few handfuls of ground cherries, husked

1 small or 1/4 large watermelon, cubed

4 oz full fat feta cheese, sliced or crumbled

5 – 7 basil leaves, chiffonade

extra virgin olive oil

coarse sea salt

 

In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes, ground cherries, watermelon, and feta. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle the basil leaves over top, drizzle with olive oil, and season with coarse sea salt to taste.

Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish


olive oil citrus cake

It was Saturday – the beginning of the weekend, but the end of vacation. The streets were lined with discarded, naked Christmas trees, serving as an unwelcome reminder of holidays past. We walked towards home, numb fingers and rosy cheeks, trying to focus less on what was fast approaching, and more on the present moment. Dreaming of something to lift our spirits, my mind settled on cake – cake with bright, citrus flavors to oppose such gray feelings. I made a promise to myself to move slowly, and to relish in the joy of doing something that I love. Yet, I found it hard to shake the gloom that had rooted itself within me.

And so I found myself in a pattern that I often do in the beginning of a new year. The cheer of celebration and anticipation of untapped opportunities that define the final days of December and first days of January, fade into a less ambitious reality. Goals and dreams that seemed so palpable, suddenly seem distant and unattainable. Confidence and drive slam against a wall of self doubt and fear.

I pour my carefully prepared batter into a springform pan, open the oven, and lift. The spring on my pan releases, and in a cliched metaphor for my slipping ambition, I watch in shock as the batter flows, without restraint, from my hands. Batter covers the stove, spreading almost greedily to the floor – as to say, yup, you failed. The promise of a cake, gone – an opportunity, missed; a goal, unmet – and with it my confidence. The symbolism was staring me in the face.

With a nod of recognition, I picked myself up and started again. I made that cake. I made two cakes, actually. And, with those two triumphs born from one failure, I taught myself a timely lesson amidst a cloud of self doubt. Failure hurts – it’s merciless and cold. But, I’m stronger – we’re all stronger. And, if we stare that failure in the face and push on, we’ll have a greater success to show for it. 

Here’s to a year of letting my hurt confidence drive my determination. I hope you’ll join me.


Olive Oil Citrus Cake

This cake recipe comes from Maialino Restaurant in New York City. I made a few slight changes, and added a glaze and candied citrus slices, which I found even further brightened the herbaceous flavors of the olive oil in the cake. If you’ve never tried olive oil cake before, I highly recommend that you give it a try. Its laden with moisture – almost similar in texture to a bread pudding – and deep flavor. 

for the glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 vanilla bean [split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds]

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. The glaze should be runny, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You can adjust the thickness by adding additional orange juice or confectioner’s sugar, if needed.

 

for the candied citrus:

recipe from Food & Wine 

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 orange [or lemon, or grapefruit], sliced crosswise very thinly [about 1/8-inch] 

In a medium sauté pan, combine cup sugar and cup water and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices, in a single layer [the edges of the slices can be slightly overlapping, but you want them mostly in a single layer – if your pan is too small, just split into batches, adding 1 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar for each batch]. Simmer over medium heat, flipping slices occasionally, until mixture starts to appear syrupy and slices are translucent [about 20 minutes]. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture reaches a thick syrup [about 10 additional minutes]. Carefully remove slices from pan [they should still hold together, but will be very delicate], and transfer to a wire rack to cool. I found that my syrup was too reduced at this point to save, but if yours isn’t, I’m sure it would be lovely in a cocktail. [note: I made one batch of candied orange and one of lemon, and had plenty slices left over after garnishing two cakes].

for the cake:

recipe slightly adapted from Maialino Restaurant

2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour [cake flour will result in a slightly more delicate cake, which I like with the moisture-rich texture of olive oil cake]

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep, and dust with flour. [If your cake pan is less the 2 inches deep, divide the batter between 2 pans – I ended up dividing between an 8-inch and a 5-inch pan].

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and Grand Marnier until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan[s] and bake until the cake is golden and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean – this should take about 1 hour for one 9-inch cake. I found my 5-inch cake was finished around 40-45 minutes, and my 8-inch cake closer to 50 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Once cake is cooled, drizzle with glaze and top with candied citrus slices, if desired. Enjoy!