Homemade Vanilla Extract

Purpose:

Make vanilla extract as a Christmas gift for Stephanie’s coworkers.

 

Protocol:

Materials:

  • Ingredients
  • Equipment:
    • gallon container
    • 2 oz. glass bottles with caps
    • white vinegar for sanitizing
    • turkey baster

Procedure:

 

Making the Extract

  1. Fill container with vodka
  2. Slit beans lengthwise with a sharp knife
  3. Place in vodka, close tightly.
  4. Store in cool, dark place for 2 months.

Fill Bottles

  1. Sanitize bottles in 50/50 vinegar-water mix for 10 minutes
  2. Dry
  3. Use turkey baster to fill bottles (weigh on a scale to ensure even distribution)
  4. Cut some vanilla beans in thirds (cross-section) and place in bottles.
  5. Cap.
  6. Label.

 

Results and observations:

Very fragrant. There seems to be enough flavor left in the beans to be able to repeat the process.

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Pasta 3 Ways

Purpose:

To turn a simple pasta dinner into an hours-long ordeal. Sauce from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Protocol:

Materials:

  • Double recipe Fresh Pasta for 2 dough.
  • Equipment:
    • Pasta roller
    • Food processor
  • For pasta filling and sauce
    • 100 grams sliced almonds
    • large handful of basil leaves
    • some parsley leaves
    • olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • handful of spinach
    • 2-3 oz Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

Start making the filling and sauce while the pasta dough is resting.

Step 0. Decide that a homemade sauce isn’t gourmet enough and that you’re a fancy pants cook who is going to make tortellini instead.

Sauce

  1. In a pan/Dutch oven/skillet, toast the almonds in a teaspoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Pulse in a food processor until the almonds are about the size of orzo. (Or however fine you want them.) Leave aside in a bowl.
  3. Add  basil, quarter cup of olive oil, pinch of salt, garlic cloves, into food processor and process until smooth.
  4. Switch out the chopper for the grater in the processor and grate cheese. Fold into sauce with a spatula.
  5. Fold in about 80 grams of the almonds.

Filling

  1. Sautee shrimp with 1 clove of garlic and one teaspoon of olive oil.
  2. Add bunch of fresh parsley.
  3. Chop finely (quarter-inch shrimp pieces),  place in bowl
  4. Mix in the rest of the almonds
  5. Salt and Pepper to taste
  6. Add some other seasoning if you want

Pasta Making

  1. Roll the pasta really really thin. I got it to about a #6 on the KitchenAid pasta rolleer
  2. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut the pasta sheet into circles.
  3. Add a half-teaspoon of the filling into the center of the circle. Brush edges with a little water.
  4. Fold it into a semi-circle. Fold corners towards each other. Pinch them together.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for a while.
  6. …..
  7. Get tired. Decide tortellini was a poor life decision and that ravioli would be easier.
  8. To do, start with step 1 (roll the pasta thin).
  9. Cut the sheet into a clean rectangle.
  10. Spoon out a teaspoon of filling with onto one half of the sheet about .75 inches away from each other (and a half inch from the edge).
  11. Dab some water onto one edge of the sheet.
  12. Fold over the pasta sheet. Squeeze out air and press the pasta together around the filling. Slice halfway between the filling mounds.
  13. Run out of filling.
  14. Turn the rest of the dough into tagliatelle.

Cooking the Pasta

  1. Bring salted water to a boil.
  2. Boil pasta for 4 minutes.
  3. Drain pasta, conserve quarter cup of pasta water.
  4. Use about 1 cup of the pasta sauce, add some pasta water to the pot and heat.
  5. Toss with pasta.
  6. Eat.

Results and observations:

Nom. But next time I’ll go straight to the regular pasta and toss in the shrimp.

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Tool Test: Eppicotispai Chitarra Pasta Cutter

 

Purpose:

To make spaghetti using a chittara-style pasta cutter.

Protocol:

Procedure:

A chittara (guitar) pasta cutter uses a set of wires to cut the pasta in batches.

  1. Tighten the strings on the pasta cutter. Not too tight (more on this later).
  2. Make one serving of the Fresh Pasta for 2 dough.
  3. Roll the pasta to about 3mm this (#2 or #3 on the Kitchen Aid pasta roller
  4. Dust the pasta cutter with some flour.
  5. Place the flattened dough on top of the pasta cutter.
  6. Use a rolling pin to press the dough through the wires.
  7. You may need to use a spatula or your fingers to push the dough all the way through.
  8. Remove the pasta by turning the pasta cutter on its side.
  9. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  10. Boil for 3 minutes in salted water.
  11. Serve with sauce.

Results and observations:

So this little contraption worked really well for spaghetti. It was really easy to use once you get the hang of it. I made Kenji’s basic meat sauce from The Food Lab cookbook.

Spaghetti

Unfortunately, an attempt to replicate these results while hosting Stephanie’s parents was not successful. I loosened the strings for storage, and when I went to tighten them again for the second use, I found out that the wood was not strong enough to hold the tension beyond a certain point, i.e., I broke the pasta cutter. So be careful if you buy one of these cutters; they work well, but this particular model was pretty cheaply made.

 

Baby Back Ribs on the Grill

Purpose:

To make ribs on a hot Memorial Day day without using the oven on in the apartment.

Protocol:

Materials:

  • Rack of baby back ribs (extra meaty!)
  • Rub:
    • Salt
    • Black Pepper
    • Garlic Powder
    • Chili Powder
    • Italian Seasoning
    • Dried Oregano
    • Onion Powder
    • Cumin
    • Smoked Paprika
  • Mop sauce:
    • Apple cider vinegar
    • Lime Juice
    • Sweet tea
  • BBQ Sauce

Equipment:

  • Grill (standard Weber kettle grill)
  • Charcoal (~72 pieces)
  • Charcoal chimney
  • Tongs (for charcoal)
  • Foil
  • Brush
  • Knife

Procedure:

Ribs, like a lot of barbecue, is best done “low and slow.” I wanted to set up my charcoal grill to last about 6 hours at around 200-230 degrees Fahrenheit, so I used the “snake method” (link to video). I just used some random extra firewood as the smoke wood, since I didn’t really care too much about smoke flavor.

Prepare the ribs

  1. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels.
  2. Make a small slit in the membrane on the bony side of the ribs. Use your fingers to remove this membrane. My trick is to separate the middle part of the membrane as far as I can before pulling it off. This way you get do it in one piece.
  3. Salt the ribs on both sides.
  4. Mix the other ingredients (about 1 T each..just wing it) in a bowl.
  5. Rub the mixture all over the ribs on all sides.

Prepare the grill:

  1. Arrange two rows of 20 charcoal briquettes along one edge of the grill. Place another row of briquettes on top. Add some wood chips or blocks too if you want some smoke.
  2. Light 8 pieces of charcoal in a chimney.
  3. When the charcoal is fully gray and glowing, add them to one end of the charcoal “snake.” Make sure a few of the hot briquettes are touching the snake, obviously.
  4. Put the cooking grate on the grill, and place a piece of foil on the far side of the grill from the heat source.
  5. Place the ribs bone side down on the foil.

Prepare the mop sauce.

  1. Mix some vinegar, tea, and lemon/lime juice in a bowl.
  2. Every 30 minutes, use a brush to brush the liquid on the ribs.

Wait.

  1. Rotate the ribs 180 degrees at the 2 and 4 hour marks.
  2. Occasionally rotate the whole grill rack to keep the ribs on the far side away from the heat.
  3. After around 5 hours and 30 minutes, brush on some barbecue sauce for the final glaze.
  4. After a final 20-30 minutes, transfer to a cutting board, slice, and serve!

Results and observations:

Ribs

Pictures at 0h, 3h, 6h, 6.25h. Nom. I forgot to add sauce to the bony side of the ribs at the end, but it wasn’t a big deal since I added sauce on my plate. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the actual utility of mop sauces while slow-cooking on the grill, so I’ll probably do more research on that next time. Apparently my charcoal setup was enough to last another hour or so, which would be good for bigger ribs or if I were doing two racks.

Fresh Pasta for 2

Purpose: To make homemade noodles (Italian)

Materials: 
2.5 oz 00 pasta flour
2.5 oz semolina flour
1 egg
2 egg yolks
teaspoon salt
Procedure: (recipe is Classic Fresh Egg Pasta from Serious Eats, halved with different flour)
1. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, then dump on pastry mat. Shape a crater in the middle.
2. Beat eggs and egg yolk in bowl. Pour into flour creator, creating an egg volcano.
3. Gradually incorporate flour into egg lava with fork.
4. Switch to pastry scraper and fold in remaining flour until ball shaped. Add liquid if necessary (I did this by dipping my fingers into egg white and gently patting the dough).
5. Knead by placing hand on dough and rolling forward with pressure. Do this for 10 minutes.
6. Shake out tired arms.
7. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and rest for 45 minutes. This is a good time to prep  the rest of the meal.
8. Cut into quarters.
9. Starting with 1 quarter, roll out into .5 inch piece, hopefully vaguely rectangular. Dust with some semolina flour
10. Run through pasta press 3 times through the first three settings (3x#1, 3x#2, 3x#3).
11. Laminate dough by folding in the sides. The more narrow your eventual rectangle, the longer your noodles wlll be.
12. Starting again from the widest setting, go all the way to #4, sometimes #5 on the pasta press.
13. If the dough gets too long, cut it in half.
14. Cut the noodles. I did this using a variety of folding and cutting methods…but I realize I should have just used my pizza cutter. Dusting helps if you fold it.
15. Dust with semolina flour; arrange on sheet in a way that minimizes sticking.
16. Repeat steps 9-15 until you’ve rolled and cut all the dough.
17. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.
18. Boil all the the pasta in one go for 90 seconds, stirring occasionally (especially in the first 20 seconds) to keep from sticking.
19. Strain and immediately add sauce (I used homemade pesto); add pasta water if needed.
20. Nom.
Results and Observations:
Need to remember to dust with extra flour before running through machine/cutting to prevent sticking. Otherwise, nom.