Saturday, February 11, 2023

La Monferrina's Dolly III

In my last post of 2022, I wrote that I recently purchased an electric pasta-making machine from Emiliomiti: La Monferrina’s Dolly III Pasta Extruder. What is a Dolly? La Monferrina’s website says:

“DOLLY is a small ‘counter top’ machine, compact and reliable; it is suitable both for restaurants and for people who like good home-made pasta. DOLLY can knead by using any kind of flour and it produces long and short pasta shapes by simply changing the die. The machine can be supplied (on request) with a rotating cutting knife for short pasta shapes.”


I thought about buying a Dolly for—as the patient and helpful folks at Emiliomiti can attest—a very long time.  Did I need an electric extruder when the torchio has served me well for over 12 years? Ultimately I decided that the electric Dolly augments rather than replaces my torchio. The Dolly will allow me to explore a range of pasta shapes, especially buckwheat noodles which can be extremely hard (i.e., physically difficult) to extrude with a handpress.


The Dolly will also speed up pasta making when feeding a crowd. I typically use my Kitchen Aid standing mixer to make my torchio-bound pasta dough. After mixing, I transfer the dough to the press to extrude and hand cut. The Dolly combines a mixing/kneading bin with an extruder and a cutting attachment. Making pasta with a torchio to serve 8 or more people can take some time (and, if your dough is hard, muscle). What the Dolly lacks in charm, it makes up in brawn. Push a button and the electric Dolly creates up to 6 Kg of pasta (i.e., a lot of pasta) in an hour. 


I’m very excited to work with the Dolly and write about it in this year’s upcoming posts on pasta making. And speaking of pasta, my next post will feature a recipe with historical ties to the torchio: Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Toni Tipton-Martin’s excellent cookbook, Jubilee – Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2019). Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Best Cookbooks of 2022

Boxing, moving, unpacking and shelving my library only slightly tempered my cookbook purchases this year. Looking back over 2022, publishers released several outstanding titles. I share, in alphabetical order, my picks for the five best cookbooks of this year.


Arabiyya-Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora by Reem Assil, Ten Speed Press 


Gâteau-The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes by Aleksandra Crapanzano, Scribner


I Am From Here-Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef by Vishwesh Bhatt, Norton


Mission Vegan-Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone by Danny Bowien with JJ Goode, Ecco


Pasta Grannies – Comfort Food by Vicky Bennison, Hardie Grant


A little about each of these books.


I find the food presented in Reem Assil’s Arabiyya both tempting and familiar to many of the Armenian dishes I grew up eating. Ruz Arabi (Spiced Rice with Fried Vermicelli) reminds me of Armenian Pilaf (here), save Assil’s recipe incorporates a Seven-Spice mix instead of a mere pinch of cayenne, and calls for oil, not butter, to brown the vermicelli.  Her Lahm Bi Ajeen (Crispy, Spiced-Meat Flatbread) closely resembles Armenian Lahmajoon. Assil jokes that “..if the Arabs and Turks are fighting over their claim to [a certain food], chances are, it’s Armenian.” But what I really love about Arabiyya is Assil’s consciousness of identity and place, before and after her diaspora. Hospitality and remembrance brightly glow in each of the book’s five parts: How to Host Like an Arab; The Arab Street Corner Bakery; The Arab Table; An Arab Finds her Vegetable Roots; and An Arab Finds her (Food) Way. I hope Assil follows up this excellent cookbook with a deep dive into baking.


And speaking of deep dives into baking, Aleksandra Crapanzano’s Gâteau opens with nine takes on yogurt cake and 50+ variations on pound cake. In Gâteau’s Introduction, Crapanzano writes “[t]he French bake at home far more than we imagine. But, maybe more important, they bake far more simply than we imagine, and mostly from a range of classics that lend themselves to seasonal riffing and improvisation.” This truth plays out in the 150 or so recipes that Crapanzano shares in this tight, well-written cookbook. Chapters include: The Simplest of the Classics; Regional Classics; Chocolate Cakes; Cakes to Layer; Madeleines, Financiers, Visitandines; Holiday Cakes; and Savory Cakes. I’ve earmarked Crapanzano’s recipe for Rouleau Fraise-Rhubarbe, Glaçage au Citron (Strawberry-Rhubarb Rouleau, Lemon Buttercream) to bake when spring arrives.


Like Reem Assil’s Arabiyya, Vishwesh Bhatt’s I Am From Here shares how an immigrant transforms heritage recipes with newly found ingredients. Bhatt further adapts the classics recipes of his chosen home (i.e., America’s Deep South) with the flavors of his birthplace. Born in the Indian State of Gujarat, Bhatt settled in Oxford, Mississippi, and identifies as a Southern chef. His cooking earned him the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South (2019) and induction into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans, and Chefs (2022). Bhatt divides his fabulous cookbook into thirteen chapters: Rice; Peas and Beans; Okra; Tomatoes; Eggplant; Corn; Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes; Peanuts; Greens; Shrimp; Catfish; Chicken; and Pork and Lamb. Sounds pretty Southern, right? In part! Flip through the Rice chapter and find his grandmother’s Khichadi recipe along with recipes for Dirty Rice Grits and for Jambalaya. The Okra chapter has Bhatt’s take on Okra Chaat and, recognizing the diversity of his American South, a Lebanese Lamb, Okra, and Tomato Stew dish called Bamia (which, if you take out the cinnamon, allspice and cloves, closely resembles my favorite Armenian lamb, okra and tomato stew also called Bamia, which means okra in Armenian). I really love I Am From Here and predict it will win critical acclaim.


A new cookbook by Danny Bowien is exciting news! I find his The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook (2015) massively interesting. Mission Vegan-Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone continues Bowien’s creative evolution. The book shares recipes from his Mission Chinese Food restaurants that just happen to be vegan. Of the Asian offerings the book skews toward Korean. Bowien writes “[e]ating and cooking has long been my way of exploring who I am. My identity, like the food I make, is constantly evolving. Which is why in this book, you’ll find pasta pomodoro in the same chapter as chewy Korean buckwheat noodles topped with dragon fruit ice, tofu skin in the style of cumin lamb, and green tea noodles that taste like Vietnamese pho.” I particularly like Mission Vegan’s chapter on Sauces and Seasonings. I made Mushroom Seasoning Powder and use it whenever I want to add deep richness to a dish. Mission Vegan’s photographs pop off the page and are as intense and bold as Bowien’s food.


Vicky Bennison’s Pasta Grannies – Comfort Cooking makes my list of 2022’s best cookbooks because nearly every single recipe tempts me to cook it. I especially love the book’s numerous baked pasta recipes, like Adi’s Anelletti al Forno alla Palermitana (Baked Pasta from Palermo) and Iginia’s Princisgras (Porcini and Prosciutto Lasagna from Macerata), that, for me, epitomize comfort food. Another baked pasta I want to try: Enrica’s Torta Verde Con Prescinsêua (Cheese and Chard Pie from Genova). Each well-written recipe in the book includes a QR code that, when scanned, takes the reader to a video showing the nonna making her dish. If you love Italian cooking, you will want to check out this excellent cookbook.


I conclude my list with a few of the 2023 cookbooks on my radar. In March, Phaidon offers BAO by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung, and in May publishes Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Katie Parla has a new cookbook due out in March titled Food of the Italian Islands that I plan on checking out. I’ll report on any other interesting offers as they arise.


Now that my move is over and I feel more settled, I hope to post more often in 2023. I look forward to exploring my old stomping grounds and making a lot of pasta. I recently took the plunge—finally—and purchased an electric pasta extruder from Emiliomiti (here) in San Francisco. We’ll say hello to Dolly in 2023.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Nettle Powder Pasta Revisited

For the last few years I’ve made paglia e fieno (“straw & hay’) pasta (here) for Easter dinner. I used 2 grams of stinging nettle powder (here) to make the green pasta. This year I wondered: how many nettle leaves do I need to pick to make 2 grams of nettle powder? Answer: between 15 to 20 young leaves.

When foraging for nettles, I carefully snip off the top third of young, medium-sized plants. I wash the nettles to remove any grit and insects, cut the leaves from the stems, and then gently pat the leaves dry before placing them in a dehydrator for 8 to 9 hours at 95°F/35°C.


This year I rolled my pasta with a mattarello (here). I used 100 grams of Central Milling 00 Normal flour, a medium egg and 2 grams of nettle powder to make the green pasta and the same amount of flour and egg to make the yellow. I found the green pasta a bit harder to roll out than the yellow, so next time I might play around with the green’s ingredients.


Things will be quiet here at A Serious Bunburyist for a while as my wife and I move. I packed up all my pasta gear and hundreds (and hundreds) of cookbooks. Stay tuned for new posts, hopefully soon.