Home Made Pasta and Semolina Cake

Pasta
IMG_2387If I told you that making pasta is easy, that it takes very little time and ingredients and that you don’t need a single machine to make it would you believe me? Well you don’t have to. Here is the deal, you take flour, salt and water and you make a dough that sticks together and is easy to knead. You form a ball, and wrap it in plastic or put it under an upside down bowl. Let it rest for an hour or less if you don’t have that much time and then roll it out using a rolling pin. Cut it in the shape you would like and set it on a clean and dry kitchen towel to dry. You can also hang it on a wooden stick. After you are done rolling and cutting you can either let it dry a bit or cook it right away in a large pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil until al dente. Make sure that the sauce is already done so that your pasta doesn’t have to wait for the sauce.

This is a very easy, not very messy and it tastes a zillion times better than anything store bought.
Try mixing different sorts of flours. For the pasta in the picture I used white spelt and semolina. Don’t be concerned with measurements, for more pasta use more flour and water and for less pasta less. It works!
Besides creating delicious pasta this is a beautifully artistic activity, and just like with bread it connects you with your food in a very basic way.

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Yesterday I was going to make Baklava, but I didn’t have filo. My husband volunteered to go to the store and buy some, but in the time he was gone I made this Semolina Almond Orange Cake with the ingredients I had at home. It came out really well, but it was even better today, when the orange syrup had been absorbed into the cake and the tastes had blended.

Semolina Almond Orange Cake

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Semolina Almond Orange Cake
3/4 c. almond flour
1 c. semolina
1 c. white flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 rice syrup
8 tbs. sucanat
the rasp of one orange
1/4 soy yogurt
1/2 c. soy milk

Syrup

3/4 c. rice syrup or honey
the juice of one orange
a handful of peeled pistachios
a handful of walnuts
a handful of raisins
1 tbs. rose water

-mix the dry ingredients in a bowl
-mix the wet ingredients in another bowl
-add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients
-pour batter in a round cake pan, in which the bottom has been covered with wax paper and the sides have been oiled
-bake for about 30 minutes at 175* centigrades
-in the mean time put all the syrup ingredients in a small pan and bring them to a boil.
-after the cake is done make tiny wholes tooth pick or sate stick and pour the syrup with the nuts and raisins
-let it cool completely

 

Tiramisu

 

tiramisu

 

                                                                                                                                                                      “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Salvador Dali

At one point, about 16 years ago I chose to almost completely eliminate animal products from my diet. This decision brought about lots of positive things besides a healthier body. It brought my family and me awareness of the effect that our food choices can have on the environment, as well as a sharpened view of what the ethical and moral consequences of using animal lives wantonly can be. Nevertheless as a cook I found it difficult to ignore the traditional kitchens of most parts of the world in which animals had played a critical role. Not only did many past cultures thrive using animal products, but in much of the world’s cuisine animal products play a crucial part. While I haven’t felt the need to run out and buy a steak or a chicken in the last sixteen years, I have endlessly experimented with how to recreate some of the tastes and textures which characterize some of those traditional and maybe not so health or animal friendly dishes into plant based alternatives. I really, really believe that life is much more fun if we create a feeling of abundance and possibilities rather than limitations, and have never felt deprived by my choice to eat mostly plant foods. Veganizing dishes has been fun, not only because when successful I get to enjoy healthier and more compassionate versions of some of my favorite dishes, but also because in the process of veganizing a dish I feel I come to the essence of the dish and as a result get a deeper understanding of what cooking is about and what the actual role of the ingredients are. 

I veganized Tiramisu because it is a dessert I really enjoy and which brings me great memories of vacations in Tuscany and Umbria. Substituting the animal products in some dishes is a process. I have seen many vegan versions of Tiramisu which use tofu to substitute the mascarpone, and while I do understand why tofu seems like a logical choice(it’s white, low fat, neutral tasting…) I think the essence of tofu is opposite to that of mascarpone, which is high in fat. Using tofu to make Tiramisu defeats the purpose! And what about the eggs? They also play a role in this most decadent dish. I think that even though health should have priority in our food choices, substituting ingredients without regard for the role that they play in a dish leaves us dissatisfied and possibly with a sense of dullness regarding the particular dish. In creating art(which we all know cooking is) imitation and substitution of the components which create a particular work require understanding of the role is of these components. Superficially substituting notes or colors in a piece of music or art won’t create a comparable version to that original wonderfully, satisfying work of art. I chose cashews to substitute the mascarpone because they are high in fat and become very creamy when soaked and blended. In my experience cooked pumpkin doesn’t only add an eggy color, but also adds an eggy flavor, which I have often used in puddings and vegan flans to create the rich taste that eggs often add to a dish. I find this version of Tiramisu delicious and satisfying, but I still consider it work in progress since I will not be totally happy until I can make an authentic but vegan version of Lady Fingers.

I am really interested to hear from you about your experiences and ideas on veganizing dishes! I bet there most be some creative cooks out there with ideas as to how to create vegan like lady fingers? 

Tiramisu

Cake/cookie

1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
8 Tbs. sucanat
3 Tbs. almod flour
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

-combine the dry ingredients in a bowl
-add the combined wet ingredients
-spread batter on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper
-bake for about 10-15 minutes at 180* C
-when done cut in about 3 by 1 inch slices

Cream

2 cups soaked cashews
1 cup water or soy or nut milk
1 cup coconut milk
a pinch of sea salt
8 Tbs sucanat
a small piece of cooked pumpkin(about 3 Tb. pureed)

freshly made espresso coffee
brandy

-briefly soak each piece of cake in the coffee and make one layer on a broad and not too low form
-sprinkle with brandy
-spread the cashew cream evenly on top of the layer of cake
-proceed to repeat the process and after putting the second layer of cream sprinkle with cacao powder
-refrigerate for about 2 hours before cutting and serving

 

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