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

 

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Quick Noodles

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Yesterday was one of those Sundays when there are not real meal times. We started our Sunday with a late breakfast and at about 4.00 o’clock I began to hear voices emerge from behind screens claiming starvation. I had been preparing lessons for Monday and therefore also had to separate myself from my screen to think of how to solve this starvation situation. The solution it had to be a quick one since I wasn’t done preparing my lessons, so I opened a package of tofu I found in the fridge and decided not to allow myself to get flustered by the starvation taking place around me and by not yet having finished my school work and go ahead, try to make the best out the ingredients I had at hand and enjoy a cooking moment. What came out was quite attractive, tasty and very agreeable to the fuzzy starving eaters.Noodles with Tofu Coated with Chia Seeds

Quick Noodles with Tofu dusted with Chia Seeds 

Tofu
1 package of tofu cut in medium size cubes
3 Tbs. corn flour or tapioca flour
2 Tbs. chia seeds
a dusting of oregano
a pinch of sea salt
a dusting of smoked pimiento
oil for shallow frying

Noodles
1 package of udon noodles
broccoli cut in small florets
1/2 cucumber cut in small cubes
1 medium carrot grated

Dressing
3 Tbs.shoyu or tamari
1 Tbs. balsamico
2 tbs. olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced

1 red bell pepper cut in fine cubes
1 nori leaf per person

-in a wide bowl mix the corn flour, chia, oregano, salt and pimiento
-add the tofu cubes, cover the bowl and shake it to cover all the tofu cubes with the mixture
-in a wide frying pan heat the frying oil and fry the tofu cubes until golden brown

-boil the noodle as you normally would.
-towards the end of the cooking time throw in the broccoli and cook for another 2 minutes or until the broccoli turns bright green
-rinse the noodles and broccoli with cold water and put in a nice serving bowl
-grate the carrots directly into the bowl and add the cut cucumber
-give it a good stir
-in a glass mix the dressing ingredients
-pour dressing on top of the noodles
-mix in the fried tofu with the noodles
-mix in the dressing
-sprinkle with the red peppers
-adjust seasoning by drizzling with a little extra olive oil or shoyu or tamari if desired
-serve sprinkled with finely cut pieces of nori and minced parsley or fresh coriander

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Pearl Couscous

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I am really into one dish meals lately, which I think must have to do with my very, very busy life at the moment. For this year’s new years resolution I am committing to not abandoning the things that I really enjoy doing because of being caught in the routine of daily life. Cooking is one of those things I really enjoy doing, but in order to do that I can’t always expect myself to be making fancy dinners requiring lots of time. So yes, I am excited about rediscovering the beauty in the simplicity of simple meals. Pilafs and one pan meals which include grains, beans and veggies are great at doing this job. They are not only nutritious, uncomplicated and delicious but also beautiful to look at.

After wondering around the biggest outdoor market in Amsterdam last Saturday, I came home with lots of treats which I can’t buy in my neighborhood market. One of these treats is Pearl Couscous, otherwise known as Israeli Couscous or Ptitim. For those who are not familiar with it, it’s made from wheat just like most couscous, but the grains are larger and chewier, something in between pasta and whole grain, which has a very appealing and light feel to it. It is quick and definitely an elegant addition to your repertoire.

Pearl Couscous Pilaf

2 3/4 cups vegetable broth(which I didn’t have) or water(I used water boiled with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, a 1/2 tsp of sea salt and a tsp. of olive oil)
2 1/4 cups pearl couscous
1 eggplant cut in small cubes, sparkled with salt
2 bell peppers cut in big pieces
1 or 2 carrots cut in smallish cubes
3 cups of cooked chickpeas (can use canned)
a handful of chopped kale
a handful of roasted pine nuts

-roast the eggplant, peppers and carrots in the oven at 230* C. until the veggies are done
-in the mean time cook the couscous in the boiling hot broth(or water), simmer for about 12 minutes until the grains are cooked but not overcooked(they shouldn’t stick to each other.
-when the couscous and the vegetable are done, mix it all in an attractive serving dish
-add the kale and chickpeas and stir in the dressing and serve.

Dressing:
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbs. shoyu
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. harissa(or to taste)
1/2 tsp. powder cumin

-stir everything together in a small cup or bowl

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Seafood Spelt Pasta

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Since coming back from Italy I have been screaming about how fed up I am with pasta, but here I am again with yet another pasta recipe. This one however doesn’t use refined wheat pasta, which is what totally got to me during the holidays. Spelt is an old grain similar to wheat which fortunately hasn’t been ruined by the agricultural business. Just like wheat spelt contains gluten, but because the inherent make-up of spelt remains intact, many people who have develop intolerances for wheat can tolerate spelt. Those people don’t have celiac but have an intolerance to the product that has resulted from the agribusiness’s tampering with wheat in an attempt to creat a higher-yielding crop.
It is really too bad that wheat, a product which is such an integral part of the Western cooking tradition has been ruined to the extent that it has, and that it makes so many people very sick, sometimes without them even knowing that wheat is the culprit.

Ever since I became aware of the power of modern wheat to cause so many health problems, our family changed from wheat to spelt for most of our baking and pastas. Even though we are not completely wheat free, these changes seem to have helped us tremendously.

This pasta recipe was the result of having to make a quick early dinner for my two youngest, not seaweed loving kids, with the few ingredients I had around and no time to go to the shop. The dish has a subtle fresh fish taste, in the direction of mussels(for those of you who would consider this a plus). This may be a good way of using all that dry seaweed you have sitting around your pantry without offending anybody.

a package of spelt pasta
1 1/2 zucchini cut in medium dice
5 medium tomatoes peeled and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper diced
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
a handful of dried hiziki
3 tbs dried instant wakame
2 tbs olive oil
a big handful of leaf parsley
2 tbs of chipotle in adobo
2 extra cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil extra
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

-cook the spelt pasta
-soak the hiziki and the wakame separately
-in a broad pan heat the olive oil and add the zucchini
-stir a bit and add a pinch of salt
-after 5 minutes add the red pepper and stir
-add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid begins to thicken and then add the garlic and the sea vegetables
-cook a bit longer, about 5 minutes
-in the mean time put the extra garlic, extra olive oil, chipotle and parsley in a mortar and stamp it a bit(it doesn’t need to be a paste, just enough to blend the flavors
-add pasta to the cooked veggies and give it a good stir, then add parsley mixture
-after 1 or 2 minutes turn of fire
-drizzle with balsamic vinegar
-serve

David’s Diet

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We are still in Italy enjoying the beauty of this amazing country. It has been a bit more than a week since we left Holland for this sunny part of the world. We have been camping the whole time and because I truly dislike cooking in camping situations Cyrille has been doing most of the cooking. I don’t need a fancy kitchen to prepare a decent meal, but I really dislike cutting vegetables on a cutting board on my lap, or having to look for that bag of rice that’s in one of those plastic bags somewhere either in the car or in some corner of the tent. I don’t come from a generation of campers, like Cyrille and many other Dutch people do, and I sense that there is probably some hidden pleasure in these camping rituals(like the pleasure of constantly having to go down to where the water is to fill our bottles) which still escapes me. Nevertheless I do see the advantages of sleeping in the open air, visiting countries at a fraction of the price of renting a house or hotel, having the freedom to pack up your tent and a set it up somewhere else whenever you like, and even of cooking using simple ingredients and simple techniques to prepare nice meals. Having said that I do think that if I were more of a camping creature I would have done more cooking and cut down on some of the expenses and other disadvantages of eating out regularly.
The problem with eating out regularly here in Italy has to do with the amount of oil and salt that seems to go into the restaurant food, the unlimited and exclusive use of refined flour in almost every dish and as a result the feeling of lack of true nourishment that I feel after one to many meals at a restaurant.
However, the temptation to participate in the eating culture of this country is great. The Italians seem to be passionate and have great pride in their food, which makes the restaurant scene have a seductive and competitive edge to it which is hard to resist.
Walking through the streets of Rome or Florence as well as through the hidden narrow streets of small medieval villages it’s impossible to escape the power that the food has on the identity of this country. Streets here often seem like museum galleries in which one restaurant after the other exhibits foods rather than paintings and offers its personal interpretation there of. Food here is beautiful, the smells, presentation, colours, seasonings and freshness all contribute to more than the sum of its parts, nevertheless I do ask myself how can a culture survive in good health with so much refined flour and grains, and such amount of oil and salt in their diet. It seems hard to believe that the beautifully sculpted body of Michelangelo’s David would be result of the modern day Italian diet.

This morning I got up early and put on a pan of wholesome unrefined barley on the fire. Its light brown colour may not be as exciting and glamorous and may not even be picture worthy, as the Italian creations, but I am so looking forward to it!

Breakfast Barley
2 cups of soaked barley
6 cups water
a pinch of salt
a bit of rice milk
a drizzle of rice syrup, maple syrup or honey

-put barley and water in a pan and bring to a boil, then lower the fire cover the pan and use a flame deflector
-cook until barley is soft
-served drizzled with syrup and with a bit of your favourite milk(I had rice)

of course you can enrich this porridge with your favourite nuts and raisins. I opted for simplicity because I didn’t have nuts or raisins and because simplicity is what my body was craving

Fusion Udons

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Today for a change all our kids were home at the same time, the 20 year old who has been living in Amsterdam, the 19 year old who lives near Frankfurt and the two younger ones who are 16 and 12. This created a cozy, familiar and rambunctious atmosphere, which although very welcome has a different dynamic than what has become our normal daily life with our two younger kids.
Four kids in the house means four different sets of needs, schedules and tastes, which makes for a lot of activity in the kitchen: refrigerator open, refrigerator closed, peanut butter sandwich here, coffee there, no gluten for one, an egg for another(yes an egg!). Dishes pile up in our huge sink, crumbs gather on different places of the counter, and regardless of the constant in an out of the kitchen there is always someone who is absolutely starving and needs a meal right away. And, in spite of the shameful abundance in which we seem to live, there is always someone’s voice heard saying: “there is really nothing to eat here, am sooo hungry!”
By four o’clock it seemed that we had spent the whole day eating but at the same time nobody had had a substantial meal. It dawned on me that Tim and Anna both had end of the year music and dance performances and that they needed to eat something that resembled a meal before leaving the house. I had to be quick, I only had an hour to make something and have them eat it. After snooping around the fridge and pantry this is what came out, and I must say it worked!

1 package of Udon noodles
1 tbs coconut oil
3 cloves of garlic crushed and minced
1 leek washed well and sliced in thin diagonal pieces
2 tomatoes cut in medium size cubes
1 carrot cut in matchsticks
1/2 red pepper cut in cubes
1/2 of a pointed cabbage thinly sliced
1 cup of cooked black beans(I sometimes use canned)
sea salt
a couple of tablespoons of tamari
chipotle pepper
1 tbs roasted sesame oil
fresh cilantro leaves chopped

-cook the noodles in boiling water according to package instruction
-heat the coconut oil in a wok
-add the garlic and tomatoes and cook at high heat stirring
-add carrots and continue stirring
-add the leeks and cabbage and cook a bit, controlling the fire
– after several minutes after the mixture has gotten aromatic and a bit caramelized add the black beans, salt and chipotle
-add tamari and stir well
-add the cooked noodles and stir fry a bit more, adding the sesame oil at the end
-give it a good stir and garnish with cilantro leaves
-serve

Is not Bolognese…..

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2 cups cooked lentils
1 grated carrot
1 chopped onion2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tbs olive oil
sea salt
1 can of pomodori
1/4 tsp spanish smoked pimiento
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 tbs Vitamix mushroom concentrated bouillon
2 tbs tamari
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
a bunch of parsley
a handful of chopped watercress
cooked spelt pasta

-sauté onions, and garlic in oil
-add carrots and cook a bit and sprinkle with sea salt
-add pimiento stir well and add pomodori
-add lentils and Vitamix
-stir and let it simmer at low fire for about 15 minutes
– add walnuts, tamari and vinegar, cook 2 more minutes
-add parsley, watercress and pasta and serve

I served this dish with pickled red cabbage today.

The Dancing Soba

Make a broth from water, a bunch of dried shiitakes and a small piece of kombu
Let it simmer for about 15 minutes

Cook a package of soba noodle following the package instructions

In the mean time cut your veggies:
Leeks, paksoy, garlic, carrots(don’t put in the paksoy leaves until the dish is almost ready, stir fry the stems only)

Sauté the vegetables in a wok with a bit of sesame oil

Add soy sauce or tamari to your broth to your own taste
In a cup make a mixture of 4 tbs. of rice vinegar and 4 tbs. of mirin
Add this vinegar mixture to your broth

Let it simmer for a minute and add a mixture of a couple of tsps. of kuzu with a couple of tsps. Of water and stir until the broth gets some body( not thick, just a bit less watery)

Add the paksoy leaves to the wok and let it sit for 1/2 a minute

Serve in bowls, first put the noodles in the individual bowl then pour the veggie soup over it, finish with a couple of drops of roasted sesame oil

*if the noodles have gotten cold while you were preparing the rest you can warm them up by rinsing them with hot tap water

*you can add cubes of fried tofu to the bowls

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Macaroni a la Fideua

-Macaroni-

-Onion – Garlic – Red bell pepper – Celery – Carrot – Soaked porcini mushrooms

-Soaked sun dried tomatoes – Green peas – Tomatoes – Parsley

-Olive oil – Smoked spanish pimiento powder

-Mushroom broth(I use a german paste from Vitamix)-

-A paella pan-

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Hurry it’s sunny let’s have a picnic!

-Udon with Sugar Snaps, Roasted Eggplant and Sesame Seeds with an Asian Dressing
-Tomatoes with Breadcrumbs and Herbs
-Steamed Beets an Carrots with an Olive Oil Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
-Lemon Cake
We also had Cyrille’s fantastic Homemade Beer, a Brundlmayer white wine, wholewheat baguettes, guacamole, a bowl of berries and green tea

*Sunday recipes upon request, you can leave a message on this blog and I will send them to you*

Here in the Netherlands a picnic cannot be taken for granted. The frequent rain, low temperatures and cloudiness makes a sunny, fairly warm day a special occasion, even in June! Today our picnic was in a beautiful park not far from the center of Amsterdam, The Amsterdamse Bos.
When I opened the curtains this morning and saw the sun shining I ran down to the kitchen to prepare a picnic.

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