Cooking like an ItalianPosted: September 23, 2012
“A new day and a new theme”
Of late I’ve been feeling a little negative and my last post said it all. This month is almost closing on me and here I am again back logged with things to do, which kept me away from posting about i2cook’s second cooking class, which happened early this month.
I recently received an email from a customer who had ordered few bottles of shahi tukra during rakhi and appreciating the sweet so much that all the negativity that I’ve been feeling began to fade. She attempted twice to tell me how much she liked it – once when I was traveling and couldn’t return her call back and the second time by writing an email to me. She also checked with me about the class and that’s when I realized that my post for the second one is long overdue.
i2cook cooking class is slowly catching up in its own special way and I’m glad that its appreciated. I always enjoy interacting with people and this time we had two men in our class ;). I like it when men come forth and show their interest in cooking. We cooked, we ate and laughed together. It was an afternoon well spent gaining and imparting knowledge and tasting various ingredients like nutritional yeast, black rice pasta, spaghetti pasta, rock salt etc. Italian being the theme of the class the recipe card and the setting was all themed by Groovy Two Shoes.
Ricotta Cheese Spread
Ricotta is Italian for “twice cooked” or “to cook again” and is traditionally made with the whey byproduct of making another cheese, such as mozzarella or a hard cheese. The whey is heated, with or without additional vinegar, and the new ricotta is strained and seasoned.
Since we aren’t cheese makers and don’t have any whey with us, we will make ricotta in a more contemporary way and creamy like a cream cheese. The fresh ricotta goes well on a baguette or toast drizzled with some olive oil or balsamic.
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons
1/2tsp sea salt
(Makes 1 cup)
Pour milk, cream and salt in a non-reactive pot. Heat the milk lightly until you see the cream formation. Turn off the stove and pour in the lemon juice. Allow it to stand for five minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and can be refrigerated upto 3 days.
An Italian will always say that “his” sauce is the best. How do you know which recipe to follow? After a lot of research we realized that you don’t need to add too many things into your sauce to make it taste good. Some onions, not finely chopped dropped into a pot full of tomatoes to infuse can do wonders to your pasta sauce.
500gms plum tomatoes
1 halved medium sized onion
2tbs olive oil
1/2tbs lemon juice
salt to taste
(Makes approx. 250gms of pasta sauce)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. Discard the skins.
Cut each of your tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with your fingertips into a small strainer set over a bowl. Ditch the seeds, reserve the juices. Chop the tomatoes roughly.
Put the tomatoes, onion and olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt and sugar to taste. Turn off the stove and add lemon juice. Serve immediately on your favourite pasta with some fresh basil or precede further to preserve the sauce.
Preserving pasta sauce
You can either freeze the pasta sauce for 6 months or can preserve through canning at room temperature.
You can make pasta sauce in bulk and store in your kitchen cabinet for months by canning. Canning is a process where the sealed sauce bottles are heated in a hot water bath to build pressure and seal the bottle. This helps to negate the bacteria and avoid botulism (can lead to paralysis)
Canning at home doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done with the stuff available at home –
deep saucepan or stock pot
Wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any sauce on there. Anything left on the rim could spoil your sauce. Place the lid on top, and screw the rings in place.
Fill the pot with water and place the towel at the bottom. Submerge the warm jars in the entirely with water 2 to 3 inch above the lids and bring it to boil. Maintain the temperature of the stove at medium high and process for 45 minutes. Check periodically to see that the water level is still above the tops of the jars and add water if necessary.
Meanwhile tie rubber bands to the tongs to avoid any slippage. After 45 minutes, slowly remove the jars with the help of the tongs and place them somewhere no one will bump or touch them. Let them sit to cool, overnight is good. You may hear hissing when you take them out of the water – that’s totally fine. The jars’ seals will still be up at this point, they will suck in as the jars cool.
Your homemade pasta jar is ready to store for 12 months without refrigeration.
Please check your jars. Are the seals down? Any leaks? If not, you’re all clear. If you still hear hissing, have jars with the lids still up, or see any leaks, stick them in the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days. Do not try to can them again.
Fig & Olive Tapenade
Traditionally, tapenade is a pounded paste made of olives and capers, slick with olive oil. It is not only economical to make your own tapenade but it is so darn easy. We found some gorgeous figs from Turkey and couldn’t help but mix it in our tapenade.
1/2cup dried figs
1 cup black olives
1 small garlic clove
1/2tbs lemon juice
1tsp dried or finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Soak the figs in water for an hour or so. Chop and keep aside.
Blend in all the ingredients in a processor and season with salt and pepper. If you have the patience you could make the tapenade in mortar and pestle…
The class was wrapped up with sauce and spreads prepared by us for lunch and finished with some Italian custard served with caramelized pears made by me. To know when my next class is scheduled – 1. LIKE our FB page for constant updates or 2. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I can send you an email once the event is up! More pictures of the class on our FB page.
You might want to read my previous post on i2cook cooking class.