Making pasta with a machine – fun!

October 7, 2010 in Ad free, Food Porn, product, review


Thanks to the generosity of the CSN Stores, their site and their great social media outreach people I have been given an opportunity to review several kitchen tools that are basic but, in my mind, are “good things to have.”

The one I am going to share with you today is a piece of technology that can be enabling for even the most novice of cooks – a pasta maker.

This one, a CucinaPro Imperia, is a step up from the most basic in that it can be attached to a motor as well as a variety of pasta cutting accessories. I am reviewing it without the motor and I find that using it without a motor is not at all difficult (as some might suggest if you look around on the web).

I have written about making pasta before:

In each of those cases (and the many many times I have made pasta without blogging about it) I rolled the pasta dough out by hand and also cut it by hand.

There is a qualitative difference in process between making it by hand (the way I did it anyways) and by pasta machine.

I minimized the amount of folding and kneading of the dough to the very minimum because I am generally the sort to do just that (my hands only have so much strength).

This leads to a heavier thicker dough and also same with the finished pasta.

When you use the pasta maker, as I describe below, you get a much more homogenous pliable dough and you can get thinner pasta strands (if you wish).

These both have their good points. Hand rolled and cut is thicker and “meatier” with more “dente” to it while the pasta machine gives a more standard pasta experience.

The biggest advantage to making your own pasta is that you have 100% control over the quality of the basic ingredients and also, somehow even if made with bargain ingredients, it always tastes more delicious – much more savory and bursting with flavor.

When it comes to pasta – fresh is best!

Spinach Basil Pasta (1 pound)


  • 8 oz cooked spinach greens, well drained and squeezed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water


Puree the spinach in a blender VERY WELL – you want to molecularize the spinach as much as you can (I use my Vita Mix).

Add the two eggs, oil, and water and mix well.

In a bowl or in a stand mixer, add liquids to the flour and mix until you have a dough.

Wrap with plastic and allow to rest 30 minutes or longer. Overnight is good. You can also freeze it down at this point! To thaw take out in the AM, put in the fridge, will likely be ready for you to shape by evening. I found that my thawed dough was simply fantastic because it had time to meld and hydrate well.

Once the dough has melded/rested, its time to either roll out and cut or to begin to use your pasta maker.

Pasta Maker Review: spinach basil pasta resting

You have to run the dough through the machine to condition it before you make your final sheets and then final pasta shape.

First you make a log of a part of your dough, run it through, fold into thirds, rotate so that its 90 degrees from the direction you fed it in previously. Roll through. Repeat with the folding and turning.

Do this 6-7 times or until the dough takes on a very even pliable consistency – a bit of practice will get you there.

Pasta Maker Review: rolling out

Now you begin to thin out your dough. You will no longer fold your sheet in third but run it through with successively thinner settings on the adjusting button on the side. If you are making ravioli, go for thin. If you are making other types of pasta like fettucini then do not let the sheet get too thin – its again a matter of practice for you.

Pasta Maker Review: rolling out

Once its a thickness you like/need, you can run it through the detachable pasta cutting accessory to get your finished product!

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

(I rolled this pasta sheet a bit too thin for fettucini)

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

You can now hang it all up to dry a bit and then use immediately (cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, depending on your tastes), dry it more for later, or freeze it down for later.

I wanted to test out my new FoodSaver vacuum system that I bought because we have a new freezer (we bought it from Sears – its awesome).

Pasta Maker Review: vacuum sealer - LOVE it

I learned one big lesson – do NOT vacuum pack fresh raw pasta – you will get this:

Pasta Maker Review: FAIL!

It mushes your fresh pasta back into dough.

The solution is to freeze it FIRST and then vacuum seal it and then put it back in the freezer.

Pasta Maker review

Product Details:

  • 6in wide roller
  • Includes double cutter for spaghetti and fettuccine
  • Optional motor and attachments

Viva Vegan – a cookbook review

July 8, 2010 in cookbook, Food Porn, latino, review, vegetable


When I was offered an opportunity to review the book “Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers” by Terry Hope Romero I was intrigued. Knowing latino cuisine as I do, the thought of a vegan adaptation of this heavily pork laden foodway boggled my mind. You can see from the traditional Colombian recipes that I have blogged about on this site, meat often figures heavily in our cuisine.

It should not have boggled my mind but it did. One has to banish the thought of chicharrones from one’s mind to be able to grasp vegan latino food and that seemed like too dear a price to pay! (winks)

When I got the book and browsed the recipes I had a huge head-bonking “I get it” moment.. of course! Latino food is at its VERY best when you eat the freshest ingredients and that doesnt really encompass chicharrones but avocados, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, platanos (plantains), yucas (casava), lime, and so much more.

When you remove the pork and replace it with olive oil you still have the beautiful flavors of latino foods. I would not recommend the margarines that the author does but she is trying to recapture some of the magic of butter that veganism bans. Any vegetable fat that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature is in some way modified (hydrogenated) and that is not good for your body. The best solution here is coconut butter – organic only and produced by a company that you trust and KNOW isnt using benzenes to purify their product.

The book consists of two parts and within those two parts a broad array of basic knowledge about vegan cooking and the adapted recipes:

Part One:

  • The Vegan Latin Pantry
  • Kitchen Tools (or How do I slice a mango)

Part Two:

  • A Few Essential Latino Vegan Recipes
  • Salsas and Condiementos
  • Bocadillos, Snacks, and Appetizers
  • Ensaladas
  • Beans and Rice, Los Dos Amigos
  • Vegan Asado: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan
  • Complete Your Plate: Vegetables, Plantains, and Grains
  • One Pot Stews, Cassaroles, and Cazuelas
  • Super Fantastico Latin Soups!
  • For the Love of Corn: Arepas, Pupusas, Tortillas, and More
  • You, Too, Can Tamale
  • Empanadas!
  • Drinks
  • Desserts and Sweets

For this review I intentionally chose a recipe that uses a common vegetarian/vegan ingredient that is relatively foreign to latino cuisine – tempeh – so that I can see if the author had been successful at making the translation. I prefer authenticity and loathe fake meat concoctions (tofurky?). I like tofu for its tofu-ness and would never eat it hoping to feel like I am eating meat.

What is tempeh? Trust me the following description might sound a bit – umm – revolting and it kept me from trying it for a long time but also trust me that tempeh is in fact really quite delicious!

“Tempeh, or tempe in Indonesian, is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan. It originated in today’s Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and strong flavor. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine; some consider it to be a meat analogue.” Source

I bought the organic three grain tempeh for this recipe (in addition to whole soybeans – brown rice, barley and millet). I can highly recommend this product – quite delicious!

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Just a quick side note: The notion of “stuffing” an arepa is most popular in Venezuela versus Colombia. In Colombia, generally, arepas are not stuffed but eaten simply with butter and salt. I am sure now a days the propensity to “stuff” them is also spreading into Colombia (its not immune to change!). I qualify the term “stuff” here because the arepa isnt really suited for stuffing because it falls apart. Its not a pita bread. You cant really form a hinge by cutting half way through it and then stuffing it. Its more like you cut the arepa in half and then make a sandwich sort of thing.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

The Recipes

For today’s review I worked from the following recipes (with some modifications based on availability of ingredients):

  • Pan-Fried Tempeh with Sofrito (page 112)
  • Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (page 32)
  • Black Bean – Corn Salsa Salad (page 72)

Feedback: I can tell you ahead of time, before we go through all the recipes, that my non-vegan chicharron-eating family (3, 6, 13, adults) reveled in the deliciousness of this tempeh dish. I was fully ready for the kids to reject this new food (and I didnt tell them how it is made, they just need to trust me that its edible) but they LOVED it.

The tempeh has a unique nutty flavor (a stretch for our family too, we have extreme nut allergies here) and had a great mouth feel. My 13 yo said it tasted sorta like meat (likely with respect to the texture). They also gobbled down the corn-black bean salsa.

It was a definite hit here! I hope you give it a try and see for yourself. You do not need to be vegan or vegetarian to love these foods, they are a way to expand your own personal food habits and expose you to new flavors!

Pan-Fried Tempeh with Sofrito (page 112)


  • 1 (8-oz) cake of tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • vegetable oil, for pan-frying
  • 1/2 cup Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (pg 32)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup white wine, vegetable broth, or beer
  • olive oil for pan-frying


Slice the tempeh cake in half lengthwise, slice into thirds (I cubed it). You now need to steam it in a steamer basket, a covered saucepan with 1 cup water or in a microwave (covered dish, 1/2 cup water, nuke about 5 minutes). Drain all the water and then sprinkle with the soy sauce (I also sprinkled with lemon juice). Set aside.

Make your sofrito (see below).

Pan fry your tempeh on medium high in small amount of oil until golden on all sides.

To the hot pan add the following: sofrito, tomatoes, wine vinegar, cilantro, cumin; fry all until tomatoes are soft – 6-8 mins. Add in the tempeh and stir to coat and warm, ~ 5 mins. Pour the wine over this until almost absorbed, some sauce remaining. Serve in arepas, as shown.

Note on my modifications: We do not drink so we have no wine on hand, didnt add that. I also didnt add vinegar but added a splash of lemon juice.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Tempeh before preparation.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Steamed tempeh on to toast.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Golden tempeh

Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (page 32) (note – I made a few key changes to this recipe for this review)


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 2 pounds green bell peppers, seeded, chopped finely
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, diced
  • generous pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Saute peppers, garlic, onions, salt and ground pepper in a heavy pan on medium heat for about 10 mins. Lower heat and continue to cook for some 20 – 30 mins until all is soft and reduced to a 1/3 original volume.

Use immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator as a condiment.

Note on my modifications: In Colombian cuisine, we call the analogue to this “Hogao” and it doesnt include peppers or black pepper and would NEVER be made without cumin or cilantro. I had no peppers on hand so I made more of a traditional hogao versus this version. This means I also added cumin and tomatoes. Green onions are also especially good in this.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan



  • 1 C “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” precocida masa harina (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here, find this ingredient)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 C boiling hot water


Mix arepaharina with salt and hot water, mix well. Set aside for 5 – 10 mins. Shape into small balls (larger than a golf ball, smaller than a baseball) and then flatten into pucks (smooth edges).

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Toast in a hot pan until brown on sides, put into 350 F oven until ready to serve. Poke holes on top and slather with butter and sprinkle with salt or prepare as per desired recipe.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Black Bean – Corn Salsa (page 72) (I am leaving out the salad part as I only made the salsa portion)


  • 2 cups roasted fresh corn
  • 1 (14 oz) can organic black beans (2 cups cooked black beans)


Drain the can of beans, add the roasted corn.

Note on my modifications: I added 1 tablespoon chopped vidalia onion (raw), 2 plum tomatoes (chopped), salt, good sprinkle of cumin, 1 teaspoon minced garlic.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Bring all of this together for a delicious meal! In a traditional latino home, this would not be served without rice (I recommend organic brown rice) but we are dealing with a nasty heat wave here in the Northeast (104.7 in the shade the other day, 109 with heat index) so cooking and eating rice was the LAST thing we wanted or needed. As it was, making these arepas and hot hogao and roasting corn – it all made my kitchen hot and I was POURING with sweat – not a happy picture, that.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

There are MANY more very delicious recipes in this cookbook. I recommend it for all – vegan or not. I also especially recommend it to the Latino/a who is considering or is a vegan and would like a taste of home with not so much pork in it!

Product Details:

  • Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738212733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738212739

St. Patricks day brisket – sous vide style

March 9, 2010 in Food Porn, Food Science, review


[Follow this link for a recipe for Whole Wheat Cheddar Cheese Kefir Irish Soda Bread]

St. Patrick’s day is almost here and I feel like I am getting whiplash with how fast this year is passing already! The stores put out St Patrick’s day decorations right after Christmas so by now, all that Chinese import crap is in the clearance bins which makes it seem like the holiday never had a chance!

Here in New England, St. Patrick’s means something more than green beer, crappy bar food, bar crawls, and green dye dumped in midwestern rivers. Here it is actually linked in with an authentic memory and nostalgia for Ireland. The traditional meal eaten for this holiday is the New England Boiled Dinner: boiled cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and a spiced but boiled corned beef brisket. This is traditionally served with a side of strong mustard or even horseradish (I adore this meal with sour cream and horseradish, I almost like that part more than the rest, just like I am with wasabi and sushi, I prefer the wasabi! Same with oysters and red sauce – LOVE the horseradishy red sauce).

This is not to say that this meal is traditional for Ireland. Not at all. But it IS traditional for New England for this holiday. We also enjoy it with soda bread which IS traditional and authentic to Ireland. I will blog separately about the Whole Wheat Kefir Cheddar Cheese soda bread I made later.

Today’s corned beef brisket is all about method.

I had a 2 week opportunity to test out the Sous Vide Supreme, a consumer level self regulating hot water bath that is the same as that used in a huge range of food provider settings from haute cuisine restaurants to crap food high throughput food companies.

Sous Vide Supreme

Here it is opened up to show the inner chamber where the hot water and rack is.

Sous Vide Supreme

Sous Vide = under vacuum and refers to the use of food grade plastic bags into which your food goes and then most if not all the air is vacuumed out. It was “pioneered” by the French in the 1970s as a method used in the food production setting.

Sous Vide Supreme: cheap sealer - works!

The vacuum packed food is then put into a hot water bath.

Sous Vide Supreme: eggs into the onsen

As a scientist, I have used circulating hot water baths for many things including making nucleic acids, precipitating proteins, etc. This sort of water bath is common in the lab. It used to be the only way to do PCR (polymerase chain reaction) which meant a lot of futzing with little microfuge tubes floating on little styrofoam rafts on the surface of the hot water. Sometimes these baths were even behind radiation shields when the stuff being heated was radioactive. Nowadays, much less radionucleotide is used and PCR is done in cute little benchtop thermocyclers.


Water bath manufacturers probably freaked when this change came. I am guessing that is when they started to market heavily into the restaurant and molecular gastronomy spheres.

So, my experience was that these baths were nasty contaminated in a food sense (you could not SEE any contaminants but you sure could imagine it) – it took a bit to reorient my brain to using hot water baths for cooking in.

There is no reason to think this water bath will be anything but super clean! You really should use distilled water so that you do not get water scale build up on the walls of the bath interior. You should also dump the water after each cooking session and clean the bath with non-abrasive means.

The key reasons to cook this way:

  • NO juices lost to cooking water or as steam or roasted off and are left to reabsorbed into meats
  • Very little fat needed to cook moist foods
  • your food is infused with the seasonings you added (dont add too much!)
  • you set the water temp to the desired end temperature – your food will not burn or over cook if you set it to the correct end temp!
  • you can put in collagen containing meats like short ribs and allow it to cook very slowly for DAYS so that at the end you have almost completely solubilized the collage which = tender tender TENDER meat
  • you can cook temperature sensitive things like fish and shrimp to the very minimum temperature needed and loose NO moisture (dont leave seafood in for long – doesnt help it and might lead to possible protein degradation = drying out)
  • you can par-cook foods to almost done and then put the food in the fridge to be ready to be warmed for later
  • you can cook meat to the PERFECT internal doneness – you will then need to char the outer surface to get your maillard reactants that we perceive as delicious on meat

I made quite a few different recipes (even bread!) but today I am writing about using the Sous Vide to make corned beef. I can attest that the corned beef we made in the sous vide was the very best we have ever had – so moist, so tender, just amazing.

Note that at this time of year we get corned beef with spice packets. I used those spices in this recipe.

Sous Vide Supreme: corned beef

You simply remove the corned beef and the spices to a bag, seal it, stick it in the sous vide at 175 F for 10 hours, remove, cut, enjoy!

Sous Vide Supreme: corned beef - melting!

I served it with boiled potatoes and carrots, no cabbage, and on top of some of the whole wheat kefir cheddar cheese soda bread I made. Also, horseradish sour cream and some mustard.

Sous Vide Supreme: corned beef - melting!

I made the left overs into corned beef hash the next morning. Explosively delicious. I could recommend making this corned beef JUST for corned beef hash alone!

Sous Vide Supreme: corned beef hash

We loved our experience with the Sous Vide Supreme and regretted having to return it after our loan period!

Product Details:


  • Model SVS-10LS
  • Water Baths 1
  • Total Volume 11.2 liters
  • Capacity 10 liters (Max Fill Line)
  • Power 120 Volt 850 Watts @ 60Hz

Dimensions (w/d/h):

  • Overall 11.5″/14.2″/11.4″ (Metric 290mm/360mm/289mm)
  • Bath 9.9″/12.6″/6.8″ (Metric: 252mm/320mm/173mm)
  • Weight (approx.) 13 lbs (5.9 kg)


  • Display Digital LED 0.1°F (0.1°C)
  • Range 41°–203°F (5°–95° C)
  • Sensitivity 1°F (0.5°C)
  • Over-temperature Alarm +5°F (+4°C)


  • Display 1 minute resolution
  • Settings Variable 0—99hr:59mins
  • Cycle End Audible buzz & “end” message

Cakes and You

February 16, 2010 in Food Porn, review


BlogHer has teamed up with Kelly Ripa and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to bring us a fun way to raise money for this important cause.

You can design a virtual cake and Electrolux will donate $1 to the fund! In addition, Electrolux is donating $100 to OCRF for every new range sold this month. Thats pretty serious!

Follow this link to see more about this!