Miss Tasty's Cafe

I chop, I dice, I mix until moistened, I whip to soft peaks, I boil, broil, bake and braise, simmer over medium heat, chill over night ... And of course, there's eating. Tasting, nibbling, chomping, savouring ... I'm a licking-the-bowl-clean, sopping-up-the-sauce, juice-running-down-my-fingers food enthusiast ... Yep. I love food.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time to Make the Donuts

A childhood icon has passed through the Great Donut Hole in the Sky. Little did he know, he is somewhere in my subconscious every morning when I struggle out of bed, stumbling through the grey morning for yet another day at the office ... he exemplified an honestly exhausted, unshakable work ethic that is an inspiration to us all. May he (finally get some) rest, in peace. I'll be raising an Old Fashioned and a cup of scorched coffee in his honor.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An EP Dinner - The Tuscan Feast

Old and new recently merged in my kitchen. This is why I love my dinner club. It inspires me to take what I know, and push it one better, newer, fresher, prettier. Thus, my brother was summoned to pass down the oral history of Ravioli di Moschetti e Ricci (Papa Anotonio and Mama Clorinda, rest in peace) ... and the internet was consulted to determine a specific nod to Tuscany: Ravioli filled with Chestnuts, Apple, & Prosciutto.

Ingredients are assembled from across the metro area. And so it begins. After a small explosion, I find myself staring down at a weird, dark pod in my palm, peeling away its husk. A chestnut. I was happily incredulous to discover them, pre-roasted and bagged, in Trader Joe's frozen section. The reheating in the microwave creates an angry, white splatter when one little nut can't quite take the heat. Otherwise, it's a simple way to introduce myself to these chewy, strangely-sweet items that are native to Tuscan cuisine.

With my fingertips, I create a well in the center of a powdery mound of durham semolina flour. This cradles two beaten eggs and a pinch of salt. By hand, with careful scooping action, I begin to mix the floury edges into the eggy center, and as it forms clumps I knead it into a smooth ball. The resulting dough rests, 20 minutes, and is then rolled murmur thin in my Atlas pasta machine.

This is the family machine. Everyone has one; it's a rite of passage to get one. I twist the side knob, with muffled clattering, between each successive pass of the dough, bringing the rollers ever closer together. I slide my left wrist under the cool , floury sheets as they emerge, lifting them from the counter so they don't collapse upon themselves, turning the handle, ratchety, with the other hand, thinking about Mama Honey, who made yards of noodles from this same dough - in her small, miraculous way - with just a rolling pin and a sharp knife.

The peeled chestnuts are chopped and the soft, fluffy bits are mixed with diced apple and crispy bacon, a flutter of Italian parsley, and the requisite salt and pepper. I spoon this onto the pasta sheets, brush beaten egg around the filling and drape another sheet of dough over the top. Here's the hard part - every bubble of air must be coaxed away from the filling, slowly pressing the dough down to seal the edges. (If a bubble remains, the ravioli will burst in the boiling water.) Edges sealed, the filling pushes against upward, stretching the pasta to near translucence, and I zip the crimper around the outermost perimeter to create a scalloped edge.

In the meantime, il fratello has been crafting his luscious red sauce, and its simmering goodness has filled the house with memories.

Sixteen ravioli later - eight of them with ricotta/asiago cheese filling, eight with the chesnut mixture - I have flour in my hair, it's 7 pm and I've already learned that I was due at J and V's at 6:30. Lucky for me, Hungry T had a dessert crisis, a crust that fell apart, and he's late, too.

At J and V's casa, folks are seated around a tray of antipasti, and V kindly pours me a glass of Spumanti, which calms my nervous energy from the day in the kitchen. Other than boiling the ravioli and making a brown-butter sage sauce (which came out just right, thanks to J's perfect tutelage), I do nothing more but revel in the fantastic company, raucous humor, and delightful dishes crafted by the dinner club to rival all dinner clubs. Here's to you, fellow Edible Porn-sters!

A Tuscan Feast - The Menu

salami toscano, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, & pecorino toscano

Pappa al Pomodoro
the hearty goodness of peasant food - a bread and tomato soup

due ravioli
ricotta-herb with marinara & chestnut-apple-bacon with sage-brown butter

Arista Pork & Cannelini Toscano
"from a recipe apparently created in 1430 at a meeting of the Roman and Byzantine Churches (first since the schism)... roasted pork top sirloin, rubbed and run through with garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. Served with slow-cooked Tuscan White Beans (cannelini)."

tre formaggi
with "a completely inappropriate baguette and tiny breadsticks"

Pecorino Toscano Stagionato
slightly aged (2 to 3 mo) sheeps' milk cheese
cows' milk cheese, fairly soft
goats' milk cheese, slightly firm

Biscotti & Coffee
In Absentia: Ricotta-Meyer Lemon-Pine Nut Tart

some remain vague - I was drinking, not taking notes!
L'Ecole Syrah
1999 San Felice (Agricola) Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
1993 Felsina Vin Santo

Saturday, December 10, 2005

At Long Last - EP10

Tonight, at long last, an Edible Porn Dinner! V and J will host. The theme: Tuscany.

We haven't really done anything regional since tyhe Evening of Turkish Delight at Cheesy T's and Scoop's. The sauce and the filling for my ravioli are simmering at this moment.

It is sure to be yet another evening of total hedonism. Check back soon for details!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Long Absence

It's been awhile. But I've been eating plenty.

You can see my post about my cross-cultural Thanksgiving meal at my dinner club's blog.

Another meangingful meal was my 5th wedding anniversary dinner at Nuestra Cocina. We've been going there since opening day, and they continue to send out beautiful dishes from the open kitchen. That night, it was a glorious pumpkin soup and warm, soft, aromatic slow-cooked pork tacos on handmade corn tortillas, simply adorned with chopped sweet onion, cilantro and sour cream. The margaritas might as well come with their own mariachi band, they are so sublime. The perfect thing for commemorating our nuptials on that remote Mexican beach.

Of course, with a house full of boxes in various states of unpackedness, we find ourselves eating over the kitchen sink as of late. Or eating on the floor in front of the TV, which is also sitting directly on the floor, stuffing our faces with something mashed together from our as-yet bare bones fridge and watching Desperate Housewives. Classy. We need a dining room table very, very badly.

Do I tear out the kitchen and start over? That's the question of the month. Seems like if we do one thing, we should just do everything. Once you move the fridge you have to move the stove, which means you have to reroute the gas line, which means you have to move the dishwasher ... and so forth.

For now, maybe I will just paint it and call it good. So that I can get cooking, at least!