Culinary class days are divided into morning and afternoon sessions.
In our rice unit, we chose a partner and picked a variety of rice to cook and share with the class. We were given free reign of the kitchen and pantries to create a recipe of our choice. I made a deliberate effort not to be the Asian girl cooking Asian rice and chose basmati. We flavored it with caramelized onion, saffron, clove, and cinnamon.
The pasta unit was even more intense. Again, we broke into partners and incorporated homemade pasta into a dish. We were encouraged to spike the pasta dough with anything from pureed wild rice to herbs. My partner and I flavored our dough with sumac and lemon zest. Sumac, the culinary herb, is different than poison sumac. I’ve tasted it sprinkled on Fattoush, Lebanese pita salad, and as part of Zatar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture that often incorporates sesame seeds and thyme. It lends a tangy and lemony flavor.
We rolled the dough through a pasta attachment on a mixer, taking the time to roll it through each of the settings. This created silky, delicate pasta. Rolling the pasta through less settings produces thicker noodles. If this is your thing, just cook them longer.
To allow the gentle flavor of the pasta to shine, we served our noodles with browned butter flavored with fresh lemon juice, thyme, and basil.
Near the end of class, everyone convened for a great pasta buffet. One of my favorite pastas was flavored with bacon and cooked spinach and coated it in olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and hot pepper flakes. One group baked their pasta with chicken in tomato sauce while another made a pumpkin pasta in a sweet, creamy sauce.
I own a small, pasta machine with a hand crank. A mixer attachment makes the process much faster. While it was fun and surprisingly easy to make pasta, it’s not something I’d make on a regular basis at home.
You can start the dough by zipping the ingredients together in a food processor, but I think it’s easier to make by hand. Many students clamoured for a food processor. By the time they got one, those who made their dough by hand were already happily kneading.
1 pound bread flour (our teacher said you can incorporate semolina)
Optional: Drizzle of olive oil
5-6 eggs, scrambled
Pinch of salt
- Combine the flour with a pinch of salt.
- On a flat surface, pour the dry ingredients into a mound and then made a hole in the center.
- Pour most of the wet ingredients into the hole. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet center with a fork, or use a couple bench scrapers to incorporate.
- When the dough begins to form, knead. If the dough seems dry, add the rest of the wet ingredients and if it’s too wet, add more flour.
- Scrape away the excess flour and dried bits that form. These should not be incorporated into the pasta dough.
- Knead until the pasta dough is elastic and smooth. This should take about 10-15 minutes. The texture is similar to pie dough.
- Wrap in a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap and allow to rest.
- Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes.