Posts Tagged ‘fresh mozzarella’

Junior Chefs School and “Pasta-goon”

Just a few weeks ago, my uber-chef (and General Manager of Avalanche Pizza) Joel Fair and I enjoyed a hot afternoon at Junior Chefs School run by the fabulous Sarah Conley-Warbler and Kip Parker, manager of the Athens Farmers Market. This is a monthly school set up for local kids to learn from different chefs in the area (and even from pizza guys.)  Our target on this day was pasta, or as I like to call it “Eggy pizza dough that takes a dip in a Turkish bath.” (That tagline hasn’t quite caught on yet.)

First we made a well of of ONE CUP OF FLOUR AND CRACKED TWO EGGS IN IT.

We had made some examples of pasta including Taglioline, gargonelli, fettucini, squid ink and saffron carmelli, Rigatoni etc.

These kids were great learners and wonderful to work with. They caught on beautifully and, with the direction of Sarah, mastered the art of pasta.

 

 Then we passed the pasta dough through an Italian Pasta Machine to make it thin.

Cutting the pasta into Linguine and Fettuchini was done with the pasta machine and a Ciatarra, an italian metal-stringed intrument especially designed for making pasta.

That’s the ciatarra at the bottom of the above picture.

 Some junior chefs made some very long fettuchini that stretched almost three feet long.

 We were ready with food to add to our fresh pasta like (Clockwise from left) Integration Acres goat feta, local pattypan squash, local Bordeaux spinach from Rich Organic Gardens, imported Parmigiano Reggiano and at the bottom some Bottarga di Muggine, or salted and flattened grey mullet roe from Sardinia which tastes just like Beluga Caviar and is heaven atop pasta.

 Local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil was the favorite with extra virgin olive oil and salt.

 

 Thanks to Kip Parker and his pasta rig,  we were able to cook a tremendous amount of pasta “ala minute.”

 The kids ate so much, Joel and I had to scramble to make more for the vendors at the market.

 It was so rewarding to see the abundant smiles of the self-made pasta makers as they slurped away. Thank you Sarah Conley, Kip Parker and all the Junior Chefs.

This kids pasta recipe is simple,  straightfoward, easy to remember and it works!

1 cup flour  (with a little more reserved on the side)

Two eggs

Pinch salt

Make a well in the middle of the pile of flour on a strong, smooth countertop. Add salt. Break the eggs into the well and using the fingertips of your best hand (hand #1), break the yolks and mix with the whites and circle the fingers slowly in a small circle. Using the other hand like a “Karate Chop” (hand #2) or a dough scraper push little amounts of the flour into the middle of the well and keep mixing around and around with fingers of hand #1.

DO NOT “FLICK” YOU FINGERS OR YOU WILL “FLING” FLOUR OUTSIDE THE OPERATING AREA.

Keep going around in a small circle in the middle of the well and incorporating the flour with the help of the Karate hand. Use the Karate (#2) to keep all the flour in a small an area as possible.

Take your time as the flour and dough will seem to not combine. Keep going pushing the flour and dough together, as the chunk gets harder use hand #1 to grip the mass like a baseball and squeeze, then push against the table picking up all the loose flour.  Take both  hands and rub together slowly to drop all the loose pasta and push into the ball.

The pasta should be formed in a hocky puck so keep folding the dough over and over. If it is too dry add a very small amount of water, if too wet add small amount of flour.

Once hocky puck is formed put it in saran wrap for at least 30 minutes to let the gluten strands rest.

After it has rested, it is time to roll the dough with a pasta roller of with a rolling pin.

Bread of the Week, Ciabatta (Italian Slipper Bread)

There’s nothing I like better than slicing into a great big freshly cooked ciabatta and creating a great big dagwood sandwich before stuffing it into my great big mouth. With protruding cheeks stuffed with this Italian slipper bread, I mumble thanks to the guy who made this happen, Arnaldo Cavallari.

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In 1982, Arnaldo retired from car racing to work at his family’s flour mill in Adria, in the Veneto. He probably wasn’t the first to start making ciabatta. Similar breads are made around Lake Como (ciabatta di como) but Arnaldo was the first to set up the methodology and authentication of the Ciabatta Italia.

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Ciabatta warming.

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Smaller ciabatta for sale.

Traditional ciabatta is made with tipo 1 italia, a soft flour. This flour is like a strong all-purpose flour or American bread flour, but a tad darker and a bit less refined than the famous “tipo 00″ flour used for authentic Italian wood- fired pizza. The protein content of tipo 1 is 10 percent.

My “scaletta” or ladder sticks made with ciabatta dough and baked with pressed green and black Cerignola olives

These days there are (so-called) ciabatta everywhere. The grocery store has small hockey pucks that taste of chalk and chemicals (watch out for that  “TBHQ added for freshness”*) but these can easily pass through the gullet with a bucket of water. I’ve even had “Eye-talian” slipper bread in West Virginia that was used to make “house special” garlic bread. Unfortunately, the shape and the way it was cut belied the fact that it was just a hot dog bun.

Making ciabatta is great fun and most rewarding. After 4 days nurturing starters, old dough pre-ferments, a poolish, then mixing the heavily-hydrated mass perfectly, performing due-dillegence in proofing, (rising) and standing by my Impinger pizza ovens, spritzing, peeking and turning, the final product is amazing.  Making and cooking ciabatta is like having a kid…that you can eat. Sometimes I vary the way I cook this dough and make variations on the ciabatta theme. Below are two more examples.

Mr. Stipey, Manchego and nettle pizzas (left). Small schiacciata (right); Romagna (above) and local aged cheddar (below)

Sometimes making caprese sandwiches is like laying railroad tracks.

It’s usually 6 a.m. when I finish the ciabatta. The sun is starting to peek through my pizzeria window and Garrison Keeler is performing “Guy Noir- Private Detective” on the radio. I can cook 5 ciabatta at a time. I usually eye one that I save just for me. After slicing some room temperature Brie, Genoa salami, prosciutto di Parma, arugula and fresh tomato, I am in heaven.

If you want my recipe for ciabatta, just send $1000 dollars (Canadian) to me. Or if you want a really great recipe, just go to Peter Reinhart’s blog.

*TBHQ is a by product of butane. It is banned in Europe and Japan because of its proven relationship with ADHD and hyperactivity in children. Its use has grown since large food corporations have stopped using trans-fats in their foods. This means that they have to use real oils instead. To store these oils in massive quantities, they spike them with TBHQ. Unfortunately for us, because of lobbying efforts by large corporations, if a chemical is less than 5% of the product, the food companies do not have to put it on the label.