How to Boil Pasta

Cooking spaghetti. Photo by Eloquence.

See how the oil sits on top? Do not put oil in pasta water, it just goes down the drain. Oil pasta after cooking.

Dear Tyler,

Here is another assumption I made. Since your father is Italian, and you grew up eating pasta, I assumed you knew how to cook it.

Boiling pasta is really quite simple.

You need to use a pot big enough to hold enough water to cook the amount of pasta you need. Err on too much water rather than not enough water.

English: Boling water in colour

Bring the water to a boil. A boil is when the bubbles actively break the surface. A boil measures 212°F (100°C) on a thermometer. A lid on the pot will help water boil faster. If you live in a high altitude (like the mountain house) water won’t boil without a lid, and the boiling point decreases 1° every 500 feet in elevation (or 1° C every 285 meters). it has everything to do with atmospheric pressure. Actually, boiling point is quite a science subject.

Always salt the water AFTER it reaches an active boil. In the science community, adding a solute to the water creates a solution that raises the temperature of the boiling point. Scientists will argue that it is not necessary to add salt because the amount of increased temperature isn’t worth it to ‘cook faster’. This is not why we add salt.

We add salt for flavor.

We add salt after a boil is reached so the salt does not pit our pots over a lifetime of poor cooking habits.

Most of all, we add salt to things we boil for flavor. Boiled potatoes are ever so bland when salt is left out. The amount required isn’t much, just enough to lightly flavor the water.

Be aware, when you add salt to boiling water, the water will flare up momentarily. Be ready for it to avoid getting burned.

Choose your favorite pasta and read the package it comes in. Look for cooking directions for the time it takes to cook the pasta to “Al-dente“. Each pasta will have different cooking times.

Place the pasta in the pot, stir it up so it does not stick together. If using a long pasta, don’t break it so it fits in the pot! Short strands are hard to twirl onto the fork.

Lean the noodles up against the side of the pot and using tongs, as the pasta under the water softens, fold the rest of the pasta under the water. Be sure to stir it all around so nothing gets stuck either to other pasta strands or the bottom or sides of the pot.

This is especially true of fettuccine or linguine and other flat pasta.

Comparison between different types of long Ita...

Comparison between different types of long Italian pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Set a timer fort the required time.

If cooking fresh pasta, the time will be very short, dried pasta takes longer.

Drain the pasta in a colander and try to save about a cup of the pasta water.

Boiling pasta

Boiling pasta. Fold the ends under the water as the pasta softens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you notice there was never a mention to put oil in the water while boiling?

Ha! That is because the oil sits on the top of the water while the pasta is below the water. It does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Stirring the pasta after you first put it in the water does.

After draining, put the pasta into a serving bowl and drizzle with a great olive oil.

Serve as you like.

If you are going to use the pasta in a salad or need it cold, rinse the pasta in cold water after draining to stop the cooking process. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

If the pasta gets dry or you need more moisture in your sauce, add a small bit of the pasta water. This is why you do not want to over salt the water. Only salt it enough to make it taste good.

If you want to re-heat pasta that has been refrigerated, simple bring water to a boil and dip the pasta in for a minute or so, just to warm it, not cook it. This can be done in a small amount of water.

Drain and serve as desired.

This works for all kinds of pasta, semolina, whole wheat, rice, artichoke, quinoa etc. Read the package for length of cooking time.

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pasta is a great budget stretcher so learn to cook it correctly.

The basic technique:

Boil the water – use lots of water!

Salt after water boils

Stir the pasta after adding to boiling water to prevent sticking

Drain

Drizzle with olive oil and serve

OR

Drain, rinse  in cold water to cool and drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

Love, Mom

Pasta again!

Pasta again! (Photo credit: HatM)

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How To: Standard Breading Procedure

Dear Tyler,

You asked how to bread something to make Tonkatsu or Parmesan style dishes. So here it is!

If you want to bread something so the breading actually stays on the product, you need to follow a standard breading procedure,

It is a 5 station set-up. Breading your food using this method ensures a great finished dish.

Flour, Egg wash and Bread crumbs
(To remember the order, think of the abbreviation for the month of February: FEB)

1) Ready to go product – seasoned

2) Flour – just plain flour

3) Egg wash – make it liquid

4) Bread crumbs – You can use any bread crumbs, Panko are amazing in my opinion. Instead of bread crumbs, you can also use any kind of ground nut, crushed potato chips, corn flakes, or plantain chips, Trisket crumbs, coconut, etc.

5) Final breaded product

In this post I am using catfish, but the same method works for everything you want to bread.

Prepare the product, trim it, skin it, pound it thin, what ever you want to do, do it before it gets breaded.

Season with salt and pepper and other seasonings if desired.

Here, catfish is getting seasoned with lemon ginger seasonings before breading

Dip each piece into the flour

Then into the egg wash

Then into the bread crumbs

Place the breaded items onto a baking sheet; drizzle with oil.
Bake at 375 F for 20-30 minutes to ‘oven fry’ or pan fry in a saute pan with a small amount of oil.

The family favorite for this is to make “Katsudon”  with thin sliced pork loin or a chicken breast sliced and pounded thin. We serve it over Basmati rice with Bull Dog Brand Tonkatsu Sauce. (I usually buy this in an Asian grocery store.)

Bull Dog Sauce

When using chicken breasts, you can cut them into fingers or slice a large breast into thirds, place each slice into a zip bag (don’t zip it!) and pound gently it so it gets evenly flattened. Season and proceed with the breading procedure.

To pan fry instead of cooking the cutlets in the oven, heat a saute pan to high, add a thin-film of oil to the pan and saute until each side is golden brown.

Pan fry in a thin-film of oil until golden on each side

Add steamed broccoli to round out your meal.

You can take the plain breaded cutlets and serve them with different sauces and sides to create very different meals from breaded cutlets.

Boil some rice, add some frozen green peas when the rice is done. The peas only need to warm through.

Place the fried cutlet on top of the rice and drizzle with Bulldog sauce.

To make a “true” katsudon, place caramelized onions over the hot steamed rice, top with the cutlet and then top it all with an egg. Cover and the steam from the cutlet and the rice will gently cook the egg. Break the egg yolk and stir it in to create a wonderful sauce. Drizzle with Bull Dog Sauce .

Tonkatsu with Bull Dog Sauce

You can create Chicken Parmesan by topping the golden brown cutlet with marinara sauce and cheese – I am partial to Asiago – but Parmesan, or mozzarella are just fine too.

Melt and brown the cheese, serve over pasta and more sauce on the side. Top it all with more cheese and serve with a salad on the side.

Chicken Parmesan

Breaded Cutlet with Lemon

Be careful when pan frying, place the cutlets into the pan so it splashes away from you, not towards you. Once the cutlets are golden brown, you can finish cooking them in the oven that has been pre-heated to 350°F.

Enjoy making these and think of other ways to serve them too. Change the sauce ( try Thai Green sauce!) and starch. Put a cutlet on a bun, add coleslaw and BBQ sauce to make it into a sandwich.Or make Chicken Piccata with lemon and capers.

Let me know if you come up with other ideas!

If you want to freeze the breaded cutlets, freeze them raw as soon as you finish breading them. You can cook from frozen over medium heat.

Love ya!

Mom

Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Broccoli

This Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Broccoli is quick and refreshing.

Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Broccoli

Whenever I cook pasta I always cook more than we need for 1 meal. This makes cooked pasta ready to go during summer months for refreshing and quick meals.

If you have cooked pasta on hand, it is only moments to put together a nice meal from what you might have in your refrigerator.

This dish came about because I was hungry and we had angel hair, cooked, steamed broccoli from last night, an amazing vine ripened tomato and a bushy basil plant that needed trimming.

To make this dish, you will need:

  • 1/4 pound cooked angel hair pasta; per person
  • 1 chopped fresh tomato; per person
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
  • 1/4 cup steamed broccoli; per person (optional)
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2-3 whole basil leaves for garnish

Method:

Combine everything but the pasta in a bowl, mix well.

Re-heat pasta in boiling water, drain well. Place the pasta in a bowl or on a plate.

Spoon the tomato mixture over the pasta, garnish with whole basil leaves.

Sprinkle with Asiago or Parmesan cheese if desired.

Enjoy this refreshing summer dish!

Angel Hair Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Broccoli

How To: Saffron ‘Aioli’

Dear Tyler,

When I had the restaurant, we used this recipe instead of plain mayonnaise for lots of things.

You loved it then, as I’m sure you would now.

Low fat or lite mayonnaise will fine for this.

I prefer and highly recommend Duke’s brand from an old southern family recipe and family run business.

Besides being family run, they make a darn good mayonnaise.

Here is how to turn Saffron Aioli into one great condiment that flavors everything very well.

Use it anywhere you would mayonnaise.

About the ingredients:

Saffron is the stamen of the crocus flower. The best quality comes from Spain and all stamen are hand-picked.

It is one of the worlds most expensive spices.

Saffron is coveted for the lovely yellow color and the exotic scent and flavor it contributes to the dishes wherever used.

I’ll do a post on Saffron later.

Aioli refers to garlic flavored mayonnaise.

However, a true Aioli is crushed garlic with olive oil. Some recipes ask for an egg yolk to assist with the emulsification of oil and garlic. Making it correctly is hard and the mixture is temperamental.

It takes a long time to make real aioli which is why mayonnaise has become a common substitute.

Yes, we will use mayonnaise in this recipe.

Saffron Aioli

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2  Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon each, minced garlic and minced shallot (use the microplane)

1 cup mayonnaise of your choice – I prefer Dukes.

Just don’t pick “miracle whip”!

Add the vinegar, honey, saffron, shallots and garlic to a small saute pan.

Cook the mixture down until it remains separated when a spoon is drawn through the mixture on the bottom of the pan as shown.

Cool the mixture and add it to mayonnaise

Stir it in thoroughly. The longer the saffron sits in the mixture, the more color will dissipate. Stir it in before using to evenly distribute the flavor and color.

Saffron Aioli

Store this Saffron Aioli in the refrigerator and use within a month. Use the expiration date of the mayonnaise used as your guide.

As the aioli sits, it will become more yellow. Stir the color in so there is uniform color and saffron flavor.

It is delicious!

You can use this as a dressing for steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and asparagus.

If you are one to put mayonnaise on your french fries, try this instead. 😉

Yes, you can leave out the shallots, but you have eaten them and liked them.

Make Saffron Aioli in small batches so it is fresh.

I’d like to know if you remember the flavor when you taste it!

Study well.

Love You,

Mom

BTW: You can purchase a small amount of Saffron in local stores. The quantity you buy is so small it is usually packed in small bags or vials  inside much larger packages to deter theft.

Why theft? Because it is pricy and very small.

I sent you some in a small plastic bag and inside a small mason jar. (The smallest one!) Keep it in a dark cabinet away from the heat of the stove, top of fridge or dishwasher.

It will last a long time, if you keep it sealed and in the dark.

When you use it, you only need a small pinch. Just a a few stamens, 5or 6 are enough for a cup of aioli.

XO

How to Cook Salmon

Dear Tyler,

There are many ways to cook salmon. I am going to suggest one or two simple methods here to get you going.

I like to cook extra when salmon is on the menu because it makes great salmon salad, like tuna salad. When you were little, the first time you have salmon salad, you came home from school and told me it was the best tuna fish sandwich you ever had.

So you will like salmon as a salad, if you don’t recall.

To make the salmon salad, I used Saffron Aioli, which will be the next posting for you.

To address the salmon:

The easiest way for you to cook it is to  start by rinsing the fish under cold water. If you have a large piece, cut it into pieces about 1″ thick, or as thick as you want your portions to be.

Feel along the flesh to locate pin bones. If you find some, pull them out with needle nose pliers.

Pat it dry with a paper towel.

Rub your fingers over the fish to feel for any “pin bones”. Pull these out with a pair of needle nose pliers. They are hard to get out, that is why we use the pliers. If you don’t have pliers, try to pull them out with your fingers, being careful not to destroy the flesh while doing so.

Be careful not to destroy the flesh as you remove the pin bones. If can be pulled apart easily. Look carefully, see how this part of the fish looks ‘damaged’? It isn’t all smooth and together like the rest of the fish.

If the skin is still on, don’t try to remove it. There is a technique I will need to coach you on later and that will be done in person. The skin will be very easy to remove after the fish is cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. (When the light goes out, the oven has reached 350°F) Pre-heating the oven may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Plan ahead.

Oil an oven proof dish so the salmon won’t stick.

Season the fish with at least salt and pepper. You don’t have to use much, but a pinch will make all the difference. Use your favorite.
Notice the cut portion size.

Season the fish with your favorite seasonings. Salt and pepper are just fine, add a squeeze of lime or lemon; drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Place a saute pan on the heat and get the pan hot. Add a small amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin-film of oil. You can brush it on or pour it and tilt the pan to get the bottom coated.

Place the salmon in the pan, top serving side down first. Sear it until it is golden brown. If the fish is ‘sticking’ to the pan, wait a minute or two. When the salmon is ready to turn, it will release on its own.

Using a metal spatula with slots in it, to turn the salmon over.

This tool is called a fish spatula –  but it is useful for much more than fish!

Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the fish while you get the rest of the dinner ready.

Total cooking time for salmon is in the general area of 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, the accurate temperature of the oven and how long does the salmon stay on the burner or in the oven.

Safety Hint!

Only place pans in the oven that have oven proof handles! If the handles are plastic or other than metal, they cannot be put in the oven. Check your pans to see if the handles are oven proof before you put the pan in the oven.

Continue to cook the fish until it is no longer raw in the center. You can eat salmon medium rare and even raw, but I would advise buying “Sushi Grade” salmon if you want to eat it less than done.

Sushi grade will cost nearly double. It goes through a freezing process to kill any parasites that won’t be killed by cooking.

If you want to cook some rice to go with the salmon, plan on cooking that just before you start the salmon. It will take about 20 minutes for basmati rice; 50 to 1 hour for brown and heavier grain rice.

While the salmon is cooking, steam some vegetables. In the photo, I chose “Romanesco” which is like a green cauliflower but the florets form a very interesting logarithmic spiral  growth pattern.

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco...

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli. Français : Une tête de chou Romanesco et sa forme fractale. Photo prise avec un appareil Canon D-60 équipé d’un objectif 18-135 mm IS de même marque.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It tastes a bit like a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. Sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower, this vegetable has been around since the 16th century.

Since you like broccoli, look for this too. I am sure you will love it just as much. I like it for the wonderful oddness of it all. To me it is just a marvel!

Cook it the same as you would broccoli.

Other ways to cook salmon:

Another way to cook your fish is to wrap it all up in a tin foil bundle and bake it at 350°F for 10 -15 minutes; until it is done.

Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice over the salmon, plate it and gobble it all up.

Or

Place the fish on a sheet pan or oven proof dish and instead of sauteing it in a pan, simply place the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 10-15 minutes or until done.

The fish is cooked in all cooking methods when it is no longer dark salmon color in the center, it flakes easily and it reads 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

Cold salmon is delicious too.

It will flake easily when done.

When thinking about what seasonings to choose for salmon, remember salmon has a salty profile with a tinge of sweetness. Sweet vinaigrette such as raspberry vinaigrette or honey Dijon vinaigrette make a great sauce for salmon.

Mix white balsamic (or dark balsamic) vinegar with Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to smooth it out and use that as a sauce. Adjust quantities to taste. You don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk it all together and voila! For raspberries, use melted raspberry jam (seedless) or mash some fresh or thawed frozen berries through a wire mesh strainer to get the pulp without the seeds.

That’s another post!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Bon Apetit!

Love,

Mom

Olive Oil Winners

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense colour at first; later, it clarifies by decantation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Last Day to Enter the Olive Oil Give-Away

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense colour at first; later, it clarifies by decantation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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