Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Brazilian Pasta?

Days before the World Cup kick off in Brazil, a trio of Brazilian students took over AK's Kitchen, kicking off a new tradition right here. Pasta Sunday!

Bella, Bruno, Vittoria all in red.

Pasta is not the first thing I think of when I hear Brazil. But the South American country is home to millions of Brazilians of Italian ancestry, including the two young ladies in red. 

Bella, Vittoria and their fellow Brazilian Bruno are winding down a semester in Ottawa learning English, soaking in all things Canadian. I introduced you to Bella a few weeks back in this post. The youngest of the teen trio is Vittoria. She's travelled the world. She speaks, reads and writes Portugese, English, Spanish, Italian. She's all of 14 years old. Back home in Curitiba, one of the host cities to the World Cup, she and her mom make pasta every Sunday. Here's her family's recipe and pasta-making technique.

Vittoria's Pasta 
For 1 person: 1 egg + 50 grams durum semolina + 50 grams flour.
Fifty grams is the equivalent of one third cup. 
For 6 people: 6 eggs + 2 cups durum semolina + 2 cups flour

Preparing the dough
In a large bowl, combine the flours.
On a smooth, clean surface, pour the flours in a mound.
Dig a well in the centre. It will resemble a big donut.  
Add the eggs into the well.
With your fingers, stir the flour into the eggs. 
In a few minutes, the mixture will form a blob.
Knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. 
It was a humid day and the dough was sticky, so Vittoria sprinkled more flour to loosen the dough.
Divide the dough into portions, somewhere between the size of a soccer ball and a softball.
Let the dough sit for about half an hour.

Using the Pasta Maker
Flatten the dough with your hand and pass it through the pasta machine on its widest setting. 
Fold the dough in half or in thirds and pass it through again. 
Vittoria fed each batch into the rollers of the machine four times to achieve the right thinness and smoothness. Each pass through made the dough longer, thinner and smoother.
For the final pass through, she cut the dough into noodles.   
Separate each piece of pasta and let dry for a few minutes. 

Separating and drying the cut pasta to prevent sticking. 
No pasta machine, no worries
If you don't have a pasta machine, flatten the dough with a rolling pin that's been well-dusted with flour. Let the dough dry out for a few minutes, to make it easier to cut.
Slice into thin strips with a sharp knife. Don't worry if the strips aren't perfect. Vittoria and her mom do this often, making what's called "Maltagliati," or bad cut. (Everything sounds so much better in Italian.)

Cooking the pasta
Boil a pot of water in a large saucepan.
Place the dry pasta, making sure there is plenty of water and space in the pot, or else the pasta will stick together.
The fresh pasta will be cooked in two minutes.  
Drain and toss with a generous splash of olive oil and a simple tomato sauce.
We had our pasta with tomatoes, fresh basil and smoked mozzarella. 
Buon appetito. Bom apetite.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Refreshing Spanish Soup: Andalucian Gazpacho

Friends of ours recently packed up their lives in the northern corner of Spain for greener employment pastures in Ottawa. She is doing post doctoral work in stem cell research. He is looking to apply his masters degree in human resources.  
It was with mixed emotions they left their friends, families and their centuries-old apartment in Santiago de Compostela, along the famous Camino de Santiago route. I assured them Ottawa too has its own UNESCO world heritage site, the Rideau Canal. 
Still,  they miss the vibrant colours and smells of their hometown. The fresh seafood, flowers, chestnuts and wine.  

Spanish tortilla and gazpacho

They arrived during a snow storm, in below 30 degree cold. For all the reading they had done about Canada's capital, nothing could prepare them for our winter. Their fashionable leather shoes and tailored jackets were no match for our deep freeze.   
We gave them the newscomer's initiation: how to dress in layers; where to buy groceries; how to take public transit; where to buy local beer and beef.
Grateful for our tips, they gave us a very special thank you by cooking a traditional Spanish meal.

Call it a Spanadian meal. They had to substitute a few traditional Spanish ingredients, like fresh fish and seafood, with local Canadian beef and chicken.  Also on the menu, tortilla a traditional omelette with potatoes and red peppers. Between courses, we sipped a refreshing tomato soup, a staple in the Andalucia region of southern Spain.

Gazpacho is quick and easy to make. This cold soup is also very forgiving. You can easily adjust the taste and texture by adding water, olive oil or more vegetable. It's a refreshing savoury soup on a hot day

Our friends may not have had all the ingredients they're used to, but they made every dish with loadsof love and appreciation. Those are my favourite meals.

 7 tomatoes + 1 red pepper + 1 green pepper + 2 cucumbers + 1 large clove garlic + 1/2 cup olive oil  + 1 Tablespoon balsam vinegar + salt & pepper to taste
Peel and quarter the tomatoes. (Tip: Place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes to loosen the skin.)
Chop remaining vegetables and place all in a large bowl. Using a hand blender, combine until smooth. Slowly add olive oil and balsamic while blending. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve chilled. Enjoy!
Note: My friend cooks like I do, by eye-balling and tasting. Not a lot of measuring goes on in our kitchens. These are her best estimation of quantities for four servings.