February Snow Heightens Thoughts of Spring Garden

We got a foot of snow a few days ago and I’m sure the last thing on most people’s mind is their spring garden. Not here, I spent a good part of my snow day planning my new Italian vegetable garden.

February is the perfect time of year for all serious gardeners to begin the seed selection process. If you’re like me the mailbox most likely brings you a new seed catalogue every day and your email box is filled with the latest garden special.

Companies like Burpee, Parks, Johnnny’s Seed and countless others offer so many varieties that making the final decision on what to grow almost impossible. Here are the five things I do to cut through the clutter and make my final selections.

Hot peppers, etc

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Grow What You Eat – Sounds simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many times I purchased seeds based on a recommendation or a pitch in a catalogue. Once the seeds arrive everyone in my family looks at the seed packet like it was a product from mars.  I talk on this blog many times about my grandfather’s garden. His process was simple, he grew what everyone in the house ate. Tomatoes, zucchini, basil, a few lettuces, eggplant and peppers.
  2. Grow What You Enjoy GrowingAnother simple sounding principal but also an area where many gardeners get a little off track. I belong to a Community Garden at my church. 25 plots managed by 25 dedicated gardeners (see photo below). I am surprised each year by how many of these hardened growers moan and grown about how difficult it was to grow a certain variety or crop, or complain about how much space the squash took up. If it causes you anguish than don’t grow it.
  3. Grow What Fits – Let’s face it, that 25 foot by 25 foot plot is just not going to house 5 different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, beans, peas and the host of other plants that you purchased on a whim. Plan you garden carefully and cut back where needed. Last fall, I took down a huge Ash tree that was diseased and it left me with a nice new 15 by 20 foot area in the perfect south/eastern part of my property. I started pouring through the seed catalogues and had a list a mile long. Common sense prevailed and I didn’t waste a lot of money on seeds that would never see soil.
  4. Grow Something New – Growing the same old-same-old each and every year can cause one to loose their enthusiasm for gardening. Never grown Kale, but find that the family enjoys it and you got a row available, give it a shot. I really enjoy artichokes (see recipe below), but never looked into growing them, as I heard bad things. With my new plot, I decided to  investigate the possibility of devoting them a row. I purchased two seed packets, one from High Mowing Organic Seed Company, a Tavor Artichoke and from Parks an Imperial Star Artichoke. I can’t wait to give these a whirl.
  5. Grow What Works – Don’t mess around with growing vegetables that have garden requirements that you can’t meet. It’s just a waste of time to try growing lettuce or other greens in the heat of summer just as it would be to put tomatoes, peppers and the like out before the last chance off frost has past. Make sure you get enough sun for what you growing and pay close attention to the seed packet or seedling instructions regarding spacing, sun requirements and watering/feeding suggestions. If you can’t supply what the seed or seedling needs, pass on it.

community garden photoSpring shot of our Community Garden 2016

Gracie’s Stuffed ArtichokesFrom “7 Days of Italian Cooking”

Ingredients:                              
  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1  cup extra virgin olive oil (more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 or 3 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups of  seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  •  salt and pepper to taste
Take each artichoke and cut off the stem, so the base is flat.  Remove the bottom most leaves and trim with a kitchen scissors the remaining, easy to get leaves.  Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the artichoke.  Wash the artichokes in cold water and spread open so they can accept the stuffing.  Combine all your stuffing ingredients in a bowl and mix with the olive oil until you get a good consistency.  With a spoon fill the center of the artichokes with the filling and spread some around the leaves. 
Steam the stuffed artichokes by standing them on their base in about 2 inches of water in a pot and cover.  Steam for about 30 minutes but check to make sure the leaves pull away easily from the artichoke.  I always liked to put a little of the stuffing on the leaf as I ate the meaty end of the artichoke leaf. Sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan over the top.

Super Wings for a Super Game

I posted this recipe before, but felt I had to share it once again with the Big Game coming our way tomorrow. No matter who your guest are routing for, these wings will be the big winner

Wilson official NFL extreme football

We call these wings, Gracie’s Not So Secret Wings.”  It seems that since the last time I posted this the secret is even less secure.

Dipped in the hot sauce prior to baking and then hit with a second round when they come out of the oven, you’re going to need a fire extinguisher close by for some of your less than hearty guest.

Bowl of "Wings"

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 20 chicken wings (adjust ingredients if making more)
  • 8 Tbsp. melted butter (I didn’t say these were good for you, just good)
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce ( I use a combo of Franks and Scotch Bonnet)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcester Sauce

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with cooking spray.  Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt into a resealable freezer bag and shake well.  Add the wings a few at a time and coat with the mixture.  Place the wings on the cooking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Just prior to baking whisk together, in a saucepan, the melted butter, hot sauce, white vinegar and Worcester  Sauce.  Add a touch of the cayenne pepper if you’re really into hot.  Over low heat bring the mixture to a simmer.

With a pair of tongs, dip each wing into the butter mix and return to the baking sheet.  Be sure to reserve some of the butter mix or make more if needed.  Bake for around 45 minutes or until the wings are nice and crispy and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and coat with additional butter mixture.

Super Wings for a Super Game
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Wings so hot you'll need a fire extinguisher near by.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup of all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 20 chicken wings (adjust ingredients if making more)
  • 8 Tbsp. melted butter (I didn't say these were good for you, just good)
  • ¾ cup of your favorite hot sauce ( I use a combo of Franks and Scotch Bonnet)
  • 1½ Tbsp. white vinegar
  • ½ tsp. Worcester Sauce
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt into a resealable freezer bag and shake well. Add the wings a few at a time and coat with the mixture. Place the wings on the cooking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°.
  3. Just prior to baking whisk together, in a saucepan, the melted butter, hot sauce, white vinegar and Worcester Sauce.
  4. Add a touch of the cayenne pepper if you're really into hot.
  5. Over low heat bring the mixture to a simmer.
  6. With a pair of tongs, dip each wing into the butter mix and return to the baking sheet. Be sure to reserve some of the butter mix or make more if needed.
  7. Bake for around 45 minutes or until the wings are nice and crispy and cooked through. Remove from the oven and coat with additional butter mixture.

 

 

New Year – New Focus at Gracie’s Ravioli

My wife recently took part in a survey and was asked, “What’s your favorite website?” She told me that unless I start writing and posting again she couldn’t answer GraciesRavioli.com. This was just the kick in the butt I needed to get back into this blog and start writing about the things I love.

LZ98_001_0032_11DMSo here we go. A new year with a new focus. You can expect the usual with this blog, great recipes, stories that inspired those foods, super wine suggestions and more. One new aspect that we will be covering regularly is the Italian Garden. I love being outdoors and working in the garden. There is nothing better than growing your own food. Let’s be real here, you just can’t compare a Tomato from the garden and one purchased from a supermarket.

Growing up my grandfather put up a huge garden each and every year. His staples were tomatoes, basil, zucchini, eggplants and peppers. In fact we had some many peppers that I can remember eating peppers and eggs nearly every morning once the garden went to harvest.

Another change to the site will be to keep the stories short and the focus on food, wine and the garden. So with that be said, check out Grandmas peppers and eggs recipe.

So just a few housekeeping notes. Grandma always used green peppers. Most likely because the red ones took longer to harvest and we just had so many greens. You can use either or a combination of both as I do. I cook my peppers until they are soft. Again this is a preference, but I think it makes a better sandwich.

English: Green, yellow and red bell peppers fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ingredients

    • 4 green or red Peppers, seeded and sliced.

    • 4 large eggs, scrambled in bowl with 1 tbs water added

    • 1-2 cloves garlic chopped

    • 1/4 cup olive oil for cooking

    • salt and pepper to taste

    • grated Parmesan

    • 1 loaf of Italian bread or 4 crusty rolls

    • crushed red pepper

    • mild or hot Gardinera (optional)

Preparation:

In large skillet add olive oil and garlic and saute on low-med until garlic is soft and changes color. Add peppers, season with salt and pepper, stirring to coat peppers with oil.

Continue cooking on low-med heat, stirring frequently, until peppers are soft. Raise heat to med-high and add eggs, stirring well so that the peppers and eggs combine into one. Cook eggs until ready, but please don’t burn them or the peppers. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper serve on the Italian bread or roll and add Gardiner if so desired.

Grandpa Loved His Eel

I don’t know why, but I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today. My son has some friends over (Election Day, no school) and it has me thinking back to my childhood.  Years ago I wrote a story for yahoo that spoke to my grandfather’s love of fishing, and especially for eel. I thought I would share it with you today. 

As a child I grew up in a house owned by my grandparents. They were both truly unique people having immigrated from a tiny seaport village in southwest Sicily named Sciacca (see the photo below). My grandfather was a fisherman by trade and when he started his family here in the United States he worked at the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. After a few years he moved his growing family out of Manhattan into a northern suburb and opened a seafood business.

Grandpa, as we all affectionately called him, was an astute businessman. He quickly recognized the need to grow his market and three days a week he packed his tiny 1920s ford pickup with fresh fish and sold to the many restaurants, hotels and beach clubs in the area.

As kids we were always treated to stories as to how during prohibition he would make his own whiskey and rye, each of his 8 children having a job from corking the bottle to placing the label on the front of his secret concoction. When visiting customers and after the fish were selected, those in the know would ask him “what else you got for sale today Frank.” Grandpa would move the fish to one side and under the ice was… well you figure it out.

My memories of my grandfather start in the late 50s. Long retired he used to spend his days fishing off the pier at Hudson Park in New Rochelle, our hometown (see a snap shot below). Late in the day both my mom and grandmother would worry and it was my job to make the hike to the park making sure he was OK.

 Hudson Park

As he aged the trips to the park disappeared and he would spend his days sitting on the front porch, occasionally tending to his tomato plants. From time to time he would get up and slowly walk to back of the house. He would always shout out to me, Michalosa, I’m a going back to Sciacca.” A few minutes later he would announce his return and tell me with a grin, how beautiful Sciacca was this time of year.

Sciacca has not changed much from when my Grandfather fished this pier.

I knew than that he wished for nothing more than to return to his roots and visit once again the land of this childhood. Unfortunately that never happened, as he passed away in 1963 at the age of 83. Throughout the years I always promised myself that I would make that journey back to this ancestral village in celebration of his life.

Years of talking about this trip turned into decades and as I myself got older the idea of visiting Sciacca faded. One day my youngest was asking questions about my childhood and at that point I leaned over to my wife and said, “We need to take the kids to Sciacca.”

So this past Easter of 2012, me and nine members of my family made the pilgrimage to the land of my grandparents. Once there it felt like I was returning home. My grandmother was a great cook and many of the different foods she made for us came right from this Sicilian village. As expected, one thing that easily stood out was the seafood.

Sciacca is still to this day an active fishing village and I must have felt a hundred times that I saw my grandfather walking down to the boats to start his work day. Restaurants in Sciacca specialize in fish, but there was one dish that took me right back to those days when I meet grandpa at Hudson Park, and that was the Eel.

In Sciacca the dish is called “Matalotta” or conger eel. I took the recipe (see below) from “Treasures of Sicilian Cuisine” published by Advert Edizioni, which I picked up in the neighboring village of Agrigento. My grandfather’s version is a little different and well, adds a little flavor.

 

Fresh Eel

You see, on those days when he was late getting home, I would meet him and carry his bucket with the fresh catch. Grandpa love eel and fished for it with great success. When we got back to the house we would go down to the basement where he set up his own private kitchen.

Hanging the eel from a hook, he would peel off the skin and cut the eel into 1 ½ inch fillets. He would than dip the eel steaks in an egg mix, season and roll in breadcrumbs. He would immediately transfer to a hot skillet with extra virgin olive oil. To this day I swear, those little fillets were still squirming in the pan.

When done, he would cut off a piece with a fork and offer it up to me saying, “mangia Michalosa.” Being only 10 years of age I refused, claiming I was still full from lunch. That always brought out a chuckle from grandpa. Finally one day I got up the nerve and took a little bite. Well like the eel, I was hooked. I can remember running upstairs and telling my mother how much I liked the eel and what a great cook grandpa was. My grandmother would laugh and I mother would just shake her head in disbelief.

My wife informs me that I tell this story every time we go out for sushi. That may very well be the case, but those days with my grandpa and the Hudson Park Eel are truly special memories.

Matalotta:

  • 2 pounds of filleted and chopped eels
  • 1 onion Handful of chopped parsley
  • 5 peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and wash the eels, then dry and add some salt. Mince the onion and brown it in some olive oil. Add the chopped tomatoes, some parsley and let simmer for a few minutes. Pour a cup of hot water and let boil. Add a touch more salt and pepper and the eel and continue cooking for no more than 10 minutes on a low flame.

Find this recipe and many other Sicilian Seafood dishes in Gracie’s Christmas Eve Recipe Book – Night of the 7 Fishes

Gracie's Christmas Eve Recipe Book - Night of the Seven Fishes (Gracie's Italian Living Series 2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photos by: &

The Spaghetti Book

“The Spaghetti Book – Gracie’s Guide to Cooking with Long Cut Pasta,” is our latest in the Italian Living Series and will be available at Amazon within the next day or two; but I don’t want you to buy it.

spaghetti book cover 2-27-15That’s right, you heard me, I don’t want to buy my book; just yet that is.  You see, I’m releasing the eBook a few days ahead (actually 9 days) of the planned date of March 15th. This helps me iron out any formatting issues or Amazon problems that always seem to pop up with eBook releases these days.

The book will be available for its regular $5.99 price until the 15th and 16th of March, when you can get it for FREE.  Yup, FREE.  After the two day free promotion, the book will be discounted for two weeks at $1.99

This gives you, my readers and friends, an opportunity to get the book FREE or at a big discount.  Sometime in early April the book will return to the full $5.99 price.

I’m really sure you will enjoy this eBook and hope after downloading you will return to Amazon Kindle and write a favorable review.

Remember, you can add the Kindle reader app to any device; laptop, android and iPhone, i pads, etc.  You don’t need a Kindle reader to enjoy Kindle eBooks.

***********

Hey, check out these deals from our affiliate partner Chefs.com.  There’s some great deals here!

 

Bucatini – A Recipe

Bucatini, also known as perciatelli, is a thick spaghetti -like pasta with a hole running through the center. The name comes from Italian: buco, meaning “hole.”

Bucatini

Bucatini With Kale and Taleggio

I was originally was going to add this recipe to the “Spaghetti Book,” which BTW is set for a March 15th release, but figured I would share it here instead.  Credit for this goes to restauranteur, Donatella Arpaia. The online recipe uses buckwheat bucatini, but suggest that whole wheat fettuccine or tagliatelle would work as well. Visit her website at http://www.donatellaarpaia.com.

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, stems removed
1 pound buckwheat bucatini or whole-wheat fettuccine or tagliatelle
6 large red-skinned potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes (to taste)
6 ounces taleggio or fontina cheese
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
2 oil-packed anchovy fillets or 1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)

If you have yet to try taleggio, you are missing out!
If you have yet to try taleggio, you are missing out!

Directions:

Bring a very large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the kale and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the kale to a colander using a slotted spoon, and rinse under cold running water. Squeeze dry and coarsely chop.

Add the bucatini to the boiling water, cook for 3 minutes, then add the potatoes to the same pot. Cook about 7 minutes more, until the pasta is still firm and chewy, al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat.
Add the garlic, anchovies (if using), and red-pepper flakes. Sauté, stirring, about 2 minutes, until the garlic is soft and fragrant.

Add the kale and cook, stirring once or twice, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the bucatini and potatoes to the skillet using a large spider or skimmer. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking water, 1/2 tsp salt, plenty of pepper and the nutmeg.

Toss to blend, then scatter the Taleggio and Parmigiano (if using) over the pasta, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Let stand for 1 minute to allow the cheese to melt slightly. Serve warm.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

photos by: &

The Science Behind Perfect Spagetti

“Making a perfect plate of spaghetti is not rocket science but there is a little science behind making it just right.  Spaghetti is always considered an easy, quick dish to prepare, but it is amazing how many people get it wrong.”

 Spaghetti with eggplant and sausage

For quite some time now I have been asking you to be on the lookout for my newest eBook, The Science Behind Perfect Spaghetti – Gracie’s Pasta Guide.  Well some things just seemed to take longer than expected, including coming up with the right title (still up in the air).  The good news is that I expect to have this project wrapped up by the Eyes of March.  Below is an excerpt, guiding you to a perfect bowl of Spaghetti.

From Chapter One, Section Two:

“An important thing to remember is that most dried pasta doubles in volume when cooked.  You should always measure pasta by weight rather than by cup. A good rule of thumb is that one pound pasta will usually serve four (4) people.

How To Cook Perfect Spaghetti/Pasta:

 

Comparison between different types of long Ita...

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

Don’t cook the Spaghetti until you’re ready to eat – Spaghetti or any pasta cut should be served hot and is usually ready in about 8 minutes once your water is boiling. All side dishes and sauces should be just about done when you start boiling your spaghetti.

To cook pasta properly, you need a lot of water, so use a large pot.  Too small a pot and too little water will cause the pasta to stick together and cook unevenly.

 

Mmm... spaghetti with meatballs

For a pound (16 ounces) of pasta, you will want a pot that holds at least 5 or 6 quarts of water. Use plenty of cold water, which helps prevent pasta from sticking together by quickly washing away the exuded starch.

Remember, hot water will dissolve anything (including contaminants like lead) if you have older lead pipes, it (lead) could very well end up in your pot. The more common problem is water that has been sitting in your home pipes for over 6 hours.

 

Fresh makes every pasta dish better

Fresh makes every pasta dish better

Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Covering will help the water to boil faster.  Add salt, as this helps the pasta taste better and in releasing its natural flavors. I always wait to salt my water at the same time I add the pasta. Salt dissolves quicker in hot water and will not damage pots.  I usually add about 2 tablespoons of kosher (coarse) salt per pound of pasta.

MYTH; Many people think that adding salt adds to the sodium level of the finished pasta. This is not true, so don’t hold back on the salt. You really want to get the pasta properly seasoned. In recent years I have been adding Sea Salt and do find I can get away with using less.

 fresh spag + Tom Farmer's Case Inlet clams = serious

Like I said, just before I add the pasta is when I add my salt. Be certain to add the pasta all at once. Keep the heat high so the water returns to a boil. Lower heat if and when the water boils over.

I don’t think I can remember the water NOT boiling over when I was a kid. I can still hear my mom shouting at me from another room to lower the water.   I’m sure she wanted this to happen, knowing that the water needed to stay hot.

WHY HOT: Pasta added to water before it boils begins to break down as the starch dissolves and will lead to a mushy product. The water temperature does drop once you add the pasta, which explains why mom always let the pasta water boil over.

After you add the pasta begin to stir with a long wooden spoon to prevent the pasta from sticking together or to the pot. It’s amazing how man people skip this step. Continue to stir the pasta during the entire cooking process.

The pasta should cook uncovered, and at a fast boil. I always cook my pasta to taste and never rely on the cooking directions printed on the side or back of the package.  Pasta usually takes about 8 to 10 minutes but different shapes and textures all effect the cooking time.

 Fresh pasta laid out to dry.Fresh pasta laid out to dry.

NOTE: Fresh pasta cooks up way faster than the dried stuff. Keep you eyes on fresh pasta and taste often. The finished pasta should be tender but still firm when you eat it, what we call “al dente.” Again be sure to taste the pasta for readiness, but watch out,  your sample will be HOT! Like most foods, pasta will continue to cook after it has been taken from the water.

TIP: The best way to test for “al dente” is to remove a strain of spaghetti, cut it in half and look for just a speck of white inside. Any more than a speck and the pasta is not ready. If you don’t see any white the pasta is leaning towards being overcooked.

Drain your pasta immediately and shake it well to remove excess water. Do not rinse!  I have seen this many times and never got a clear explanation why people do this.  Rinsing will cause the pasta to lose starch which is vital in having your sauce adhere to the pasta. Have you ever seen watery pasta and sauce? Chances are the pasta was rinsed.

ASIDE – Now you can rinse the wide pasta, such as lasagna noodles or manicotti shells.  If you don’t, you will have a hard time separating the noodles without tearing them and rinsing can make them easier to handle.

Linguine with porcini mushrooms

Linguine with porcini mushrooms

One thing I always watched my mom do with spaghetti or any long cut and that was to cut them in hail.  I assumed it was because they fit in her pot better, but I suggest you stay away from this habit. The whole noodle just presents better.  Use a Pasta Fork to push long cuts into your pot.

There you have it, the science of making perfect spaghetti/pasta.  Stick to the basics and you will end up with the quick and easy dish spaghetti/pasta was meant to be.”

The Science Behind Perfect Spaghetti – Gracie’s Pasta Guide will be available soon, and many of the dishes you see pictured in this post will be featured.  The book will also be added to our Gracie’s Cares program, so a percentage of the sales will be given to a worth charity.  Be on the lookout!

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photos by: & , , , , McPig

7 Tips For Storing Red Wine

Not all red wines are made to age but many of the better ones do improve with proper wine cellar techniques.  What constitutes proper wine cellar techniques?  Here are 7 tips for storing your valuable red wines.

LZ98_001_0032_11DM  It’s February and you just purchased a case of the 2010 Brunello di Monticello.  A vintage that is considered by many experts to be the best ever.  Problem is most of these experts are telling you, and rightly so, that the wine needs more time in the bottle to really reach its peek potential.

So how to you properly care for this and your other cherished wine purchases that need more time to soften and round out those rough spots.  Here are 7 tips for doing just that.

Tip # 1. Keep it Dark – If you’re storing wine for a considerable period of time, it should be kept out of direct sunlight.  Find a room, closet or pantry that works best.  Below I will describe my ideal way (my in home technique) for storing wine without breaking the bank on an expensive wine cellar.

Tip # 2. Watch the Humidity – Try and keep the humidity below 70%.  High humidity keeps the cork moist and avoids rotting, but anything above 70% humidity will cause mold and the label to loosen.  Keep it between 60 and 70 percent for ideal storing.  Consider purchasing a hygrometer to track the levels of humidity.

Wine Cellar Digital Hygrometers

Tip #3. Keep the Temperature Consistent.  Stored wines should be kept between 55 and 70 degrees with little fluctuations.  Wine stored below 55° will take longer to age and above 70° wine begins to oxidize.  So, finding that right balance of light, heat and humidity can be a challenge.  Continue reading for our suggested location that your home most likely provides.

Tip #4. Lay it Down – In order to avoid cork rot, wine should be stored on their sides.  Storing wine upright for considerable periods of time will cause the cork to deteriorate and air to enter the bottle, spoiling it.  Invest in wine racks that let the wine lay sideways.

Vintage View Wine Racks

Tip # 5. Keep it Still – Wine is best kept still and away from vibrations.  Constant movement can have a negative effect on the wine.

Tip # 6. Move it Around Some – Then again it’s not a bad idea to every so often give the bottle  turn.  This ensures that the cork is kept moist on all sides and will not rot.  As mentioned above, a rotted cork allows air to enter the bottle which spoils wine.

Tip # 7. Keep it Isolated – Wine breaths so avoid storing it with anything that has a strong odor.  I have known people that kept wine in a basement closet that was also home to paint cans and commercial cleaners.  Without good ventilation these odors can, and in this case, did, permeate through the wine.

 

Wine is best stored in a cool, dark somewhat humid environment.

Wine is best stored in a cool, dark somewhat humid environment.

Now you can spend thousands building a wine cellar in your home with all the bells and whistles that ensure proper storage.  If you’re like me however, you may need to find a lower cost solution.

A few years back as I started collecting wine, I purchase a few low cost metal racks, each capable of holding 100 bottles of wine.  I am fortunate enough to have a refinished basement with a long closet that leads to our electrical panel.  One wall of the closet faces the outside and is cinder blocks.  The other wall is insulated sheet rock.   The room is dark, keeps a consistent temperature with a steady humidity year round.  The perfect storm for storing wine.

I would bet that most basements provide an area that can easily and at low cost, be transformed into the perfect wine storage.  Search the internet or click on some of the links provided here and pick up wine racks that work for you.  Don’t spend a lot of money, save that for the case of 2010 Brunello.

Decorative Metal Wine Racks
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How To Make Great Fresh Pasta

The secret to making great fresh pasta is really no big secret at all and is pictured below.  If you are serious about making fresh pasta at home then you need to invest in a pasta maker.  The Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Maker is my choice as the best money can buy.

 Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 Pasta Maker, Stainless Steel

Marcato actually makes two styles of this machine.  the 150 Wellness  (pictured) and the 180.  The Marcato 180 is just a  wider version of the Wellness 150. Both versions come in a variety of colors, but if color is not important, you will save money with the stainless steel model.

Click the image or link above to view this item on Amazon.  Currently the stainless steel version sells for $79.95.  The operation is identical on all models and these machines are very easy to use.

Here is a product description from Amazon’s website:

“Home chefs are more interested than ever in creating more wholesome ways to feed their families. Organics are in, and pasta is never out. The Atlas pasta machine is the most famous pasta machine in the world. With this machine you’ll be able to make fettuccine, spaghetti, flat dough sheet, and tagliolini. It has an easy to use adjustment knob that allows you to control the thickness of pasta – from 0.3mm to 2.5mm.”

Fresh pasta laid out to dry.

Fresh pasta laid out to dry.

This heavy duty machine has a chrome plated steel body. The rollers and cutters are made of long lasting anodized aluminum. The anodized aluminum is a wellness innovation; rollers and cutters grab the dough better and because they are free from heavy metals, such as chromium and nickel, you get healthier results. Gears are case-hardened tempered steel. Includes clamp for securing to counter, instruction book and recipes. Attachable blades for spaghetti, linguini and ravioli also available (sold separately).”

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A machine even one as good as the Marcato Atlas cannot guarantee great fresh pasta.  In order for that to happen you need to make sure the dough is right.  I remember my mom and grandmother painfully stressing over the right consistency of the dough.  No pasta machine in their arsenal, and they spent hours making sure the dough was the proper thickness before they cut it and laid it out to dry.

My grandmother was crafty however and had this rolling pin, pictured below, that had groves in it making a perfect spaghetti.  That rolling pin is one of my most treasured possessions.

Grandmas Spaghetti Cutter Rolling Pin

Grandmas Spaghetti Cutter Rolling Pin

The one thing you must remember and most likely the key to a great pasta dough is not making the dough too wet.  Wet dough will stick to the rollers and you will have a mess.  If I find that the dough is sticky and hard to work with, then it’s too wet and I will add additional flour.  Consistency is the key to making good pasta and with practice you will find that eventually the task is an easy one.

Fresh makes every pasta dish better

Here’s a recipe you can try, but be sure to play around with it and get that consistency down pat.  Once you get it, making pasta will become a weekly experience, I promise.

Another thing, be mindful of conditions like the hardness or softness of water and altitude. These can have an effect on your doughs final look, feel and taste.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Semolina

  • 2 Cups All purpose flour

  • 6 medium eggs

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

  • pinch of salt.

 Directions:

  1. You can knead the dough mix it in a bread machine or as I do, use a food processor with a dough blade.

    Bread machine. Making dough. Deutsch: Brotback...

    Bread machine. Making dough. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. Make sure you eggs are at room temperature, and combine with the oil, salt add and a little flour to the processor.  Mix until you have blended all the ingredients.

  3. Continue adding flour until the dough forms a ball and begins to crumble.

  4. Take a sample of your dough and check for the consistency.  If its too wet, add flour and continue mixing.  If you feel the dough is too dry, add a little room temperature water.

  5. Once you are happy with the consistency, form a ball of dough and wrap in plastic.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

  6. The dough is now ready to be rolled and run through the Marcato, according to the directions for the cut desired.

Making fresh pasta at home is fun, healthy, and a great way to get the kids involved or enjoy with your partner.  Keep experimenting until you get it right and remove the guesswork.

Remember, fresh pasta does not have a very long shelf life so make enough to use immediately or freeze extra in a resealable plastic bag.  Fresh pasta also cooks up in about 4 minutes, sometimes less.  So keep an eye on it.

How To Make Great Fresh Pasta
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Cups Semolina
  • 2 Cups All purpose flour
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt.
Instructions
  1. You can knead the dough mix it in a bread machine or as I do, use a food processor with a dough blade.
  2. Make sure you eggs are at room temperature, and combine with the oil, salt add and a little flour to the processor. Mix until you have blended all the ingredients.
  3. Continue adding flour until the dough forms a ball and begins to crumble.
  4. Take a sample of your dough and check for the consistency. If its too wet, add flour and continue mixing. If you feel the dough is too dry, add a little room temperature water.
  5. Once you are happy with the consistency, form a ball of dough and wrap in plastic. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  6. The dough is now ready to be rolled and run through the Marcato, according to the directions for the cut desired.

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