pasta test kitchen no. 3

as my schedule has become disorganized due to starting a new academic program, i haven’t had much time to cook anything noteworthy in the past few weeks. sure, i’ve made food, but nothing necessitating a camera and an essay to mark its creation. i am, however, taking on a few new catering projects in the next month or so, along with a dinner party or two. there will be pictures of those things as they happen.

carrot top

i did manage to work out a morning off recently and dedicated it to tackling the pasta beast once again. this time i took it back to the beginning, which, i’m proud to say, seemed to have done the trick as the results were indelibly pasta-like.

steamy

i used VeganDad‘s basic formula with a pinch of Ener-G Egg powder and let the dough rest for 30 minutes before rolling it out then for another 30 minutes, heavily dusted with semolina, after cutting it into wide tagliatelle. then i cooked the noodles, divided into two batches, in a pot of quite salty boiling water. the result was pretty good: toothsome yet tender, not soggy or bland, and when i tossed it with some carrot and basil top pesto (recipe below) the noodles didn’t disintegrate into mushy little white nuggets. they still weren’t quite as firm as i’d like them to be, however, which i think might have something to do with the fact that i was boiling them on a smaller stove element than usual (the big one is out of order) resulting in less heat to gelatinize the starches. next time i might also try to alkalinize the dough a little more to firm it up even more.

deep!

the pesto recipe is based on what i had available – carrot and beet tops, sunflower seeds and okara (soybean pulp from making soymilk). basically, from my perspective, a pesto needs only a few basic things to come into being: a green thing, a nut, an acid, an oil, and salt. so keep that in mind when reading the following recipe, as you can replace anything listed with anything you have in your pantry that can serve as an equivalent. i then used my favorite toss-in vegetable for any pesto pasta – deep fried zucchini slices tossed in red wine vinegar. deep frying can be a little labor intensive, but these salty, tangy slices are a perfect complement to a rich pesto and fresh, hot pasta. use a wok to deep fry these guys, as they have a tendency to bubble up, and a wok requires less oil than a straight-walled pot to get a good depth.

i topped my pasta with some boiled, peeled, and thinly sliced beets dressed in an apple cider vinaigrette, heavy on the black pepper, but i think this pesto would go very well with steamed carrots, sautéed summer squash or zucchini.

pastapesto

carrot and beet top pesto pasta with zucchini and beet
enough for 4-6 people

 2 bunches carrot tops, about 1 1/2 c or so
2 bunches beet tops, about 1 3/4 c or so
1 c sunflower seeds, toasted
1/2 c good olive oil
1 tbl capers
1/2 c fresh okara (optional)
1 tbl sherry or red wine vinegar, more to taste, if needed
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 lb zucchini, about 3-4 small ones, sliced into thin rounds
2 tbl kosher salt
2 tbl sherry or red wine vinegar
oil for frying

1 lb beets, about 3 big ones, scrubbed, topped and tailed
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c apple cider or apple juice
1 tbl dijon mustard
1 tbl apple cider vinegar
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 batch fresh pasta

for the pesto:
– steam the greens for about 5 minutes or until bright green
– put the steamed greens, toasted sunflower seeds, capers, and okara, if using, in a food processor and blend until you have a chunky paste
– add the vinegar and oil and blend until combined. salt and pepper to taste.
– when using as a pasta sauce, add a bit of pasta cooking water to the pesto and pasta to aid in incorporation. the hot, starchy liquid thins the pesto for easy pasta tossing and then helps the pesto adhere to the pasta strands.

for the zucchini:
– toss the zucchini rounds with the kosher salt, place in a colander and let drain for 30 minutes
– briefly rinse the zucchini under cold water, shake to dry a bit and heat the oil over medium high heat
– deep fry in batches until rounds are lightly golden brown and remove to a colander to drain
– toss fried zucchini with the vinegar and fold into the pesto’d pasta

for the beets:
– in a small pot, boil enough salted water to cover the beets. cook the beats until a fork easily pierces to the center of them, about 15 minutes
– while the beets are cooking, reduce the 1/2 c apple cider by half in a small saucepan. combine the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. salt to taste and reserve
– remove from the pot and drop the beets into a prepared bowl filled with icewater and let cool.
– when cool enough to handle, the beet skin will slip off the beet with little effort. peel the beets and slice them very thinly, preferably with a mandolin, about 1/8″ thick
– carefully toss the beet slices in the vinaigrette and arrange on the pesto’d pasta

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