If the only thing that happened in 2017 was political, I’d simply kill myself and get it over with. Having that man become President has been painful. Watching the travesties coming out of Congress have been worse – and that’s saying a lot. Just when you knew they couldn’t possibly get any lower – they did. And they blatantly continue to lower the bar of decency to levels unseen since Caligula.
Yeah… politically, it’s been a rough year.
But if you pull politics out of the equation – and I really do have to now and again to keep my sanity – some really fun things happened this year!
Victor retired! How sweet that has been for him. I’m there in six months – can’t wait! We spent close to two glorious weeks with siblings and spouses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, and saw another sister and her two daughters in New York City for her birthday. We saw Bette Midler in Hello Dolly. And I wrote 131 Blog posts.
Food was a highlight in 2017 – and every other year since Year One. I foresee it being in the center of 2018, as well – especially since I’ll be able to shop anywhere I want whenever I want, and make things when I want and not try to just squeeze something in half-assed because I have to be somewhere in an hour. Retirement is going to really see me in the kitchen! I see a lot more canning and creative label-making. The pepper sauce was an eye-opener for me, as was the Pistachio Liqueur. I need to make more of this stuff!
Retirement was good for Victor in the culinary end of things, too. He’s been able to spend more time creating and it’s been great having dinner waiting for me when I get home.
Today, he created homemade pasta in a crab sauce while I baked bread and a Lemon Polenta Cake. I first made this cake in December 2010 and then waited 3 1/2 years to make it again – stating I wasn’t going to wait 3 1/2 years to make it, again. I waited 3 1/2 years to make it, again. That, of course, merely proves that there are so many good things to make, there’s no sense constantly repeating yourself!
We start with the Tagliatelle… Homemade pasta is where Victor really shines. It’s just unbelievably good.
- 2 cups flour (we use Tipo “00”)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 1/2 tsp salt
On a clean work surface, mound flour and form a well in the center. Add eggs and oil to the well. Using a fork, gently break up yolks and slowly incorporate flour from inside rim of well. Continue until liquid is absorbed, then knead for 10 minutes. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
Divide dough into 3 pieces. Cover 2 pieces with plastic wrap. Flatten remaining dough piece so that it will fit through the rollers of a pasta machine.
Set rollers of pasta machine at the widest setting, then feed pasta through rollers 3 or 4 times, folding and turning pasta until it is smooth and the width of the machine.
Roll pasta through machine, decreasing the setting, one notch at a time (do not fold or turn pasta), until pasta sheet is scant 1/16 inch thick.
Cut sheet in half widthwise; dust both sides of sheets with flour. Layer sheets between floured pieces of parchment or wax paper. Cover with paper and repeat with remaining dough.
With the short end of 1 pasta sheet facing you, loosely fold up sheet, folding sheet over two or three times from short ends toward the center. With a large chefs knife, cut folded sheet into ribbons.
Unroll strips and lightly dust with flour; spread on a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pasta sheets.
To cook the tagliatelle, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with sauce.
It was flippin’ awesome! The sauce was sauteed pancetta, garlic, a bit of tomato paste, white wine, crab, crushed red pepper, parmesan cheese, and oregano – with fresh basil and more cheese on top. It was a wing-it recipe of the highest caliber. Just flippin’ awesome!
Then we have the bread. It’s a take on my most favorite Pugliese from Carol Field.
I made three smaller loaves – one round and two baguettes. It’s a crusty bread with a slightly sour crumb. As I said, it’s a favorite. I always make half this recipe – and it still makes a lot of bread!
- 1 packet dry yeast (or 1/2 package fresh yeast)
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 cups water; room temp
- 1 cup biga
- 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp salt
Proof the yeast in the warm water. Add 1 1/2 c water and the biga, mix till blended. Add flour and salt, mix till dough comes together and pulls off the sides of the bowl. Knead 3-5 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand. Dough will be very soft and elastic. Let rise about 3 hours, shape into 2 small round loaves or 1 big flattish one. If you have baking stones, place loaves on baking peel or on baking sheets sprinkled corn meal. Let rise about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450°, and 10 minutes before baking flour the loaf tops and dimple them with your fingers. Bake 50-60 minutes for big loaves, 30-35 minutes for small. Tap the loaves to test for doneness (hollow=done) and cool on a rack.
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or 1/10 package fresh yeast)
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/4 cup water (room temperature)
- 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy – about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and then the flour, one cup at a time.
Mix with the paddle attachment on the mixer at the lowest speed about 2 minutes.
Remove to a slightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature for 6 to 24 hours. The starter will triple in volume and still be wet and sticky when ready. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
This bread makes great sandwiches, excellent toast, and sops up sauce just like a good bread should.
Finishing the meal – and the year – is Lemon Polenta Cake. Making something three times in 7 years isn’t bad, for me.
Lemon Polenta Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson
- 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 2 cups almond meal
- 3/4 cup fine polenta or cornmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 eggs
- Zest 2 lemons (save the juice for the syrup)
- Juice 2 lemons
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the pan with parchment paper and grease lightly with butter.
Beat the butter and sugar till light.
Mix together the nut meal, polenta and baking powder, and add a bit to the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
Beat in the lemon zest and spread the mixture into the pan and bake for about 35 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean and the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.
For the syrup:
Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar in a small saucepan. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Leave to cool in the pan before placing it on a cake plate.
Moist, lemony, great texture… The question is… will I wait another 3 1/2 years before making it, again?!?
2017 is drawing to a close and 2018 is a mere few hours away. And since the weather outside is not conducive to frolicking, we’ll be indoors.
While I worked more New Years Eve’s than I had off in my younger years, I did get to First Night in Boston a couple of times. A flask of Brandy helped to keep the chill to a minimum back in those days. Spending New Years Day 1973 in the Gulf of Tonkin drinking homemade apple wine during an unrep and getting caught. The Hyatt Lake Tahoe NYE 1978 and glasses being thrown through the casino in the general direction of the huge lobby fireplace… Getting guilted into flying to Philadelphia from San Francisco on Y2K – in an empty plane – because Victor’s mother “won’t be here for the next millennium.”
And on and on and on…
I’m liking the quiet ones now, but I’m not ruling anything out… we shall see what tomorrow brings.
Here’s to a great year for all of us and especially at the ballot box on Tuesday, November 6th. Vote these bastards out of office before there are no tomorrows left for any of us.