Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cookin' In the North Woods

I spend all summer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Michigamme. Yoopers call summer cottages "Camp", and in my family's case Camp is a lot like a summer camp. We have a total of five buildings including a bath house, bunk house, and most importantly, the Cookie. 

The Cookie is an 8-by-8 ft building plumbed by hoses that we use as our kitchen. With only enough room for a refrigerator, small counter, and tiny amount of food storage, most of the cooking is actually done outside.

The Cookie!

Outside, we have  grill, an industrial size griddle, a stainless steel cook table, and a new addition: the range! Because the range really shouldn't be outside, we're making plans to expand: we're going from 8-by-8 to 8-by-12. In the meantime, the range gets covered every night with a chair cover to protect it from the rain.

The prep table...A.K.A pots and pans holder.

The griddle and the range.

It can be tough when it rains...and when more than two people need to cook at once...but I wouldn't trade the Cookie for the world! Wait till next summer when you can check out the new setup!

Whole Wheat Bow Ties with Pesto. Yum.

This recipe is in honor of my mother, who claims it's her  "all time favorite".

Who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta every now and then? It gets even better when you make your own hearty dough and toss it with fresh, nutty pesto. If you don't have time to make your pasta, that's fine. Choose your favorite brand and toss it in. Maybe you don't like pesto, this dough recipe works great in any shape and with any sauce. Enjoy!

So, most people think that homemade pasta must be a giant pain to make. False! It's actually really easy. You don't need a special mixer or special ingredients, and the pasta roller is totally optional. I love mine and would strongly recommend one to any serious pasta makers out there, but don't let the absence of a pasta machine bar you from trying out homemade noodles! Here's the recipe for pasta:

Here is the pasta maker I have - thanks to Wendy VanPeenan . It seems to be the most popular one on the market.

Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta:
1 C All-Purpose flour
2 C whole wheat flour
4 eggs
~1 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil
4-6 tbs water

If you're using a mixer or food processor, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and then add the eggs and oil and mix completely. Otherwise, mix the dry ingredients well on a smooth, clean surface. Make a pile and create a small well in the center. Some people crack the eggs straight in, but I find it easier to whisk them first. Either way, pour the eggs into the well and add the oil. Stir slowly with a fork, grabbing flour from the sides of the well to incorporate the eggs and dry mixture.
(Either method continue here) Place the dough onto a floured surface and strat to knead with your hands. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough sticks together but isn't too sticky. Wrap in i plastic and let it sit four half an hour so that it is easy to work with. 
Now you roll. If working by hand, roll the pasta out in batches until it's as thin as you can get it - or want it. If using a pasta machine, roll it through each level adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Once you have flat strips of dough, you decide your shape. Simply cut it into strips or send it through the machine for spaghetti, but I like to do bow ties:
Cut the flattened dough into strips about one inch wide. Cut each strip into pieces one to two inches long, creating little rectangles. Simply sinch the center f the rectangles together and viola, you've got bow ties.

Once you have your pasta made, let it sit out for at least an hour. This way, it hardens up a little and cooks great! 

When you're ready to cook, just boil and big pit of water and salt it well. Toss all the pasta in at once, and stir it right away to unstick it. Then watch closely, it wont take more than about three or four minutes!

Pesto Sauce:
It all starts with pines nuts. Such expensive little buggers if you buy them in a jar. I'd recommend  trying to find them in bulk somewhere, where you can get them much cheaper. Once you've got your ingredients, you can't go wrong with this sauce. It's delicious!

2 oz. fresh basil leaves, with stems
2 cloves garlic
1/3 C pine nuts
4 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1/3 C fresh Parmesan cheese

Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to the bowl you're serving the pasta in. While the pasta is cooking, take about two tablespoons of the salted water and add it to the pesto mixture along with the butter. Stir in the cheese. Drain the pasta and toss it with the pesto. Ta-da!