English Peas, Pasta, and Magazines
When it comes to composing a dish, at least to me, it’s a simple process although a lot of thought goes into it. Cooking is more of a craft, but becomes an art form the more you work on it. I get inspired by the seasons and memories of different taste combinations. Then there are textures, colors, and the balance of flavors. From a young age I always loved to entertain and cook meals for others. But, as much as I love to do that, I also enjoy cooking for myself and experimenting.
The latest issues of AFAR magazine and Bon Appetit were inspiration for my recent antics in the kitchen…
So after a trip to a nearby farmers market I scored some english peas, a nice fillet of monkfish (also known as the poor man’s lobster), and some semolina flour.
For those who aren’t familiar with what semolina flour is and why it’s preferred for making pasta, I’ll explain. It’s all about the gluten. Semolina has a higher gluten content compared to regular all purpose flour. It’s what gives pasta it’s elasticity and chewy, al dente texture. However, you can use regular flour in place of semolina.
One of my favorite ways to have pasta is ravioli style. So I decided to do a spring time dish using saffron pasta to make the raviolis and a pea puree with smokey bacon for the filling. The monkfish was marinated with a little olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper.
I love to season beyond salt and pepper. They’re both great together, but there is nothing like a kick of acidity to balance and brighten up a dish. Right before grilling I add a touch of white wine over the monkfish.
As far as plating goes, I try not to put too much thought in to it. Reality TV cooking competitions seem to make plating a dish so intense and at times complex. Presentation is important whether it’s for customers in a restaurant or friends at your house because it’s what makes them want to EAT!
My mantra is: Keep it simple and plate with purpose
Here is a recipe from my stash. It’s a different variation from the one I used, but it’s really simple:
Fresh Saffron Pasta
1 lb/ 450 g all-purpose flour, or as needed
pinch of salt
1 fl oz/ 30 ml water, or as needed
1 fl oz/ 30 ml oil (optional)
2 to 4 tsp/ 10 to 20 ml saffron threads
1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the center. Heat the 1 fl oz water and steep the saffron threads. Once cooled add to the eggs. Place the eggs/water mixture, and oil (if you’re using it), in the well. Working as fast as possible, gradually mix the flour into the liquid ingredients and stir until a loose, shaggy mass forms. As the dough is mixed add a little flour if it looks to wet or a little water if it looks to dry. (You can also mix the dough in a food processor or electric mixer)
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until the texture becomes smooth and elastic. Gather and smooth the kneaded dough into a ball, cover, and let the dough rest at room temperature for at least an hour.
3. Roll the pasta dough into thin sheets and cut into the desired shapes by hand or using a pasta machine if you have one. And there you have it! You’ve made pasta. At this point it’s ready to cook now, or you can refrigerate for up to 2 days.
The best thing about making fresh pasta, besides the fact that you’re awesome because you made fresh pasta, is that it only takes about 2 minutes to cook in salted boiling water.