My friends must think I’m avoiding them. April has proven to be whirlwind of hi-strung energy. There are too many priorities that can’t be ignored or delayed. In the beginning of April, I canceled a few coffee dates. Around mid-April, meetings were rescheduled for May, after canceling for the third time. When dates are canceled, it throws another person’s schedule off. It’s not like my friends have extra spare time. In addition to juggling priorities, the landlord schedules much needed repairs and a painting job for the whole apartment. There’s dust and painting supplies everywhere. The saying, if the house isn’t in order, life is unorganized.
Before dates were canceled with my girlfriends and the apartment took on a chaotic environment with dust and paint flying everywhere, I discovered the joy of making pasta from scratch. It was when Sunday afternoons were leisurely enjoyed. Making the dough is simple and fast. Rolling out the dough is a bit timely. Shaping the dough is tedious. The drying time is a few hours. No pasta machine is used in the process. My friends over at ChefandSteward.com advised the use of a rolling pin if a machine is unavailable. Recently, I learned using a wine bottle without the label works as a rolling pin, too. The excuse of not making fresh pasta is no longer justifiable. After the pasta is dried, portions are frozen individually for quick meals. They cook fast, frozen or not, when added to salted boiling water. After two to four minutes, the pasta floats to the top, signaling it’s done cooking. Like other pastas, drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with olive oil. Enjoy with a favorite recipe. When the first batch of Sweet Potato and Rosemary pasta was cooked, I realized the dough needed to be rolled thinner. However, I love the rustic look of it when swirled with the long strands of collard greens.
Initially the pasta was tossed with Stir-Fried Harissa Spiced Collard Greens. Then, more ingredients were added to the greens to create a heartier pasta dish with roast tomatoes, collard greens, and chickpeas. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and pine nuts are sprinkled over the finished dish. Quite honestly, the sweet potato and rosemary flavors are barely noticeable in a dish with strong flavors, for it’s best to pair it with a light sauce.
Since that first batch of pasta, a second batch was made with smoked paprika sans sweet potato and rosemary. This time the dough was rolled thinner and it looked more elegant. It’s better with the Stir-Fried Harissa Spiced Collard Greens. In addition, it’s delicious in a quick salad of corn, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions, Italian parsley, jalapeno pepper, and a cubanello pepper with a vinaigrette made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses (or use honey), garlic, sea salt, smoked paprika, lemon juice, and fresh black pepper. It was made in 20 minutes. The meal was gone in 10 minutes. It was fresh food served so fast, no pictures exist.
The kitchen is an art studio of flavors. While creativity is explored, time is flying by. I’m waiting for my schedule to stand still for a few extra hours to make another batch of pasta. Ideas about the next flavors are swirling in my head. It’s quite sad to treat a favorite hobby like a carrot stick to accomplish more pressing concerns. When the apartment and my life returns too normal, I’m looking forward to inviting my girlfriends over for dinner. Perhaps a meal of flavorful pasta made from scratch equates to a sincere apology for canceling coffee dates at the last minute.
Sweet Potato and Rosemary Pasta, Harissa Roast Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and Chickpeas
2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 small onion; thinly sliced
2 to 3 large garlic cloves; sliced paper thin
1/2 to 1 tsp. a Harissa spice blend or 1 cup of Harissa Spiced Roast Tomatoes/Red Pepper (either store brought or see recipe below)
(Optional) 1-14 oz canned chickpeas; drained and rinsed
3 to 4 cups of collard greens; cleaned and cut into 1/8 inch wide strips
10 oz. Sweet Potato and Rosemary or Smoked Paprika Pasta; cooked, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; rinsed with cold water; drain, and tossed with olive oil (recipe for making and cooking fresh pasta is below or use another type of spaghetti pasta cooked al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions)
Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
The juice of one lemon
Optional Garnish: Toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds
1. Over medium-high temperatures, heat olive oil and butter in a skillet. Add the onions and quickly cook until translucent. Add the garlic slices and Harissa spice with or without the roast tomatoes/red pepper. Stir for 30 seconds or less, but don’t burn the garlic. Add the chickpeas (Optional).
2. Quickly add the collard greens. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir-fry until slightly wilted for about two to three minutes.
3. Add the cooked pasta. Toss lightly together. If the skillet is too dry, add a little pasta water. Turn off heat. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the skillet. Garnish individual servings with toast pine nuts or sliced almonds.
Harissa Spiced Roast Tomatoes
1/2 to 1 tsp. harissa; to taste
1 cup roast tomatoes or red peppers stored in olive oil (found jarred or at the olive bar)
1. Finely mince harissa and roast tomatoes/red peppers together.
2. Place aside.
Fresh Sweet Potato and Rosemary Pasta
1 sweet potato; scrubbed clean, rubbed with olive oil, pierced with holes, wrapped in foil
2 to 3 cups flour; plus more as needed
1 tsp. sea salt
2 to 3 tbsp. fresh rosemary; minced
A tiny bit of water, as needed
1. Place either foil or a baking pan on the middle rack in a preheated 400° F oven to catch the sweet potato juice as it roast. Add sweet potato wrapped in foil on top of foil or baking dish. Roast for at least 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool. When the potato is cool enough to handle, slice vertically in half. Remove the orange flesh inside (discard the skin) and puree in a food processor or blender. Place aside. Wash and dry the food processor’s bowl, blade, and lid for the next step.
2. Place two cups flour and salt in the food processor’s bowl fitted with a blade. Pulse on and off at most twice. Add the puree sweet potato, rosemary, and eggs to the bowl. Process until the dough starts to form a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little water, by the teaspoon. If the dough is too wet, add flour by the tablespoon (which is quite possible). Dough shouldn’t be too sticky or dry, for it should roll out easily with a rolling pin (or wine bottle).
3. Place dough on top on a dry and floured surface. Knead until smooth, a minute or two. If the mixture is still to dry, add water by the teaspoon. If too sticky, add flour. Cut the dough into 6 pieces. If immediately cooking, cover the five pieces with a damp towel. If not, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and place in a freezer ziploc bag and place in the freezer or refrigerator. If frozen, defrost before rolling out dough. Proceed to the next step.
4. For the sixth piece, roll out the dough to a very thin width. If a rustic look is desired, make it slightly thicker, but it should still be thin. Cut dough lengthwise into strips and desired width. For the stir-fried collards, the strips were about half an inch wide. Also, this dough can be used to make ravioli or other shapes of pasta (I’m looking forward to demonstrating such shapes in the future). Over a lightly floured surface, lay each pasta strip next to each other, but do not overlap.
5. If storing for later: Let pasta strips in step 4 dry for about 2 to 3 hours. Midway through the drying time, flip each strip over. Lightly fold pasta strips to fit into a container or ziploc bag for the freezer. Depending on the cooking schedule, either freeze or place in the refrigerator. When ready to use, proceed to step 6 to cook pasta.
6. If cooking immediately: Place pasta in boiling salted water. When it floats to the top it is ready (about 2 to 3 minutes). Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss lightly with olive oil. Use in your favorite recipe.
» Two options (steps 3 and 5) for storing leftover pasta are provided. Choose what fits your schedule the best.
» If smoked paprika pasta is desired, skip the first step and omit the sweet potato and the olive oil. Add 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp. of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper, and a dash of ground cayenne pepper to the flour and salt in step 2 (about two cups of flour is only needed). Proceed with the rest of the directions.
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