Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Italian Noodles

Yes, I'm a little behind. It was an emotional day yesterday. My hormones are going crazy and since I turned fifty a couple weeks ago, we had to check for Many Pauses (menopause) to see if it was to blame. I have a couple hormone test done a year due to ever changing imbalances and if we don't stay on top of them, threatening growths appear really fast. Despite great effort, my doctor hasn't been able to stop my thyroid ones.

I had some powerful tough days the last couple weeks. You know the ones when your joints and muscles hurt so bad you can't go on. Sometimes it even includes my toe joints and hot flashes are coming in waves day and night and then for me, I go into cold spells when my skin is freezing to touch and a heating pad turned to 113 Fahrenheit and two heavy quilts keep me just shy of teeth chattering. When I've had more than I can bare, I admit I do succumb to PMS - you know (P)ajamas, (M)ovies, and (S)nacks time. Unfortunately, that two to four hours a day is cutting into my canning and fall chores.

So yesterday, they glanced at my ovaries and yup, Many Pauses. When they were doing the test they asked me if I grew tumors and I just about burst into tears when I answered yes. I'm not an emotional women but the thought of here we go again and my raging hormones about did me in. They hadn't found one but they managed to do a thorough job of tormenting me. Two technicians each had a go at pressing, gouging and tromping over my extremely full bladder in an attempt to find my ovaries. Then I had to wait an eternity for the radiology doctor so he could get in on the fun. I'd of laughed when they said in a less than persuasive voice,"I think we have a pretty good picture of the right one but we can't find the left ovary.", if I wouldn't of wet my pants but I was too busy concentrating and praying they'd give up their search.

Then my emotional roller coaster dove downward again and I was crestfallen with the realization that I was indeed going through menopause. That news was far more devastating than turning fifty, for people either don't believe my age or ask me what skin care regiment I under go. They're disappointed when I tell them I drink lots of water, use home-made soap, spend lots of time outdoors, and eat good food. But now I'm doing that Grandma thing. I'm having trouble excepting that.

But, enough about my woes, I promised to tell you a little about noodles so hear it is and I hope you can make heads or tails out of it because my emotions are still raging today and I've a phone consultation scheduled for this afternoon with my physician. My mind is distracted.
Italian Noodles
The texture of the Queso Blanco and Riccota cheeses led my brain on a merry chase down a spider web of avenues and hopefully today after I've spoken to my doctor I will get a chance to explore a couple of them. One is a desert and the other a dip. But for now, I'll tell you about the noodles I wrapped around the cheese.

I could have bought some noodles to stuff at the store but they lost my noodle business after I'd made my very first batch of semolina noodles. It wasn't that I hadn't made noodles before but they were white flour and egg noodles for my chicken noodle soup. When I made straight semolina noodles for an Italian dish, the store noodles inferiority became starkly apparent. They're rubbery, and take forever to cook. Why, I don't know since they too are made with semolina flour but mine take about two minutes in boiling water. I can't figure out what they've done with the noodles to make the need to cook them so long. Those of you who have access to noodles from Italy may have a much higher quality of store noodle to choose from but here in the isolated west, choices at the store are few.

First of all, I mix my dough in a bowl instead of on the counter top or bread board because I have so little counter space. I'm always in the middle of several cooking projects at once so the dough bowl gets moved several times before I'm through with it. On this day crowding my space I had canning supplies and a small cutting board with basil leaves on it waiting to be chopped.

But if you'd like, bring a little Italy to the kitchen go ahead, place a cup of semolina pasta flour on the counter top and with your finger form a well in the middle. Inside the well place a jumbo egg. Just the yolk and white please, not the shell. My hens haven't supplied me with any jumbo eggs this week so I mixed and matched small and medium, guessing a jumbo equivalent. It isn't a really big deal for not enough moisture then you can add a little water and too much, you add a little white flour. Noodles are one of those things like bread that you get a feel for with time but they're not as unforgiving. So, relax! The first time through you may want to buy jumbo eggs if you haven't one just so you get the hang of the texture.

On top the egg, drizzle some olive oil. This is really important, it makes your dough more maliable. So the recipe is:
1 cups semolina flour
1 jumbo eggs
drizzle of olive oil
water if needed or white flour
I double the recipe because I love to have noodles in the freezer.

The mixture is crumbly but knead for 4 to 6 minutes until it is elastic and forms a nice firm ball. If you desire, before you knead add chopped basil. It adds color and flavor. Cover with plastic, a kitchen towel, or dinner plate that forms a lid on the bowl. Let rest for thirty minutes.

Press flat a small ball between your hands or press against the counter top and run the dough through the pasta machine on number 1. No pasta machine, then use a rolling pin. Don't worry if the dough tears apart, you will be refining the molecules in the dough.

Fold the strip in thirds like a letter to be placed in an envelope then run through again. Repeat this procedure until the dough is nice, smooth, and malleable. If the dough remains a bit dry add water or oil, knead a couple minutes and run through the procedure again. Working with small amounts of dough makes this process easier. I run the fold through with the wide side parallel to the machine so you have wider strips coming out.

If you want lasagna noodles I put the dough through increasing the numbers until I reach six which on my machine is the last number. You then slice the size you want to fit your pan.

I always make lots of spaghetti size noodles though the machine will also make wider ones. It is a taste preference for we like a more equal mix of sauce and noodles in our mouth.

If you are making lasagna noodles you can then proceed to the boiling water pot. For the spaghetti noodle or the medium noodles, mix them with four in a bowl as this makes the noodles remain individual. They freeze well this way and don't clump together. I don't dry mine but put them immediately in freezer bags or into the boiling water for supper.

In our area semolina flour is no longer available at the store so I buy mine on the Internet.

I almost forgot. I mixed the cheese with some Parmesan and Asiago shredded cheese and a touch of garlic, wrapped some noodle around a clump of cheese to form a number of small enchilada style rolls; placed them in a glass casserole dish; poured home-made marinara sauce with home-made Italian pork sausage; and topped with Romano, Parmesan, and Asiago cheeses. With fresh green beans, an artisan Italian style bread, and a bread olive oil dipping sauce it was a big hit with my husband.

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