I bumped into a friend at the grocery yesterday, a potter, who told me about the Empty Bowl Project. I thought I knew about this, or had heard something about it in years past, but hadn’t paid enough attention. She invited me to visit her and find out more, and today I spent a small bit of my afternoon decorating bowls, along with a dozen or so other folks. What fun!
I asked my friend how many of the bowls she had thrown. Oh, just a few hundred, she told me. Just? Oh my! These pictures show only a handful of the several *thousand* bowls that will be painted, fired, and made available for sale on November 21st in Austin to raise funds to feed kids through Kids Cafes here in central Texas. Amazing undertaking!
And, this is a national initiative. I *really* wasn’t paying attention! If you don’t live in or near Austin, you can still find a local Empty Bowl project, or start one in your area! Good way to feel good!
And speaking of bowls…
I do not understand how folks can make pasta by making a “well” of flour on a cutting board, putting eggs in the middle and slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs. I grok the theory; I’ve tried it several times. The walls fall down, the eggy part escapes, and I am left with a huge mess. I suppose I just need more practice, a few more *years* of practice perhaps, but I have a solution and nuts to the counter top method!
I found the perfect pasta-making-in bowl at a thrift store. It is relatively shallow for its size, only about 6 inches deep and about 16 inches across. And, its pretty. Today I made a nice mess of saffron pasta, shared some with friends, and will share the *very* simple recipe with you.
It is certainly easier if you have a pasta machine, but it is not imperative. I mean, I am certain folks were eating pasta before the machines were invented, right? So, a rolling pin, a sharp knife and lots of determination will work fine.
What I can tell you about pasta-making is this, you can always *add* flour, but you cannot take it away, so once the dough comes together add flour just bit by bit until the dough is barely not sticky any longer, but not so much flour that it is tough. Let the dough rest, and it will thank you.
1.5 C flour (plus up to about 1/2 C more as needed)
2 eggs (at room temperature, please – yes, it matters!)
pinch of salt
7 or 8 threads of saffron
1 T very hot water
Heat water and pour 1 T into a 1-cup measure or a coffee mug. Add the saffron threads and let steep for 5 minutes.
Put the flour in a mixing bowl or large shallow bowl (unless you want to try the counter top “well” method… let me know how it works for you!) and add the salt. Whisk to remove any lumps and incorporate the salt. Make a well of sorts in the center.
By now the saffron should be well steeped and the water should be just warm to the touch but no longer really hot. Add the eggs and stir or swoosh to incorporate. Pour the egg/saffron mixture into the well.
Use a fork to incorporate the flour bit by bit. There will be some lumps, just do your best to keep it relatively smooth.
It looks sort of nasty just before it comes together, and at this point a bowl scraper or spatula comes in handy. Be sure you incorporate all the floury bits.
Knead it right in the bowl (no counter top or cutting board clean up – yay!) adding small amounts of flour as needed until you have a nice tidy pliable almost living ball of pasta. This should take at least five minutes, as you need to develop the gluten well.
Let the pasta ball rest, covered in plastic wrap or in a zip bag for about 15 minutes. You can actually make it to this point, wrap it in plastic and store it in the fridge overnight, as long as you take it out in plenty of time for it to come to room temp before you attempt to roll it out.
When the dough is rested, cut it in half and run each portion through your pasta machine as the manufacturer suggests, or roll out as thin as possible and cut with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. I like a fettucini cut, so that’s what I did.
In my experience it is well to let it rest a bit and get a little dry before cooking. I toss it with a bit of four as it comes out of the cutting blades to keep it from sticking to itself and lay it out on parchment paper on cookie sheets. Works for me, but if you have a different system, please share!
From this point on, prepare as any pasta, large pot of boiling salted water, etc. You can top it with butter and cheese, a tomato sauce, or whatever you like. I think that fresh pasta has a little more “chew” and a lot more flavor than store bought, but try it and let me know what you think!
And, of course, buon appetito!