Monday, January 23, 2012

The Beautiful Simplicity of Carbs (Carburetors and Freshly Made Pasta)

Funny, I have not one post about disassembling the carburetor of the Kawasaki into all its tiny pieces. The first time was quite the learning experience, but I’d gotten pretty quick about it in my later Kawi ownership years.  Should the day come when I need to do so on the Yamaha, it’ll be twice as efficient, no doubt, as it has half the cylinders (and bodywork).   That being said, I'm not looking forward to the day I stare down the Ducati, with its computerized fuel injection and desmodromic valves.  Perhaps sometime soon I’ll simply take off the gas tank, peek at the sophisticated machinery hiding beneath, and then put it back together again, quickly, before anything bad happens.  I love the Monster, but I’m secretly thrilled to own Eeyore, the slow but sturdy Yamaha, a bike I’m not afraid to work on.

Fresh pasta is another example of beautiful simplicity, this time in carbohydrate form, even more so when making the pasta of southern Italy.  With a few exceptions, the pasta of northern Italy, all about seductive silkiness, is formed from delicate sheets of finely milled white flour rich with eggs.  The pasta of the south is what I make when there are no eggs in the house.  Semolina and water alone, manipulated with kneading and deft finger work (no fancy Italian machinery needed) come together into highly effective sauce trapping shapes full of lively springy chewiness.

While videos of motorcyclists riding barely hold my interest (shrug, it's just not the same, yanno?), I can lose myself for hours watching Italian nonne magically spin out pasta shapes or Jacque Pepin debone a chicken (I adore this man).   I’ve included the pertinent youtube links in the captions.

Trofiette - the name doesn't mean "twisted little string beans," but that's certainly what they look like.  Eat these with Pesto Genovese, and you shall be transported to Liguria.  (This pasta is the exception: Liguria is a bit too far north to be in the land of semolina.)

Orecchiette ("Little Ears"), from the heel of Italy's boot, are inside out cavatelli of sorts.  The rough surface is no accident, it serves to hold the sauce.  Serve with olive oil, broccoli or rapini, garlic, chile, and just enough mashed anchovy to give it all a mysterious savory quality.  Or grated butternut squash, walnuts and ricotta salata.

Busiati, or fusilli al ferro, hail from the deep south (Sicily) and were traditionally rolled around thin knitting needles. (I use a bamboo skewer; knitting is definitely not in my skill set.)  Delicious with with rich meat or fish sauces or the tomato almond pesto of Trapani.

Recipe (of my usual vague sort):

Per smallish Italian sized serving:
generous 1/2 c. semolina
3 tbsp water (or more, or less)
Combine then knead for 5-10 minutes until you get a soft, smooth but not at all sticky dough.  Form the shapes according to the youtube links.  Or however else you feel like it.  Have fun!  It's play-doh destined for your dinner plate.
Cook them in boiling water salty enough to make you reminisce about the ocean.
Although you can  dry this pasta, it's better eaten the day it's made.  It's thick enough that if cooked from dry, by the time the inside is done, the outside is overdone.
For the record, factory dried pasta is neither better or worse (although it's certainly easier.)  It's a different beast entirely.

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