One of the greatest honors bestowed upon me by my children related to food. My daughter, Annie, in her junior year in high school, wanted to celebrate homecoming weekend. She asked if I would prepare a meal for her and her friends. What an honor! Instead of a rapaciously expensive limo ride to nowhere, Annie wanted to be home with me and Nancy.
Yes, I said. What do you want?
I want the beef with the bread around it, Annie replied.
Wow! She was referring to a Beef Wellington, which I make with a brioche dough. The dinner was outstanding, and the memories are burnished in my mind like polished gold. Food, Family and Memories are three vital categories in the art of life.
Luanne Savino O’Loughlin is one of the more interesting folks I’ve met through Twitter. Luanne is interesting to me because she is the proprietor of Olio2Go, an importer and seller of superlative olive oils and other food products from Italy. See http://olio2go.com
I love to cook. I love olive oil. I look forward to her emails and latest offerings. I invited Luanne to write about cooking and family. Here is her post about involving children with cooking and a pasta recipe!
CREATING TRADITIONS AND MEMORIES THROUGH COOKING
Perhaps it was due to “growing up Italian,” but it seems all of my memories are full of food and the camaraderie of family dining.
Where did I learn to cook? I have memories of doing homework after school army grandmother’s kitchen table as she prepped for dinner for ten. That was a regular event with three generations around the table. At least twice a week.
On hot summer days, dinner would be prepared in the basement kitchen adjacent to the wine cellar and near the drying prosciutto. Her best dinner that was not Italian in origin? Fried chicken. On those same hot days, dinner would be enjoyed outdoors at tables set on the driveway. My memories are set in sepia.
We were welcomed at the table for homework, snack, or dinner. We were invited to try a little of this or a little of that. We were also asked to try our hand — at stirring this, breading that, kneading this, peeling that. Perhaps a little therapeutic kneading with bread dough? (I’ve still not mastered fried eggplant).
Throughout it all, traditions were formed as we squeezed pizzelles, fried pizza fritte, and rolled pasta. Side by side we learned these tasks seemingly without cajoling or effort.
So what works today? Traditions must be adapted to our lifestyles. It still works best when children contribute to a meal (without the whining of indentured servitude). As they grow they will develop the ability to stay on task for the whole entree. Remember, in the beginning they only want to lick the beaters, and by the time they are pre-teens, they want to make brownies after school. (Cleaning up is yet a further developmental step.)
Homemade pasta is a terrific hands-on activity with kids. For starters I’ll recommend a pasta recipe with the dough made in a food processor. (Feeling adventurous? Make it completely by hand – without a bowl or a food processor — simply on the counter with hands, a rolling pin, and a knife).
With credit to Henry Lambert’s Pasta & Cheese Cookbook.
3 large or extra large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 2/3 cups unbleached flour, divided
Camera (of course you’ll want to take pictures!)
I like to substitute semolina flour for a portion of the unbleached flour.
Place the eggs, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and oil in the bowl of a food processor, with the steel blade in place. Add one cup flour and process briefly. Continue to add flour and process in alternating fashion until a soft ball forms and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Expect that the last half cup of flour will be used for dusting.
Remove the dough from the processor and knead and reshape into a ball and then press flat. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for ten to thirty minutes.
We have always used an Atlas pasta machine with rollers. Though series of passes, and the rollers drawing closer together, sheets of pasta will become thinner and ready for the cutting attachments. Younger children may just want to roll the handle while someone else feeds the dough through the machine.
A tip: it works best to be rolling the hand-crank before attempting to feed the dough through.
Divide the dough into four balls and form each into a flat oval. Keep the resting dough under a damp towel. Cut the pieces into comfortable workable lengths. (Children may need shorter lengths than adults).
Run each piece of dough through the rollers, dust with flour as needed. Continue rolling the dough tightening the rollers until the desired thickness is reached.
When all pieces are the desired thickness, run through the cutting attachment. Lay them on kitchen towels.
Cook the pasta immediately, or let dry. Dried pasta can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.