Monday, July 26, 2010

Create a garden gift of beet pasta

I enjoy giving friends gifts from my garden. Whether it’s something I’ve just picked, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, a butter made special with fresh herbs or something else, it feels good to know I’ve put my care and affection into the gift twice—while raising it and while preparing it.

So I undertook an experiment this weekend. A few years ago I read an article in Martha Stewart Living about making pasta with vegetables. Since I always have more beets than I can use, and because the color of beets is so appealing to me, I decided to make beet pasta to take to our friends who we’ll be visiting in Montana. Keep in mind, I’ve made pasta before but always used it fresh or froze it. To transport it, I had to dry it, a first for me. And I’ve never made pasta with beets.

I read through the recipe and got started. Roast the beets and puree. That proved to be the first point of question when the beets didn’t puree smoothly. I added water and they pureed, sort of, but were a bit lumpy for my liking. Nonetheless, I forged ahead.

Mix in the eggs and salt. Add flour. This is when I discovered I had used all of my all-purpose white flour. I prefer to always use at least some whole-wheat flour, but would not have chosen to use all whole-wheat pastry flour except that it was the best thing I had on hand. Into the food processor it went.

Instead of getting a nice, silky-looking pasta dough, it was barely sticking together. Maybe my eggs weren’t large enough. The recipe had called for two eggs and one egg yolk. I added the extra white in anyway to moisten the mixture. That worked so I a little water then gathered it all into a ball to wrap in plastic and rest for awhile.

Finally, the fun part had arrived. I’ve had a pasta maker for several years—a manual, hand crank pasta maker that I feed the pasta through several times to continue to work the dough, then cut it and make fettuccine or tagliatelle, if I choose those options instead of something I can hand-cut like ravioli or lasagna. When I unwrapped the dough, it felt much more like the silky product it should be. Relief. Next I began to feed it through the machine. It looked beautiful—so reddish, pink just like the beets.

As I said earlier, I had never dried pasta. I also didn’t have a drying rack. I found as many narrow, wooden kitchen tools as I could and propped them between chairs in the dining room to hang the pasta on. (My cat had to stay outside; I’m sure she would have thought it was there for her to play with.) By this morning, it was perfectly dried. I bagged it and looked upon my creation with a smile.

Now if I can just get it into my bag without crushing it to bits.

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