German Apple Cake

This is a very simple, quick-to-make cake that’s helpful for work parties and potlucks.

Ingredients:
4 cups peeled, diced apples (about 4 large)
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work well)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix well. Stir in the apples and nuts by hand. The batter will be very thick.

Spoon the batter into the pan, smooth the top with the spoon and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Penzey’s Spices.

Mini cheddar and ham quiches

1 cup croutons
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped, cooked ham
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
Dash pepper

Preheat oven to 3250. Divide croutons, cheese and ham among 12 greased muffin cups. In a large bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until blended. Divide egg mixture among prepared muffin cups.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from muffin pan. Serve warm.

Makes 1 dozen. From Taste of Home.

Crackle Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg cup all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
confectioners’ sugar

Ina large bowl, beat sugar, oil, chocolate and vanilla until blended. Beat in egg. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into the sugar mixture Refrigerate, covered for 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With sugared hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen. From Taste of Home.

Pasta with fennel, sausage and sweet peppers

This recipe was designed to go with orecchiette, and it assumes you will make the pasta yourself. But you could substitute another pasta, including dried pasta. If you do this, you’ll probably want a shape that has some body. The recipe makes four servings.

Pasta with fennel, sausage and sweet peppers

1 pound fennel bulbs, quartered and core removed
1 pound small sweet peppers, stemmed and seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more as needed for pasta
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 recipe homemade pasta dough
10-ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with the rack in the top part of the oven.

Slice fennel and peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spread out over two rimmed baking sheets and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating pans as necessary until evenly browned and tender. Set aside.

To make orecchiette: On a lightly floured work surface, take a golf ball size piece of pasta dough and roll it into a 1/2-inch wide log. Slice the log into 1/8 inch pieces. Using a thumb, or the tip of a dinner knife, firmly press into the center of the disc. Form the pasta around the pad of your finger like a shell to make a well indented circle.

Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like sea water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup pasta water and drain orecchiette through a colander. Return pasta to pot, toss lightly with olive oil and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add sausage and cook until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, shallot, thyme and pepper flakes and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, roasted vegetables, pasta, and reserved cooking liquid. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce heat and cook until the sauce coats the pasta, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and basil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Divide between four bowls. Serve immediately with remaining grated cheese on the side.

Pasta with black olive tapenade and goat cheese

Here’s another recipe from my pasta-making class. My teacher said, “Tapenade makes a flavorful and light topping for fresh pasta. The briny flavors of the olives and capers hold up against the tangy creaminess of the goat cheese.”

This makes four servings.

For the tapenade:
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pasta
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the pasta:
1 pound pappardelle (or other pasta)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 3 cups baby spinach sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
6 ounces crumbled goat cheese at room temperature

To make tapenade:
Combine the olives, capers, garlic, anchovy and parsley in a food processor, and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the oil, lemon zest and juice and pulse until well combined. Set aside.
To cook pasta:
Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like sea water. Add the pasta, and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until pasta al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes if it’s fresh pasta. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta through a colander. Then, in a large skillet over medium-high heat combine the tapenade, spinach, tomatoes, hot pasta and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, toss to coat pasta thoroughly with tapenade. Add additional olive oil and remaining pasta water to adjust consistency as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
To serve:
Divide the pasta between four bowls, and top with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese.

Alfredo-style sauce with asparagus and prosciutto

This is my favorite sauce that I learned to make last summer when I took a pasta-making class at Sur La Table.

Linguine with Asparagus and Prosciutto
4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced (or use a little bit of onion)
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 pound asparagus, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces prosciutto, sliced into thin strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound fresh linguine
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil. Sauté shallot and garlic until fragrant, 1 minute, add asparagus and prosciutto and cook until asparagus is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  2. To cook pasta: Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like sea water. Add pasta and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta through a colander.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cheese, parsley and reserved hot pasta water. Add the hot pasta to the egg mixture and toss until well coated. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to the large skillet with asparagus and prosciutto and return skillet to stovetop over low heat. While stirring constantly to incorporate ingredients, heat pasta until the egg sauce just begins to thicken, be careful not to scramble. Once the sauce has thickened and is evenly coating the pasta, remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide pasta between four bowls. Garnish with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Fresh pasta

When I left my last job, my coworkers generously gave me a gift certificate to Sur La Table, where I took a pasta-making class last summer. The big takeaway for me: If you want smooth, thin pasta, you need a machine. I bought one that day — hand-crank, not electric — and I like it a lot.

Here is a basic recipe for making fresh pasta, along with tips from my instructor:

Fresh Pasta Dough
4 servings

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To make dough:
Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Make a “well” in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil. Using your fingers, blend the eggs into the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well and working outwards. When the pasta dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed, about 5 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour at room temperature.
To roll dough:
Secure a pasta machine to the edge of a long countertop. Cut the dough into thirds. Keep the extra dough covered in plastic wrap while working with one piece. Flatten the piece of dough into a rough rectangle so that it will fit inside the width of the pasta machine. Place the rollers on the widest setting and roll the dough through the machine, catching it with one hand as you roll with the other. Take the dough and fold into thirds towards the center of the dough. Turn the dough so one open end faces the machine and roll it through on the widest setting again. Fold, turn, and roll once more on the widest setting. Continue rolling the pasta through the machine without folding, adjusting the rollers to the next smallest setting each time, until the desired thickness is reached. If the pasta sheet becomes too large to handle, use a bench scraper to cut it into more manageable lengths and continue rolling. Cut sheets to desired shapes and sizes, toss with flour and set aside covered with a clean kitchen towel. The pasta can be cooked immediately or covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to an hour before use.
To cook pasta:
Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like sea water. Add pasta and stir immediately to prevent the strands from sticking together. Boil until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta through a colander. Toss hot pasta with your sauce of choice, using the reserved pasta water to thin the mixture as needed. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.

Pasta-making Tips

  • Fresh pasta is made from all-purpose or “00” flour, a very finely ground flour from Italy. Dried pasta dough is typically made with semolina, a flour with a much higher protein, or gluten, content, so the dough can be forced through extruders into the numerous shapes seen in the grocery store. Fresh pasta is simple to make at home, and can be rolled and cut by hand or by using a pasta machine.
  • The classic ratio for fresh pasta dough is 3 parts flour to 2 parts egg, which works well if you weigh your ingredients. DO this by placing a large mixing bowl on a digital scale and zero out the weight. Add one egg for each main-course Serving you want to make into the bowl and then add 1 1/2 times that amount of flour.
  • If you do not have a digital scale, you can use the following formula, taking into account that you may need to add a little more flour if the dough is too wet. Each large egg weighs about 2 ounces, while each cup of flour weighs about 5 ounces. So, if you want to make 4 main course servings of pasta, combine 4 large eggs (8 ounces) and a scant 2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) of flour.
  • Traditionally, pasta is made by piling the our on a work surface, making a “well” in the center, adding the eggs and mixing everything together. Or, to be neater, place the flour in a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients and turn everything out on a work surface for kneading.
  • Knead pasta by hand. Gather the dough in a ball, press downward on it with the heel of your hand, fold the dough onto itself and repeat. A properly kneaded pasta dough should be very smooth and supple but not sticky, which should take 5 to 10 minutes.
  • It is important to allow the dough to rest, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temperature before rolling. If you try to roll the dough before it rests, the dough will be too elastic and will spring back when rolled.
  • When rolling the pasta, make sure to flour it generously to prevent sticking. When it emerges from the rollers, catch it on the back of your hand, rather than with your fingertips, to avoid making indentations in the dough sheet.
  • Pasta dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to 24 hours or wrapped in airtight packaging and frozen for up to 1 month.
  • Fresh pasta dough can be flavored with various ingredients, including herbs, spinach, tomato and dried mushrooms.