The transformation of three elements.

alchemists-compounding-a-balsam-in-medieval-times-bj8draWhat you can do with flour, eggs and salt. For these pasta experiments I decided to use up a wheat/white blend I had in my cabinet that I was using for sourdough at one time; it made a stiff and nice-looking dough that I feel hopeful about (eating).

I’ve decided that making ravioli is my newest short-term cooking goal however to do that you have to make very precisely shaped but also sturdy and thin sheets of pasta. So I set out to practice that with my Mercato pasta roller and succeeded more that I expected to on this night. I ended up trying a few different way of cutting the pasta as well when I was done making sheets. At the same time I’m trying out putting half of the pasta dough in the freezer to see how it keeps. These are some of the cuts I tried, some machine and some by hand, and the sheets themselves. In Italian, the word la pasta actually means dough and can mean other things such as a cake or pastry, a mix or a paste, and of course pasta. The Italian verb impastare means to knead or to mix.

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The Element of Olive Oil

The element of olive oil can be both the foundation and the garnish for a variety of dishes.  It’s the indispensable lubricant of every Italian-leaning kitchen.  I’ve broken with many decades of tradition recently and bought a domestic brand of olive oil. I was skeptical when I started to read, and hear from friends, that a lot of the most popular brands of olive oil on the market (even ones that might originate in Italy, Greece or Spain) aren’t as pure as they are advertised to be. After reading from several different sources, as well as tasting directly from the bottle of the well-known brand I had in my kitchen, I’m a believer. Many are said to be cut with other oils like canola or sunflower or contain coloring agents that aren’t listed on the bottle.  Considering how much of the stuff I use, and how many health benefits extra-virgin olive oil has, as well as the very negative effects of using sub-optimal oils at high cooking temperatures,  I’ve decided to be a lot more finicky about my oil. I know that there’s countless varieties of high-quality olive oil out there, but they can be both pricey and hard to pick out of the crowd. This brand is what I’m using now. The taste and the smell are awesome-it’s got that nice spicy kick that creeps up on you when you down a teaspoon of it straight. The price is pretty decent too considering the heavy, darkened glass bottle. To gauge the quality and authenticity of your extra-virgin olive oil, look at the bottom of the bottle. There should be some pulpy stuff settled on the bottom.  Non-Extra Virgin olive oil has been refined so it won’t have this stuff in the bottom. And oil that’s just posing as E.V.O.O. won’t have it either ’cause it’s fake.  Give the bottle a shake to get those bits all up in your food. Real extra-virgin olive oil will also have a harvest date on the bottle, so you can gauge it’s freshness, and this tells you that the company actually tracks when the olives where picked, instead of just buying humongous quantities of oil at market and throwing it it a bottle without knowing where it’s from or how old it is. Has the whole world gone mad?!

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Fruity olive bits that have settled to the bottom of the bottle. Shake it or tip upside down before you’re using it to get that junk in your food.

La Chitarra

Nothing happens without the ancestors. 

Although I never knew my maternal grandmother Erminia Cenerizio, the owner of the traditional Abruzzese pasta making implement pictured above, I did know some of her siblings, and have done a  great deal of research on her branch of the family in recent years. One of 7 children at that time, she came to Boston in 1919 with brother Corrado and my great-grandmother, Anna. The patriarch of the family, Edoardo Cenerizio, came to the U.S. first in 1913. He was a shoemaker who was taught the trade by the man who adopted him just after his birth, Nunzio Polidoro.  I can only assume that Anna decided to follow to the U.S. after the 1915 earthquake in Avezzano destroyed their village, San Benedetto dei Marsi, in the region of Abruzzo, and also killed 5 of her children. Here the chitarra is getting its first use  after at least 42 years of dormancy,  along with a picture of the family, below,  from 1950 taken in Lexington, Ma.  Erma is third from left, with her mother first from the right. The town in the photo below is Nocciano, also in Abruzzo, where my grandfather Angelo Di Meco, a stone mason and builder, was from. He’s first on the left in the family photo. Although both of my grandparents were from small villages less that 50 miles apart, they met and were married in Greenfield, Ma.  in 1929. 1951-photo-2nocciano-vista