Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Heaps - Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

Past midnight and not quite finished with my presentation slides, due tomorrow (now today, I suppose), of course. It is quickly gearing up to be one of those weeks that seem to heap upon you until you yourself dissolve into a heap, but it could be much worse. Yes, my adviser shot instructions and advice like a firehose at my labmate and me on Monday, but it means we have a clear direction for a while. Yes, I have logistics to carefully time, plan and diplomatically carry out, but it is because I just became the captain of the collegiate karate team. Yes, I have a hard set of challenge questions opening on Thursday, closing on Sunday, overlapping that pumpkin holiday, but it means I am one step closer to an incredible opportunity to learn about data science.

This heap means that time to buy and cook food has been short. Luckily, I still have frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's (probably my favorite item, outside of those amazing, huge chocolate bars). With the flour, olive oil, salt and pepper perpetually stocked in my cupboard, and some eggs and milk brought over by my wonderful, patient boyfriend, yesterday's lunch even managed that coveted title of "delicious." This recipe uses a pasta machine, but if you have a bit more time, it's easily made by hand. Of course, if you're more prepared than I am, you probably have dried pasta somewhere anyway...

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts
Inspired by the contents of my cupboard and freezer
Feeds 2 tired grad students

3/4 cup dried or 1 cup fresh pasta (see below)
2 cups frozen artichoke hearts (canned works, but I prefer frozen)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons reasonably nice olive oil*


Cook the pasta until about al dente. There are too many Italians in my lab for me to argue. Drain the pasta, reserving the water. Alternatively, I use chopsticks to fish out all the noodles, since fresh noodles have a beautiful, maddening tendency to tangle into a magnificent heap anyway.

In the remaining hot water, drop the artichoke hearts in and boil until soft, about 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Meanwhile, toss the pasta with the salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Once the artichoke hearts are cooked, add them to the seasoned pasta.

Divide into preferred serving vessels (I like bowls, my roommate likes plates), and enjoy!!!

Fresh Pasta
Inspired by various sources and a lovely quote on this particular page

1 egg
Splash of milk
Water if dough is dry
1/4 teaspoon salt
~ 2 cups flour (I prefer a mix of spelt and all-purpose)


In a large bowl, mix the egg, milk and salt. Mix in the flour, kneading until it is a soft dough, neither dry and flaky nor soft enough to puddle in the bottom of the mixing bowl. Allow to rest at least 20 minutes, but it will survive up to a few days in the refrigerator. If you have extra dough left over, it stores well, protected by plastic wrap or a box, in said refrigerator.

If you have a pasta machine: Pinch off small pieces of dough and feed through a pasta machine, gradually reducing the thickness with each pass, then cutting the pasta. Flour the dough lightly, to prevent sticking.

If there is no pasta machine: Divide dough into two pieces and with a rolling pin or wine or pisco bottle, roll each one into a thin sheet. Heavily flour each side, then gently roll each sheet into logs. Slicing the logs with a sharp knife will yield lovely noodles, once each slice is uncoiled.

Boil a pot of water, and toss each batch into the boiling water once each are ready. With a pair of chopsticks or a fork, separate the strands as they cook, then fish them out once done. Fresh pasta cooks in 60-90 seconds, so keep a close watch on the pot! They also tend to foam up and bubble over when fully cooked, so it is in your best interest to remove cooked noodles promptly.

Cooked noodles stick together after a few minutes, but you can mitigate this by adding a little of the cooking water or oil and stirring frequently. Toss with your desired toppings and seasonings, and enjoy! Fruits of one's labor, indeed...

Note: It is possible to buy tasty extra virgin olive oil at a reasonable price. I prefer the ones in the glass bottles at a local grocery store. I currently have a nice one from Spain, purchased from Trader Joe's, that clocked in at about $8 for 1L.