Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recipe #18/20: Lentil Pasta!

Last few recipes coming down the pipe! I recently acquired a few attachments for my stand mixer, so I thought I'd try this one out. To be straight forward, it didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped, but I feel like most of that is my utter lack of experience in pasta making. From what I know, pasta (much like many of its flour/water/egg compatriots) requires a great deal of practice and experience to make skillfully. That being said, here's what I learned about making pasta:

Pasta requires a large amount of gluten in order to hold together. This protein (mostly brought up in casual conversation as being purged from one's diet) is actually a composite protein of gliadin and glutenin, which essentially forms the backbone of most baked goods. While not good for people with celiac disease, for the rest of us it what gives so much taste and texture to most of the things at your local baker. The forming of gluten takes place in the kneading process, which is essential for the pasta to remain together. While there are gluten-free pastas now available, I'm not sure exactly how they are made (most likely utilizing high pressure machines and/or chemical agents). Since lentils do not contain gluten, I knew that I would have to use a partly lentil, partly wheat flour dough.

The wheat flour I chose is called semolina flour which is essentially made for pasta making. It is made from a variety of wheat called durum wheat which, you guessed it, contains a high percentage of gluten. I chose to do half and half for the flour (some recipes do call for half semolina, half all-purpose). I'm not sure what the ideal ratio is but as I become more practiced at pasta making, I will probably try different combinations.

The dough was very difficult, and extremely messy, to get through the pasta maker. I have a variety of different attachments, but what seemed to work best was a wide-set spaghetti die. In retrospect, the easiest solution would probably be lasagna noodles, which I could then go back and use in the lentil lasagna recipe. Also, I tried three different varieties of lentil flours, but all seemed to be equally tricky.

Finally, the pasta sauce is pretty basic, but surprisingly delicious for essentially being made up on the fly. The caramelized onions add a nice sweetness, which is well balanced by the savory herbs and pepper flake spice. It can be either blended or left as is, depending on your preferences.

I hope you enjoy this recipes, those who are so bold as to venture into the world of pasta making. If anyone has successfully made pasta before, I would more than welcome any helpful hints for my next endeavor. Two more recipes left: they will be fun!

Lentil Pasta with Tomato Sauce
Serves four people

3/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup lentils (any variety)
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

1 red onion, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1/4 cup fat (olive oil, etc. [I used goose fat since I have some])
8 garlic cloves, sliced
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
12 oz. beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1. Using a spice grinder, grind the lentils into flour and sift into a bowl. (Should yield approximately 3/4 cup.)
2. Mix dry ingredients (including lentil flour) in the bowl of a stand mixer with a fork or whisk.
3. Add eggs, water and oil and combine using paddle attachment.
4. Switch to bread hook and knead for 15 minutes, stopping occasionally to push mixture down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
5. Run pasta through pasta machine (manual or stand mixer attachment) according to manufacturer's instructions.
6. Boil water, cook pasta and drain.

1. Heat fat in a medium-sized pot on medium heat and add red onions.
2. Drop heat to medium-low and cook onions until caramelized (around 10-15 minutes).
3. Raise the heat back to medium, add garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Recipe #17/20: Lentil Hummus

Well I didn't finish by the end of '09, but I have some pretty cool recipes planned out for the last few. This one is courtesy of my good friend Hillary and the people at chow.com. This red lentil hummus is quite tasty and good on anything from pita chips to veggies. The only thing I changed was adding the zest from the freshly squeezed lemon as well, since it seemed a shame to throw away perfectly good zest if I were taking the effort to freshly squeeze a lemon. The addition of the zest adds a delightfully bright note to the hummus that would work perfectly for a summer picnic (or in the winter time to perhaps escape the cold, grey weather and pretend you are on a summer picnic). The Chow recipe is also an ingredient for a Lentil Hummus Wrap with Pomegranate Molasses, though I didn't get a chance to make that. I still have some left over, so maybe I will if I can find any pomegranate molasses.

I hope you enjoy this refreshingly little treat. Next stop: Homemade Lentil Pasta!

Red Lentil Hummus
Serves a party as an appetizer with pita chips, veggies, etc. (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp tahini butter
5 Tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest from one lemon
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil water, add lentils, reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Place lentils, garlic and tahini in a food processor with blade attachment and pulse until lentils are broken up.

3. With the motor running, add lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and oil. Blend for around 30 seconds. Scrape down the side of the bowl and then blend for another 40 seconds, or until smooth. Storage in the fridge in an airtight container.