Cucina Fresca
     "Summer Pasta"
May 21, 2009 - Vol 1, Issue 7     
In This Issue
Wine of the Month
Upcoming Downtown Events
Upcoming CF Events
Winner - Tea Basket
Shapes and Sauces
Cooking Perfect Pasta
Pasta Partners
Smart Pasta Tips
Q & A's
Cookbook Review
Summer Pasta Recipes
Bridal Registry
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E-Newsletter Drawing
If you receive our newsletter, you will be entered into a drawing each month for a great prize for your kitchen.  Check here each month to see if you have won, if so, come in to collect your prize!
April's winner:
Tracy Miller

Tracy won a magnetic notepad. Congrats Tracy!
Prime Time for Pasta
Pasta! Who doesn't love pasta? Any season is the perfect time for enjoying pasta, but the spring and summer seasons offer renewed possibilities for incorporating fresh ingredients Fork with Pastadirectly from the garden or farmer's market - fresh herbs, sun-warmed tomatoes, and a host of other possibilities. During this time of year, pasta becomes a canvas for bright colors and tantalizing tastes. Served hot, warm, or cold, pasta's versatility matches summer's easy-going schedule. In this issue, we'll encourage you to experiment with some new shapes and sauces, train you on cooking perfect pasta, and review some common foods that always seem to partner well with a good pasta dish.  We conclude with three scrumptious, easy recipes for summertime pasta that will rival your favorite restaurant's pasta entrees for taste, appearance, and enjoyment! Buon Appetito!
  May Wine of the Month

RoseThis month we're featuring
two wines from
Working Girl Wines
We think either would make
a great addition to your
Mother's Day gift:

Rose the Riveter

May Price: $13.00

Working Girl

Working Girl White
May Price: $13.00
Elko Downtown Upcoming Events!
Elko Downtown Business Association Upcoming Events:

3rd Thursdays Girls' Night Out Shopping Event
Thursday, May 21st
Participating Stores Open until 7pm
Game-themed Shopping Savings at 11 Downtown Stores
2nd Annual Elko DBA Sidewalk Sale
Saturday, June 13th
Stores open at 8am
Huge Savings at 12 different stores!
3rd Annual Elko DBA Wine Walk Dates
Saturday, July 11th
Saturday, August 8th
Saturday, September 12th
Cucina Fresca's Upcoming Events!
Strawberry Margarita
Join Us!

Saturday, May 23rd:
To kick off the summer entertaining season and to introduce you to our "Thirsty Tuesdays" promotion (in conjunction with Duncan Little Creek Gallery Bar) join us for free samples of cocktails made with our favorite cocktail mixing company, Stirrings.
Cucina Fresca's Mother's Day Drawing
Mother's Day Tea Basket Drawing Winner:

The winner of our 6th Annual Mother's Day
TeYeloow Flowersa Basket Drawing is . . .

Jenny Hoerger!

Congratulations, Jenny, come by anytime to pick up your basket. Jenny's son and daughter (Adam & Sara) entered her.
Shapes and Sauces
Pesto PastaThere was a time when local choices for dried pasta were limited to elbows, shells, flat noodles, or spaghetti. Their sauces were limited to cheese, a white sauce, or tomato sauce respectively. While there is nothing wrong with these long-standing traditions, the options for other pasta dishes are virtually limitless, and now, readily accessible!

Ingredients Make the Pasta - Great pasta is made from hard wheat, in particular, semolina flour. The inherent high-gluten, high-protein qualities of semolina lend pasta many of its key characteristics. Semolina has a 14% protein content compared with bread flour that has a 12% protein complement. The higher protein content allows the pasta to retain its shape better as it is being formed. With less starch, the semolina-based pasta absorbs less water which further adds to shape retention once cooked. Pasta dough, in its most basic form, is semolina wheat flour and water, with an egg or other liquid occasionally substituted for the water. The pasta is kneaded, left to rest, then formed into the desired shape. Pasta ShapesCommercially made pastas are dried anywhere from 4 to 48 hours under low heat. The drying stops any enzymatic activity and sets the stage for an indefinite shelf life. Check the ingredients listing for "semolina flour" before purchasing any packaged pasta. Experiment with different brands of dried pasta - you'll be amazed at the differences.

Forming Pasta Shapes - Ranging from anellini to ziti, there are hundreds of pasta shapes to be had. Different pasta shapes derive from centuries of tradition and the development of regional Italian specialties. (Check out the illustrated glossary of pasta shapes at the National Pasta Association's website). Flat shapes are developed from pasta dough that has been carefully rolled into sheets that become thinner with each subsequent rolling. Round shapes such as spaghetti, capellini, and spaghettini, are extruded by pressing the dough through a plate with holes. Tube-shaped pastas such as bucatelli, elbows, or penne, are also extruded in a similar fashion.  Sauce DiagramBrass extrusion plates will leave a rougher surface on the pasta, (excellent for grabbing sauces); as compared with non-stick plates that leave a smooth, slightly glossy surface on the pasta.

Complement Shapes and Sauces - A great pasta dish starts by choosing a shape and sauce that complement each other.  According to the National Pasta Association, thin, delicate pastas should be paired with light, thin sauces.  Heavier sauces require a thicker pasta shape. Chunky sauces prefer shapes with a 3-dimensional character that provide a surface and gaps in the structure for capturing the sauce.

Cooking Perfect Pasta
Dried or fresh pasta hold equal stature on the quality and enjoyment scale. The choice is guided by the desired dish and the whim of the day. To cook perfect pasta follow a few key rules - the results will reward you well!

Pasta PotThe Water - Use a large pot with lots of water to cook pasta.  More specifically, for one pound of pasta use an 8 quart pot with 5-6 quarts of water. Heat the water to a rolling boil. The large amount of water achieves two goals: (1) a large mass of water will return to boiling quickly and not be cooled by the added pasta, and (2) a rolling boil keeps the water and the pasta moving during cooking thus preventing sticking.

The Salt - Salt the cooking water generously. Traditionalists say "taste the water - it should taste like the sea." If it's been some time since you've tasted the sea, plan to use about 2 tablespoons of salt for 6 quarts of water when making 1 pound of pasta. Most experts will recommend using kosher salt, sea salt, or any plain salt without additives, that is, without iodine or anti-caking agents. The water may be salted before or after boiling, just make sure it's there before the pasta is added!

Measuring Quantities of Pasta - The endlessly unique shapes of pasta don't lend themselves to measuring cooking quantities by volume. The best way to measure dry pasta is by weight; a kitchen scale is invaluable in determining cooking quantities. Nutritionally, a serving is defined as 2 ounces. We usually plan on 4 ounces of pasta per person.  

Placing Pasta in WaterCooking the Pasta - Add all of the pasta at once to the boiling, salted water. Initially stir the pasta in the water, then periodically as the pasta cooks. This will keep the pasta from sticking together as the surfaces become rehydrated. Use a lid on the pot to return the water to a rolling boil, then leave the pot uncovered once the boiling point has been achieved once again.

The Timing - Fresh pasta is cooked in 1-2 minutes. Cooking times for dried pasta will vary according to their shape, quantity of water, boiling temperature, and even by brand of pasta. The pasta's packaging will often offer suggested cooking times. Use this as only a sugPasta Boilinggestion. As you periodically stir the pasta, check for doneness by removing a piece and biting into it. You're probably familiar with the term "al dente" which directly translated means "to the tooth." The cooked pasta should be tender to the bite, yet firm. The al dente point is achieved just when the pasta is done in its center, not a minute longer.  Pasta that's cooked too long will be a mushy mess.

The Finishing - Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.  Remove delicate pasta shapes with a pasta spoon or a mesh skimmer. Drain sturdy pasta either by lifting the cooking basket from the pot, or by pouring the pot's contents into a colander. Don't rinse your pasta after cooking unless it's destined for a cold salad. Unrinsed pasta will retain more of its nutrients and allow the sauce to cling better to its surfaces. Neither should you add oil to the pasta at this point to keep it from sticking. Oiling will keep the pasta from sticking to itself, but it will also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta. Add sauce to the cooked pasta using the reserved cooking water, if necessary, to thin it.Colander

The Serving - Spring and summer pastas may be served hot, warm, or cold - they're quite accommodating! Pasta by nature is bland and craves strong flavors. The cooler the temperature at which the pasta is to be served, the stronger the sauce needs to be. Pasta may be served family style or plated in pasta plates.  Pasta plates are large shallow bowls that organize the sauce appropriately while providing easy access for the deployment of the pasta spoon and a twirling fork.

Pasta Partners
There are a few foods that always seem to show up when pasta appears on the table!  Through years of refinement, these pasta partners are a classic part of the traditional and contemporary experience.Grating parmesan Cheese

Cheese - A shower of grated cheese atop a plate of pasta is the cue to pick up your fork and begin eating. But first, back to the cheese. Hard cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or an aged Pecorino Romano complement many pasta dishes perfectly.  Always keep a chunk of one of these cheeses in your refrigerator, (they keep very well), and grate it as needed. For grating, choose your tool according to the desired outcome.  There are some great new tools for grating cheeses:

Graters - with traditional cutting edges, graters come in different sizes to produce the coarseness or fineness of shredded cheese desired.  A box grater has multiple sides each with its own talent.  We like some of the newer graters with silicone-covered "feet" that protect the working surface.Rotary Grater

Rotary graters - with this style of grater, a crank turns a drum with cutting edges across a chunk of cheese.  The grated cheese falls from the inside of the drum directly on the pasta entrée.

Box GraterPlanes - It's hard to imagine life before Microplanes. As with other grating tools, Microplanes come in a variety of grating sizes.  Microplanes are easy to handle and may be scraped across the food, or the food scraped against the tool. They are indispensable for not only cheese, but for zesting citrus and so much more.

Parmesan Rasps - These tools are designed specifically for hard cheese and result in a very fine grate.

Olive Oil CruetOlive Oil - Pasta demands your best quality olive oil - it will show very well. Always choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil for use in pasta sauces. The fruitiness of the olive oil will blossom in the heat of the pasta producing a delightful fragrance and rich taste.

Fresh Herbs - Spring and summer offer fresh herbs in abundance. Start with whichever herb is in season and develop your signature pasta dish from there. Fresh herbs may be used generously; their potency is much less than dried herbs. It's not too late to plant some herbs for late summer enjoyment. Pick the herbs as the water comes to a boil for ultimate freshness.
Cucina Fresca's Smart Pasta Tips
Sweet BasilTip #1:  Add fresh herbs to the pasta dish just after draining the pasta while it is still hot. The heat will bloom the fragrant oils in the herbs allowing their best side to appear.

Tip #2:  For cold pasta salads, avoid using butter in your recipes - stick with a high quality olive oil. The chill will congeal the butter in awkward places and produce a disconcerting appearance and mouth feel. The olive oil will help keep the pasta from sticking together even at the cooler temperatures.

Tip #3:  Dried pastas should be stored in a dark location. The vitamins that fortify the pasta are light sensitive. Generally, boxed pasta may be stored indefinitely, but plan to use within a year.

Tip #4:  Include a bit of fat and some protein in your pasta complements. This will help balance the body's response to the pasta's carbohydrates and moderate the blood-sugar levels.

Tip #5:  In a hurry? Choose a capellini or another thin-stranded pasta.  It cooks in one to two minutes and is ready for a light sauce. Improvise the sauce with some great gourmet sauces.  Some choices perhaps originally intended for bruschetta or dips, double as great pasta sauces.
Whole Grain Pasta
Tip #6:  Have some fun with a child this summer and renew the craft of macaroni necklaces by using some of the fun, new, pasta shapes for painting, dyeing, and stringing into a delightful "accessory" or two.

Tip #7:  Manufactures of whole grain pastas have been busy perfecting these healthy choices. If it's been a while since you've tried whole grain pasta, it may be time to try it again, they've improved.

Q & A's
Q & A LogoQ:   Why is pasta so satisfying?
A:   The body's response to pasta is to produce serotonin.  Serotonin is a feel-good hormone produced by the body. Pasta's popularity makes perfect sense now!

Q:  Why does it sometimes take longer to cook pasta?
A:  Pasta may take longer to cook when there's stormy weather. It has to do with atmospheric pressure which drops during bad weather. The lower pressure means water boils at a temperature lower than the standard 212°F. The lower boiling temperature can lengthen the cooking time.

Q:  My pot boils over whenever I make pasta and makes a mess on my stove. How can I prevent this?
A:  Pasta requires a rolling boil to cook quickly and as evenly as possible. First of all, make sure to use a pot that large enough to handle a vigorous boil. Secondly, a small amount of oil, just a teaspoon, added to the water will keep the water from boiling over by changing the surface structure of the water.
Microwave Pasta Tool
Q:  Can pasta be prepared in a microwave?
A:   Yes, with the aid of a FastaPasta® container designed specifically for cooking pasta in the microwave. The container and cooking method produces al dente pasta that doesn't stick together or boil over.

Q:  What is the best way to reheat pasta?
A:  Leftover pasta may be reheated easily in a microwave on a plate, or on the stovetop in a pot with a bit of water sprinkled on the bottom. Cover the pasta and allow the water to steam the pasta as it heats to prevent any drying out.

Cookbook Review
Four Seasons Pasta, A Year of Inspired Recipes in the Italian Tradition. by Janet Fletcher with photography by Victoria Pearson. Copyright 2004. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

CookbookThe author combines the best of seasonal eating with all types of pasta, (which is always in season!).  Recipes are placed in an Italian context with enchanting stories of the recipes' origins - Sicily, Tuscany, and all environs in between. We tried several of the recipes each with such success that we were eager to try several more. Each of our kitchen excursions with this book in hand felt like a visit to our favorite trattoria. We loved the overall simplicity of the recipes and marveled at the explosion of flavors that could be had with such naturalness. The book's close-up photography by Victoria Pearson enticed our palate and drove us to the market for the necessary ingredients. Fletcher comes by her success with solid credentials. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America and Chez Panisse, Ms. Fletcher is a food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and a two-time winner of the James Beard Award. Alongside her culinary credentials, Ms. Fletcher makes good use of her Master Gardening skills in creating a year's worth of excellent seasonal eating!

Summer Pasta Recipes
Excerpted from Four Seasons Pasta by Janet Fletcher. Copyright 2004. Used with permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA. All rights reserved.

Asparagus Sauce on PastaPenne with Creamy Sicilian Asparagus Sauce

This pasta and sauce took us by surprise. It was deceptively simple to make and tasted like some chef's exquisite creation. The bright spring green of the sauce was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.  We think there are additional possibilities for adapting this sauce to whatever vegetables are bountiful at the moment.

Click here to view the complete recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

Pasta with Red Pepper SauceDried Ribbon Pasta with Red Bell Peppers and Prosciutto

Red bell peppers have a sweetness in summer that surpasses their green or yellow cousins. The red peppers sauté gently forming a rich medley with the garlic and olive oil.  A bit of prosciutto adds savory richness. The dish comes together with long, ruffled ribbons of mafaldine and flecks of fresh parsley. We were hoping for leftovers, but there were none to be had!

Click here to view the complete recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

Pesto PastaPasta with a Pesto of Almonds, Tomatoes, Capers, Anchovies, Garlic, and Salt

This riff on a traditional pesto produced surprisingly different results. The sauce incorporates the classic flavors of basil and garlic, then takes a different turn with red, ripe tomatoes, almonds, a hint of mint, and some strong pecorino cheese. There's nothing shy about this pesto!  We think you'll love it!

Click here to view the complete recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

Bridal Registry
Wedding season in quickly approaching. Join us in celebrating the engagements and pending nuptials for the following couples registered at Cucina Fresca in 2009:

Jody Gill & Dustin Allen
Wedding Date: June 6, 2009

Andrea Mori and Chad Sestanovich
Wedding Date:  June 20, 2009

Ruth Meyer and Tim Feldman

Wedding Date:  June 27th 2009

Gold Bow
Victoria Nalywaiks and Nicholas Richardson
Shower Date:  June 5th, 2009
Wedding Date:  July 4th, 2009

Korrie Vance and Shaun Hornbarger
Wedding Date:  July 18th 2009

Carrie Kelley and Joe Lostra
Wedding Date:  July 18, 2009

Holly Gilbertson and Brett Hoffman-
Wedding Date:  August 15th 2009 - (Wedding Registry List is available online!)

Enjoy the summer pleasures that lie ahead! Buon appetito!
Gwen Uhlig
Cucina Fresca
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