Finding Zen in a 50-buck pasta maker...

ravioli pressWith all the crap that is happening around the world, it is very important to have some distractions from the misery and chaos to avoid losing ones mind. I am not suggesting burying one's head up to their neck to avoid reality. No, not at all.

I feel that everyone owes society at least some of your attention part of the day. I have friends at both extremes. Some of them haven't a clue about the World around them. They do not read the newspaper. They do not listen to the radio or watch the news on television. I will acknowledge that the bitter global reality is not everyone's cup of tea and that, sometimes, one does need to pull back in order to keep their head on straight. I have friends at the other end of the spectrum that are overly tuned in and take everything that happens everywhere completely to heart.

Not me.

Moderation. That is the secret to sanity. I figure one car bomb, one hurricane, and one plague of locusts a day is sufficient for most followers of current affairs. Don't get me wrong. I believe that the globe is a small place and when one suffers we all suffer. It is just that, as individuals, we can only do so much to make a better world.
If you are a regular reader of the coffeecrew webpage, you are aware that I try and walk a tightrope of achieving balance in the quantity and quality of the news that I pump out. Truth is, one cannot go on and on about coffee endlessly without appearing somewhat limited in scope, not to mention narrow.

The coffeecrew webpage is my form of therapy and catharsis. No, I am not kidding.

This is an outlet for me that helps me achieve balance and zen in an otherwise troubled world.

So what do I do? Obviously drinking coffee and brewing great shots of espresso is NOT the way to achieve calm. I unwind in a variety of ways and the point of this written offering is to offer a bit of insight in how I achieve a clearer state of mind.
One word. Food. No, not so much the eating, because hey, we all eat a few times a day. I get a kick out of researching new recipes and cooking styles and preparing them with my mate.

This weekend, for example, was fresh pasta Sunday. The pasta pick of the day was ravioli and it would turn out to be the first time we were going to use the ravioli template that we bought at one of the fabulous kitchen supply stores around town. Of course we got to haul out the Atlas manual pasta maker for its second use since I bought it for my wife's last birthday this summer.

How tough is it to make great homemade pasta? It is easy. Other than a 50-buck pasta maker, a rolling pin and a well floured surface, the only things you need are practice and patience. A dog-eared cookbook or two would be handy and the perfect cooking mate (four hands make quick work of a chore) would be perfect but that is up to you.

Quick recipe.

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • one bottle red wine

Place your flour on the work surface; marble slab, glass slab, or wooden slab.. or counter top.
Make a well in your flour. What do you mean, "what is a well?" Ah. Spread the flour out that you can have a volcanic pit or crater in the center for dropping in the eggs. Got that?
Sprinkle in your salt. You know, into the flour. Drop in the eggs (less their shells) into the well, volcanic crater.
Work the flour into the eggs with a fork. Incorporate as much of the flour into the eggs. Soon, you will have a ball of dough. There will be some flour left over after you have achieved dough status. No worries. Toss the extra flour aside and get some fresh flour as you will need is as you 'knead' the dough.

Describing how to 'knead' dough is kind of outside the scope of this article. Suffice to say, you will be kneading the dough for ten minutes. In simple terms, kneading involves incorporating flour, breaking up gluten in the flour, folding the dough and working your fists into the dough over and over and over.

Are you beginning to see the potential for therapeutic value here? No? Okay, I suppose you are wondering about the red wine? If pounding your fists into dough does not offer an outlet for your stresses then sipping red wine while you work just might.

While you are sipping on your Pinot noir, the fully kneaded pasta dough should be wrapped in plastic and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes have passed. You are on your second glass of wine and it is now time to divide your pasta into four equal pieces. Grab a piece and make sure the other pieces are safe in plastic. You will find that if you keep everything lightly floured, things will not stick to each other and other stuff. Like the extra pieces that are in plastic, for instance!

Okay! In our next installment, we will run the dough through the pasta maker and talk about what happens next.

Colin Newell lives, works and cooks in Victoria B.C. Canada. He feels that life is too short for fast food.