Summer produce is tumbling out of the garden. Zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, okra, corn…and so much more. The chickens are munching on greens and rustling up insects. The boys are crowing and the girls are laying. With all of those eggs, it’s time to get crackin’! Here are some fun and easy recipes to try with your summer bounty.
Pasta – The Real Way!
“You can do it. It’s easy.”
Making pasta is all about feel. You really don’t even need a recipe. Homemade pasta is the queen of all fresh egg dishes. It is just so easy and forgiving, you have to try it! What else are you going to do with all those tomatoes and basil?
Just jump right in and make the dough. Too dry? Add some water. Too wet? Add more flour. Pasta hates to follow rules, and that is just perfect for fancy-free summer cooking. Go ahead and wing it —and around here that really is literal!
2 eggs (your own or a friend’s …see “Note”)
2 cups of flour (white flour, semolina or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
The old-fashioned, traditional method involves a nice cold slab of granite or a wooden board. Dump the flour on the board and mound it up. Push into the center of the mound with your fist and use a circular motion to make a well. Into this well you will add your beaten eggs, egg replacer or water. Pour in the tablespoon of olive oil too.
How it works:
You slowly build the dough by pulling the flour from the well. The well will “break” so you have to be ready to seal any leaks in the dam with the flour. Keep pulling in the flour until the dough forms. The dough is ready when it can be kneaded. It will be sticky. Add more flour so that you can work with it. It should feel like good bread dough. Knead the pasta dough for a few minutes until it is no longer overly tacky. Your kids will LOVE this mixing method.
Less messy method:
While the traditional tabletop mixing is fun, it is quite messy, as all fun things are.
Throw everything into a large bowl and stir. This is so much easier and the results are the same.
The dough needs to rest. Wrap the ball in a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it aside. You can refrigerate it if you want, or if you won’t be using it the same day. The dough needs to take a nap for at least a half hour. If you do not do the nap step the glutens in the pasta will remain in a “resistant” mood. You won’t be able to roll it out. The dough will keep retracting onto itself.
“Oh, cut it out”
You now have dough that can do anything.
Linguine, ziti, lasagna, ravioli, spaghetti, angel hair…
Umm. OK. If you have a pasta maker, do your thing. Grandma did it all by hand.
Cut the ball into 4 pieces. Lightly flour a large board. Roll out the dough until you have a thin square. It should be quite thin. Don’t be shy with the flour.
Let the four pasta sheets air dry. Grandma set towels on the tables for the sheets to dry. Some people even set them on towels over their beds! Clever. Drying time varies by atmospheric conditions. Check for the pasta sheets to be leathery. Too wet? You will go nuts with the sheets sticking. Too dry? They will become brittle.
Take the sheet and fold it over onto itself like you are folding a jellyroll. Take your knife, dip it flour and slice strips (thickness depends on what you want) from the short end of the roll. Toss the strips in flour (light amount of flour). Cook immediately or let dry. The pasta can be frozen in this state.
Lasagna and ravioli will not be folded and cut. Simply cut the lasagna as wide as you want – it will swell and “grow” during cooking.
Fresh pasta cooks very quickly – only a few minutes. Shake off the extra flour and carefully ease the pasta into boiling water (the same amount you would use for dry pasts). The pasta will float to the top. Grab a strip and test for doneness. It should be al dente! Your chickens will ask you what “to the tooth” means.
Meringues – An All Season Favorite
These light as clouds cookies turn any tea, or dessert serving, into something really special. Giving away eggs to neighbors is appreciated – giving away eggs in the form of meringues will be treasured! Chickens love these crispy sweets. Show your birds how special they are by offering a few as a special “thank you” treat. After all, if it weren’t for those chickens, you wouldn’t be making meringues!
Don’t make meringues if it is humid. They will be chewy and won’t bake into flaky crispy cookies. Hint: Make marshmallows instead!
Extras: Add a tablespoon (or more) cocoa powder with the sugar to make chocolate meringues! You can also toss in flaked coconut, nuts or anything else you want to add – like finely chopped mint or lemon balm. Change the vanilla for almond, mint, lemon or maple extracts.
2 egg whites (use week old eggs, fresh eggs do not whip as well)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of cream of tartar (makes the meringues “foolproof”)
1/2 cup of sugar
Set the oven to 225 F. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Add the whites to the bowl. Sprinkle on the cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, whip the whites until frothy. Add half of the sugar and the vanilla extract. Whip until the whites stiffen. Add the remaining sugar. Continue whipping until the whites are shiny and form a stiff peak.
Form the meringue into any shape you like – small cookies, flat sheets, or top a tangy lemon pie! Cooking times will vary based on the shape/thickness of the meringue. For traditional meringue cookies bake them for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the cookies dry inside. Keep an eye on them. Once the cookies are firm to the touch, they will feel chalky, they are ready.
If there is some browning…this tastes even better, giving the cookies a caramelized goodness! Browned meringues are really good.
*Pasta recipe note: If you do not have your own birds and cannot source humane/no-slaughter flocks, replace the eggs with water. You can also use egg-replacer.