Polar Bears, Pasta, and Pepper Potato Soup

I was crazy productive in the tundra kitchen today.

Crazy productive.

I’ve come to the conclusion that despite the tiny kitchen in this quonset hut, as long as I have my Kitchen Aid small appliances and as long as Full Circle keeps servicing Barrow, then I’m going to be able to be happy here.

Sure, things like warmer weather and year round sunshine would be nice, too, but you can’t have it all at the top of the world.

I’m lucky for what I’ve got!

The morning started as it always does with my green smoothie (berries, banana, almond milk, pomegranate juice, a handful of spinach, wheat germ, flaxseed, and 6 green supplements). From there I moved on to making kale chips and beet green chips in the oven.  I burned the kale chips, but the kale was wilted anyway and kind of yellow/browned, and I was going to toss them, but I thought I’d try and salvage them.  They were a no-go, but the beet greens, which I baked separately, turned out PERFECT with just a dash of olive oil and a bit of sea salt.  Yum.  I am always surprised when people tell me they throw out beet greens because they are so bitter.  MAKE CHIPS!  MAKE CHIPS!  Guilt-free chips, too, full of Vitamin K and calcium and other good stuff.

Next, I roasted the beets.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but they are in the fridge now, ready to be made into something delicious. I was going to make borscht, but R announced she is no longer crazy about borscht.  I then suggested a salad with goat cheese and walnuts and she grimaced.

She really did.  So the beets are tabled until tomorrow, and she doesn’t turn that frown upside down, then I’m just going to eat them all myself.

Next, I made a dish I call Pasta Liliana because someone named Lillian once gave me the recipe, though I’ve tweaked it over the years.  It’s basically a raw tomato sauce made with blanched tomatoes chopped into a bowl of EVOO, loads of fresh basil, an inadvisable amount of chopped garlic and a hot pepper of some sort.  I used a jalepeno today. Let it sit for a bit at room temperature.  Cook your pasta, and while that’s cooking, chop up a big hunk of fontina cheese.  It has to be fontina.  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve tried this dish a million different ways, and fontina just has that something something that works so well, both texture-wise and flavor-wise.  Make sure the pasta is al dente – overcooking it will ruin this dish.  As soon as you strain your pasta, scoop a couple TBs of the tomato/EVOO mixture on the pasta to lubricate it, then dump the fontina in and stir it around.  Do it quicky.  This part is crucial.  Wait for the pasta to cool down, and the chunks of cheese won’t melt.  Then, once the cheese is stirred in, add in the rest of the raw pasta sauce.  The heat of the noodles warms the sauce and continues to melt the cheese, and OMG this dish is DIVINE.  It’s best, I’ve found to use a noodle with some texture that will scoop up the little drips of sauce and cheese.  A rotini or fusili is best.  Spaghetti or fettucine are not so good because there is nowhere for the sauce and cheese to hang on.

However, I’m in Barrow, Alaska, and beggers can’t be choosers, and I had a box of some crappy store bought spaghetti on the shelf, and that’s what I used.  The sauce was great, but I couldn’t help but thinking to myself, “What a waste of fresh basil!”

Let’s face it.  No matter how good your sauce is, no matter how fresh your ingredients, crappy pasta can ruin any dish.

So I called a friend to come over and we made a batch of fresh pasta with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sometimes I do things out of order.  I have the KPEX attachment set that makes ravioli and some flat noodles and spaghettis, but I still don’t have the KA Pasta Press Attachment (This is at the top of my Xmas list, by the way) to make rigatoni or fusili or some other fun shapes.  So we made a little of everything because my friend’s hubby likes an assortment of noodles in his bowl, she said.  Cool beans.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Recipe:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 T EVOO
  • a bit of salt.

Put everything in the stand mixer and mix it up good for a minute.  Switch to the dough hook to get it into a ball, and then put on your mixer’s roller attachment.  Pinch a bit of the dough ball off (not too much or you get pasta that is way too long to handle), and flatten into a patty with your hand.  Put a bit of flour on either side to keep it from sticking to the rollers.  Run through the roller a few times at the widest setting, and then tighten the roller, fold the dough, and run it again through the next setting a few times.  Repeat this until you are at the desired thickness. The pasta gets longer and longer, so you have to be careful the thinner it gets that you don’t let it rip. Love your pasta.  Play gently.  When you’ve got what you want, lay the strip down on a lightly floured surface and then lightly flour the top, too.  It’s probably too long to put all the way through, so cut it now to the desired length.  Remove the roller, put on the pasta cutter of your choice, and run the sheet through.

Hang on the drying rack.  The pasta can go right into the boiling water when you’re done.  It only needs a few minutes to boil (the thinner it is, the less time it needs).

After my friend left and I cleaned up, I started on dinner.  Not pasta – despite having good fresh stuff on the rack, I had the yucky boxed stuff for lunch and didn’t want pasta twice today, plus R wanted soup, so I made a roasted red pepper potato soup.

Soup in the blender

Recipe:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 red potatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • cayenne
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper to taste

First, put the red pepper under the broiler.  While that’s getting charred as all get out, chop up the onion and the garlic and potatoes.  I didn’t peel them, but I scrubbed them well.

Put 1 T butter in a big pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the onions. Give them a few minutes on their own, and then add the garlic, and then the potatoes.  Turn the heat down.

Check out that red pepper.  Is it done?  Is it black and beautiful?

Peel off the skin, remove the seeds, cut it up, and add it to your pot.  Turn the heat back on and stir the red pepper in.  Add 4 C of veggie broth (I cheat and add 4 C of water and 4t of Veggie Base), and simmer with the cover on until the potatoes are softened.

Put the mixture in the blender and puree it, and then add your cayenne and salt and pepper to get the desired spiciness.

Voila.  The soup is done.  And it’s delicious.  If you like more heat (we always do), I’d recommend adding a jalapeno or habanero back in the beginning when the garlic goes in.  I didn’t think of it, which is silly as I have a bunch of peppers just getting redder and redder and redder and they need to get used before they are no longer legal.

I’m not sure what I’m making tomorrow, but I’m craving scones or another fruit crumble.  I’ve been on a fruit crumble kick lately, and I’ve made about 3 this week, perfecting my recipe.  I’ll let you know when I’ve got it just right!

I’m not sure what it is about living on the tundra, but boy, do I have an appetite lately.  It could be the wide expanses in every direction I look, or it could be the fact that I’m marathon training and my runs are at their apex right now.

It could also be the fact that there’s not a whole lot else to do besides cook and worry about polar bears.  The sea has been rough and there were 3 bears in town today.   Until the water calms down again, they won’t go back to sea.  Since the weather looks rough for the next few days, that means I’ll probably be doing a lot of cooking in the interim.

Ah…life on the tundra never tasted so good.

Advertisements