A Little Bit about Birthdays and Food

So yep, a birthday happened here. This week, I turned 49. Age doesn't bother me--I guess I figure I've earned every one of these years or something. Still n' all, it often surprises me to think, "Oh. I'm 49. How did that happen?"

I'd rather have reached 49 than the alternative. Thus, no hiding my age or being coy or cagey here. It is what it is, and I've had a great 49 years. Looking forward to the rest!

(For those of you reading this through feed readers or email, there's a photo gallery that appears here with controls for sliding photos back and forth. You may not see it in feeds and may need to check the website version.)

This year for my birthday, I did a cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center and invited a few family members to join me. There were eight of us: me and my husband, my son and daughter, my nephew, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend.  You work in pairs, so I paired with my daughter, my husband was with my mother-in-law, my son and nephew worked together, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were a pair. I went with eight as that's the number to fully surround one island in the classroom (four stations of two people each at every island). Everyone cooks their own dishes, but then you can share around the island--or even through the classroom--as you may choose. (The gallery shows my family and everyone's dishes--my son and nephew brought in a ringer and a chef-in-training did their plating for them. You can tell.)

I've taken several classes there before and have blogged about them in the past (here's one, and here's one, and here's one with a recipe I learned at a class, and here's another one). My favorite is the Farmer's Market class, so that's the one I chose for my birthday celebration. You start out by meeting at the Farmer's Market in the town where the institute is located, and the chef talks you through the process, lets you know what proteins and pantry items are available at the institute, and then gives you a portion of your registration fee back in cash and sets you loose on the vendors. You make up your meal plan as you go, making use of the chef as consultant as needed. My daughter and I were partners since she's a vegetarian and I was game to go meat-free, and we decided it would be fun to learn how to make pasta. I've looked into doing it in the past, but had never taken the dive. What better time, though, than when surrounded by chefs and culinary students?

DD and my ravioli

DD and my ravioli

And now I'm hooked.

I made the ravioli, and my daughter made the sauce. She riffed off a sauce she sometimes makes at home--also with no recipe. (My daughter has developed my love for free-wheeling cooking. Recipe? We don't need no stinkin' recipe.)

We filled the ravioli with a mixture of risotto, arugula (we wanted spinach but there wasn't any at the market--at this time of year? Really?), and garlic. The sauce has roasted red peppers--and she roasted those peppers too--tomato, onion, garlic, and fresh basil. Then we sprinkled some of the arugula over the top for pretties. Everyone loved it!

I fell in love. Just like making bread from scratch, there's something so wonderfully elemental about creating your own pasta from the egg up. I immediately started dreaming up all sorts of combinations of ravioli fillings and sauces.

The next day, on Sunday, I made homemade ravioli for a pasta salad for our family celebration (me and my father-in-law share a birthday). Without a pasta maker, I was rolling it out by hand with a rolling pin so it wasn't quite as thin, and I wasn't able to make as many ravioli. So, rather than pasta salad as a side dish, I served it as an appetizer. This time the ravioli was filled with ricotta, roasted red peppers bought from a store, fresh grated parmesan, and garlic; I tossed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and more fresh grated parmesan. Even though the pasta was a little more chewy and thick because my rolling technique was a little rough, people still loved it. And I had a blast.

And so, my husband bought me a pasta maker for my birthday--and a drying rack, and a ravioli mold. The shipment should get here tomorrow. Mind you--this isn't self-serving for him. He doesn't actually like pasta, and he hates gooey cheese (so he's not big on cheese-filled anything). He'll eat it if I make it but it's nothing he'd look forward to. So buying me a pasta maker is truly an act of love on his part. And I'll be giving a lot away.

I also ordered the book Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. It got good reviews; I should get that one later today.

And then, because it was on sale and I'm on fire, I bought a new Craftsy class: Homemade Italian Pasta with Guiliano Hazan.

So...be ready for more pics of pasta to come!