October 30, 2020

7 Tips for Making Barista-Quality Coffee at Home


These days more and more of us are spending time at home, and we don't all necessarily have a great barista around the corner. Now our homes are the hub of life: work, play, education, exercise, you name it, and it probably happens at home.

Therefore, if you are craving your favorite barista-style coffee, follow these tips, and get brewing! You'll be able to make delicious brews for the whole family or keep these secrets to yourself.

You will need a grinder and a method for brewing your coffee (like the ones here: https://unocasa.com).

#1 Buy the best quality coffee you can

Quality definitely matters with coffee. You want to invest in a grinder so that you can buy the whole beans. Why? Because the oils that the beans exude when ground are delicious in your coffee. The longer the beans have been ground, the more oils have evaporated into the air. You want them in your brew!

If you have a local coffee roaster in your area who can grind the beans for you, you can skip this step. But if you really want the very best tasting coffee, grind it yourself.

#2 How and when you grind matters

When looking for a coffee grinder, get one that will give you consistent results. The most pricey is a burr grinder (as opposed to a blade grinder). Burr grinders use two abrasive surfaces that revolve against each other to grind the beans and are preferred by baristas to provide superior tasting coffee.

If the best you can afford is a hand grinder, not to worry. You will get better results with a hand grinder than you would if you bought previously ground coffee in the supermarket!

Aim for a medium to medium-fine grind. If you grind the beans too coarsely, your coffee will be weak. Too fine of a grind will give you a bitter coffee, so aim for the 'middle ground'.

Once coffee has been ground, it starts to lose its flavor as the oils evaporate, and the ground beans are more susceptible to moisture.

Therefore, the best time to grind coffee is right before you drink it.

#3 Measure accurately, and store carefully

By measuring accurately, you'll have a better chance of consistent results. Use a teaspoon or other measuring spoon rather than a coffee scoop.

As for storing any unused coffee, the best way to ensure maximum flavor if you don't want to grind coffee daily is to grind 5-7 days' worth at a time and then store it at room temperature. Do not put your ground coffee - or even your coffee beans - in the refrigerator. Ever see coffee beans in the fridge at your local coffee shop? No.

#4 Use good water and clean equipment

The quality of the water for your coffee matters. If your water tastes strongly of chlorine, use bottled or filtered water. And always use cold water and bring it to a boil.

Keep your equipment clean, too. Otherwise, the oils in the coffee that remain in your equipment can leave a bitter taste in your next batch of coffee.

#5 Use the right temperature

You want a temperature between 90°C and 96°C for brewing coffee. You don't want to pour in water that's still boiling because it will extract the coffee's bitter compounds and it will end in your coffee! Once your water has boiled, let it cool for a minute or two.

Avoid reheating your coffee or keeping it on a hot plate for too long, as those are other causes of bitter coffee.

#6 Choose your brewing method

How you brew your coffee matters, and the method you choose depends on your lifestyle and personal taste.

If you are someone who enjoys the process of brewing coffee and wants to have complete control over the process, then you'll like the pour-over method.

The pour-over method is when you pour hot water slowly and evenly over your coffee grounds in a paper or other filter type. The coffee then drips slowly into a pot underneath the filter.

If you like convenience, you might want to use a drip coffee kettle or machine. Some of these have timers that you can set to brew your coffee just before waking up in the morning. These machines simply require you to put in the coffee and the water and press a button.

Another option is using the Italian moka coffee maker - there are many ways to prepare your morning cup of coffee.

#7 Steam your milk like the pros do

It's easy to steam your milk yourself - just get an electric milk frother. Otherwise, you can put your milk in a jar and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds (use low-fat milk for best results).

Were these tips helpful? Let me know in the comment section below.


Happy brewing!


September 17, 2020

Update!

Ciao! Hi there!, 

You may have noticed that I haven't spent a lot of time on this website. That's partly because I have been

busy creating almost daily content for Facebook and Instagram...Yes, and because the Coronavirus put a stop to my business at the end of February, I decided to open a YouTube channel, too. 

A bit much, perhaps but it is a way to hopefully keep teaching, which I love. But learning to make decent videos has been challenging, although I believe I am at a good point with my latest "How to make Green Pasta" video (did you watch it? what did you think?) Check out my last post (below) to watch the video. 

This website will be completely redone soon! Until the new website arrives, I suggest you follow me on Instagram or Facebook where I post Italian recipes, videos and provide travel and cultural information ALMOST EVERY DAY. 👀

Once the new website is up and running, the website will become the center of my attention once again. 😊

Below you will find the addresses (these are not links) where you can find me and my photos, recipes, and videos about Italy:

Where to find me on Social Media


Feel free to share any of my posts you like with your family and friends. The more, the merrier!

If you have a suggestion, comment, request or question, you can write under any of my posts. I personally read all of them. 

I look forward to connecting with you on social media!

Ciaoooo! Maribel

 

 

 

 

The BEST Summer Pasta Dressing with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Sheep’s Cheese

This is such an amazing pasta dressing! 


This pasta dressing explodes with Mediterranean flavors! It reminds me of sunny Puglia in southern Italy and its amazing Mediterranean vegetables. It has juicy, tasty tomatoes; mild aubergines/eggplants, some chili peppers and garlic, lots of fresh basil, wonderful, savoury seasoned ricotta (ricotta salata) and fresh, fruity olive oil from Puglia. Its perfect for meatless Mondays or vegetarian days. I promise you won't miss the meat!

It is equally delicious with handmade fresh egg pasta or dry, hard wheat pasta.

With Egg Pasta Farfalle

With Hard Wheat Rigatoni


I suggest reading through the entire recipe and my notes before cooking this. I recommend seeking out the “sweet” variety of aubergines/eggplants which are either striped (violet and white), all white, or violet with white tinges by the stem area on the outside and completely white on the inside. These varieties do not require salting to remove bitterness because they are not bitter. 

It is not necessary to cook the tomatoes, specially on a hot day. Raw tomatoes that are ripe and tasty are wonderfully refreshing and also give you a nice variation on this dish.

Ricotta salata is a dairy product from the Puglia region of Italy. Although we treat ricotta salata like a cheese, it is technically not a cheese but a dairy product. It is made from the whey left over after making cheese with, usually, sheep’s milk. The whey is cooked a second time, thus giving it its name; ricotta literally means cooked twice or cooked again. It is less fatty and much less caloric than cheese. Ricotta salata literally means salty ricotta and while it tastes somewhat salty, its main characteristic is that it is hard because its been seasoned for 30 days and lost up to 50% of the water regular fresh ricotta has. 

If you cannot source ricotta salata you can substitute it with Pecorino Romano (hard sheep’s cheese from Rome) or good quality Greek Feta cheese (made with either sheep or goat or a blend of the two). While these two cheeses have different consistencies, they both confer the tasty sharpness required in this dish.


Aubergines, tomatoes, garlic, basil and ricotta salata

RECIPE

Serves 4 persons as a first course or 3 as a single course meal. 

Ingredients

1 -2 cloves garlic, peeled

1-2 dried hot Italian peppers (pepperoncino)

12-16 sweet cherry tomatoes (see notes)

600g or 2 medium sized sweet aubergine/eggplants

a large bunch fresh basil

100/3.5 oz grams of Pecorino Romano cheese, Ricotta salata or very good quality Feta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil for cooking

Excellent quality extra virgin olive oil to finish  

350 grams of hard wheat pasta or fresh egg pasta. A short shape with some sort of cavity is ideal such as rigatoni, orecchiette (little ears), bowties or garganelli.

NOTE: Keep in mind that hard wheat pasta takes longer to cook than fresh egg pasta. Fresh Egg pasta takes between 2-3 minutes for flat types and up to 5-7 minutes for fresh stuffed pastas while dry hard wheat pasta can take up to 15 minutes, check package directions for exact time.

Procedure

Prepare all the ingredients as follows and set aside, each in its own bowl or dish: 

Wash, dry and cut aubergines/eggplants into bite sized cubes,

Wash cherry tomatoes and cut into small bites sized pieces, 

Grate cheese, I like to grate in the larger holes of the grater,

Rinse and dry basil. Tear up the basil into small piecesith your hands. 

Ready to cook

Take a non-stick skillet and drizzle with a bit of regular olive oil (extra virgin but not the expensive stuff). 

Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife, remove its green germ and immediately place in the skillet with the the olive oil. 

Crush the hot peppers directly into the olive oil. 

NOTE: Wash your hands immediately because anything you touch will sting (eyes, mouth, nose)!

Warm the skillet over med-low heat and as it cooks the garlic will begin to become golden (do not let it brown though - that would be a different flavor profile). Once it is golden you may remove it as its done its job of flavoring the olive oil. 

At this point add the aubergine/ eggplant and raise the heat to med-high, stirring regularly to prevent it from sticking. This step requires frequent turning over the cubes of aubergines to ensure it cooks evenly. 

NOTE: Do not add extra olive oil because the eggplant will absorb the oil and then it becomes a heavy dish. If necessary, lower the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling add some coarse salt (never add oil to the water).  If using packaged pasta, add it now and check package directions for cooking time. 1

After the aubergines are almost cooked (see note below), add the cut tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Salt lightly and lower the heat.

NOTE: The Aubergines are done when the exterior is opaque white and/or browned. You could also put a toothpick or knife through it to test it. If it goes through without resistance, it is done. 

Cook your pasta in boiling salted water. Drain when cooked (taste to test doneness). 

Time to assemble the dish

Immediately toss pasta with aubergine/eggplants and tomatoes. Toss well.

Then add the grated cheese and hand-torn basil and toss some more. 

Add a generous drizzle of high quality olive oil and toss thoroughly. 

NOTE: The tossing between prevents the ingredients from clumping together. 

You may add extra cheese to each individual plate. Serve immediately and enjoy!


All recipes and comments are by Maribel Agulló except where expressly attributed to others.

Do not publish or distribute the recipes without previous, written consent.

September 10, 2020

How to Make Green Pasta Naturally, the Italian Way!


Making natural green colored pasta is traditional in many parts of Italy. In the Emilian part of the Emilia-Romagna region (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Ferrara and most of the metropolitan city of Bologna) spinach and young swiss chard is used to color the dough. 

In the Ligurian region and lower part of the Piedmontese region (the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo) borrage is used to color the dough green.

In the spring, these as well as other fresh pasta making regions use young and tender nettle leaves to give their dough a natural green color.

Remember that one of the founding principles of Italian cooking is that people cooked with what they had readily available: so it was ALWAYS fresh, local and seasonal. Cooking this way also makes it more tasty, more nutritious, less costly and sustainable. That's a win-win for everyone! 

While I do provide quantities, it really is up to you: it depends on your personal preference. Generally we use 100g of fresh spinach or young swiss chard leaves per every 100g of flour, plus one egg. If using frozen greens, use 30g of frozen spinach or young swiss chard leaves per 50g of flour.

If using fresh borrage or nettle leaves, plan on using 50g of fresh leaves for every 100g of flour plus one egg. 

The amounts in ounces are as follows:

100g =3.5oz

50g = 1.76oz

30g= 1oz

25g = .88oz

Serving size: plan on one 100g of flour per person. When making green dough, have an extra 50-60g of flour on hand, just in case it is needed. See notes below. 

PROCEDURE

1. Before you use the vegetable, you must wash it, cook it and remove as much water as possible. 

2. Then you mince it, either by hand with a knife or in a food processor. If using a food processor, you get better results if you add the eggs in as well.

3. You make a well and add the egg and minced vegetable. 

4. Work in the flour a bit at a time, proceeding as you normally would when making fresh pasta.

5. Keep adding flour until you obtain a nice and bouncy ball of dough. 

**It is of utmost importance to have more flour than you think you might need on hand because the cooked vegetable adds some moisture to the dough and you will need to add flour to the dough until you have a nice and bouncy ball of dough. It is practically impossible to know beforehand exactly how much flour you'll need. I like to keep about 60g extra on hand per every egg's worth of dough I'm preparing.  **

6. The dough should rest at least 30 minutes at room temperature; if you can't roll it immediately after, then refrigerate and let it come to room temperature before rolling out.

You will find detailed information about working with dough, kneading and rolling with the pasta machine  in the video below. Remember to subscribe so you won't miss my new videos. 



green pasta dough, green pasta, natural green dough