How To

Advanced Pasta Class at Sprout Creek Farm

by Anne Maxfield on March 26, 2018

Accidental Locavore Tortellini PastaHave you ever wondered how to make stuffed pasta? I’ve made plenty of fresh pasta, but never really ventured past that, into ravioli and tortellini.

I got my chance recently at an “Advanced Pasta” class at Sprout Creek Farm.

Mark, the executive director and chef, lead a trio of us through preparing the dough, cutting it and shaping it into ravioli, tortellini, mezzaluna, etc.

Accidental Locavore Mark Making Pasta DoughWe got a lot of hands-on opportunities to help roll out the dough and then use it to cut and shape all the different stuffed pastas. I never knew that the more you worked the dough through the rollers that it starts to develop a sheen.

Some pasta shapes like ravioli or mezzalunas are pretty easy, but the round tortellini require some practice. We also learned to cut and shape things like rigatoni, which with the help of the handle of a wooden spoon turns out to be super easy.

Accidental Locavore Stuffed PastaWhile you’ve probably always heard about adding the water from the cooked pasta to whatever sauce you’re making to thicken the sauce and help it stick to the pasta, for me it’s always an abstract idea. I’ll occasionally toss in a splash of water from the pasta, with no purpose (which is probably why the results were never spectacular). Mark’s had a lot of experience training in Boston’s North End and has the pasta water/sauce thing down. He took the time and showed us how it worked. The two super-quick sauces he made were great!  They had little in them but pasta, the water, a splash of olive oil or butter some chopped veggies and a sprinkling of cheese. In this case, some of the fine cheeses that Sprout Creek is famous for. The second one was almost the same, but he added a beaten egg and some breadcrumbs in his version of a carbonara. BTW, if you think that adding breadcrumbs to pasta is just loading on the carbs, try it and then thank me in the comments.

Accidental Locavore Pasta Class QuicheBefore class, Mark was kind enough to share his quiche recipe with me. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with anything, or why you’d care. I’d been at an event he catered a few days earlier and was told that I must try the quiche, it was amazing, and it was! By far, the best quiche I’ve ever had. So, it was great that he shared his recipe (technique really) and will have to give it a try. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Since the class, whether it’s just laziness, lack of motivation or dealing with too much snow and downed trees, I haven’t made pasta or quiche, but not to worry, it will be on the menu soon!




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How to: Pick Tomatillos

by Anne Maxfield on January 27, 2012

Accidental Locavore Tomatillos - CopyThe Accidental Locavore shows you what to look for in choosing tomatillos. Tomatillos should be smooth, firm and bright green in color. Avoid any that are shriveled or have soft spots. Unlike their tomato cousins, they’re fine refrigerated. To use them, peel off the papery skins and rinse well. Try them in my tomatillo salsa.



How to Pick Lettuce

by Anne Maxfield on August 18, 2011

Accidental Locavore LettuceWhile there are many different varieties of lettuce, picking good lettuce is pretty universal. Look for unblemished heads, with no brown or rust colored spots. Pick heads that are tightly packed and heavy in the hand. Make sure lettuce isn’t wilted and that it doesn’t have any slimy leaves (especially important with mesclun). Use a crisper lettuce like romaine or iceburg to use with more assertive, creamier or richer dressings and as a sandwich or burger topping. Softer lettuces like Boston, bibb or mesclun (pronounced may-cloon, not mescaline), need a lighter vinaigrette. Bibb and Boston lettuces make a great wrapper for food like chicken salad.

Wash all lettuce thoroughly, there’s nothing worse than gritty lettuce, and dry it on a towel or in a salad spinner. Store it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. If you’re curious about the best storage for lettuce, check out my test of various bags.



How to Pick Corn

by Anne Maxfield on August 9, 2011

Accidental Locavore Fresh CornThere is a lot to love about summer, and corn and tomatoes have to be at the top of the list. What should you look for when picking out corn? First of all, never buy already husked corn and don’t husk it or peel back the husk at the market. There’s no need, you just make a mess and you’re removing the corn’s protective wrapper. The husk should be green, tight fitting and fresh looking, it should look moist and not dried out at all. The silk at the tip will range from a light to a dark brown. Corn loses sweetness quickly, so only buy what you can eat right away. Store it in its husk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If you have extra corn that you’re not going to eat in time, just cut it off the cob, put it in a freezer container (I use a zipper bag) and put it in the freezer.

How to cook corn:Accidental Locavore Corn on the Cob

  • Grill it. Keeping it in it’s husk (you can remove the silk if you want, but it’s not necessary) just toss it on a hot grill. When it starts to get nice and brown, about 5 minutes, turn it. Keep cooking until the husk is brown all over, about 15 minutes total.
  • Microwave it. Trim off the top and bottom of the corn and peel off all but the last two layers of husk. Microwave for 2 minutes per ear depending on the strength of your microwave and number of ears. This works best for 1-4 ears of corn.
  • Boil it. OK, now you can husk the corn, drop it in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  • For special effects points: when the corn is cooked and shucked, fire up a blowtorch and “brulé” the kernels until they’re dark brown. It makes the corn taste sort of like popcorn and impresses your guests.