The fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious. It greatly resembles in appearance the largest size celery, perfectly white, and there is no vegetable equals it in flavour. It is eaten at dessert, crude, and with, or without dry salt, indeed I preferred it to every other vegetable, or to any fruit
~Thomas Jefferson

If fennel is good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it is good enough for you…and for gracing your pizzas, bruschettas, crostinis and tarts and for nestling up to your roasted or grilled meats, poultry, fish and so on and so forth.

Jefferson was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, author, architect, musician, naturalist, zoologist, botanist, farmer, bibliophile, inventor, wine conoisseur, and mathematician…and in his spare time was the President of the United States, Vice President, Secretary of State, Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, and founder of the University of Virginia. Oh, and he wrote the Declaration of Independence. What have we accomplished this week?

It is self evident that Jefferson sallied forth to pursue the eclectic and exotic in all facets of his public life (and private dalliances, too).

Much like with garlic, braising and roasting causes fennel to undergo an almost radical transformation. The sometimes intense and lingering licorice flavor of raw fennel softens and cedes to much more voluptuous, sweet, nutty and herbal aromas and flavors with the bulb’s characteristic crunch turning soft and silky. See Beet & Fennel Salad—Undeservedly So

BRAISED FENNEL

4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut into 1 1/2″ wedges
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 C dry white wine
3/4 C chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Over medium low, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Lay fennel wedges in the pan. Saute until golden on the bottom, about 8 minutes, then turn and repeat on the other side. If necessary, brown in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the fennel in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the wine and chicken broth, transfer the dish to the oven, and braise until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove and season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

ROASTED FENNEL

3-4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut lengthwise, then into 1/2″ slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400

Coat fennel with olive oil with hands, season with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Arrange fennel in dish and roast for 30-40 minutes, until the fennel softens and begins to caramelize.

Fútbol & Food

June 24, 2009

Football is a matter of life and death, except more important.
~Bill Shankly, English football manager

A sports aside which readily segues into a passion for food. Soccer (well, “football”), is a sport that has long feed deep ardor across the globe. While European and South American teams have traditionally held sway, every other continent has joined the competitive fray at a high level.

What does this have to do with food? Maybe, soccer demands patience, entails technique, sometimes develops slowly, often places a premium on simplicity, differs in style by culture, and has an avid (even zealous) following everywhere. And, just think of the culinary cauldron stirred by the medley of cultures represented by the World Cup attendees and their loyal, sometimes rabid, devotees. Chinese, French, Korean, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, Central American, Brazilian, Argentine, Indian, Middle Eastern, African…simply some of the greatest cuisines known to civilization (and that is an embarassedly short list).

Today, a soccer shocker with some reverberation occurred.  A  United States team, which was believed to be vastly outclassed, stunned a magnificently skilled Spanish squad, 2-0, in the Confederations Cup semifinals. An improbable, yet exhilirating upset. Granted it was not the World Cup, but it remains a striking accomplishment—a United States men’s team reaching the final of a significant international tournament. Of course, I was elated, but that does not diminish my respect for the supremely talented Spaniards who remain one of the favorites to vie for the World Cup championship next year. Little doubt that Spain will be back, but also that the United States unit gained some needed team tread going forward.

Even though in the end, the Spanish players left the field so frustrated the customary exchange of jerseys was dispensed with, it only seems fair to serve up some regional Spanish tapas to the vanquished. Both teams were ultimately gracious in defeat and victory. Over a post game meal, let them lick some wounds, and allow the American squad regale in their triumph with some bubbly and good grub too.

CHICKEN WITH FRUIT & NUTS

5 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into a 2 or 3 pieces each
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 Vidalia onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced thinly

12 dried apricots, halved
4 Mission figs, halved
4 dried prunes, halved
2 T raisins
6 T pine nuts
2 cinnamon sticks
Thyme sprigs
4 T brandy
1 C sweet white wine

2 C chicken stock
Chopped fresh herbs

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and place them in the pan. Sear until lightly brown, a couple of minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.

Add the garlic to the pan and cook until just before brown, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the onions. Cook until the onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes. Do not let them fully brown.

Add the dried fruits, nuts, cinnamon sticks, thyme sprigs and brandy. Cook until the brandy is reduced by half. Add the wine and cook until the sauce thickens to coat the spatula, less than 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock, stir, and continue cooking until it forms a sauce. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.

In probability theory and statistics, standard deviation is often used to measure the variability or dispersion of a population…sort of  “the arithmetic mean of the mean.”   To solve for population standard deviations:

  standard_deviation_population

Algebraic variables deliberately ignored and aside, I embrace diversity (even kind aberrations)…and conversely tend to mildly loathe homogeneity. So, in an arena where sadly sameness is too often the rapt intent—where homage is paid to the perfect societal mean—finding a venue where variation rules is comfort food. Our downtown city market is that place for me (locally at least).

A feast of old, young, tall, short, skinny, rotund, bubble butted, flat tushed, long haired, close cropped, brown cow eyed, azure blued, perfumed, pregnant globed, stroller pushing, inked, pierced, bearded, shaven, rural, urban, exotic, banal, yellow, brown, mahogany, white, thai, latin, african american, phillipine, shorts, jeans, short skirts, flowing sundresses…all hues, shapes and sizes converging to eye, buy and sell fresh produce, hoofed and feathered meats, free range eggs, organic honey, trinkets, etc.  And all the while, of course, there is even gandering, leering and ogling at one another.  The market is just an engrossing cultural and linguistic tapestry, teeming with an array of sights, scents, flavors, sensations and sounds.

Thanks, all…home hewn Father’s Day pizzas will be strewn with your bounty save for some confit de canard recently imported from a market far away but soul-close.

A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.
~Laurie Colwin

A curious word for a dish: flognarde. Sounds like some form of physiological aberration or flagelum, even a particular variety of birch rod. But, I do like the way it rolls off the tongue. The “gn” like oignon, agneau or bagnoire followed by the letter “r” which is arguably one of the more difficult consonants to properly articulate in the French tongue.

Last weekend I learned that heirlooms will be making their seasonal opening act at the local farmers’ market on Saturday. That not only brought a smile, but it signaled the beginning of a long stretch of culinary ecstasy and sounded a change in daily eating habits. While we do lack an ocean or mountains—something that becomes unnerving at times—we do have a tomato season which is worthy of worship.

Handed down for generations, Cherokee Purples, Green Zebras, Brandywines et. al.,…these tomatoes are heirloom plants, which are open pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivars. Heirloom varieties have been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but were eschewed by modern agribusiness. The relatively recent revival of these jewels at city markets has been nothing less than a blessing. They possess a rich tapestry of colors, coupled with a diversity and depth of flavors that is tough to match in the food world.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO FLOGNARDE

2 lbs ripe multihued heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded, peeled and quartered
3 large organic, free range eggs
2 large organic, free range egg yolks
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1/3 C gruyère, grated
1/3 C parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 t fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
1 t fresh thyme, stemmed and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F

Drain the tomatoes on paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Make sure they are fully free of juices before proceeding. In a bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolks, cream, and half of the cheeses and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk together. Layer the tomatoes in a baking dish, then cover with the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and herbs.

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
~Albert Einstein

Albert was da bomb.

AGLIO e OLIO

1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguini
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t crushed hot pepper flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T chopped parsley
Parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano (optional)

Heat water in a large heavy pot to a boil and liberally add salt. Cook the spaghetti until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet along with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic first begins to change color toss in the drained spaghetti, salt, black pepper, and parsley. Lightly grate with the cheeses (optional and contrary to tradition).

Pourboire: to alter matters more, consider tossing the pasta with drained, rinsed and dried capers then top with a boiled egg cut into quarters or eighths.

Soupe Au Pistou

June 13, 2009

So, how do you grant shrift to spellbinding Provence? Note to Will: brevity is not always the soul of wit (whit).

Simply identify it as Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm, a region of southeastern France? In a droning museum voice name it as a host to Paleolithic sites dating to 900,000 B.C? Call it home to a permanent Greek settlement called Massalia, established at modern day Marseilles in about 600 B.C. by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, on the Aegean coast in modern Turkey)? Christen it the first Roman province outside of Italy? Baptize it as the “annex” of the formerly Italian Roman Catholic papacy which moved to Avignon in the 14th Century? Title it an abode to the souls of Cézanne, van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso? Or just not so blandly classify it as a region that comprises the départements of Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône and parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes?

So many missteps, so much left out. Such is the construct of a blog. But, beyond cavil or retort, Provence and Italy are viscerally intermingled. Consider something as simple as pizzas or the subtle difference between pesto vs. pistou. Sans pine nuts, they are still divinely intertwined.

Soupe au pistou is a more than memorable Provençal soup that is brimming with summer garden bounty…gifts from friends at the market. Thanks, John, et al.

Footnote:
see I am Sam, Sam I am, infra for pesto.

SOUPE AU PISTOU

1/2 C dried lima or white beans
Bouquet garni I: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlics, peeled and minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pistou:
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Pinch of sea salt
3 C fresh basil leaves, washed
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
3 medium leeks, white part only, cut lengthwise, then into thin half rings
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced (almost shaven)

2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into half discs
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Bouquet garni II: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 C diminutive pasta such as ditalini, conchigliette or acini di pepe

1 C freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano
1 C freshly grated gruyère

Rinse beans and remove any imperfections. Place the beans in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Set aside for 1 hour. Drain the beans.

In a large, heavy saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic and bouquet garni. Cook over medium heat until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and stir to coat with oil and garlic. Cook an additional minute, then add 1 quart of water. Stir, then cover, bring to a simmer and cook approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard bouquet garni I. Set beans aside.

Meanwhile, combine garlic, salt and basil in a food processor or blender or a mortar and process in bursts to a paste. Drizzle in olive oil in a thin, continuous stream while processing. Stir to blend well. Set the pistou aside.

In a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the leeks, onions, and garlic over low heat and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Do not brown or burn. Add the carrots, fennel, potatoes, and bouquet garni II to the pot, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Now, add the beans and their cooking liquid, the zucchini and tomatoes, along with 2 quarts of water to the pot. Simmer gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes.

Add the pasta and simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Stir in half of the pistou and half of the cheese.

Serve soup, passing remaining pistou and cheeses at the table.

RICE WITH LEMON & PINE NUTS

2 1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C white wine

1 1/2 C long grain rice

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 dried bay leaves

2 lemons, grated for zest
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 C pine nuts, toasted

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a heavy sauce pan and add rice until it turns translucent. Add the stock, wine, salt, pepper and bay leaves, and bring to a vigorous simmer, then cover tightly, reduce to low and cook for about 20 minutes. Do not uncover the pan during the cooking process. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes, still covered. The rice is done when small dimples appear on the surface, sometimes called “fish eyes.” Discard bay leaves, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice and toasted pine nuts. Serve.

There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet (scene V)

Why is fennel such a neglected child? A culinary tragedy of sorts.

It seems incongruous that this versatile perennial herb always warms the bench in cooks’ imaginations…especially given fennel’s illustrious past. In Greek mythology, the wily titan Prometheus smuggled fire to humans inside the hollow wand of a fennel stalk. The decisive battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the Persians (490 BC) was allegedly waged on a plain covered in wild fennel. Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder lauded its medicinal properties, and had numerous herbal remedies linked to fennel. The almost omnipotent medieval king, Charlemagne, had fennel cultivated in his garden to serve the household, perhaps to be shared by each of his nine wives. He later regally mandated that fennel be nurtured in every imperial garden. During this era, fennel was used to protect against witchcraft and evil spirits. Later, in the new world, Puritans chewed fennel seeds during church services, calling them “meeting seed.” (Only Puritans would fail to grasp that double entendre, but perhaps Charlemagne was on to something.)

The fennel found in your local market is Florence fennel, or finocchio, which are topped by fragrant, delicate emerald fronds attached to stout stalks that resemble celery. The edible white “bulb” is actually not that at all, but rather concentrated stacked leaves that unpack like the base of a celery stalk.

You are not alone if you have never cooked with fennel, but I implore you to re-evaluate. Fennel has a subtle flavor that is enticing enough solo, but it also blends well and enhances the flavors of nearby foods. It is eaten raw (often shaven), sautéed, steamed, braised, roasted and grilled with a whole host of food mates—a versatile one.

BEET & FENNEL SALAD WITH CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

6 medium beets
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 T organic honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T orange juice
1 T grapefruit juice
Sea salt
1/4 t lemon zest
1/4 t orange zest
1/4 t grapefruit zest

1/2 C hazelnuts, roasted and chopped

1 fennel bulb, quartered and cored
1 C frisée, torn in pieces
1 C watercress

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim ends off beets and rinse. Arrange them in a baking dish, lightly splash them with water, and cover tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Allow beets to cool uncovered, then peel using a paper towel. Cut into wedges, put them in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil, then toss.

In the meantime, wash and dry greens and carefully shave the fennel quarters on a mandoline or slicer.

In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, white wine vingar, honey, citrus juices, and a pinch of salt. Allow to rest and macerate while grating the citrus for zest and preparing the hazelnuts. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the bowl while whisking constantly and then stir in the zests and hazelnuts to complete the vinaigrette. If necessary, add salt to taste.

In a large wooden bowl, gently toss beets, fennel, and frisée and watercress in vinaigrette to lightly, but thoroughly, coat. (The French believe it takes 33 turns for a salad to be properly dressed.) Drenching a salad with vinaigrette is a cardinal sin which carries a sentence of temporary banishment from the kitchen.

Look, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.
~Fernando Pessoa

Records of chocolate use date back to the pre-Columbian Olmec culture, with evidence of the oldest known cultivation of cacao having been discovered at a site in the Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. Cacao beans from this tree native to lowland, tropical South America were used by the Aztecs to prepare a hot beverage with purported stimulant and restorative properties—with the white pulp around the cacao beans likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. Chocolate was commonly reserved for the upper crust, such as warriors, nobility and priests for its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality. Offered as a drink, this chocolate concoction called xocoatl was also served during religious rites, and the sacred concoction was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Not surprisingly then, legend has it that each day emperor Montezuma II drank 50 golden goblets of frothy, sometimes bitter xocoatl. (Later, the nuns of a Mexican convent quietly made the bitter drink more palatable with the addition of vanilla and sugar.)

The Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, had lavishly praised chocolate in a letter to Charles V of Spain, and brought an ample supply home in his galleons after the cruel conquest and colonization of the Aztec nation which was completed in 1521. He also established a cocoa plantation in honor of the king, and as he explored other tropical lands and islands, he planted cocoa beans in their native soils. It should be said that Cortés was far from a truly romantic hero, noble explorer or munificent soul—rather, he has been roundly accused of open brutality and heinous violence towards the Indians by many historians.

About a century after the Iberian iniation, the Spanish enthusiasm for chocolate was passed to the French court with the marriage of Marie Thérèse, a chocoholic of the first order, to Louis IV in 1660. Here, the drink was considered an aphrodisiac and happily imbibed by the court and members of the wealthy classes. The popular drink was also spread throughout Europe when the Spanish friars carried the beverage with them from monastery to monastery. Originally, the Europeans mixed their chocolate with water, coffee, wine and a number of fermented drinks, as well as with pepper and other spices. Remember, chocolate was only served as a beverage or used as a pastry ingredient until the 19th century, when the bar was invented.

Recent research has linked flavanols, especially epicatechin, to improved blood circulation, heart health and memory in mice, snails and humans. Besides improvements on certain memory tests, researchers also found increased memory function in an area of the brain’s hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, and the entorhinal cortex, which is often impaired in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

These chocolate gems known as “truffles” are meant to mimic the highly prized edible fungi found in France and Italy which fetch such exhorbitant prices. Once the truffles are formed, they are often rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the “dirt” found on the real truffles.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

6 oz quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
2 organic, free range egg yolks, room temperature
2 T heavy whipping cream
1 t strong coffee
1/3 stick butter, cut into small bits

1 t brandy, Grand Marnier, kirsch, rum (optional)

Coatings: quality cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, toasted coconut flakes

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler—a medium size bowl set over a large saucepan with simmering water. Remove bowl from heat, but allow the saucepan to continue to simmer. Add the egg yolks to the melted chocolate, slowly and constantly whisking for a few seconds to avoid curdling. Add the the cream, coffee (and alcohol), then place back over the simmering water for a few seconds until smooth, while constantly whisking. Remove the bowl from the heat again and add the butter bit by bit, whisking after each addition. Once all the butter has been fully assumed, whisk for 3 minutes or so to aerate the mixture. With a rubber spatula, spoon into another medium sized bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for approximately 6 hours.

Place your chosen coatings for the truffles on a plate. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator, and using a spoon, divide the mixture evenly to make small balls. With your hands, form the chocolate into rounds about 1″ to 1 1/4″ in diameter. Immediately roll the truffle in the coating and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Carefully cover and place in the refrigerator until firm.

Basic Pasta Dough

June 10, 2009

Pasta (the Italian word for dough)—from the Latin pasta “dough, pastry cake, paste”, and before the Greek πάστα (pasta) “barley porridge”—has such convoluted origins, that its history demands much more than this brief space allows. In any event, making pasta has been an ancient and time honored tradition.

One of life’s simple pleasures, airy and delicate fresh pasta opens with that slight al dente resistance, but still almost melts in your mouth on the back-end. Whether by machine or hand, the goal is simple: dough with a smooth texture, elastic and pliable, yet sturdy.

BASIC PASTA DOUGH

3 organic free range eggs, beaten
Pinch of sea salt
2 C all purpose flour
Water, as needed

By Machine:

Attach the flat beater to your stand up mixer, then add half of the flour mixture and the eggs, turning to a low speed and mix 30 seconds. Add the rest of the sifted flour mixture and mix an additional 30 seconds, adding sprinklings of water as needed. Variables such as humidity, temperature, egg size and gluten content of the flour will govern water needs.

Note: To test for correct consistency, pinch a small amount of dough together after mixing with the flat beater. If it stays together and not gluing to your fingers, the dough is in good shape. It may be necessary to adjust by adding flour or water to reach the proper harmony.

Exchange flat beater for the dough hook. Again turn to a low speed and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, until a dough ball is formed. Remove dough from bowl and on a lightly floured surface hand knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight hint of stickiness. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap to prevent a dry skin from forming. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before dividing, rolling and cutting.

By Hand:

Mound flour in a bowl or on a large wooden bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and then add the eggs. Using your fingers, begin to blend flour and eggs from the center out, slowly gathering the flour from the perimeter. When the flour and egg are mixed, add a couple drops of water if necessary.

When the dough forms a mass, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and start kneading, using primarily the palms of your hands. Continue kneading for a minimum of 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight hint of stickiness. Form into a ball and wrap dough in plastic wrap. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before dividing, rolling and cutting.

Rolling and Cutting:

Divide the dough, but cutting into 4 pieces, wrapping 3 of them in plastic or covering them with a towel. Flour the dough very lightly then flatten until it is about 1/4″ thick. Set the rollers of the the pasta machine to the widest setting. Feed the dough into and through the machine with your hands. As the flattened dough comes out of the machine, retrieve it gently with your open palm. Avoid pulling the sheets of dough out of the machine; instead allow the pasta to emerge and support it lightly with your hand. Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it slightly with your hands and roll it through again and repeat this process 4 or 5 more times.

If throughout the process the pasta sheets become become too long to work with, cut into two pieces and continue.

Set the rollers to the next thinnest setting and lightly flour the dough, but do not fold. Pass the dough through the machine on each progressive setting until the dough is at desired thinness (usually the next to last or last setting). Repeat the entire process with the remaining pieces of dough.

Let the dough rest on towels or a floured work surface. Use machine to cut into desired shapes or strands.