flour + egg (& a short venice memoir)

Venice. A small secret keeper that’s always hiding something from you. This tiny lagoon perched on a marsh is complete magic, Luke and I’s favorite little corner of Italy. Venice dances to the low hum of motorboats and the sound of a gondolier's whistle. It’s salt -- smelly, fishy, and wonderful. The community thrives at dusk and turns ghost at dark. I love it's tight corners and alleyways. Stand in the bustle at San Marco Square or turn to head down a vacant, silent alley. Venice is for moxie wanderers… confident there is a place to go, but never knowing exactly where that is.

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After a jam packed start to May, we spent the latter half of the month bouncing around Italy, which included a few days on this sinking island. It was utterly romantic and all too short. I love these images from our time in Venice, possibly my favorite from the whole trip. Venice is a simple reminder that there’s always something more if you just keep walking, one step at a time. For the best of Venice, go here.

We are digging into some uncharted territories of the heart in Cincinnati. This writing. These photos. Our table. One. Step. At. A. Time. I have more space and more quiet than I ever asked for here. Perhaps, space for growing and quiet for listening. There’s more normal, more mundane. I’m sure I could use a bit of it all. There’s a lot to learn here… in the ordinary. Don’t you think?

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My favorite spot in Venice is a hidden bacaro that sits opposite the oldest gondolier workshop in the city. I could stay forever on the edge of the canal with an endless supply of spritz and cicchetti watching the boats come to life. I always wonder if the men that build these boats love what they do — or if it’s just family obligation and Venetian tradition. It's something I will probably never know, but what I do know is this: hands that make are powerful. Stories are seared into them and flow like a river through every crevice, from fingerprints to palms. It’s amazing that ten little fingers that only move from closed to open to closed again can make the meal or build the boat. Two hands. Two movements. We need them both -- open and closed. Open to Christ and closed tight around our neighbors shoulders. For Christ and grace, open palms, but for my husband's hand to hold, closed-tight, finger-interlocking-finger is the only way. For more mercy and more humbling, open hands. For the one in need, grab him fast and pull in tight, closed palm around the arm to help him up. Let's bear each others' load, then give it up to Christ. Carrying the cross, closed palms. Lying on it, open up.

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Below is an unimpressive recipe for pasta dough -- perhaps the simplest thing to come out of our kitchen but, thankfully, quite delicious. It doesn’t always have to be dressed up and fancy. It can be two ingredients, or two movements, open and closed, that make the difference. The general rule for pasta dough is 1 egg per 100 grams of flour, but I'm too scared to try it this way, so our go-to comes from The New England Kitchen by Jeremy Sewall, which adds salt, water, and olive oil to ensure the right elasticity. We probably use this cookbook more than any other one in the kitchen. (Although, Luke often wishes we used his Alinea cookbook for cucumber jelly instead.)  Sewall also has the best pastry dough recipe. We’ve found that his staple recipes just work every single time. You’ll definitely need a pasta roller for this and, if you don't have one, it will probably be the best money you ever spent. (Truly, we throw together homemade pasta on weeknights because of this thing.)

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Luke and I make a whole batch of pasta every few weeks. We split the dough into four separate balls, use two immediately for dinner and freeze two for later. It's a great thing to have on hand when you are in a pinch for dinner and can't make it to the store. If it's frozen, stick the dough in the fridge that morning to thaw. It should be ready to roll out and cut that night. I suppose you could also pre-roll and pre-cut all the dough and freeze it in little spaghetti nests ahead of time, but we've found the dough becomes rather sticky that way and is difficult to separate when boiling.

Pasta Dough from The New England Kitchen by Jeremy Sewall

2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting

Pinch of kosher salt

5 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix thoroughly and make a well in the middle of the flour. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, whole egg, olive oil, and water. Pour the egg mixture into the well of flour. Slowly incorporate the wet and dry ingredients with a fork or spatula until it begins to stick together. If using a stand mixer, transfer dough (it will be quite shaggy) to the mixer and mix for about 5 minutes on a medium setting. If you are mixing by hand, knead the dough for 10-12 minutes... maybe longer. It's best to set a timer when kneading because it takes awhile and can be quite tiring. Eventually your dough should be firm and smooth, but still pliable. I've heard it best described as feeling the same as your earlobe (as weird as that may be). The more you make any type of dough, the easier it will be to understand exactly what it should feel like. You will probably have lots of mistakes at first, but don't give up. Dough performs differently every day. Just knead your dough until it feels like an earlobe. If it feels too wet after the allowed time, add more flour. If it's too dry, add more water. Dough is simple like that, but it's easy to think that it gets more complicated. It doesn't. Just start with the first step, then move on. If you don't knead it properly, it won't roll out correctly. You'll be frustrated and drink a few Manhattans for dinner instead. Believe me, I have been there. 

When, and only when, your dough feels like an earlobe, cut the dough into four equal pieces. Sewall suggests refrigerating your dough in plastic wrap at least one hour before rolling out, but Luke and I don't do that and it seems to turn out fine. However, you can refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before using or freeze it for later. When you're ready, roll one piece into a rectangle that is thin enough to be fed through your rolling machine. Put the dough through the roller starting on the thickest setting. Work your way down until you have reached your desired thinness. (We always roll it through each setting at least 3 to 4 times before moving on.) Allow it to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes in sheets, laying it over some sprinkled flour so it doesn't stick to the countertop. Pasta cuts better when it's been drying slightly. After resting, cut the pasta into your desired shape. You can also use the pasta sheets to make ravioli, if you are not wanting to cut it into a spaghetti or tagliatelle. 

Boiling your fresh pasta will not take long. First, bring salt water to a boil. Salt water, not water with a sprinkle of salt. Your water should actually taste salty when you try it. When you're ready, boil for 1-2 minutes. If you are dressing your pasta in a warm sauce afterwards, the sauce will continue to cook your pasta. It's not the end of the world if it does, but it is something to consider when deciding the best time to take it out. Perfect al dente takes lots of practice. I still don't have it.