Making Pasta

Jonathan Vrban earned his doctorate in nursing practice in 2008 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals and has spent nearly 30 years in the field, in clinical and academic settings. Outside the professional environment, Jonathan Vrban is a passionate cook and enjoys making his own pasta.

Some home cooks prefer making their pasta themselves for a variety of reasons. It gives the diet-conscious the opportunity to assume complete control over their ingredients. For others, it’s the opportunity to experiment with different consistencies and flavors.

Pasta is made by combining flour and liquid to form a dough that can be rolled fairly thin — about 1/8 of an inch. Once rolled out, the pasta is cut into strips or other shapes by hand, shaped cutters, or machine and hung out to dry, after which it can be cooked.

The fun in pasta-making comes from experimenting with the ingredients – most pastas have egg as part of the liquid, and some have additional yolks. Pasta made for vegan diets cannot use eggs, and so those recipes substitute water. Tomato paste can be mixed with the liquid to give the pasta a reddish tint; a small amount of pureed spinach will make green pasta. Both coloring approaches will also impact the pasta’s texture and flavor.

The liquid isn’t the only part of pasta that’s open to experimentation. While western cultures often make pasta with wheat flour, other cultures use all manner of grains and legumes as the flour used for making pasta. Cellophane pasta is made with mung bean flour, and rice flour, sometimes mixed with tapioca or corn starch, is popular in Asia for making noodles. Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, while udon — thick, chewy, and soft — and the thin ramen noodles so popular in the U.S. are both made with wheat flour.

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Unusual Dishes from Around the World

Dr. Jonathan Vrban worked in San Francisco as a practitioner at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Jonathan Vrban enjoys cooking and traveling. When he travels, he likes to immerse himself in the local culture and sample new dishes.

One of the most exciting parts of traveling to another country is having the opportunity to try its lesser-known delicacies. While many people will want to order pasta in Italy or enjoy an authentic Swiss dessert, there are countless exotic dishes most tourists likely never seek out. China’s bird’s nest soup, for example, is comprised primarily of a swiftlet’s nest. Rather than collecting sticks and leaves, swiftlets use saliva to make their nests. The idea of eating bird saliva might not sound so appetizing, but swiftlet saliva ranks among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. A quality bowl can carry a price tag of $100.

When it comes to the American diet, few – if any – meals come to mind that emphasize fried insects as a key ingredient. In Cambodia, however, fried tarantula is considered an affordable delicacy. World travelers can further broaden their tastes in Korea, where live octopus can be found on the menu. The meal is prepared with a light sesame oil seasoning, and is famous for severed tentacles still moving.

Growing an Herb Garden

Honolulu, Hawaii-based Jonathan Vrban is a former nurse practitioner who became a doctor (family medicine) and spends time traveling, cooking, and baking. He takes inspiration for the dishes he creates from his travels, primarily enjoying Mediterranean-style cuisine. For the dishes he cooks, Jonathan Vrban enjoys growing his own herbs. Herb gardens are a simple way to grow plants and spice up any dish.

Keeping an herb garden requires attention in several areas, including soil quality, watering needs, pest problems, sun exposure, and location for growing. Whether culinary or medicinal, herbs are a delicate but easy-to-grow variety of plants that can grow in many locations, including pots, containers, buckets, the ground, or even indoors. When seeds are planted, soil quality is ensured for each type of plant, and the proper amounts of sunlight and water are provided for the plants, herbs can become quite prolific in their growth and add a flavorful touch to any home-cooked meal.