Category Archives: cooking

Ravioli

Nic gets pretty excited about winter squash- just last week he brought home 1 acorn squash, 1 butternut squash and 2 sugar pumpkins. I don’t know how many pounds of winter squash that is, suffice to say, it’s a lot. What does one do with so much squash? We had made soup the week before, and I get sick of roasted squash chunks pretty quickly. So we decided to embark on a great undertaking- ravioli.

My friend, Elsie, who is currently in Panama with the Peace Corps had gifted me a ravioli maker, one of few gadgets that has set idle in the kitchen cabinets, but one that I knew would make a marvelous afternoon activity.

the last time I pulled out the noodle maker machine, I remember thinking “I should do this more often.” Well, that was months ago, and now it’s fall and, since we’re trying to resist turning on the heat, spending more time in the kitchen is pretty effective at keeping the house comfortably warm.

The labor was pretty evenly divided- I made the pasta and Nic took care of the ravioli filling. Uncharacteristically for me, we hip-shot the filling by combining various amounts of winter squash, roasted hazelnuts, a garlic and leek sautee, and gorgonzola cheese.

Fresh pasta is in a category all on its own. I may have stated this before, but one of the small luxuries that I afforded myself in Portland was to purchase fresh pasta from Pastaworks, which they custom-cut to whatever width of noodle suits your fancy on any given day. Luckily, in Butte, America, there’s a little gem of a store called Front Street Market which makes the best Portobello mushroom ravioli in Montana. I make a point to stop there every time I drive through Butte. Fresh pasta is something I always think takes more time than it really does, not to mention the fact that it’s fun to operate the pasta crank.

Not wanting to drown or over-shadow the beautiful, pillowy ravioli in some unremarkable sauce, I sizzled sage leaves in butter, infusing the butter with the warmth of the sage and crisping the sage leaves into crunchy tidbits of deliciousness. It was quite the compliment.

Squash-Hazelnut Ravioli in Sage Butter.

To make pasta dough:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

This is actually pretty fun, if you like getting eggy, doughy fingers. Mix the flour and salt into a mound on your countertops. Make a well and dump in the eggs. Working in small circles, begin to mix in the flour from edges of your flour/egg volcano. By keeping the walls of the volcano in-tact you have much more control over the mixing process. If a wall breeches, you might have a more frantic time mixing things together. Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end. If the dough feels too tough or doesn’t hold together with just 2 eggs, you can add some water.

Knead pasta dough for 5-10 minutes and then let sit for 15.

Roll out pasta to desired thickness (the thinner the better), or use your pasta maker to roll our sheets of dough.

Ravioli Filling:

  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 small leeks
  • 1/2 c hazelnuts
  • Butter
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Roast 1 pumpkin- slice pumpkin in half and discard seeds. Brush with oil and place face-down on a pan. Roast at 375 for 45 minutes or until a knife meets no resistance when stabbed.

While pumpkin is roasting, dice up 4 cloves of garlic and 2 small leeks and sautee in butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and whatever other spices your little heart desires.

In a food processor, pulse hazelnuts until there are no large chunks, but not so small that you’ve got hazelnut meal. Toast hazelnuts in a pan until lightly toasted and fragrant.

Once Pumpkin has cooled sufficiently, scoop out the insides and mash thoroughly. Add hazelnuts, leek/garlic sautee and stir. Add gorgonzola to taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

Making ravioli:

I know there are cute little ravioli cutters that give you a crimped edge. You can do this or use one of these little ravioli presses- which seemed to me to be a little bit time-intensive. A generous teaspoon of filling seems to do the trick as far as volume goes. Place ravioli on a sheet pan to dry a little bit and so they don’t get stuck together.

Grease a pie plate and preheat oven to 200.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

In a separate small saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter over med-low heat and add 10-12 chopped sage leaves. Let simmer until milk solids are brown (do not burn!) and sage is crispy.

Add 6-8 ravioli at a time, boiling for about 4 minutes or until they float and look and feel like little pillows. As batches of ravioli are cooked, add to pie plate and drizzle lightly with oil (or sage butter) so that each raviolo (singular of ravoili) does not stick to other ravioli. Repeat until you have enough cooked ravioli to feed your dinner party. Drizzle sage butter over ravioli, distributing sage leaves evenly.

Enjoy!

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Mac ‘n Cheese

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to rock boxed macaroni and cheese (especially if it’s Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar with peas and lots of black pepper). Sometimes you’ve got extra time on your hands and decide that now is a good time to buy 3 different kinds of cheese and create a macaroni and cheese masterpiece. Such was the case this weekend- also known as the day I ate entirely too much. I thought I should share this with everyone, because, sometimes you just need ultimate comfort food.

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese- adapted from Saveur.

  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c dried bread crumbs- preferably panko
  • 1 oz finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 3 1/2 c milk
  • 4 oz grated Gruyère
  • 4 oz grated Gouda
  • 4 oz grated Fontina

Heat oven to 350. Bring a 4 quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente. Drain pasta and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Melt 3 tbs of butter in the same saucepan. Add breadcrumbs and Parmesan, toss to combine and set aside in a small bowl. Wipe out saucepan and set over medium heat. Melt remaining 3 tbs of butter in saucepan and whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the Gruyère, Gouda Fontina and whisk until the cheese is melted. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper. Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown and bubbly- about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving- otherwise everyone will end up with scalded mouths from trying to devour such deliciousness.

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Filed under Comfort Food, cooking, Hot Dish

Eggy Cheesy Hot Dish.

This dish smells like a sandwich. In a really good way. I had this epiphany as I opened the oven door to check on the baking status. I was assaulted with a hot, steamy wave of bread, cheese, mustard and onion. What I really should have done is taken a short walk outside just so that I could walk back into a home that is filled with these smells.

This dish is from The Moosewood Cookbook- Simple Suppers. A one Ms. S. Brin once tried to make it for me, but that was the night her oven broke. We eventually managed to share in this particular simple supper- though it is also a hit at any brunch, not to mention a snap to make. I honestly can’t say anything more about it. I hope that you make it soon.

Eggy Cheesy Hot Dish- aka Savory Bread & Cheese Bake.

  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 12 oz crusty bread (or homemade sourdough) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 c grated cheddar or whatever cheese you have lying around.
  • 6-ish scallions, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350

Rub pan with the tablespoon of butter. Layer bread and cheese into dish. Throw chopped scallions on top of bread and cheese. Mix milk, eggs, dijon, salt and pepper. Pour over bread, cheese and scallions. Press bread into custard mix to coat top bread pieces and help absorb liquid.

cover and place in oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15, or until top is golden.

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Noodle Maker Machine

I thought today was as good of a day as any to try a new recipe and to use a never-used (by me) appliance. The first joint purchase that Nic and I made was a really old Atlas Noodle Maker Machine. It didn’t work at all, but at $10 it was a steal. Nic spent the next few days on the floor of his bedroom taking the machine apart, cleaning out all of the old dried pasta pieces and trying to figure out how the machine worked (and what was wrong in the first place). To his credit, the roller part of the Noddle Maker Machine did not want to crank at all. Eventually, perseverance paid off and we celebrated the fact that our first joint purchase was a usable appliance!

As you can see, the box describes the appliance as a 'Noodle Maker Machine'

After that, it was put in a box and moved into an apartment (where it was used once), and then to Montana, where it has sat idle in the back of the appliance cabinet. I drug it out this afternoon to make lasagna noodles and re-discovered what a wonderful little Noodle Maker Machine it is!

The main function of a Noodle Maker Machine is to roll out your sturdy noodle dough into something that resembles a noodle in one of 7 thickness settings- 1 (thick) to 7 (paper thin). I didn’t make it past 5 today and thought that the noodles, once cooked, were a little too thick.

One thing I miss a whole lot about Portland is being able to purchase a sheet or two of fresh pasta, cut into whatever width you’d like (fettucine, linguine, angel hair?). I’ve dreaming of fresh spinach pasta, and now that I have remembered that I have the capability to make such a thing, I forsee a dream coming true.

Eggplant & Ricotta Lasagna 0r, lasagne con melazane y ricotta if you prefer Italian. From The Silver Spoon

1 large eggplant, sliced
Butter, for greasing
Lasagna sheets, or home made
2 ¾ c flour
3 eggs
salt
½ c pine nuts
2/3 c ricotta cheese
½ c tomato paste
fresh bail
olive oil
parmesan- freshly grated
salt

How to make your own pasta:

Make a mound of flour and a pinch or two of salt on your counter top and create a well in the middle, lightly beat eggs and pour into the well. With fingers, gradually incorporate into flour. Knead for about 10 minutes.  If the dough is too hard, add some water, if it is too sticky add flour. Shape dough into a ball and let it rest for a bit (15 minutes). Roll out on floured surface or use your handy-dandy Noodle Maker Machine to do the dirty work for you. Cut the pasta into large squares or rectangles (4×4) and leave on counter top to dry out.

Salt eggplant and let drain for about 2 hours. Rinse, pat dry, rub with olive oil and broil until tender.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter.
Cook the lasagna sheets in a large pot of salted water until al dente (Much shorter cooking time if using home made noodles). Drain noodles and place on a damp dish towel until needed.
Arrange a layer of pasta on the base of the prepared dish. Layer half of the eggplant slices, sprinkle with half of the pine nuts, and evenly distribute half of the ricotta and tomato paste. If the paste is too thick, add some water to make it more manageable. Tear basil leaves over the dish and drizzle with olive oil. Repeat layering once and top with a generous layer of parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 40 minutes.

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Grown-up Spaghetti.

Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than spending an afternoon in the kitchen. Scratch that- Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than finding fresh rhubarb at the grocery store (thanks Pacific NW!) and spending an afternoon in the kitchen with Garth Brooks and a beer.


I baked the rhubarb pie that I love so dearly- and remembered to take a photo this time!

After I was done preparing dessert, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle dinner, and settled on a decidedly adult spaghetti dish. I don’t do much spaghetti these days- I suppose I’m a little burnt out on the marinara sauce. However, I used to eat my noodles exclusively with shredded cheddar cheese and butter with my pasta sauce on the side. I wasn’t much of a picky eater as a kid, but that was definitely my preference- cheesy, butter noodles. I suppose that I’m trying to say that I’ve eaten enough bland spaghetti in my life that I always think there are more interesting things I could be eating.

Saveur magazine did a bit on Roman food this month and I happened to come across a spaghetti recipe that spoke to me- Spaghetti alla carbonara. This dish involves pancetta, a whole lot of crushed black pepper, and raw eggs. I’m a huge fan of raw eggs- their whites in cocktails, their yolks in salad dressing, and now in pasta sauce! There’s a certain silky texture that raw eggs bring to the party that is able to trump any competitor. I strongly encourage the use of fresh farm eggs if you have access to them.


Spaghetti alla Carbonara- From Saveur Magazine

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
salt
1 lb spaghetti

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (6-8 minutes). Add pepper (either crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground with pepper mil on its coarsest setting) and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Transfer pancetta mixture into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in 1 ½ cups parmesan and egg and yolks. Stir to combine and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente (8-10 minutes for sea level, more like 10-12 for folks at 5,000 feet). Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta. Turn off heat on element and return pot to the stovetop. Add drained pasta and toss with pancetta mixture. Add pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt (if needed) and pepper. Serve with remaining Parmesan.

I’m usually a one-dish dinner kind of gal, but for such a deceptively anemic looking main dish, I highly recommend pairing with a zippy arugula salad with toasted walnuts, sliced pear and chevre cheese.

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Filed under Baking, cooking, pie

Best Pizza Ever.

I am a pizza snob. I know that many people claim that, but how many of those people can also claim that they used to work in the pizza industry? Hmmm? I have been privileged with a couple of awesome summer jobs when I was in college- not in the preparing-to-be-a-constructive-member-of-society kind of way (I never had an internship), but in the have-a-really-fun-summer job in which you learn about some great bands from the too-tall hipster that left all of his mixed tapes in the pizza shop and where you learned that if you put the industrial fan just so you blow the onion fumes away so that you are barely affected by them.

Ahh, yes those were good times at Burlingame Pizza, which I learned after a quick internet search yesterday, is no more. In memoriam of some of the best damned pizza, I bring you one of their specialties. I don’t even remember what the name of this pizza was on the menu, I do remember that it was genius. The combination of caramelized onions, roasted garlic, capers, mushrooms and pesto make the perfect combination of sweet and savory (and vegetarian friendly!). The real secret of this pie (besides a good crust) is the drizzle of honey over the crust- really, you can trust me, I’m an expert.

The Best Pizza Ever:

I recommend making your own pizza crust, it makes it that much more special, and with a little planning-ahead is both cheaper and tastier.

Pizza dough (adapted from Pioneer Woman)

* 1 teaspoon Instant Or Active Dry Yeast
* 1 ½ cup Warm Water
* 4 cups All-purpose Flour
* 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
* ⅓ cups Olive Oil
* Fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)

Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water.
In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with hook attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix on low until all ingredients are combined. Ratchet the speed up to medium and let the dough hook do its work for about 4 minutes

Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. Divide the dough in two. Coat a baking sheet with flour, shape dough into disks and place on sheet. Cover with plastic and place in the fridge until you need it.

Pizza Toppings:

* Pesto
* 1 onions worth of caramelized onions
* 2-3 handfuls of spinach
* Mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
* 1-2 tbs capers
* 7 cloves of roasted garlic
* Honey

A bit of prep-work is needed for this pizza- namely caramelizing onions and roasting garlic. Caramelizing onions doesn’t necessarily need constant attention, but requires periodic tending-to. Slice onions into half-rings. Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Heat oil or butter in pan and add onions. If you like your onions slightly sweeter, add a spoonful of honey. Stir occasionally until onions are dark and caramelize-y (40 minutes to one hour). While the onions are doing their thing, peel the garlic cloves. Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven) to 375. In a small oven-proof dish pour a couple of good glugs of olive oil. Add cloves and toss to coat completely. Roast garlic, stirring frequently, until very fragrant and caramelized.

Now you’re ready to make pizza!

Preheat oven to 500.
Roll out pizza dough to fit your largest pan (if you have a pizza stone, lucky you). Slather a generous amount of pesto onto the dough, covering all but an inch border from the edge. Throw down the spinach. Distribute mozzarella evenly. Add mushrooms. Add garlic- break cloves up in your fingers and distribute evenly over pizza. Add capers. Dip a fork into a honey pot and drizzle all over the pizza- paying special attention to the crust.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is a light golden brown.

Enjoy!

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Filed under cooking, pizza

Gorgonzola Caramelized Onion Gratin- & a Cherry Tart.

I want to talk today about round food. This, being in the midst of citrus season, is fitting. But I don’t want to talk too much about citrus, and not because I don’t love it- quite to opposite. I have been eating as much grapefruit as is socially acceptable… and only a little bit more.

I want to talk about recreating foods (or attempting to) that you love. I once worked as a lunch and coffee slinger back in Portland. It was, in fact, the first job I had post college. I do not use the word ‘sling’ lightly. The lunches were prepared at a different location and by the time it got to the cafe we threw it on a plate and slung it at the customers. Really. The different location at which the food was prepared at was actually a catering kitchen, and food was usually well prepared and quite tasty. I suppose one doesn’t ‘sling’ tasty food and that that verb is usually reserved for gruel or food of a similar consistency. But I digress.

I haven’t worked there for almost 4 years, but there is one lunch item that has persistently been on my mind. Alas, I was unable to get a recipe before I left and have never attempted to duplicate it… until recently.

Gorgonzola and caramelized onion polenta gratin.

Yum? I think so. The key flavors and textures are pretty self-explanatory, though I still have some tweaking to do- As I remember it, it was much cheesier. I do recommend keeping caramelized onions in your fridge at all times- they do a great job of enhancing everything from polenta to pizza to scrambled eggs.

The other round thing that was made recently was supposed to be a pie. Nic bought some home-canned cherries and requested a pie. I personally don’t deal too well with cherries other than to eat them fresh- they’re a littl fussy to mess with, what with all those pits and not a lot of fruit to show for it, compared to other stone fruits. So the jars sat in our pantry for about 6 months. A few weekends ago Nic cooked them down in their syrup and created a nice thick cherry pie filling. However, the filling was less than an adequate amount for a full pie, and Nic only made a single pie crust, and so we made a cherry galette.


I am a big fan of naming things as you see fit. I once made what was supposed to be a lemon cake, but the cake turned out to be (a lot) more dense than I had hoped, and so I called a lemon torte. You can get away with a lot by remembering this little trick.

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Filed under cooking, gratin, pie