I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ricotta Cavatelli with Mushrooms

I am blessed to have a husband who understands (and tolerates/encourages) my passions and obsessions. So, of course, I received multiple food gifts from him this Christmas. Though they were all great the one that has been the source of all kitchen inspiration through that last month has been my pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

In the past I've struggled to get my pasta to the thin, delicate texture it requires while not having the dough fall apart completely under my rolling pin. Now with just the flip of a switch I am able to roll out doughs of multiple thicknesses ready for a million different applications. Therefore dreams of pasta have been swimming through my brain for weeks.

I started off with a basic tagliatelle tossed with truffle butter for a simply elegant first outing for my new toy. As a follow-up I went with a non-Italian "pasta": pork and chive dumplings. The attachment helped me to roll out the flour and water mixture into sheets of an ideal thickness to hold in the juicy, porky filling while not falling apart during cooking (if you are curious, I used it down to the #4 setting for these). I used a glass to then cut perfect little rounds since my previous attempts to hand-roll always left me with irregular, lumpy shapes.

Note that my dumpling folding needs a little practice...

Next up for the roller is a tortellini you will be seeing here soon and I have ideas that pierogies should be making an appearance shortly as well.

The pasta kick I have been on even extends past those using the attachment. I have been testing my pumpkin gnocchi recipe for my Valentine's Day event over and over to get them perfect for my customers. I'm finally happy with the result but glad I don't have to eat them again myself for a long time. :)

I then decided to make my all-time favorite pasta; cavatelli, with the assistance of another new little kitchen tool: the gnocchi board.

In my gnocchi tests I discovered it overworked the dough and required too much flour to use the board for actual gnocchi. They became dense little pucks that were nowhere near the light, fluffy dollops I wanted to serve. But I realized it would be a perfect tool to roll out the ridge-covered, chewy, ricotta-based cavatelli.

The method of hand-rolling these little dumplings definitely takes time, but it is a repetitive task that is soothing and mindless, like folding napkins at work or knitting. It keeps your hands busy but allows your mind to wander and dream. I foresee many relaxing afternoons of rolling out batches of these to offer up to my friends and loved ones, perhaps with a negroni in hand and a dream of Italy in my mind's eye.

Cavatelli pair well with many types of sauce but my favorite is to present them with sauteed mushrooms that are tossed with ricotta to create a creamy yet light sauce. A bit of the pasta cooking water is added to help keep it loose. Though more cheese is unnecessary, a sprinkle of Parmesan to finish the dish adds an extra salty bite.

edit: Buy your own gnocchi board here on Amazon. Cheap ($5) and arrives quickly. You won't regret it after you whip up a batch of these guys.

Ricotta Cavatelli in Mushroom Ricotta Sauce
for the cavatelli*:
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. whole milk or heavy cream

*note: this makes a double batch of the cavatelli, but I went ahead and made it all and froze half for later use. To freeze, lay the cavatelli in a single layer on parchment paper covered baking sheets and then place in the freezer. Once frozen, place in a plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

Pour the flour into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Make a well in the center and fill with the egg, ricotta, and cream. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry until it comes together to form a dough. Dump the dough out onto the counter (discarding any excess flour) and knead for 3-4 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll into long, 1/2" thick snakes (I find it is easiest to do this if you don't use much flour yet--the flour keeps the dough from sticking meaning it slides back and forth and won't get thinner). Cut into 1/2" thick pieces and sprinkle them all with a good portion of flour. Now take your bench scraper in one hand and use it along with your other hand to toss the little dough pieces with the flour to coat them on all sides.

Take each little dough piece and roll it out on the gnocchi board. Place the long side perpendicular to the ridges, press down with your thumb as you roll the whole piece towards the bottom of the board. You want to apply a pretty firm pressure to really make those ridges thick and to help roll the cavatelli into itself. Push the cavatelli off onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough.

For the sauce:
12 oz. mushrooms (preferably a mixture of oyster, shitake, cremini, etc.), chopped
2 TB butter
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 t. thyme, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 the cavatelli from the above recipe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Heat a large(12"), heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once the butter is melted and the oils are hot, add the mushrooms and give them a good toss. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes without stirring to help them brown and then flip/toss and brown them on the other sides as much as possible. The sprinkle on the thyme, salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms for another 1-2 minutes.

While cooking the mushrooms, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Before draining be sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid.

Now add the ricotta cheese and about 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the mushrooms. Toss for about 1-2 minutes until the sauce comes together. Now add in the cooked cavatelli and toss. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese to serve.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Provencal Lamb Stew

Sunday evening rolled around and I walked through the streets of the East Village. The temperatures were warm compared to what we have been experiencing and the fresh air felt new and invigorating. I came upon the husband waiting for me outside of a teeny Japanese restaurant. We ordered, eyes wide and intimidated by the intensely efficient manor of the counter person, hoping to not step out of bounds and feel his wrath. With number in hand, we returned outside to wait as the order was prepared (not being enough space indoors to wait there). We caught up on our days, recounting the hours since we had last spoken until the sound of our number being called drifted through the restaurant door.

Chopsticks in one hand and plastic trays in the other we attempted to feed ourselves on the sidewalk while not making a huge mess. The okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and takoyaki (fried dough balls with octopus) were piled high with mayo, sauces and bonito. Full of umami and novelty.

After the wrappers were tossed, we made our way up the block and then down an almost hidden set of stairs to a bar that appeared even smaller than the restaurant, if that was possible. With a word to the host and a flash of IDs, the rope in front of us was lifted and we were guided back to the slightly larger, yet still cramped, back room. It was dark and dingy yet full of character as the walls were littered with the scrawled names of those who came before us. We were shuffled into a booth towards the back along with five of our friends. 

The server helped guide us through an exhaustive list of sake to those that were his favorite and a bottle was ordered. After it was poured we raised our glasses to toast the gathering and welcome the fun the night would bring. Conversation tumbled about, flipping and turning on itself in the way only the best talks do. As the bottles we purchased got lighter our souls got fuller, feeding on the knowledge and laughter being shared. 

What seemed like not enough time later it was time to wrap up the evening. Hugs were passed about and promises made to make this happen again soon. Each went their own separate way, being swept back up into the swirl of the city's energy as they disappeared down the street. 

It was a night of joy and learning and happiness that keeps one feeling full for days to come. A gift from the city to make up for rough days. A bright spot in the midst of gloomy winter.

Though the blog has been suffering a bit this month I have been cooking up a storm. But I've also allowed myself to be caught up in friends and the joys of the city as above and let some responsibilities lag. Sometimes a break can be just what you need to springboard into the next big thing.

Today I'm bringing you a simple Provence-inspired lamb stew. Simple yet filling and warming. I served it with crash hot potatoes on the side (because I can't seem to resist them) but you can feel more than welcome to just add some new potatoes to the stew itself to make an even heartier version.

Provencal Lamb Stew
serves 8
 1 c. dried cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
zest of 1 orange
3 springs rosemary
4-5 sprigs thyme
1 lb. lamb stew meat
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
6 c. beef stock
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the beans and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 1 hour (or you can soak the beans in cold water overnight, but I never remember to do this).
Take a square of cheesecloth and fill with the bay leaf, orange zest, rosemary and thyme. Tie the package shut with twine and set aside.
Sprinkle the lamb meat with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and then add the lamb once hot. Brown the lamb on all sides and then remove to a plate. Add the onions and the shallots, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until they onions are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef stock, carrots, celery and fennel to the pan and bring to a boil.
Drain the beans and rinse them and then add them into the pot along with everything else. Drop in the bouquet garni (i.e. bundle of herbs). Cover and allow to simmer until the beans and the lamb are very tender, around 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Remove the bouquet garni and taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Valentine's Day Catering

NYC Couples: Valentine's Day is just over a month away. It's time to start considering where you will make your reservation for a restaurant where you will be seated mere inches from the next couple over, where the server's job will be to push you out as fast as possible to get the next couple down, and the food will be overpriced because it's a "special day."

OR you can contact me and spend the night in the comfort of your own home, without the madness, with a delicious meal that you will only have to do minimal work to get on the table. Three courses (appetizer, entree with side, dessert) and wine, all of the prep work done, with detailed instructions on how to finish off the dinner in your kitchen. Perfect to impress a date or for those that want a home cooked meal but have to work all day.

Here's the details:
You will choose between the meat version and the vegetarian version. This time around I will only be offering these two meal choices, but in the future will be able to work on menus for those with allergy/diet restrictions. You will choose either a red, white or sparkling wine. I will purchase all of the ingredients needed, then do all of the prep work for you. I will deliver the food and wine to you on Valentine's Day. The appetizer and dessert for both meals will be fully prepared save for the plating. For the entree you will need to do a little bit of work to cook, but I will give you step-by-step instructions to get through the process. The cooking of the meal should take you no more than 15 minutes tops. You will serve the meal to your date, who will obviously be impressed by your kitchen prowess, meaning you will definitely get some action. You will call the next morning and thank me for the best Valentine's Day ever.

The Meat Option: $110 (will feed 2)

-Crostini with Whipped Ricotta and Olive-Tomato Tapenade

-Lamb Rib Chops with Pistou
Sauteed White Beans with Vegetables

-Salted Chocolate Mousse

-Red, White or Sparkling Wine

The Vegetarian Option: $100 (will feed 2)

-Crostini with Whipped Ricotta and Olive-Tomato Tapenade

-Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Kale Salad with Cranberries and Orange Vinaigrette

-Salted Chocolate Mousse

-Red, White or Sparkling Wine

If interested, please contact me at sarahbodeclark at gmail dot com.