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, November 21, 2013

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich

I am counting down the minutes until Sunday afternoon, when my little sister will arrive to NYC from Austin. We haven't seen one another in person for a year and a half and haven't spent a holiday together in much longer. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to spend a holiday with a family member in tow.

My sister is two years younger than me and so has been by my side as long as I can remember. We were very close in high school, spending a lot of our free time and extracurricular time together (save for a few fights here and there: one especially that involved an amateur haircut that went awry). It still doesn't feel right to spend so much of our time so far apart. I can't wait to show off my home, my friends, and my city to her over the next week as we catch up and spend our days once again side by side. I'm truly thankful for this opportunity to share it all with my little sis.

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich
There's no photo of this since I whipped it up as a simple, quick dinner one night and wasn't considering it for a post. Yet when I took the first bite I knew I had to share this remarkable, easy meal. It is packed with healthy greens, a creamy ricotta, and crunch from store-bought spicy kale chips. If you can't find pre-made kale chips at your store you can easily roast up a batch (although they probably won't be quite as crispy), but make sure to add some chili flakes to your greens to give the sandwich its heat.
Serves 2

very thin focaccia or flatbread (if it is thicker than 3/4", cut in half lengthwise to form the two halves of your sandwich. Basically you want 4 pieces of about 4"x3" bread that is 1/2" thick.)
2 TB olive oil
3 c. kale, chopped
5 c. spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1-2 TB extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
spicy miso kale chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the focaccia onto a large baking sheet.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the kale and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. At this point, place the focaccia into the oven to warm through (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and the spinach to the kale and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.
Take 2 pieces of warmed focaccia and spread half of the ricotta onto each. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Top off with the greens and then finish with the crispy kale chips. Top with the other slice of bread and serve.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Pork Cheek Ravioli

For a while after returning from my summer internship I found myself struggling with creativity in the kitchen. Though I didn't do much cooking while Upstate, I didn't feel the need to dive back into it full-force once home. I put so much of myself and my creative energy into everything I did there that I needed a break to rest and allow my brain molecules to start firing on their own again, without guidelines laid out in front of me by someone else.

With the passing weeks after the event I slowly started shedding the layers of spice notes crammed in every nook and cranny of the brain and media lessons piled at the top of my mind, as Jonas looses the memories as he leaves the known world behind in The Giver. It felt like lightening the load. The things I learned are still present, but they are now settling in among my other thoughts, allowing me to find focus elsewhere.
Finally I feel inspired and invigorated when I circle the greenmarket or step into my kitchen to prepare the evening meal. I have fancy dinner party menus circling my mind, I flip through cookbooks and bookmark pages that set off a spark, I wander specialty stores and pick up ingredients that I've never seen before to try something new. It feels invigorating being behind the stove again.

This meal stemmed from that thrill filling me up. I made an appetizer of bruschetta topped with a roasted eggplant puree, creme fraiche, and pomegranate seeds. I spent 2 days on the ravioli, braising on one and making the pasta on the other. I served it alongside simply sauteed mustard greens for added bite. I lit candles, put on the fireplace video on the tv, and played some dinner music to set the mood. It felt special, a welcome home to my long absent chef soul.

On a side note, I have a few friends who are new to the blogging world and would like to give them a shout-out. Trina and Tina are sisters who get together to cook once a week and dicsuss their joint-family culinary adventures at Sister Sweetly. Sophie, Susannah, Stephanie, and Remy are all wonderfully talented writers and food lovers with whom I had the pleasure of working with at LongHouse. I know these ladies are going somewhere big, so be sure to follow them at the beginning of the journey so you can say "you knew them when." Their blogs are (respectively): The Daily Compote, The Storied SpoonStephanieCarlson.com, and RemyRobert.com.  



Pork Cheek Ravioli
This recipe was inspired by Emiko Davies. After reading of her pork dinner party for Food52 I couldn't get the recipe off of my mind. I searched all over for pork cheeks, even asking the pork farmers at the market, to no avail. Then, a couple of weeks ago at the market at Grand Army Plaza, I was purchasing meat from Arcadian Pastures and the vendor gave me his card to call if there was ever anything in particular I was looking for. Thinking it couldn't hurt to ask, I implored once again for the pork cheeks. I was thrilled when he told me he should be able to get them in for me the next week. As I waited for the next week's market to roll around, I dreamed of what this ravioli would taste like. Patience paid off with a lovely dinner as reward.

serves 4-5

2 pork cheeks, skinned with fat left on
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 c. red wine
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

for the pasta (recipe from Emiko Davies):
200 grams all purpose flour
200 grams semolina flour
4 eggs

to finish:
3 TB butter
Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, for garnish

Sprinkle the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the pork and brown on all sides. Remove the pork to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, and carrots to the pan. Cook until slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the wine and the seared pork back to the pan, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the meat braise slowly until it is tender and shreds easily, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
Strain out the solids and the pork, reserving the cooking liquid. Finely chop the pork and vegetables, then mix in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool while making the pasta dough.

Form the flour into a volcano-shaped peak on your counter top. Make a deep well in the center and crack in the eggs. Use a fork to slowly start beating the eggs, ever so slowly incorporating the flour from the sides while being careful not to "crack" the sides, which will create a lava-like flow of eggs all over the counter (I have yet to successfully complete this task, but I have high hopes that one day I will form pasta like a pro). Once enough flour has become incorporated that it is difficult to mix with the fork, begin working the dough with your hands, incorporating more flour until it is no longer sticky, then knead until the dough is elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, cover, and rest for 30 minutes.

Now it is time to roll out the dough. I find I can never get my pasta thin enough when I roll it by hand, so I highly recommend a pasta roller. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll until it is very thin (#7 on the Kitchen Aid pasta roller attachment) and about 4" wide. Drop a rounded teaspoon of pork onto the pasta sheets about every 2 1/2 inches, in the middle of the bottom half of the sheet. Brush water or an egg wash around all sides, then fold the pasta sheet in half over top of the filling and press firmly all around to keep out air bubbles. Use a pasta cutter to separate out the ravioli.

Once the ravioli are prepared, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large saute pan, heat the cooking liquids from the braised pork. Once the braising liquid comes to a boil, stir in the butter until it melts. Taste and salt and pepper as necessary, then turn the heat to low. Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place directly into the sauce (a bit of starchy pasta cooking water will help the sauce coat the noodles). Gently toss to coat the ravioli, then plate on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley to serve.