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.

Showing posts with label Italian inspired. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian inspired. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fig and Olive Crostini

I look at the calendar and it takes my breath away. How is it possible that summer is half gone? That it's been a month and a half since my last post? It seems I step into every June imagining the endless lists of things to do to enjoy and take advantage of the warm, long days yet somehow find myself come August wondering how I spent my summer. With so much to do and so little time, schedules fill up fast and leave me longing for the dreamed-of lazy days draped in the park, on the beach, or at an outdoor movie or barbecue. The endless options available keep me busy and tend to help me avoid the computer and the blog. Some year will I figure out how to enjoy it all while keeping a firm grip on my work to be done? Until then, I'll just keep plodding away, packing as much joy into the glistening days as I can and if some things hit the back burner in lieu of a little fun, I won't let it phase me.

Fig and Olive Crostini
The salty, umami packed bite of oil cured olives contrasts sharply with the smooth, lightly fruity notes of fig, yet somehow the combination just works. Spread onto toast points with ricotta and honey it transforms into a lovely snack for summer afternoons or for a backyard dinner party. 

8" French bread, cut into 1/2" rounds
extra virgin olive oil
1 c. ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 c. oil cured olives, pitted and minced
1/4 c. honey
 5-6 fresh figs, sliced

Place the bread rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle slightly with extra virgin olive oil. Toast under the broiler until lightly browned, then flip and toast the other sides.
Spread each toast point with a schmear of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Mix the olives and the honey together in a small bowl and then drizzle over the ricotta. Top each with a few slices of fig and serve.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spring Garlic Pesto Pasta

The warm weather arriving in New York is like the city opening its doors and saying "come on in." We can finally leave the confines of our tiny apartments without fear of snow and cold beating us down and we take to the streets to rejoice.

As I've wandered the city over the past few weeks it's felt like coming home again. I remember all that is on offer here and rush to soak it up. And this time around my camera is usually slung by my side, waiting to grab little pieces of the city that capture my heart.

Spring Garlic Pesto Pasta
The warm weather also offers up a fresh bounty at the markets. Here's one way to take advantage.

6 stems spring green garlic
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 c. walnuts
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/2-3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. pasta (I like strozzapreti or fusilli)
3 TB butter
1/4-1/2 c. pasta cooking water
1 c. ricotta cheese
3 TB Spring garlic pesto
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

*In the picture you can tell that I used pancetta in my original recipe. It is very tasty with the pesto, but does take away some of the spotlight on the green garlic so left it out of this recipe. If you would like to add it back in, cook it in the pan before adding the butter and pasta. 

To make the pesto: trim the roots and the toughest top parts of the greens from the green garlic (you should be able to use most of the stem and bulb) and chop roughly. Place in a food processor with the Parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt, pepper, and 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil. Process until the mixture is blended and just slightly coarse. If it is too thick, add a bit more olive oil and process again. You will want about 3 TB or so for the pasta recipe. The rest you can freeze in ice cube trays and then wrap in a ziplock bag to pull out when needed.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 c. of the pasta cooking water. In a large pot (perhaps the pot the pasta was cooked in after it has been drained) heat the butter until melted over medium heat. Add the pasta and toss, then add about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and toss again. The butter and water should start to form a creamy sauce over the pasta. Add the ricotta cheese and about 2-4 TB more of the pasta cooking water and stir a bit more before adding the pesto and the Parmesan cheese. Once coated well and warmed through, the pasta is ready to serve.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Primavera

The temperatures start to rise, we begin to shed a few layers of clothes that we piled on through the winter. And then we realize maybe it's time to shed a few pounds we added during the colder months as well.

It is easy to put on a bit of weight during the cooler season as we fill up on hearty dishes and comfort food and cuddle up on the couch for hours to stay warm. Luckily spring helps make it easy to drop those unwanted pounds. Sunny, warm days lend themselves to long walks, and spring produce starts to pop up to encourage lighter, fresher eating.

After an over-indulgent weekend trip with friends to Woodstock (think a stop by Sonic, homemade personal pizzas, skillet chocolate chip cookies and far too much candy) I was especially in need of a detox this week. To counter-balance the quantities of bad food I'd taken in it was time to respond with a meal full of veggies. Yet I wasn't ready to give up on the comfort. Spaghetti squash was the answer. After roasting its tender flesh transforms into pasta-esque shreds which are the base for a vegetable strewn dish.

It's so easy to adjust this based on whatever you have on hand: spinach, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes would make a welcome addition. Regardless of your vegetable mix-in decisions your taste buds will feel indulged as your waste line says thank you.

Spaghetti Squash Primavera
serves 6 or so as entree

1 spaghetti squash
olive oil
1 bundle of asparagus
4 TB butter
2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped

Heat oven to 425.
Cut the spaghetti squash in half and clean out the seeds. Rub with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast until the flesh is tender and easily shredded with a fork, about 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on size).
Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, toss in the asparagus and boil for 30-90 seconds (depending on diameter of stalks). Drain and drop the asparagus into ice cold water. Once completely cool, chop into 1" pieces.
Once the squash is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh.
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the zucchini and cook until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and the sun dried tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds more. Toss in the spaghetti squash and cook until heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Baby Artichokes

How quickly the mind can shift if you give it a chance to be open. Listen, explore, don't take everything you see at its word.

In recent years I've read books and articles that led me to believe one thing about my food and where it comes from and where it should come from. Yet over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to chat with students, farmers, professors that open my sights to the other side of things and show me a wider angle. Not that what I believed was all wrong or what they say is all right, but I've come to see how the truth must lie down the center somewhere. A thing I must seek out on my own, letting my heart feel its way to its own conclusion.
I won't bore you with the specifics--I'm still figuring it all out for myself anyhow. Yet I urge you that when you read or hear something about the food you are putting into your body, be willing to listen yet don't let it become your personal truth without a little digging first. Be open to both sides, knowing there are personal motivations clouding each angle. One story on the 6 o'clock news or one article in the Sunday paper shouldn't have full sway over your diet with just a whim. Step back and try to take in the full view before jumping down that bunny hole.

Roasted Baby Artichokes
Trying to keep myself open to all sides in a debate--to be well informed before making a decision--carries over to what foods I put on my dining table. I force myself to try things I think I may not like or that I haven't liked in the past. This has opened me up to many ingredients and dishes that would have been closed to me otherwise. One such ingredient is the anchovy. Always touted for being "gross" or "weird" in circles I grew up in, it's come to be one of my favorite ways to add umami and depths of flavor to a dish.I'm thankful for my refusal to deny myself a taste of any sort of food. Here it helps pack a salty punch with capers in a bright topping for crispy, roasted baby artichokes.

serves about 6 as an appetizer
9 baby artichokes
1 t. salt
1 lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
olive oil

1 can anchovies
2 t. capers
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB parsley, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the baby artichokes. Here's a great guide from Saveur. Then cut the artichokes in half after cleaning and trimming.
Heat oven to 425.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the salt, sliced lemon, bay leaf, and halved artichokes. Boil until the artichokes are tender, around 15 minutes (depending on the size of the artichokes). Drain and then pat the artichokes dry once cool enough to handle.
Place the artichokes cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush each with just a bit of olive oil. Roast until they are slightly browned and crispy, about 25-20 minutes.
Meanwhile place the anchovies into a bowl and mash well. Stir in the capers, lemon juice, parsley, and extra virgin olive oil. Serve the anchovy sauce over the roasted artichokes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smoked Duck and Brie Panini

Thank goodness spring is officially upon us. The weather seems to want to actually cooperate with the calendar day this year, giving us a breath of warm air and blue skies. I even saw spikes of green leaves poking out of the brown earth on my run through the park today. All offering us the promise that the cold will soon be behind us.

As the warmer weather swoops in I find myself wishing for days spent lazily lounging in the park with a book or taking a long stroll around the neighborhood. Yet my calendar fills quickly at this time of year, appointments and responsibilities seeming to shake themselves out of hibernation. As I struggle to fit it all in yet still make the time to enjoy the season I try to make dinner short work while still keeping it exciting.

Panini are an excellent fall-back when crunched for time. They come together in no time flat yet still have an air of elegance that you don't quite get from a regular sandwich. This recipe blends together smoky duck breast with sweet and tart cherry preserves to help the taste buds also remember that spring and summer produce is just around the corner.

Smoked Duck and Brie Panini
1" slices of Italian bread
smoked duck breast, sliced thin*
1/4" slices of brie
cherry preserves
extra virgin olive oil

*if you are lucky enough to live in NYC you can pick up smoked duck breast at the greenmarket through Hudson Valley Duck farm. Otherwise there are many options out there these days in supermarkets or online. They can be used for everything from sandwiches to soups (ramen!!) to a charcuterie board so I recommend you pick one up to try asap. 

Heat your panini press according to instructions. If you don't have one, don't despair: heat your cast iron skillet nice and hot and use something heavy (such as a foil-wrapped brick) to press your sandwich into shape.

For each panino place a bit of brie on each of two slices of bread (a little cheese on each side will help hold it all together). Add a layer of smoked duck breast, a good smear of cherry preserves, and a pile of arugula on one piece and then top with the second. Drizzle the outside of both sides of the sandwich with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Place the panino in the panini press and cook per the machines directions until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. If using the cast iron skillet place the sandwich in the hot pan, top with the brick, and cook until the bottom is browned and crispy. Flip the panino over and repeat. Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta

Weeknight meals may seem overwhelming after a long days work. Hungry before even walking through your door, preparing something to eat can feel like an impossible task. Yet having quality ingredients on hand makes the job less daunting. They don't need your help to taste delicious. Well-made bread just needs a quick toast, a special olive oil drizzled on top will elevate almost anything, Parmesan cheese adds saltiness as well as umami. By understanding the basics of fresh, true flavors I feel like I spend much less time creating recipes and more time enjoying the results. 

Take a trip to your farmers' market and specialty foods store to pick up a few things to see for yourself. In-season veggies taste fuller than their shipped-in-from-other-countries-supermarket counterparts and need much less time in the kitchen to make tasty. Dropping a bit of extra money on high quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or sea salt can save you money in the long run since a little bit goes much farther than the cheap stuff in the flavor department. A special spice (such as fennel pollen or piment d'esplette) can take many dishes up a notch with just a pinch. Cured meats can be appetizers or can flavor salads or pastas. Canned anchovies surprisingly can do the same. Keeping a few of these things on hand ups your kitchen game while often cutting down on your effort.  

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta 
An elegant dinner can be possible in no time at all if you let your ingredients work for you. A pre-steamed lobster picked up from the fish counter cuts out time, hassle, and a bit of the guilt (at least for me). The sauce mostly just needs measured and poured. Cured lardo? Just a few quick slices to a decadent appetizer. A fancy dinner ready from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

for the bruschetta
ciabatta or French bread, cut in half and cut into 3" pieces
extra virgin olive oil
clove of garlic
sea salt
cured lardo, very thinly sliced

Drizzle the bread with extra virgin olive oil. Toast until browned under the broiler. When cool enough to handle, rub each piece with the clove of garlic. Drizzle with just a bit more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and then top with a slice or two of lardo. Place into just barely warm oven for a few minutes to help melt the lardo over the toast. Serve immediately.

for the pasta
1 (2 lb.) lobster, steamed
12 oz. strozzapreti pasta
3 TB butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 TB parsley, chopped

Crack open the lobster and pull the meat from the shell and coarsely chop. Reserve the tomalley. 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook as directed.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and once melted, the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, after about 30 seconds to 1 minute, add the heavy cream to the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Add the salt, pepper, and tomalley to the sauce. Continue to cook until the cream thickens, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce along with the lobster meat and parsley. Stir until well mixed and lobster meat is just warmed through and serve.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Orange Hazelnut Salad

In the dark, cold, short days of winter, there's something so encouraging about the arrival of seasonal citrus fruit to the supermarkets. Though the brightly colored treasures aren't local I don't deny myself the juicy treat of artificial sunshine. Their burst of summer-like flavors guide me through the gloomy months.

This salad can help lighten up a hearty cold-weather meal. I served it in contrast to a spicy and hearty orrechiette with sausage and broccoli rabe but I can see it matched up nicely with braised or roasted meats as well.

Orange Hazelnut Salad
serves 3-4 as appetizer
3 TB red wine vinegar
3 TB olive oil
1/4 t. seasoned salt
pinch of paprika or piment d'esplette
1/8 t. fresh ground pepper
3 large oranges
pinch of sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
micro greens

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, seasoned salt, paprika (or piment d'esplette) and pepper until well mixed.
Peel the oranges and trim away any excess white pith. Cut the oranges into 1/2" slices and layer these onto a platter. Sprinkle with pinch of sea salt and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the red wine vinaigrette over top and then scatter the hazelnuts and micro greens over top as garnish.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes

It's a snow day for many after a windy, brisk storm dropped 6+ inches of snow over our concrete city. The sun is shining, but the temps outside are in the teens, making me want to stay inside and be productive. Unfortunately I've got to head out later and face the cold to trek to work.

If I could get out of it I would hunker down with a book, my journal, and a tea for a few hours before spending the evening in the kitchen preparing a dinner that takes a little more effort. This kind of day is perfect for such an undertaking. If you are lucky enough to have the time and the energy today, I have just the dish for you: homemade gnocchi.

I find gnocchi to be more fool-proof than regular pasta once you've figured out the proper consistency. Plus it never seems to take as long to get together (especially if you skip the rolling for grooves step). It creates a base that compliments many flavors from bright pesto to hearty ragu. This time around I went somewhere down the middle with a brown butter, sage, and shitake sauce to give it depth but still keep it on the lighter side. It's just the thing I want to curl up with as the snow blows against the window panes.

Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes
serves 3-4
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3/4-1 c. flour
8 oz. sliced shitake mushroom caps
1 TB olive oil
4-5 TB butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
2 TB parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender and fall off a fork when pierced. Strain out the potatoes, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
Push the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer onto a counter-top. Cool for about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle 1/4 c. of flour over top of the potatoes. Use a bench scraper to "chop" and mix the flour into the potatoes. You want to try to incorporate the flour without overworking the dough too much. Once the first addition of flour is almost mixed in, add another 1/4 c. of flour and repeat. Then add a third 1/4 c. of flour and chop and mix again. Now the dough should almost be pliant and ready to roll. To test, roll a small piece into a 1/2" tube and drop into a pot of boiling water. It should pop to the top of the water in about a minute or so. If the piece does not fall apart the dough is ready. If the dough does fall apart, add the remaining 1/4 c. of flour and test again.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll out each one into a snake about 1/2" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4" long. Sprinkle with a bit of flour and toss using the bench scraper to cover the gnocchi and help keep them from sticking. Then roll each piece on a gnocchi board or along the back of a fork to create grooves. Place the gnocchi onto a wax paper lined sheet pan as you repeat with the remaining dough.
Once the gnocchi are prepped, start on the sauce. Heat the 1 TB olive oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the shitake mushrooms once hot and saute until browned all over. Add the butter. Once it is melted and starting to sizzle, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the sage is fragrant and the butter is slightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside until gnocchi is boiled.
Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, probably in two batches to avoid sticking. Cook until the gnocchi bubbles to the top and let boil for about 30 seconds before removing from the water and straining. Be sure to reserve at least some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.
Once the gnocchi have been boiled and strained, return the mushroom butter sauce to a medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and let boil for about 30 seconds until it thickens up a bit. Add the gnocchi and toss. Add a bit more pasta cooking water if necessary. Remove from heat, toss with parsley, and grate on Parmesan cheese to serve.

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.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

I opened the fridge door and let the cool rush of air wash over my face. Leaned in, took a deep breath, and then prepared to show no mercy.

I was in the midst of a deep clean of my kitchen. Going through the fridge, the pantry, the cupboards and getting rid of anything that was underused, past its prime, or just unnecessary. There were a couple of bottles of condiments and a package of oats that I'm pretty sure I brought with me when I moved into this apartment. Spices that I've had since college. Items that I don't even remember buying. My kitchen was in desperate need of this scouring. Offering it up a rebirth of sorts. Once finished with the purge I felt lighter, more at peace. And definitely ready to cook something up in my newly organized space.

In an effort to use what I have on hand more often and avoid throwing food away, our dinner that night was a pasta made solely from items I already had around. Sun dried tomatoes, half a container of mushrooms, the remainders of a bag of spinach, cured meats, a basil oil I'd made for soup. It merged together into an interesting, tasty meal and left my fridge even cleaner than before.

Clean out the Fridge Pasta
This isn't so much a recipe, but a guideline on how to take ingredients you have on hand and create a solid dinner out of them. 

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Chop up any veggies, onions, meats, etc. that you have on hand. Grate some Parmesan, pecorino, or asiago cheese.
If you have a hearty pasta that takes a longer time to cook you may want to toss it into the boiling water before starting on the "sauce." If it is a skinny/fast cooking pasta you may want to wait until the sauce is almost ready before cooking. Before draining make sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water to possibly use in the sauce.

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil and a couple of tablespoons butter in a large saute pan. If using, start by sauteing the onions. Next up you will want to add any really hearty vegetables: carrots, celery, leeks, turnips.
If you have any uncooked ground meat you will add that to the vegetables once they are just tender and cook it through.

Next into the pot would go any medium veggies: kale, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic. If you have some tomato paste that you want to use now would be a good time. Any cured meats (prosciutto, chorizo, etc.) could be added now as well.

Check the fat level in the sauce: if it is too dry you may want to add a bit more butter to have something to stick to the pasta.
Now toss in any light veggies: spinach, herbs. The sauce is now ready for the pasta.

I like to add the pasta to the sauce pan over a medium-low heat, tossing it all together with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy, cohesive sauce that coats the noodles. Then turn off the heat, top the whole thing with grated cheese and fresh basil or parsley if it's on hand, and serve.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

In my younger days my life goals included skydiving. The thrill of jumping out of a plane and falling through the air invigorated me. Yet as I edged closer to my 30s and still hadn't checked it off my list, I found the idea less and less captivating. A fear of the prospect settled in that hadn't been present before. I started doubting whether I'd ever have the courage to actually step foot out a plane door so far above the earth's floor.

Fear is a funny thing sometimes. It truly is incredible to me to look back on my early 20s and see how carefree and how fearless I could be. Living it you can't see it, the clarity of self truly only comes with age, along with the knowledge and understanding of your own mortality. So often now I am thankful for this comprehension when I make smart decisions, yet there are other times where I miss the spontaneity and the dive-head-first-into-anything approach of my youth. 

Right now is one of those times. I am staring over the edge at a new career direction. I believe in it, yet doubt and fear are making me step back and rethink the leap that I must take to get there. It feels almost impossible, especially when turning back just means returning to the comfortable life I currently have around me. Why risk shaking that up? Why put myself through the hassle of change? 

Yet the rewards offered by making the jump are enormous. A career I can feel proud of. A job I look forward to everyday--even kind-of enjoying the bad parts. Being my own boss and my own employee--because I know no one will work harder. Expressing my creative side through my work, yet also having an opportunity to exercise the left side of my brain through the business aspects.  

I'm channeling my 20 year old self as I step to the door of this plane. My (almost) 32 year old self is double checking every strap and lever before I go, ensuring safety measures are in place, but my toes hover over the edge, I take a deep breath, and I get ready to let go.

Eggs in Purgatory
Far from being scary, eggs in purgatory is an easy dish that is nice for brunch, but I find to be a perfect simple weeknight dinner. Vary the flavors simply by changing the herbs you use, but I personally would never leave out the chili flakes since the heat is what gives the dish its kick. If you can find good quality canned tomatoes, it really does make a difference in the flavors, but even I sometimes make it with the store brand if that's all I have on hand. Diced or whole stewed both work--if you have larger tomato chunks just break them up with a wooden spoon as you cook the sauce.

serves 2
2 TB olive oil
2 TB chopped shallot or onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes 
2 TB fresh oregano (or 2 t. dried oregano)
1/4 t. crushed red chili flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
4 eggs
crusty bread for serving

Heat the olive oil in a 12" pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and chili flakes, breaking up any large tomato chunks with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Break the eggs into the sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are runny, about 2-4 minutes. Serve immediately, with toasted bread for dipping. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kale Caesar Salad

I am in overdrive today, nearing full-on panic mode. I have a long list of things to get accomplished yet can't seem to get myself focused long enough to complete a task. The facts that I'm dealing with a cold and my computer decided to take a trip to tech repair today aren't helping.

The big thing that's on my plate? I am leaving NYC tomorrow morning for Renssellaerville, NY to participate in the internship program with the Longhouse Food Revival. Basically I will be working with Molly O'Neill and other brilliant food media minds to create documentaries, photo slide shows, radio programming, a magazine and other content to be featured at this year's Revival, all while cooking, farming, and learning alongside my fellow interns. I am ecstatic to take on this opportunity. Plus I get the added benefit of getting out of New York City for most of the month of August. Leaving the sweltering subways, tourist filled streets and job behind for the clean air of a small town. The only downside I see is leaving the husband behind. It's been years since we've been separated for so long and I know that it will be difficult to get through the weeks without my best friend by my side.

I also will probably not have too much time to keep up with this blog while I am away, so for now I say farewell--for just a few weeks! If I get the opportunity I will update you on the adventures on the farm, but otherwise I will see you come September. Hope you all have a lovely end-of-summer and can take your own adventures to return refreshed. I leave you with one more recipe for the road: a simple Caesar salad made hearty enough for a full summer meal with the substitution of kale in place of romaine.

Kale Caesar Salad
serves 3-4
1 large bundle of kale (about 5-6 cups)
2 c. cubed French bread
2 TB butter
1/2 t. seasoned salt
pinch of garlic salt
5 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/3 c.)
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the tough stems from the kale and tear into large pieces. Wash well to remove grit and dirt and then dry.

To make the croutons heat the butter in a saute pan over medium. Add the cubed bread, seasoned salt and garlic powder. Toss constantly until the bread has become crispy all over. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Make the dressing by placing the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl and crushing all together with a pestle or the back of a fork. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and the regular olive oil until emulsified. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Toss the kale with the dressing. Get your hands in there and massage the dressing into the leaves, helping to tenderize them, for about 2 minutes (you should feel with the texture of the kale changes slightly and this is when you know it is ready). Toss with the Parmesan cheese and croutons to serve.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tortellini in Tomato Broth

I know it's technically Spring but we can't seem to quite kick the colder temps here yet. My fingers are crossed that when the husband and I return from Paris those warmer winds will have made their way to New York City and touch us with blooming flowers and trees and promises of lounging in the park.

Yet one more soup recipe to help get us over the hump. This one is a touch lighter than some, making it a nice choice for the changing seasons, when we aren't quite there with the spring produce yet we want something bright in flavor. I made a homemade tortellini filled with ricotta and spinach, which I think paired well with the acidic yet rich broth. I think any cheese tortellini would work well, but a meat version may be too much.

This recipe was toying around in my brain after seeing a recipe somewhere for a tomato water bloody mary, but really came together after seeing the version made by Smitten Kitchen (she always does it prettier, doesn't she? Gorgeous work over there, as per usual). I saw it in my head as a meatier, richer flavor so utilized beef stock instead of the veggie. I loved using tortellini in the broth as I tend to pair them with a heavier sauce and enjoyed the lighter version, but now after visiting SK's page again I'm actually really craving those gnocchi. Her version will probably be hitting my table before the warmer temps finally settle in...

Tortellini in Tomato Broth
serves 3-4

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
32 oz. beef stock
1 bay leaf
4 servings worth of tortellini, fresh or dried

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the carrot and celery and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then add the whole can of crushed tomatoes, the beef stock and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or so. Strain the whole mixture through a fine mesh sieve, and place the liquids back into the pot (the solids can be used as a marinara type sauce).
Bring the mixture to a simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Add in fresh tortellini and cook until warmed through and tender. If using dried tortellini, cook first in boiling water, then strain and add to the tomato broth. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chicken Piccata

There are days when I question what I was thinking when I decided to get a degree in Theater in college. I had gone in undecided, with plans of dabbling in plays and such in between whatever degree I ended up going towards, but quickly fell in with the theater kids and decided there would be no other life for me. I spent the next four years in classes wearing masks, coloring costumes, building puppets out of baby doll heads. It was fun, but was it really going to help me get a job in "the real world"?

When I stop to think about it, I know it has and will continue to do so. It made me creative, helped me to learn to think quickly on my feet, opened my mind to the endless possibilities of each option I happen to come across. It taught me to overcome the fears and put myself out there, willing to fail and fall, with all hope of succeeding. I think anyone looking at the "BA in Theater" on my resume may not be ready to jump right away at the opportunity, but I know that all of these little skills add up to someone ready to do anything and do it well.

As an added bonus the artistic degree has left me surrounded by creative, driven, fascinating people. People who can tell a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, make you laugh with a perfectly timed raised eyebrow, discuss at length the shoe choice of a character and what it means about who they are and how they move. These people keep me inspired on a daily basis and keep me driven to work hard at whatever it is I want to do--even though I've left the theater world mostly behind me. How lucky to get to spend my life around people who make every day interesting.

And for all of you reading, I bring you a simple recipe for this weeknight because I know you want to be able to spend the extra time you aren't in the kitchen around those people who inspire you.

Chicken Piccata
serves 2
6 boneless chicken thigh fillets
2 TB olive oil
1 c. dry white wine or dry vermouth (such as Dolin)
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed
2 TB butter
2 TB parsley, chopped

Lay the chicken fillets out on a cutting board and use a meat mallet or a rolling pin to pound them down to an even thickness, about 1/2". Then sprinkle them all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once it is hot add the chicken in a single layer (you may have to work in 2 batches). Sear the chicken about 3-4 minutes on each side, until it is browned and cooked all the way through. Then remove the chicken to a platter.
Add the white wine or vermouth to the pan and scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the wine boil down to about half a cup. Then add in the lemon juice and capers and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Then add the parsley and return the chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back to the pan. Flip the chicken once or twice to coat with the sauce and return once again to the platter and pour the sauce over top to serve.

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.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Braised Beef Shank

I have spent many of my days this week in a hung-over haze. Feeling tired, not quite well, struggling through runs, praying for a nap. Each of these rough days, however, stemmed from a wonderful night. I have spent most evenings this week out drinking with friends: watching football, catching up with old coworkers, celebrating a birthday, and meeting up with friends who are visiting New York. It has been a whirlwind of late night train rides and booze and fried food, but has been worth every rough morning wake-up call.

It definitely makes for a busy time of year, but I love how during the holidays we reach out to those we love and care for, making a point to spend time with one another. There’s always that sense that it will be a while ‘til we can hang out again, which I think is somehow a holdover from our school days when winter break felt like an eternity.  Each meet-up just adds another recharge to my soul, filling me to the brim with love. The laughter and intelligent conversation fill me with light to get me through the shorter, darker days of mid-winter. After last Friday and the terrible events in Newtown, these meetings meant even more. (I’m still unable to really talk about the whole thing so will leave it there for today.)

Wishing you all a very happy holidays—hope they are filled with love, family, friends, laughter, hugs. If you are in need of a little holiday meal inspiration (which I always feel warrants something fancy, but don’t want to work terribly hard on since there’s so much else to do), I offer up this braised beef shank. It is rich with the sauce created by wine and the marrow, super tender, and is brightened up with a hit from the gremolata to finish the dish. Don't let the long list of ingredients get to you--after the chopping of the vegetables there isn't much else to do but sit and wait for the braise to do its work.

Braised Beef Shank
serves 2-3

1.5 lb. beef shank steak
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 sprigs of thyme
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB anchovy paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c. white wine
3/4 c. beef stock

1/4 c. parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Pat the beef shank dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle with a generous quantity of salt and pepper. 
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat with the olive oil until just before it starts to smoke. Add the shank and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shank steak to a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are just slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute or so. Then add the tomato paste and anchovy paste and stir for about one minute. Add the bay leaf, white wine, beef stock and the shank back to the pan and bring the liquids to a boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low to allow the liquids to simmer. Allow the meat to braise until it is fork tender, probably at least 1 1/2 hours. When the meat has finished cooking, remove to a deep serving platter to rest for a few minutes and turn the heat back up to medium high on the liquids in the pan. You just want to boil them for 6-8 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. Then pour the cooking liquid and vegetables over top of the shank steak on the platter.

While the liquid is reducing, mix together the parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl. Serve this over top of the braised beef shank. The beef shank is best served with something starchy that can help soak up the delicious juices, like smashed potatoes or risotto.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Winter Squash Pasta

Have been cooped up in our apartment for most of this week during and following Hurricane Sandy. We were incredibly lucky and had no damage to our place, very little damage to the immediate neighborhood, and kept our power throughout. Feeling incredibly blessed.

However, I'm also starting to feel antsy and a little crazy. With subways not running until this morning, and still no train service into Manhattan I have stayed around our place to stay out of the way of those who actually needed to make the trek to the city to get to work (like the husband). The lack of outside human contact has started to get to me and make me cranky and distracted (I've already stepped away from writing this post 5 times). Making it worse is the fact that I'm tapering for the New York City marathon which is happening on Sunday, so I'm not able to do any long runs, don't want to walk around too much, and haven't had a drink of booze all week (no wine through the hurricane--how did I do it?!).

Some house cleaning and organizing and a bit of cooking has really helped me hold it together. Luckily we were well-stocked in the kitchen area so we ate like kings during the storm. One such meal was this bow-tie pasta tossed with roasted winter squash and sage. Stormy weather comfort food.

Hope any of you that were also in the storm's path are safe, healthy, and also fared as well as we did. Much love and support to those who didn't. A few options if you are able and want to financially assist victims of this hurricane: http://theweek.com/article/index/235620/how-to-help-victims-of-hurricane-sandy.

Winter Squash Pasta
about 5 servings

1 medium winter squash or pumpkin (about the size of a large butternut squash)*
olive oil
salt and pepper

9 oz. bow-tie pasta
4 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 TB fresh sage, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
optional: fried sage leaves, for garnish
(*I'm not sure what type of squash I used here--forgot to take a photo before chopping up, but it was a small, off-white pumpkin variety that would fit in my two hands.)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the squash into pieces about 1/2-3/4" thick (it is ok to leave the skins on at this point), making sure to clean out and remove the seeds. Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil and place on a large sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the squash is tender and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes or so depending on the squash. Allow these to cool enough to handle and then remove the skins and chop the squash into large pieces (an inch or so). (Another option is to skin the squash and chop into into 1" cubes before roasting, but I find I ALWAYS slice my finger open when I try to peel and chop uncooked winter squash. Roasting before doing most of the chopping is a way to save my fingers!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Before straining the pasta, be sure to save back about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to use in the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and the sage and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted squash and toss in the butter (some of the squash will break apart--this is good as it will break down into the sauce making it extra sweet and creamy). When the pasta is cooked add it to the squash sauce and add 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toss together, and if the sauce is looking a little "tight" thin it out a bit with another tablespoon or two of the cooking water. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve topped with fried sage leaves.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza

A couple of weeks ago I was reading in a small park before heading into work. Next thing I know, I get sat on. 
Yep. A very large woman literally sits on my lap. It's not the overlap that happens when you are sitting on a subway car and someone who isn't a child thinks they can squeeze themselves into that 5 inches of space between you and the next rider over. This was full-on "Santa, this is what I want for Christmas" kind of lap sit. And there was a full other bench completely empty about 10 feet away. After some yelling (i.e. cursing) and an elbow jab got me no response except a look of, "what the hell is YOUR problem?" from the woman, I extricated myself from underneath her and stormed down the block to work. Where I proceeded to cry in the stairwell like a child (I cry when I get mad. It's one of my least favorite things about myself). Just another day in New York City.

Thank god those days are balanced out by days like this Sunday. Started off the day with an easy run through fall foliage in Prospect Park and headed into the city for brunch (like a good little New Yorker should). Since I arrived early I stopped off and grabbed myself a salted caramel doughnut to go from Wonder City Coffee and Donut Bar. Finally time to meet up with a couple of great friends for some much needed catch-up time and really great food (i.e. the best bacon EVER) at Goat Town. The fall day was perfectly gorgeous so the meal was followed up by some wandering and shopping around the East Village, where we also got to meet and converse with the totally charming Vera of Verameat Jewelry while eyeing her kick-ass designs. Finally it was off to dinner with a different group of friends, full of laughter and a surprise guest star in the form of an old bartender from our favorite Chiefs watch bar. It was 12 hours of city bliss.

This city is a constant back and forth of the good and the bad, often feeling like the rough is outweighing the bright. But when you really need it, New York will give you one. It's the 5th drink buy-back in soul form.

And now for you I offer up something else that NYC is great at: pizza. This one can be whipped up quickly and easily in your own home so there's no need for takeout (especially helpful for those days where you're not sure which city is awaiting you outside that front door).

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza
makes 1-12" pizza

2 links hot Italian sausage
1/2 c. diced tomato (canned is ok)
2 TB tomato paste
1 t. oregano
1 large bundle Swiss chard
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. pecorino cheese, grated

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 t. sugar
3/4 c. 110 degree water
1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt

Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and place in the hot pan. Saute, breaking up the pieces, until the meat is mostly cooked through. Then add the diced tomato, tomato paste and oregano. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Clean the Swiss chard and chop and add to the water once it has reached a rolling boil. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain and rinse with cold water until the chard is cool enough to handle. Use your hands to squeeze out as much of the water as possible and then place the Swiss chard to the side (you should have about 1 cup worth at this time).

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Make the dough: Mix together the active dry yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and allow to sit for about 8 minutes until it has foamed up. In a medium bowl mix together the flour and the salt and then add the yeast mixture once ready. Mix together and then dump out onto the counter. Knead for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable. Lightly flour the counter and a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 12" circle. Place it onto a baking sheet. Spread the dough with the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread on the sausage-tomato mixture and then spread the Swiss chard on top. Sprinkle with the pecorino cheese. 
Place in the oven and cook fro 8-12 minutes, until the edges are browned and crispy. Serve immediately.