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 Pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pasta. Show all posts

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
salt
pepper
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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pork and Soy Ramen

Joe and I often talk about all of the things we would miss if we were to move out of New York City. High on the list are the theatre, the abundance of museums, the fact that it's virtually impossible to be bored. But I think the thing that actually makes me fear for that day, if it were to ever come, is the loss of huge variety of great Asian food. The soup dumplings, dim sum, yakitori, Korean BBQ, Korean fried chicken, ramen, great pad thai, etc. etc. have all opened my tastes buds through our years here and I can't imagine living where they aren't readily available.

I have some moments of extreme panic when I think of leaving all of this behind (despite the fact that we have no plans to leave anytime soon) and feel myself drawn to the kitchen to hopefully recreate a dish or two to be able to always carry this cuisine with me, no matter where I go.

With the cold temps and even colder wind blowing through these parts lately my biggest craving has been huge bowls of ramen. We are lucky to live very near an excellent joint in our neighborhood called Chuko that I find myself drawn to over and over again (if you make it there yourself don't miss out on the kale salad as well as the ramen--probably my all-time favorite salad ever). Last night, however, I decided it was time to try a version of my own.

Shoyu ramen tends to be my favorite--I love the salty, unami filled broth, but I also love anything involving pork so decided to do a blend of styles based on a recipe from David Chang in the first issue of Lucky Peach (the tare recipe is basically his). It also involves mostly ingredients I could  find at my local grocery store (where we don't have a huge spread of Asian ingredients). My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is really very easy to play around with and change based on your own taste preferences. The ingredient list looks large and intimidating, but it really isn't much hard work--just a bit of waiting time.


Pork and Soy Ramen
(serves 3-5 depending on add-ins)
For the broth:
1.5 lb. pork necks
1 TB oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a couple of pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
white and light green parts from 1 bundle of green onions
1/4 c. dried mushrooms
2 large sheets nori*
10 c. water

*many ramen recipes I found called for konbu, which is an edible kelp. Since I couldn't find any in my local grocer I decided to add a bit of "sea" flavor with sushi wraps. These broke apart a lot during the cooking but were mostly strained out through a fine mesh sieve after the broth was finished. The tare for this soup is so dark that I didn't mind the darker color of the broth.

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add the pork neck pieces. Sear these on all sides until they have a nice brown color all over. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to barely simmer for 3 hours. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any fat/scum from the top.

For the tare:
(recipe adapted from David Chang's Lucky Peach)
.25 lb (1 medium piece) of pork neck
1 TB oil
1/2 c. sake
1/2 c. mirin
1 c. soy sauce
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into thirds

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Add the pork neck and sear until it is nice and caramelized and dark brown all over. Remove the pork neck from the pan briefly and turn the heat off momentarily. Add the sake to the pan (careful as it will pop and splatter a lot) and stir to deglaze the pan and pick up the porky bits stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat back on and add the pork neck back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Bring the liquid to the barest of simmers and then turn the burner to the lowest heat possible and cook for 1 1/2 hours. You don't want the mixture to really reduce--you are just infusing the flavor into the liquid. Then strain, allow to sit for a little bit of time and then skim the fat layer off the top.

Once both the broth and the tare are finished you are now ready to mix them together. I like an extra strong, salty broth so I used all of the tare. I would suggest adding a bit at a time and tasting to make sure you have a soup base to your liking. If you want it even stronger you could add even more soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, etc. to the liquid for flavoring.

Now you are ready to build the ramen:

noodles (I used these, which are about 3 cups and are fresh/mostly cooked. If you can't find anything similar you can just use the noodles from a couple of packages of instant ramen without the seasoning packages)

optional:
cabbage, shredded
bok choy, shredded
green tops of green onions, sliced
bean sprouts
enoki mushrooms
kimchi
meat (perhaps braised pork, cooked ground pork, chicken? I used thinly sliced smoked duck breast that I get at my farmer's market)
poached or soft-boiled eggs

Cook the noodles: I cooked mine for a couple of minutes in the broth, but you could cook them separately, drain, and then assemble.
Take a large, deep bowl and place a pile of the cooked noodles at the bottom. Top with any of the ingredients you would like and then spoon over a good portion of the broth. If using, top with a poached or soft boiled egg. Add some heat with chili garlic oil (recipe below). Serve with chopsticks and a large spoon. Feel comforted and warm and happy as you lean over the bowl to devour and the broth facial invades all of your senses.

Garlic Chili Oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 t.+ red chili flakes
1/3 c. olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Place over low heat and slowly cook, stirring frequently, until the oil is infused and the garlic has become very slightly browned and crispy. Remove from heat and use to stir into your ramen.

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, November 8, 2012

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

It has been a week.

Luckily feeling a little more positive after the last post. Had a great run around the city on Sunday with some other friends, hitting up a few miles of the marathon course and high-fiving other runners along the way. Had a great dinner with the husband at The Spotted Pig (if you want to die and go to heaven hit it up and order the gnudi. Good lord). Volunteered with Occupy Sandy and headed out to lend a hand on Staten Island. It was difficult to see the damage and imagine how some of these people would even begin to clean up the mess that was left behind. I wish there was even more I could do, but hope that giving some a listening ear helped to ease just a fraction of the shock and pain. Then last night we hunkered down to wait out the snow storm, hoping that it wouldn't cause even more damage to those who have already been through so much. And I am finally, finally getting to go back to work tonight. Thankful.

Comfort food has been the order of the week and in my opinion there is nothing more reminiscent of good ol' days and childhood than macaroni and cheese. Though the stuff in the blue box seems so easy, it really isn't all that more difficult to whip up the real deal. Smoked cheese as the star mixed with several other cheeses in my version gives wonderful depth of flavor, yet doesn't feel so fancy that it takes away from the comfort element. I've given instructions on how to keep the dish extra creamy if that's your style (think shells and cheese) or to bake it to create a drier mac for those that prefer this way.

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

1 package macaroni or mini penne noodles
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 c. grated smoked gruyere cheese
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2.5 oz. goat cheese
3/4 c. breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes to cook off some of the flour taste. Add the cream, milk, salt and pepper. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens up, about 3-4 minutes. Add all of the cheeses and continue to stir until the cheese melts. Then mix together the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and pour into a 10" cast iron skillet or a baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs.

If you want to keep your mac and cheese extra creamy, brown the breadcrumbs under the broiler and serve. If you like a drier mac and cheese, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy.

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, May 2, 2012

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Gnocchi

In April I spent part of one day wandering around off the trails in Prospect Park gathering up a few wild edibles. I go through a phase almost every spring where I want to go out and round up the free bounty in the park and use it to create dinner, but never actually get around to it (besides picking a bit of wild garlic here and there). This year, driven I think mostly by the belief that I would for sure stumble upon a patch of ramps, I went out and spent an hour or so finally carrying out my plans. I never did find that patch of ramps I was hoping for, but came across some other greens for dinner.

I decided to take the garlic mustard and wild garlic bulbs and blend them together to form a pesto. Since the garlic mustard was pretty young the flavor wasn't terribly strong, but I hear that as it gets older it gets much more intense. I think that is why it is often cut with parsley in pesto recipes. I took this sauce with a kick and tossed it with one of my favorite ricotta gnocchi recipes from Steamy Kitchen (it includes lemon zest and chopped parsley in the recipe to give it a bright bite and is fried before tossing with the pesto so it is nice and crispy).

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Gnocchi
3-4 servings

1 recipe ricotta gnocchi*
1 c. parsley
1 c. garlic mustard
3 wild garlic bulbs
1/4 c. almonds
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

*Make the gnocchi based on Steamy Kitchen's recipe. I find that after cutting the gnocchi into pieces it will hold up better during cooking if you place them onto a parchment paper covered sheet pan in the fridge for an hour or so. After frying you will not toss the gnocchi with chili flakes as in her recipe, instead you will toss it with the garlic mustard pesto and then top with a bit more Parmesan before serving.





To make the pesto: place the parsley, garlic mustard, wild garlic bulbs, almonds, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into a food processor. Process briefly and then add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream as you process until the mixture comes together and is just barely loose (you want it to toss easily in the pasta). Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Toss the pesto with the fried gnocchi to serve.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Olive Sables

Monday night I hosted a cheese making party for some friends. We gathered together with lots of wine, loads of milk and cream, and some old-fashioned entertainment.

We made butter, mozzarella, and ricotta and made them into a three-course meal. The butter we paired with radishes and sea salt as a simple appetizer. Then the mozzarella was made into a caprese style pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan. Finally we used the ricotta to create dessert by serving it on top of toasted bread topped off with a pear and honey compote.

To have something to start the evening off and nibble on while we made the butter and cheese I decided to make cocktail cookies. I had read about Dorie Greenspan's versions and had them pinned to my Pinterest to try out for my next party. They sounded perfect: barely sweet with a lingering salty flavor on the end. The ideal pairing to nibble along with wine and cocktails. The version I used is from Pierre Herme, posted on the lovely Fresh From Eva's Kitchen blog. Find the recipe here.

To make your own butter check out Saveur's directions here.

For homemade ricotta find a recipe at Smitten Kitchen here.

To make mozzarella get Ricky's 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Italian Feast: Mushroom Bruschetta, Orecchiette, Sardines, Panna Cotta

Sometimes I desperately wish that I had that woman in my life who taught me how to make gorgeous bread or pasta from scratch as a very young child. Don't get me wrong--my mom made so many things homemade--egg noodles for chicken soup, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and always let me help and learn, but she isn't descended from a long line of Italians who passed down the tradition of beautiful ravioli or thin tagliatelle that is made without even having to measure out the ingredients onto the counter top. And I never moved to Italy and found an "adopted grandmother" who would show me her trade, patiently guiding my clumsy hands through the work over and over again until they finally found the pasta rhythm.

Therefore my homemade pasta tends to turn out thick and oh-so-indelicate. You can't see the filling through the ravioli because I haven't had the patience to let it rest so it actually rolls out thinly (instead of just shrinking back to its thicker self as I roll it out too soon). My hot hands make the orecchiette stick to my fingers instead of rolling smoothly off, making every shape in the world besides the ear shape they should be.

But these downfalls don't keep me from trying. I figure eventually practice will have to win out and someday I won't feel ashamed to host a dinner party featuring a pile of my own handmade pasta as the centerpiece. Someday.

Unfortunately that day is not today. After reading Gabrielle Hamilton's raw, honest Blood, Bones and Butter I wanted nothing more than to prepare an Italian feast--complete with homemade pasta. Since we had no dinner parties to speak of coming up, it was a special weeknight dinner prepared for just two.

The farmer's market gave me the initial inspiration with all of the flavorful sausages available at this time of year and the mounds of kale. Traditional orrechiette it was. The mushroom stall also called my name and I couldn't resist the oyster and maitakes, which would become a simple bruschetta appetizer. In my search for lobster the other week, I noticed Whole Foods had some really nice looking fresh sardines, so they went onto the list as well, with my plans to top them with the pesto I had made and frozen this summer. The whole meal was finished off by a simple and clean panna cotta topped with a freezer strawberry jam I also packed away during the warmer months.

The orrechiette making ended up being a bit of a disaster. I used an all-purpose flour from the farmer's market, which I thought would be nice, but it has more whole wheat which actually made the pasta dough too thick and not as smooth. As I said before, my hot hands also make shaping the little ears very difficult. I ended up with a lot of very thick, just barely concave disks but went through with the pasta course anyways. Despite it not being quite right and too chewy, the dish still tasted incredible--spicy from the sausage and just enough crispy bite from the kale.

The rest of the meal though was just right. Not too much (I actually somehow made small enough quantities that we had very few leftovers) and the flavors were harmonious in their simplicicty. The sardines were even delicious--we don't eat a lot of oily, fishy fish and I am trying to break us in. Topped off with this spiced pesto is the way to go if you are trying sardines for the first time! And panna cotta is always a wonderful way to end a big meal as it is light and never too filling.

It was a meal I feel my imaginary Italian nonna would be proud of. And one day, I know my orecchiette will roll off my fingers as easily as they do hers.

Mushroom Ricotta Bruschetta

French bread
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

1/2 lb mushrooms (mixture of oyster and maitake), chopped
4 TB butter
1 clove garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped

Slice the French bread into slices about 1/2-3/4" thick and lightly toast. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chopped mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally until they are nicely browned. Then add the butter and garlic to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant. Then add the salt, pepper and rosemary to the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread the toasted French bread with a bit of  the ricotta mixture and top off with a good heap of the sauteed mushrooms and serve.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

Homemade Orecchiette Recipe Here
Here's a video of a woman making beautiful orecchiette
(I doubled the Orecchiette recipe above to make enough for leftovers)
4 hot Italian sausage links, meat removed from casing
4 c. chopped kale
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick of butter
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Boil the orecchiette according to directions.
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and saute until cooked through, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks.
Add the chopped kale to the pan and cook until slightly crispy, about 4 minutes (before adding the kale you may need to add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan if the sausage did not release a lot of its own fat).
Add the garlic and butter to the pan and cook until the butter melts and the garlic is fragrant. Then toss the whole mess with the cooked orecchiette. Top off with a bit of Parmesan cheese if desired and serve.

Fresh Sardines in a Spicy Pesto
serves 2

4 fresh sardines, cleaned
salt and pepper
1/4 c. pesto
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. red chili flakes
1 TB fresh lemon juice

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Pat the sardines dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside while making the sauce and allowing the skillet to heat up.
In a small bowl mix together the pesto, extra virgin olive oil, paprika, chili flakes and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Once the skillet is hot, add the sardines in a single layer. Sear and cook for about 3 minutes or so per side, until the skin is charred and the flesh is just cooked through. Then carefully remove the sardines to a platter and top off with the pesto sauce to serve.

Panna Cotta
For easy, fast, simply delicious panna cotta use David Lebovitz's recipe Here