Roast Duck Ravioli

Ravioli dell’Anatra di Arrosto

Duck Ravioli 2She came. She saw. She conquered.

The Visitation ended, far too quickly, and Zia is back in Michigan. While here, we met with family and friends, both near and far, new and old. We toured my favorite Italian and farmers markets and we dined out a couple of times, including our customary Friday night fish fry. This being Chicago, however, this fish fry took place at a sushi restaurant. Of course, I did cook and some of the recipes will make their way to this blog. All the while, incredibly, we were graced with some of the year’s best weather. All in all, it was a wonderful visit and I hope to import her again next year. Fingers crossed.

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The making of ravioli has roots that go as far back as the 14th century in the North of the Italian peninsula and perhaps even earlier in Sicily. (Source: Wikipedia). Their creation involves a couple of axioms I’ve said many times before: nothing is wasted in a traditional Italian kitchen, and, meat was a dish reserved for holidays and special occasions. Well, when meat was served — and with no means of refrigeration — leftovers were a problem. Let’s face it: re-heating a piece of roast over a hearth isn’t necessarily the most appetizing means of dealing with leftovers. On the other hand, finely chopping the meat before adding it to, perhaps, a little cheese and some greens, and using the mixture to fill pasta “pockets” would make quite a tasty alternative. Not only that but a little bit of leftover meat would go a long way, far enough to feed the entire family.

This was certainly the case when Zia and I were left with some roasted duck after our meal. We discussed how to use the leftovers and decided that making ravioli was the best way to go. I think we were pretty successful, as does my Zia. In fact, when we roasted a goat shoulder during my next visit, Zia set about making ravioli filling with the leftovers, as well. Frozen, it awaits my return so that we can make “goat” ravioli. The recipes for both the roast goat and the subsequent ravioli filling will be published soon.

There is nothing complicated about our duck ravioli recipe, though the use of broccoli raab, rapini, requires a bit of blanching. How long depends upon your taste and whether you are fond of bitter greens. Blanching will remove some of the bitterness, as well as soften the vegetable’s “woody” stalks. Since we both do not mind rapini’s bitterness, we kept the blanching to a minimum. You, on the other hand, may wish to blanch the vegetable for a few minutes more and, therefore, boil away more of its bitter flavor.

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Duck Ravioli Filling*     *     *

Roast Duck Ravioli Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 9 oz (250 g) skinless roast duck, shredded (See Notes)
  • 10 oz (280 g) rapini (broccoli raab)
  • 2 large red onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Marsala wine
  • 1 cup ricotta, drained
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add onions and stir to coat with the butter.
  2. Sauté for about 10 minutes, season lightly with salt and pepper, lower to med-low heat, and continue to cook, stirring frequently.  You want the onions to brown but not burn. It may take from 30 minutes to an hour to be fully caramelized. Add a little bit of olive oil if the onions are too dry.
  3. Just before the onions are ready, deglaze the pan with a couple ounces of Marsala wine. The onions will be ready when the wine has evaporated.
  4. Once the onions have cooled, drain any excess liquids before placing them in a clean kitchen towel, wringing out as much moisture as possible.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.
  6. Add the rapini and, once the boil returns, blanch the rapini for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the rapini from the boiling water and immediately place the vegetable into an ice water bath.
  8. Once fully cooled, drain the rapini of as much liquid as possible before wringing in a clean kitchen towel.
  9. Use a meat grinder — or food processor — to grind the duck, caramelized onions, and blanched rapini.
  10. Add the Pecorino Romano and ricotta cheeses to the mince and stir well.
  11. Taste to check for seasoning before adding the egg. Stir till well-combined, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  12. The filing is now ready to be used to make ravioli.

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Duck Ravioli 1*     *     *

Notes

For step-by-step instructions for making ravioli using dies/molds, please check out my previous post for Ravioli dei Bartolini.

Here’s Mom’s Pasta Dough recipe, for those who need one. In this case, I substituted 3 duck eggs for the 4 large chicken eggs.

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Serving suggestion

Dress ravioli with brown butter-sage sauce to which grated Pecorino Romano cheese has been added. Garnish with sage leaves that have been shallow-fried until crisp in olive oil. (See opening photo.)

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Ravioli Day

With today’s post dealing with a new edition to the Bartolini ravioli recipe collection, I thought a look back to the granddaddy of them all, the original Bartolini ravioli filling recipe, was in order. It’s still our favorite and the mere mention of it will cause any Bartolini clan member’s mouth to water, as his/her mind fills with memories of holidays past. You can learn all about it simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Risotto PreviewBlack Rice Risotto with Roast Duck and Porcini Mushrooms

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra all’Amatriciana and My (Not So) Authentic Souvenir from Rome

Pasta alla Chitarra 1Now that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? I was talking about the title but the same applies to the dish. It’s one that I was served in Rome and I couldn’t wait to make it at home — but there was a problem. Although I’ve dressed pasta in this way, I didn’t own a chitarra, (guitar). No, I’ve not taken up an instrument during my time off.

A chitarra is a piece of pasta making equipment that pre-dates the pasta machines common today. Abruzzo claims to be the instrument’s point of origin, believing it was developed there in the early 1800’s. A little larger than a shoe box, this chitarra has a number of strings evenly spaced on either side of a (removable) board. Each of the two sides creates a different pasta. Mine, for example, produces spaghetti and linguine. You place a dough strip on top of the strings and use a rolling-pin to score and form the pasta noodles. If they remain attached, a strum or two on the strings will cause them to fall to the board. Neat, huh? Unless, like me, you don’t own one.

When I went to Italy, I had a couple of things in mind to bring back home, one of which was a chitarra. Although I did see a couple in the first days of my trip, they didn’t make the type of pasta I wanted nor did they seem very durable, particularly considering that my “souvenir” would be stuffed into a suitcase. Remember the American Tourister adverts? These chitarre would never have survived the trip home, even though my bag was, coincidentally, an American Tourister. Unfortunately, I never saw a chitarra again — and it’s not for lack of looking. In fact, my last morning in Rome was spent going to housewares shops looking for the pasta maker. I finally gave up and, being near the Trevi Fountain, tossed in a few coins before treating myself to a peach gelato. Shopping is hard work, no matter the locale.

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4 Coins for the Fountain

Didn’t find a chitarra but the morning wasn’t a complete loss. The Trevi Fountain was fed.

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I probably would have let things end there but, as luck would have it, I was served today’s dish in Rome the night before and couldn’t get it out of my mind. The pasta was fantastic and I wanted a chitarra even more. So, when I returned home from Michigan, I went to my favorite online site for pasta equipment and bought myself a chitarra. Made on this side of the Atlantic, it’s a sturdy piece of equipment and, unlike those abroad, it can be sent back to be restrung when needed — for a price, of course. The chitarra was delivered within days and today’s dish is the result of our first duet. (By the way, if anyone asks, I bought my chitarra at a quaint little shop not far from our flat in Rome. Mum’s the word.)

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Click to enlarge

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Though originating in Amatrice in the 18th century, this sugo is based upon one that pre-dates the arrival of tomatoes from America to the Italian peninsula. (That dish, Spaghetti alla Gricia, is another I enjoyed while in Rome and will be sharing the recipe in the weeks to come.) It wasn’t long before the dish traveled to Rome, where it was quickly adopted and has become one of the Eternal City’s “classic” dishes. Today, Amatriciana is often used to dress bucatini, though not exclusively, as proven by my dinner that night. As you’ll soon see, it is one of the easiest tomato-based pasta sauces to prepare.

Sugo all’Amatriciana, in its purest form, consists of 3 ingredients: guanciale, tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Depending upon the amount of fat rendered from the guanciale, a little extra virgin olive oil may be required. Add a little salt and pepper and your sugo is ready to go. As you might imagine, there are variations. The pasta I was served contained a hint of garlic and a little heat from red pepper flakes. Onions were not used and, according to my waiter, they rarely, if ever, are. So there you have it. If you’re using homemade pasta, this dinner can be on the table in well under 30 minutes. In fact, it will take longer for the pasta water to boil than for any other part of the dish to be prepared.

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Pasta alla Chitarra 1

This is what I served

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra all’Amatriciana Recipe

Ingredients

  • spaghetti alla chitarra, not quite fully cooked — bucatini may be substituted
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 4 oz (28 to 112 g) guanciale, cut in lardons — pancetta may be substituted (See Notes)
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • cherry tomatoes, halved – quantity depends upon preference and servings prepared (See Notes)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. (See Notes)
  2. Meanwhile, heat guanciale in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  3. When all the guanciale’s fat is just about rendered, add red pepper flakes and a crushed clove of garlic, if using. Add a little olive oil if the pan is too dry.
  4. When the garlic is golden brown, remove and discard it. By this point, the guanciale should be cooked but not “to a crisp”.
  5. The pasta should be nearing completion. Add the tomatoes to the frying pan. Raise the heat to med-high.
  6. Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
  7. Add the pasta to the frying pan, stir and cook all the ingredients together until the pasta is cooked al dente. If too dry, add some of the pasta water to compensate.
  8. Turn off the heat, add a handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and mix to combine. Add more pasta water if too dry.
  9. Serve immediately, garnished with more Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly cracked pepper.

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra all'Amatriciana

This is what I was served

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Notes

The most important issue when preparing pasta alla Amatriciana has to do with timing. If using freshly made pasta, as I did, the sugo will need to be almost fully cooked when the pasta is added to the water since the pasta will be ready in 2 to 3 minutes. If using store-bought or dried pasta, follow the package directions and drain the pasta when it is about 2 minutes shy of al dente.

Although guanciale is preferred, not everyone can find this Italian pork product. Pancetta may be substituted, as can non-smoked bacon. As much as I love smoked bacon, its smoky flavor would overpower the rest of this simple dish.

The dish I was served used halved cherry tomatoes. You could easily substitute one or two chopped fresh tomatoes, depending on the portions to be served.

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Bella Firenze

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

Florence view

The City of Florence, West of the Arno River, as seen from the Piazzale di Michelangelo. On the left is the covered bridge, the Ponte Vecchio; in the center is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio; further right are 2 domes, the smaller of which is the Basilica di San Lorenzo; and the remaining tower and dome belong to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, though known the World-over as Il Duomo.

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My favorite city in the World, Florence was the birthplace and heart of the Italian Renaissance, while the city itself is a masterpiece. The basilicas that dot the landscape were each designed by the finest architects of the time. The art collections of the Uffizi Gallery — once the offices of the Medici family — are among the World’s finest, while the Piazza della Signoria is like no other. Walking its streets, you can feel the history and easily imagine you’re in the 15th century, hurrying to meet friends in front of the Baptistery of St. John. You don’t see Florence, you experience it.

I was the first to arrive at our flat, my friends were in transit from Sicily. This flat, too, had a terrace. To the South, we saw Il Duomo; to the North, San Lorenzo. Our days began and ended on that terrace.

Florence Terrace ViewsThat there are so many large cathedrals in the Florence speaks volumes of its stature in Italy and all of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Each, a thing of beauty in its own right, contains priceless works of art, not to mention the tombs of some very famous people. Above them all sits the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Il Duomo. Its external walls are made of 3 kinds of marble, each a different color — red, green, and white — and positioned in patterns composed of vertical and horizontal lines The cathedral’s magnificent dome was designed by famed architect, Brunelleschi. Just beyond its main entrance lies the Baptistery of St. John, the bronze doors of which, “The Gates of Paradise“, were designed by Ghiberti, The Basilica di San Lorenzo, also, features a dome designedPeek-a-Boo Duomo, at night by Brunelleschi though he died before its completion. This cathedral contains the tombs of members of the powerful Medici family. If it’s tombs you like, then you must visit the Basilica di Santa Croce. Within this beautiful cathedral’s walls you’ll find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, to name a few. There are, also, funerary monuments for other famous Florentines, like Fermi and Dante.

Too dark for you? Is “high art” more your style? Then head to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. Located atop one of the highest points in Florence, it is perhaps the best example of Romanesque architecture in all of Tuscany. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Piazzale di Michelangelo which offers one of the most beautiful views of the city of Florence. (See photos above and below.)

Don’t feel much like climbing a hill? Then stroll over to the Church of San Marco where you’ll find frescoes by the Renaissance artist, Fra Angelico. The Church, though, is only the starter. For the main course, head next door to the monastery, where Fra Angelico, himself a monk, and his students decorated each monk’s cell with a beautiful fresco upon which he could reflect and meditate. It is an incredible collection of early Renaissance works by a true Master. All that’s left, then, is the dessert. For that, head down the street to the Galerie de l’Académie, where you’ll find Michelangelo’s massive statue, “David”. A more satisfying meal cannot be served and there is still so much more of Florence to savor. Get ready for your first taste.

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Since I’ve spent so much time writing about cathedrals, I thought I’d share some photos of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, named “Novella”, New, because it was built upon the site of an earlier Church, Santa Maria delle Vigne. Completed in 1470, it is the first of the city’s great cathedrals to be built. In the center of the Cathedral hangs Giotto’s “Crucifix”, while its walls and side chapels, capelle, are decorated with frescoes created by some of the Renaissance’s most gifted artists. The sanctuary behind the awe-inspiring altar is called the Cappella Tornabuoni. The remarkably well-preserved frescoes decorating its walls were created by Ghirlandaio and his assistants, the most famous of which was a young Michelangelo.

(Though all photos are mine — like you couldn’t tell? –Wikipedia supplied some details and historical data.)

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 In and around Florence

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Florence, East of the Arno River

The City of Florence, East of the Arno River, as seen from the Piazzale di Michelangelo. To the left are remnants of the City’s walls with Galileo’s home just beyond the crest. If you look closely, you can see the dome of the Basilica of Santo Spirito, in the distance just to the left of the Arno River, beyond the Ponte Vecchio.

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There’s more Florence yet to come.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Salmon with Dill en PapilloteNever mind our cool weather. It’s grilling season and here’s a way to cook fish on your barbecue without fear of the fillets sticking to the grates. Seasoned and enclosed in aluminum foil, you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier way to prepare fish.  Oh! Did I mention how flavorful it is? Well, you can see three recipes for preparing fish in this way just by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pistachio Gelato Pistachio Gelato

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Homemade Garganelli Pasta

Garganelli Fatti in Casa

The draft of today’s post has been waiting a couple of years to be posted. This is, in fact, the 4th intro that I’ve written for it. Something has come up to prevent its publication every time I’ve penciled it into my schedule. This, though, is definitely its time. You see, I was “introduced” to garganelli while in Rome — twelve years ago with Zia.

Rome was the last stop of our vacanza and I found a restaurant with the same name as that of my family’s surname. Mind you, it’s not like we have the Italian version of “Smith” or “Chang” as a surname —  quite the contrary. Yet, there is a restaurant or trattoria with our name above the door in just about every city in Italy and in many major cities here, across The Pond, as well. Be that as it may, I noticed a dish of penne being delivered to a nearby table and, when the time came, mentioned to our waiter that I would like the same as my primo piatto. He politely pointed out that it was garganelli and not penne. I decided right then and there to learn how to make garganelli once I got home — and get my eyes checked. Not long after, I was back home making garganelli — but the story doesn’t end here.

Last May, upon arrival to our flat in Rome, the owner went out of her way to make us feel at home, describing in detail each of the flat’s amenities. She was especially anxious to show us the terrace. With a view of the Colosseum, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument, it was easy to see why she couldn’t wait to show it to us.

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A Flat with a VIew*     *     *

When we returned from the terrace, she presented us with her own guide-book to Rome, paying particular attention to the flat’s locale. When we got to the page with her restaurant recommendations, the first on the list was a restaurant bearing my family’s surname. I thought it a coincidence — until we arrived there later that evening. The route looked so familiar, especially a long flight of stairs along the was very much like the one that had troubled Zia a dozen years before. Any lingering doubts I may have had vanished upon entering the establishment. This was, indeed, the same restaurant in which Zia and I dined and where I “discovered” garganelli. Surely, this was a sign that I should finally publish my garganelli post as soon as I returned to WordPress.

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Similar in shape to penne, garganelli are a tubular pasta that come from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy. With Bologna as its capital, Emilia-Romagna is known for its hearty meat sauces. (Pasta Bolognese, anyone?) Garganelli, like penne, is particularly well-suited for such sauces and its use has spread to other areas of Italy because of that. In fact, Abruzzo, a mountainous province just south of Marche, is known for its lamb ragu and very often garganelli is the pasta of choice. Lamb not your thing? Well, go north a bit and into Tuscany. There you’ll find they make a rich veal ragu and it, too, is used to dress garganelli. Before you start googling, I can save you the keystrokes and send you to  Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide, for a veal ragu recipe that’s about as authentic as you’ll find anywhere on the web. (Greg, by the way, introduced me the movie, “Big Night“, in which garganelli is handmade in preparation for the film’s climactic feast.)

Whereas it’s quite difficult to create perfect penne by hand, garganelli is very often handmade and has a “flap” where the pasta is joined to create the tube. Just like penne rigate, garganelli traditionally have ridges on each tube’s outer surface; the better to hold on to that rich tomato sauce. Now, you can search the web and you’ll find gadgets made just for putting ridges on your garganelli, but not me. Years ago, much to the amusement of Mom & Zia, I bought a gnocchi board that is used to put ridges on gnocchi. (In my defense, I needed a few more dollars in my order to qualify for free shipping and a gnocchi board was just the ticket.) As you’ll soon see below, and I was quick to point out to Zia, putting ridges on garganelli is yet another (of two) uses for this wonderful kitchen gadget. Now, don’t fret if you haven’t this nifty little gadget taking up space in a junk drawer. You can just as easily use the back of a fork, like you would when making gnocchi, or leave them smooth, like normal penne. No matter. Don’t let the absence of a few ridges cause you to miss out on this great tasting pasta!

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How To Make Garganelli

Begin by making a batch of Mom’s Pasta dough. That will give you 1.5 pounds (680 g) of dough. Roll the dough to a thickness of 6 or 7 on a pasta machine, where 1 is the widest setting. Pictures will tell the rest of the tale.

Note: I use a straight edge here because I could neither cut nor draw a straight line if my life depended upon doing so.

Use a straight edge to divide a dough sheet into 2 strips about 2 inches wide

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Use the straight edge to cut the strips into 2 inch squares

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Place a square on the gnocchi board and moisten the lower corner

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Use the dowel, begin with top corner, and roll the square to form a tube

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Create ridges by applying pressure while square is rolled to bottom of board

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My garganelli have ridges, thanks to my gnocchi board!

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A Gaggle of Garganelli

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Just One Thing More

Some of you have requested that I post photos from my trip and I’m in the process of getting them all identified and organized. As you may well imagine, I’ve literally dozens of photos shot during my recent holiday and I intend to share some of the more memorable ones. Unfortunately, several dozen were “lost” when I tried to upload them to my iPad and the Cloud. (Ironically, I was uploading the photos to insure I wouldn’t lose them should I encounter a problem with one of my flash memory cards.) As a result, I have only a few pictures of Bologna and San Marino. Luckily, the photos of my family were spared, as they were on another flash card and I discovered the problem before I attempted to “save” them. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Italy so that I can re-shoot those pics.

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Bologna proved to be a wonderful start for my holiday. It’s an old city and there are plenty of medieval structures still remaining. At one time, some 180 towers reached for the skies, though only about 20 remain today. Of those, the Two Towers, Due Torri, are the most famous and dominate the city’s skyline. Walking about the city, you can’t help but notice that many of its walkways are covered, with columns forming the street-side “wall”. They’re a photographer’s dream, so long as you don’t botch the memory card upload. (Sigh.)  As capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna offers the best foods of the district and, some would say, all of Italy. I certainly found no evidence to the contrary. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to return one day. I’ll be sure to stay longer, though, so that I can more fully explore the city.

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(Click to enlarge)

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

michigans bountyIt’s tart cherry season once again in my former home state of Michigan. Having a season of barely 3 weeks, now’s the time to head to the orchards and get your share. If you miss out, the best you’ll probably be able to do is to buy them canned or in jars. In the past, I’ve used them to bake pies and muffins, as well as to make jam. Click on each item to see its recipe.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Fried Sage PreviewFried Sage

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A Tale of Two Pizzas

Un Racconto di Due Pizze

Due PizzeFunny the convoluted paths that some of my posts take before being published. Today’s is a case in point. Originally this was to be a post about Naan pizzas. Originally.

For almost as long as I’ve lived in Chicago, Friday night has been “little or no cook” night. When I worked in The Loop, I often went out with my workmates for a “quick one” after work, which then led to several more before food somehow made its way to the table. On other Fridays, I met friends at a nearby watering hole and we often ended up at a restaurant or in one of our apartments ordering dinner before heading out for the night. Pizza was often a part of the remaining Fridays — but they were delivered.

Much has changed in my life since then but the 2 things that have remained constant are that I don’t do a lot of cooking on Friday nights and I still love pizza. Enter Naan pizza. With Naan as my pizza crust, I can easily prepare pizza with whatever toppings I want or that I have on-hand — just like my “clean out the fridge frittata”, another Friday night favorite. And that was to be the post: making Naan pizza. Then I went to the wrong grocery store.

Naan is available at all the grocery stores where I shop — save one and, of course, that’s where I found myself on a recent Friday afternoon. I’d been running errands all morning and, once I discovered my mistake, I didn’t feel much like heading to another grocery, That’s when inspiration struck. Realizing that I had some very active sourdough starter on my counter, I decided to go traditional and make my own pizza crust. My “Naan Pizza” post suddenly became “A Tale of Two Pizzas”, one old-style and one Naan.

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Prosciutto Pizza 1*     *     *

Prosciutto Pizza Recipe

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (Recipe follows)
  • a few tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto
  • marinated artichoke hearts, well-drained
  • several asparagus spears, chopped and briefly sautéed in butter or olive oil, drained
  • diced prosciutto
  • mozzarella (See Notes)
  • Fontina cheese, grated
  • diced prosciutto, garnish

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Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425˚ F (220˚ C). Lightly coat a 9 X 13″ (23 X 33 cm) baking sheet with olive oil.
  2. Use a rolling-pin to create a rectangle with the dough. Do not try to make it as large as needed. Place the dough in the center of the baking sheet and, with your fingertips, gently move/stretch the dough until it covers the entire sheet. If the dough recoils, let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before resuming.
  3. For a slightly thicker crust, pre-cook the crust for 10 minutes in a pre-heated oven before proceeding.
  4. Apply a light coating of pesto to the top of the crust. The less oil used, the better.
  5. Place the artichokes, asparagus, and prosciutto on the crust.
  6. Evenly arrange the mozzarella cheese before covering the entire pizza with freshly grated Fontina cheese.
  7. Bake in pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes, more or less depending upon your preference.
  8. Garnish with more diced prosciutto and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

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Pizza Crust 1*     *     *

Pizza Dough Recipe

This dough recipe is based on the Celia’s Bread #101 — A Basic Tutorial recipe in her encyclopedic blog, Fig and Lime Cordial. (Seriously, if you’re looking for a bread recipe, forget Google and head over to Celia’s.) Her recipe makes 4 crusts which is too much for me. So, I reduced the amounts but not by half. I added 50g more flour to accommodate my addition of sourdough starter, which by the way, also, came from Celia. She’s named her sourdough starter “Priscilla”, while mine has been christened “Bart, son of Priscilla”.

Ingredients

  • 300 g bread flour
  • 5 g yeast (See Notes)
  • 1/4 cup sourdough starter
  • 5 g kosher salt
  • 160 ml water
  • 25 ml olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients and, using a stand mixer’s dough hook, knead until a nice dough forms.
  2. Separate into 2 equal parts. (Mine were 280 grams apiece.)
  3. Place each in lightly oiled, container with lid, cover, and place in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down dough, re-cover, and let rise again till doubled — about 1 hour more.
  5. Take one ball of dough, wrap it tightly in plastic/cling wrap, and freeze. The night before it’s needed, place in the fridge to defrost.
  6. Prepare the remaining dough ball as you would normally when making pizza.

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Now that the traditional pizza is out-of-the-way, we can turn to the “I want pizza now!” pizza recipe. These pizzas shouldn’t take more than a half hour to prepare — and that’s from start to burning the roof of your mouth. Use whatever toppings and as much of each as you like. Following the prosciutto pizza, I’ve listed 3 more, 2 of which are meatless.

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Spinach~Prosciutto Naan Pizza

Prosciutto Pizza Topped 1*     *     *

Ingredients

  • Naan
  • Pesto Genovese – get recipe HERE.
  • mozzarella (See Notes)
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • hand-torn pickled cherry bomb peppers ( See Notes)
  • fresh baby spinach, very lightly dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper (See Notes)
  • thinly sliced prosciutto

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425˚ F (220 ˚C).
  2. Lightly coat top of the Naan with pesto.
  3. Place the mozzarella and then sprinkle with the grated goat cheese.
  4. Add the cherry bomb peppers.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending upon your preference.
  6. Remove from oven and immediately top with the dressed spinach leaves. Place torn slices of prosciutto on the top of the pizza and serve.

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Variations

Originally, the above 3 pizzas were to be part of a Naan Pizza post. Once I made a pizza using my own crust, however, these 3 took a back seat to the prosciutto pizzas. Still, they do prove my point that the topping possibilities are endless and oftentimes my Friday night pizza, much like my Friday night frittata, helps me clear out my fridge. On the left is a pizza topped with sardines and kale, the top right is an anchovy and caper pizza, while the bottom pie is made with spicy salami and kalamata olives. Click on an image to reveal that pizza’s remaining ingredients.

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Notes

When making these pizzas, I often use small mozzarella balls called ciliegine, so named because they are cherry-sized and ciliege is the Italian word for cherries. Other times, I use “mozzarella pearls” which are about half the size of ciliegine.

When using Naan for my crust, I use a baking sheet and wouldn’t suggest baking your pizza on a pizza stone. Naan is already fully cooked and it will likely burn on a pizza stone while your pizza’s toppings are being heated.

I used yeast this time around because I wasn’t sure that I’d have enough time to allow the sourdough to rise, having spent the day running errands. Normally, I start the dough in the morning and, when it’s ready, pre-bake the crust, then hold it until I’m ready to fix dinner.

Use as much or as little of any ingredient listed, according to your own preferences.

The pickled cherry bomb peppers I used here came from my garden and added a bit of heat to the pizza. Use whatever pepper/chile you prefer.

Dress the spinach leaves sparingly with oil and vinegar. Remember that any excess will drain on to your pizza.

I prefer to place the spinach on the pizza first so that the pizza’s heat will lightly wilt the leaves. You may prefer to place the prosciutto on first.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Pasta al SalmoneToday’s look back features Pasta al Salmone, Pasta with Salmon. I first tasted this delicious pasta while in Italy for the first time. It was love at first bite. It took me a number of years to replicate that dish but I finally did and now I can enjoy Pasta al Salmone without having to deal with airports and surly flight attendants. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Homemade GarganelliHomemade Garganelli Pasta

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Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Maltagliati con Pesto al Pistacchio

Maltagliati

Today’s post is one of odds and ends, literally. Sure, there are two “recipes” to be shared but neither is deserving of its own post, both being incredibly easy to prepare. One, in fact, is traditionally nothing more than scraps, giving more proof to the adage that nothing is wasted in an Italian kitchen.

Maltagliati is a pasta of irregular shapes, the name of which is derived from the Italian words for badly cut, male taglio. (Thanks, Francesca, of Almost Italian). It is the end pieces and leftover bits of pasta that result from a day of pasta making. Like snowflakes, no two pieces are alike, each being randomly cut. The fact that there would be enough scraps to prepare a dinner is an indication of the difference between our two countries’ eating habits.

By one estimate, the average per capita consumption of pasta in Italy is 59 pounds per year, while in the US it’s only 19 pounds apiece annually. Yet we have an obesity epidemic. The reality is that a one pound package of pasta will yield 8 servings in most Italian kitchens. They will serve one such serving with most evening meals, the primo piatto. Here, we’ll get 5, 4, or even 3 mega-servings from a single pound. That serving is often the main course, with the addition of a salad, bread, and possibly a dessert.

Most of our pasta is manufactured and store-bought. Up until recent times, the vast majority of pasta served in Italian homes was made by hand. If you make enough pasta so that everyone in your household is going to eat 59 pounds of pasta per year, you are bound to have a lot of scraps to deal with. Those scraps can become maltagliati and will be served in any number of ways, usually determined by the amount at hand.

Very often, they’re served with beans, taking the place of the ditalini used in last week’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe. If you’ve plenty, they can be served with a hearty meat sauce, as was served to Zia and me one evening in Rome, where I first heard of this pasta. Here, I’ve chosen to serve them with a new version of pesto, simply because I needed a pasta narrative to accompany the recipe for today’s pesto. It would have been an incredibly short post, otherwise.

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Yes, that’s the first, lonely crocus to bloom in my front garden. Spring is finally taking hold and 1st Bloomwith the new season comes an offer from my blogging friend, Mary, of Love – The Secret Ingredient. She is creating surprise boxes that will contain various gourmet items, small kitchen products, and recipes which will use the enclosed items. A box will be delivered every season and you can purchase them separately or all four at once. The part that caught my attention is that Mary will donate 10% of the annual profits to Feed The Children, an organization dedicated to providing hope and eliminating hunger. You can learn all about Mary’s Secret Ingredients by clicking HERE.

Note: Although I’ve ordered and paid for a surprise box, I have not received any form of compensation for mentioning Mary’s offer. I saw this as an opportunity to help a fellow blogger and worthwhile charity at the same time.

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Freshly Made Maltagliati*     *     *

How to Make Maltagliati Pasta

  • If you make a full recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough, you will have about 1.5 pound (680 g) of pasta dough. That will make quite a bit of pasta, so, you may wish to halve the recipe or cut it into 3rds or 4ths. For this post, I cut the pasta recipe in half.
  • Take a portion of the dough and run it through the pasta machine rollers until it is as thin as you like. My rollers start at 1, the thickest setting, and I continue to roll the dough, up to and including the 6 setting. You may like your pasta thinner. If so, continue to advance the setting as you roll the dough.
  • Lay the dough strip out flat on your work surface, dust lightly with flour, and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Pastry WheelsUse a straight-edged pastry cutter to divide the strip into 3 equal strips. No need to worry about it being a perfect straight line. Just do the best you can. Do not separate them but leave them as-is.
  • Now, take your pastry cutter and beginning in the upper left corner, make a series of diagonal cuts, approximately parallel to each other. Once done, starting in the upper right corner, make diagonal cuts going the other way, repeatedly,  You will end up with a collection of triangles and trapezoids, no two exactly alike — not to mention a better appreciation of your Geometry teacher who predicted that “one day this ‘stuff’ will be useful.”
  • Place them in a single layer on a wax paper covered baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with flour or corn meal.
  • Repeat until all the dough strips have been cut. If you like, use a fluted-edged pastry wheel to cut the pasta, as well as the straight-edged. This will further the illusion of this being a pasta dinner made from scraps. (see Notes)
  • To cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, add the maltagliati, stir, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Being freshly made, they should be fully cooked within minutes. Taste one when all have risen to the top of the pot of boiling water.
  • Drain and dress with pesto, recipe to follow. (See Notes)

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Maltagliati 2*     *     *

Notes

Not everyone has time to make pasta, even when the process is as easy as this. Should that be the case, take some store-bought lasagna noodles and snap them. Just don’t get carried away, for it is easier to dine on larger pieces than tiny ones.

Being flat, maltagliati have a tendency to stick together once drained, so, you must work fast. Once the pasta has been drained, quickly give it a light coating of olive oil before dressing it with the pesto. If using a red sauce, there’s no need for the olive oil but you still must quickly add it to the drained noodles.

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So, now that you’ve got a scrappy little pasta at your disposal, it’s time to dress it.

I certainly won’t pretend to speak for everyone but I will say that by this time of year, I’m desperate for any kind of Summer dish. Pesto for me is one such dish. In Summer, I can get a wedding-sized bouquet of basil for a couple of dollars at the farmers market. This time of year, I’m lucky to get a few stems for the same price. Today’s pesto recipe gives me my Summer fix without breaking the bank, for not only does it use half the basil, it substitutes pistachio nuts for the über expensive pine nuts, pignoli. (Just last month, I saw a 4 oz package (113 g) of imported organic Italian pine nuts with a price of $12.99. That’s $52.00 a pound!!!)

Whether you’ve made pesto before, you shouldn’t have any problems preparing this recipe.

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Pistachio Pesto*     *     *

Pistachio Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

yield: 1 cup pesto

  • 1.4 oz (40 g) fresh basil leaves (See Notes)
  • 1.1 oz (30 g) fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves
  • .5 oz (15 g) roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted
  • 3 oz (79 ml) extra virgin olive oil – more or less to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place everything but the olive oil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Let it process until a thick paste is formed.
  3. While the processor is still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the pesto reaches the consistency you prefer.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as required. Pulse the processor to blend the seasonings with the pesto.
  5. Your pesto is ready for use.

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Notes

The reason for the odd amounts of basil and parsley is because of how both were purchased. I bought a 2 oz package of basil that, once the stems were removed, actually weighed 1.4 oz. Similarly, I bought a bunch of parsley that, once cleaned, weighed 1.1 oz.

Traditionally, pesto is made using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. I do not own a mortar large enough to do this, so, I use a food processor. The fact that it is so much easier this way has nothing to do with it.

I used my pesto recipe as the basis for today’s version. You can use your own pesto recipe, just be sure to replace 25 to 50% of the basil with parsley and, of course, use pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts.

Refrigerate unused pesto in an airtight container, after topping with a thin coat of olive oil. Use it or freeze it within a few days.

If I’m going to freeze this or any pesto, I do not add cheese to it while it’s being made. I’ve found that the cheese doesn’t thaw well and the pesto’s consistency suffers. Instead, I’ll add the cheese to the pasta when the pesto is added.

If you have frozen pesto containing cheese, mix it with a bit of hot pasta water before using it to dress the pasta. The hot water will help make the pesto more smooth and easier to evenly coat the pasta.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Insalata With lawns going green and last Fall’s bulbs breaking the ground’s surface, it can only mean one thing. It’s dandelion picking season! What you may consider a blight on your lawn, a Bartolini sees as a crisp salad. Click HERE to see the lengths traveled by my Dad to enlist our help picking the greens for our Sunday night dinner.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Lamb Shank PreviewLamb Shanks

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Try This One For Thighs

Coscie di Pollo con Harissa

Harissa Thighs 1Little did I know when I used harissa to braise goat last October that I would become obsessed with the spicy sauce. Initially, I bought harissa from a Middle Eastern bakery that prepares the sauce on-site and provides it to a number of restaurants here in Chicago. Celia, though, suggested I make my own. Now, if you’ve been to her amazing blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, you know that Celia makes just about everything and does so with a deft hand. Still, I was hesitant.

The truth is that many recipes say to use red or green chiles. Well, being a chile neophyte, I never know which ones to use and it’s not like there’s a big selection here. Then I came upon Mimi’s harissa recipe. (Take some time to get to know her blog, the Chef Mimi Blog, too, for some incredibly delicious recipes.) Her recipe took a different tack and I decided to give it a try.

Well, as luck would have it, when I went shopping for ingredients, there they were, a large display of red Fresno peppers. I bought a dozen, deciding I would take inspiration from both of their recipes, and since that afternoon, I’ve made several batches of harissa.

Over time, I’ve adjusted the spice mix to get to a flavor profile I prefer and now I’m working on the heat level. Right now, this sauce has a nice even heat when raw — there’s a roasted vegetable salad post in the works — but it dissipates a bit when cooked. Those with a higher tolerance for chiles may wish to include the peppers’ ribs and seeds, or, add another Habanero to the recipe below.

Like my harissa sauce, today’s chicken recipe is a work in progress, although I have prepared it in much the same manner 4 or 5 times now. In some ways, it reminds me of a cacciatore with a North African twist. I think you’ll find the recipe easy enough to follow without experiencing any problems.

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*     *     *

Chicken Thighs with Harissa

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • 3 tbsp harissa sauce – recipe follows
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper/capsicum, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • about 12 oz (340 g) olive salad (See Notes)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • lemon zest
  • mint leaves for garnish – optional

Directions

  1. Combine harissa, cinnamon, and chicken stock in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with a cover over med-high heat.
  3. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to frying pan, skin-side down. Sauté until brown, 6 to 8 minutes, before turning over and browning the other side. Remove thighs from the pan.
  4. Remove all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan. Add onions and peppers to the pan and sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic for the final minute.
  5. Add olive salad and harissa sauce mix, stir, and heat through.
  6. Add thighs back to the pan, skin-side down, before adding the cherry tomatoes and preserved lemon. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium.
  7. After 15 minutes, turn over the thighs so that they’re skin-side up. Do not cover the pan, giving the sauce a chance to thicken while the chicken finishes cooking.
  8. After the thighs have cooked for a total of 30 minutes, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the largest thigh. When the temperature reaches 165˚ F (75˚ C) the thighs are done.
  9. Remove to serving platter, sprinkle with lemon zest, and garnish with torn mint leaves, if desired.
  10. Serve immediately.

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Harissa Thighs 7

Someone forgot the mint leaves.

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Notes

I prefer to use a variety of olives here. Most of the groceries in this area offer olive salads, some even have more than 1 type. When they’re available, I’ll use the Mediterranean or Spanish olive salad. In today’s recipe, I combined both. Use whatever combination of olives you prefer and that are available. Use as little or as much as you like.

The chicken was served over tri-color “pearl” couscous that had been tossed with chopped scallions (spring onions) and sun-dried tomatoes.

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Homemade Harissa*     *     *

Harissa Recipe

yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 Fresno peppers, seeds removed
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers — well-drained if store-bought
  • 1 Habanero chile, seeds removed
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seed
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 30 mint leaves, more or less to taste
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • water

Directions

  1. Place cumin seeds in a small frying pan over med-high heat. Keep the pan moving and toast the seeds until uniformly brown and fragrant — no more than 2 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and reserve.  Repeat with coriander seeds and then the caraway. Once all are cool, place in spice mill or mortar and grind. (See Notes)
  2. Place the ground spices. Habanero and Fresno chiles, paprika, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and run until a thick paste has formed.
  3. Add the mint leaves and pulse the contents until mixed.
  4. Add the oil and process. If you prefer your harissa sauce to be thinner, add water until it reaches the consistency you like.
  5. Harissa is ready to use as-is, though it will be better after a few days, once the flavors have a chance to blend a bit.

Refrigerate in an airtight container. Celia recommends adding a thin coat of olive oil before storing. Harissa should be used within a couple of weeks.

With special thanks to Celia, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and Mimi, Chef Mimi Blog

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Notes

It is best to toast seeds of varying sizes separately. When toasted together, the smallest seeds will likely burn while you wait for the larger ones to toast.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Swordfish 1Today’s blast from the past, swordfish served with salsa verde, carries with it a message. See those grill marks, Old Man Winter? We want to start grilling but can’t so long as you stick around. Take the hint, vacate the North, and head to the Southern Hemisphere, where they eagerly await your cooler temps and much-needed rain. The rest of you can click HERE to learn how to prepare this dish.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pasta e Fagioli 2Pasta and Beans

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Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

Ravioli della Cipolle Selvatiche con i Funghi della Spugnola Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

You may recall that I visited my Zia last May and returned to Chicago with a number of recipes to share. Though it may have taken a while, today’s post is the last of those recipes, even if not quite what I had planned.

I had a devil of a time finding ramps this past Spring. My normal vendor didn’t harvest any and I was always just a bit late with my other sources. (Evidently ramps, like porcini mushrooms, are in big demand by the area’s restaurants.) Surprisingly, at the very end of the season, my fishmonger had some for sale. I bought up what he had, hoping that they would “keep” the 4 days before I left for Michigan and they did — kinda. Upon my arrival at Zia’s, I unwrapped the ramps, only to find the leaves to be a wilted, soggy mess. I quickly discarded them and kept the bulbs. This meant I would need something green for my ravioli and Zia and I decided fresh spinach would make a nice substitute. My attention now focused on the morels.

Known to but a few, there is a place near Zia’s home where morel mushrooms grow. Living 400 miles away, it is purely a matter of luck for me to be present when the pock Old Morelmarked fungi appear. Nonetheless, everyday I trotted out to the morel patch to see if anything had sprouted and everyday I returned home empty-handed. On the 4th day I gave up. Having had an inkling that this might happen, I had brought a package of dried morels with me to Michigan and used them in today’s dish. By the way, I continued to check the patch everyday until I left and none ever appeared. I did find one morel, however, far past its “use by” date, growing right next to Zia’s porch. I left it alone so that its spores could work their magic. I’ll be back next Spring.

Now, I know that it’s a little late in the year to be posting this recipe, both ramps and morels being out of season, but I did promise to post it. If you wish to prepare this now, you can follow my lead and use dried morels — a far cheaper substitute — and you can use shallots instead of the ramps. No, shallots and ramps are not the same thing but the shallots are readily available year-round and you won’t be at all disappointed with the ravioli.

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Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 2

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Ramps Ravioli and Morel Mushroom Sauce Recipes

Ingredients

For the Ravioli Filling

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup ramps diced
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea/kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 8 oz (226 g) ricotta cheese, well-drained

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 oz (14 g) dried morels, re-hydrated, liquid strained and reserved
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • t tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 new garlic bulb, diced
  • 1 to 3 oz of dry white wine
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
  • 3 thyme stems
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli

*     *     *

Directions

For the Ravioli Filling

  1. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the spinach and sauté until cooked through.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the spinach to cool.
  3. Using the same pan, sauté the diced ramps until translucent, remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the spinach, ramps, nutmeg, ricotta cheese, Pecorino Romano, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld and the cheese to firm, making it easier to work with later on.

To make ravioli using ravioli dies/molds, please click HERE to see an expert at work. There you’ll, also, find directions for cooking the pasta pillows.

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Three morels

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For the Morels “Sauce”

  1. In a frying pan, add the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 90 seconds.
  2. Add the morels and sauté for a few minutes, just long enough to give them a little color.
  3. Add the wine and sauté until all but gone.
  4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and thyme and reduce until the consistency you like for the ravioli.
  5. Add the remaining butter and season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Use to lightly dress the ravioli prepared above.
  7. Serve immediately garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 3

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Notes

Be aware that there are 2 types of mushrooms, known as false morels, that resemble morels but that are inedible. Do not go foraging for morels unless you know exactly what you are looking for. As is the case with all mushrooms, if in doubt, throw it out.

Morels should not be eaten raw. Stomach distress may result if they are not fully cooked before being eaten. Soaking them is not cooking them.

To re-hydrate morels, soak them in lukewarm water for 30 to 60 minutes before needed. Unlike most mushrooms, it wouldn’t hurt to first briefly hold them under running water to clear any grit that may be in the dimples.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Tomato and Bread Soup

Tomato and Bread Soup

This is the time of year when gardens in this area are producing tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors. If you don’t stay on top of the situation, you’ll soon be swamped with ripe tomatoes — and that’s true even if you’ve an Evil Squirrel to battle. Today’s blast from the past is a delicious way to utilize the excess. In fact, the more ripe the tomatoes, the better the dish. Pappa al Pomodoro, is a delicious soup that could not be easier to prepare. Just click HERE to learn all about it.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

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Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, and Ricotta Ravioli Filling

Yes, it’s another ravioli filling recipe, though not the one I had originally intended to post. Today’s filling recipe was to include ramps, a dish Zia and I developed during my last visit home. Well, ramp season has passed and I doubt that any of the wild onions are to be found anywhere. Asparagus, on the other hand, is still around, though it’s numbers have greatly decreased over the last 2 weekends. (The ramps post is written and will be published soon.) Seeing that asparagus season is also fleeting, I thought it best to post a recipe using the spears now, while you can still get some that are locally grown. In fact, all 3 recipes presented in today’s post will take advantage of the current harvest. The “Déjà vu” recipe will feature strawberries, while “Coming soon” is a pasta recipe that includes a number of fresh ingredients. 

Today’s post will only detail how to make asparagus ravioli filling. If you’re interested in seeing how to use ravioli molds/dies to create the stuffed pasta pillows, you can see step-by-step instructions by clicking HERE. For serving suggestions, see Notes below.

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*     *     *

Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, & Ricotta Ravioli Filling Recipe

Yield: See Notes below. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 oz (86 g) Spring onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 cup (12 oz, 340 g) ricotta, well-drained
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Roman cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Clean and roughly chop the asparagus (see Notes), mushrooms, onion, & garlic
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add asparagus, mushroom, and onion, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. If using a food processor:
    1. Place the asparagus mixture into the processor, add the ricotta and Romano cheeses, and process until uniformly smooth.
  6. If not using a food processor:
    1. Chop the asparagus mixture as finely as possible.
    2. Add the cheeses and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Filling may now be used with your favorite stuffed pasta recipe.

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Notes

Using this recipe and my large, 2 inch (5 cm), ravioli die/mold , I made 90 ravioli. You might make more or less, depending upon the size of the die or stamp used.

Whether you use homemade or store-bought ricotta, place the cheese in a clean coffee filter, where it can drain for at least a few hours to remove the excess liquid.  The drier the better. 

You can serve your asparagus ravioli in a number of ways. I’ve found that a brown butter and sage sauce works very well, as do cream and “light” tomato sauces. For those who really enjoy asparagus, simply sauté a few chopped asparagus spears in butter and use that to dress freshly cooked ravioli. A bit of lemon zest on top works very well. In all the examples given, grated cheese should be sprinkled atop the dressed ravioli.

*     *     *

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

I’ve made this and a couple other ravioli fillings over the course of the past couple of  months and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a few things.

  1. All Purpose V Double 0 Flour. Last Fall I, finally, located a source for “00” flour, doppio 0. This is the finely ground durum flour used to make pasta and pizza dough in Italy. Although it’s roughly twice as expensive as AP flour, both Zia and I agree that using it creates pasta dough with a great feel. When cooked al dente, the pasta has a good bite, just as it should, and I’ll continue to buy and use it. Decisions have consequences, however, and I now have yet another container of flour in my kitchen. For those keeping track, that makes  6 — AP, bread, wheat, spelt, semolina, and now 00.  
  2. Attachment V Ravioli Die/Mold. I decided to pull out the KitchenAid ravioli maker and give it another shot. In the past I’ve found it less than perfect and, frankly, more trouble than it’s worth. All along, I thought that the fault may lie with the fillings I used, that the attachment would work best if a softer filling was in the hopper. Today’s asparagus ravioli filling was used to test my theory. I must admit that the ravioli maker worked better than it ever has and waste — which was a big problem with earlier trials — was minimal. Even if a bit cumbersome to operate, probably due to my inexperience, it did produce row after row of perfect ravioli. All’s not well, though. In order to get perfect ravioli, the dough sheets must be thick, more than double the thickness that we normally would use. That means you need to make at least twice the amount of pasta dough than would normally be required when using ravioli molds/dies. It, also, means the ratio of filling to pasta is different from the ravioli to which I’m accustomed. (Yes, my generation of Bartolini are a spoiled lot.)  In short, the ravioli attachment is back on the shelf, waiting for me to give it another go, probably in 2015 sometime.
  3. Chicken V Duck Eggs. Recently, while waiting to buy eggs at the farmers market, the customer before me bought a half-dozen duck eggs. Prior to this, I thought they were only sold by the dozen. So, I 86’ed the chicken and went duck. A couple of days later, I used them to make the pasta dough used in the ravioli pictured throughout this post. For those unfamiliar, Mom’s pasta dough recipe calls for 4 eggs and enough water to make a cup of liquid. Because they’re larger, only 3 duck eggs plus less than a tbsp of water will yield the required cup of liquid. Once made, the dough was much more yellow than normal but, to be fair, that may be due to the eggs’ freshness more than anything else. As for taste, I really could not detect a difference but, then again, without side-by-side taste tests, I should really say that I don’t “remember” a difference. Given that duck eggs are twice the price of chicken eggs, I’m not sure that I’ll be a regular customer for them anytime soon.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

As was mentioned, we’re just about at the end of asparagus season here in the Chicago area. The tables upon tables of the tasty spears have been replaced — by strawberries! Pictured on the right is just one vendor’s berries at the Evanston farmers market. Believe me, there are many more and I defy anyone, save those with allergies, to walk around that market without buying at least one quart. So, what will you do with these sweet & juicy red gems? Why, make strawberry jam, of course! You can see Mom’s recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Farmers Market Pasta

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Homemade Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce

Gnocchi in Salsa di Gorgonzola

“The future ain’t what it used to be” and today’s post is the proof. You may have noticed last week’s “Coming Soon …” photograph depicted a recipe called “Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN” and, as a result, you may have deduced that was to be today’s recipe. Well, guess again. That recipe is scheduled for next week — has been all along — and cannot be rescheduled for reasons that will become apparent in the post. I must admit that it came as a surprise for me to learn that I cannot read a calendar and my newly found malady did leave me in a bit of a lurch for this week’s post. All’s not lost, though, since I’ve a bagful of recipes from my recent visit with Zia from which to choose. Because so many of you were interested in my family’s risotto, I set to work writing that recipe and blog entry. All was going swimmingly until Saturday morning when I noticed that Stefan, of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto with Peas & Mint. The very next day, Nick, of Frugal Feeding, posted his recipe for Tomato and Basil Risotto. That’s when I began to rethink my post. The third and final blow was struck when Paul, of That Other Cooking Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppie (squid ink risotto). Deciding that my post could be postponed a bit, I went back to the bag of recipes from my visit home and pulled out today’s gnocchi recipe. Even so, if all of this talk of risotto has you yearning for the creamy rice dish, be sure to check out those 3 recipes and, while you’re at it, spend a little time looking around each blog. You will not be disappointed.

One of the first things we kids were allowed to help make in the kitchen were gnocchi. Mom and Zia would make the dough and then hand us a piece to roll into a log, though we called them snakes. With a butter knife we were taught how to cut the snake and, depending upon the gnocchi’s use, we might even have been allowed to try to roll them across a fork’s tines to make the grooves. By “use” I mean whether dinner guests or family were to dine on the fruit of our labor. Mom always put her best gnocchi forward for company and she took charge of the groove-making, reshaping any malformed gnocchi along the way. Unlike today’s recipe, however, Mom’s gnocchi were always served with her meat sauce.

Although I’ve enjoyed gnocchi with gorgonzola at restaurants, I never thought about replicating the recipe at home until several years ago. My Entertainer Friend mentioned how much he enjoyed gnocchi with bleu cheese and I thought I’d come up with a recipe and treat him. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of variations, using several spices and herbs, and eventually switched from bleu cheese to gorgonzola, but I always came back to the simple recipe I’ll share today. It’s yet another example of “Less is More.” As for my Entertainer Friend, now that I’ve reminded him, I’d better start planning that gnocchi dinner.

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Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce Recipe

yield: roughly 1.5 lbs (680 g)

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes, once cooked, peeled, & riced = 18 oz (510 g) (See Notes.)
  • 2 cups (10.2 oz; 290 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • corn meal or additional flour for dusting surfaces
  • 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola, crumbled, more or less to taste (See Notes)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream, more or less to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated or flaked Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish — Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted

Directions

To make the gnocchi

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (204˚ C). Use a fork to pierce the potatoes numerous times.
  2. Place potatoes on center rack and bake until cooked, from 50 to 60 minutes, depending upon potato size.
  3. Meanwhile gather the other ingredients. Allow the egg to come to room temperature.
  4. Once cooked, remove potatoes and set aside until they can be safely handled.
  5. Slice each potato in half, lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out all of potato, reserving the skin for some other purpose.
  6. Run cooked potatoes through a ricer or food mill. (See Notes.)
  7. Use the riced potatoes to create a mound on a floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound, as you would when making pasta dough.
  8. Sprinkle the top of the well’s walls with 3/4 cup of flour. Place the egg in the center well after the potato has cooled enough so that the egg won’t cook.
  9. Using a fork, slowly combine the potato & flour with the egg. Once the dough renders the fork useless, continue mixing the dough with your hands.
  10. The dough should come together within 4 to 5 minutes. It will be ready when it is firm and a little moist-to-the-touch without being tacky. Add more flour as needed but remember: the less flour used, the better.
  11. Form a ball with the dough and divide it into fourths.
  12. Take one-quarter and divide it in half. Roll one of the sections into a log with a width of your preference. We normally roll them about an inch (2.5 cm) thick — the width of an index finger.
  13. Use a sharp knife or board scraper to cut the log into segments, each 1/2 (1.3 cm) to an inch (2.5 cm) long.
  14. If grooves are desiredFlour the back of a dinner fork, place a segment at the top of the tines, use your finger to roll it over the tines, creating gnocchi with grooves on one side and a dimple where your finger rolled it.
  15. If grooves aren’t wanted: Use a finger to push and roll each segment across the work surface, creating smooth surfaced gnocchi with dimples where you’d placed your fingers.
  16. Place the gnocchi on a lined baking sheet that’s been dusted with flour or corn meal.
  17. If not going to be cooked within a few hours, place the gnocchi-covered baking sheet in a freezer and once the gnocchi are frozen solid, place them in containers/bags suitable for freezer storage.

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To cook the gnocchi

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Once the water boils, add the gnocchi and stir gently.
  3. When the water resumes boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and notice when the gnocchi begin to float. This should only take a couple of minutes when fresh and a few more when the gnocchi are frozen. Gnocchi will be ready about 1 minute after the last start floating. If in doubt, taste one.

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To prepare the gorgonzola sauce

  1. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the cream is hot, add the gorgonzola and stir until melted. Taste and adjust, adding more cream or gorgonzola to suit your own taste. If you prefer, you can add a bit of the water used to cook the gnocchi to thin the sauce without adding more cream.
  3. Don’t forget to taste and season with salt & pepper, if required.

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To assemble and serve

  1. Use a hand strainer — “Spider” strainer — to remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and place in the serving bowl. Add the gorgonzola sauce and mix gently until all are coated.
  2. Serve immediately, garnished with grated/flaked Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Variations

Like most Italian dishes, there are many recipes around for making gnocchi. No matter which recipe you choose to follow, 2 rules will apply. 1) The fluffier the smashed/riced potato the better, and, 2) the less flour the better. Keep those 2 rules in mind and you’ll be well-rewarded with a most palatable platter of puffy potato pillows rather than the much less than spectacular spud scuds.

One popular variation for preparing gnocchi is to bake them before serving. Follow the directions above for making and cooking the gnocchi, as well as making the gorgonzola sauce. Use all the sauce to dress the gnocchi and place in a baking dish. Top with grated cheese or bread crumbs that have been moistened by olive oil or butter. Bake in a 375˚ F (190˚ C) pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot & bubbly with a golden brown topping.

Even after being reduced, some may want a thicker sauce. (Bear in mind it will thicken once taken off the heat and begins to cool.) If you want a very thick sauce, you can start by making a roux. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a small sauce pan. Add an equal amount of AP flour and whisk until fully blended. Allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the roux darken or it will color your cheese sauce. Add the half the cream and whisk till incorporated. Add the remaining cream and keep whisking as it heats and begins to thicken. Once thickened, about 5 minutes, add the gorgonzola and keep whisking until melted. If too thick, you can adjust by adding more cream or some of the water used to cook the gnocchi.

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If they’re all identical, no one will believe you made them.

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Notes

Much like making pasta, making gnocchi is not an exact science. The moisture in the potatoes, the size of the egg, the humidity, and even the brand of flour can all affect the amount of flour required. As was mentioned, use as little flour as possible to create a firm, slightly moist-to-the-touch dough that isn’t at all tacky.

I used 2 large russet potatoes that weighed 26.8 oz (760 g). Once baked, peeled and riced, they weighed a total of 18 oz (510 g). For accuracy I weighed the flour, starting with 2 cups or 10.2 oz (290 g). When I was finished, the remaining flour weighed 4 oz (114 g), meaning I used a little over 1 cup of flour for a little over a pound of riced potatoes. Lastly, to determine the yield, I weighed the frozen gnocchi before bagging. Your yield may vary due to the above-mentioned factors.

Not everyone has a potato ricer or food mill and I seriously doubt that my Nonnas had either one. They used a large fork to smash the potatoes and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. You can, also, use a potato masher or a box grater, if need be. Just be sure to use a fork to fluff the smashed potatoes as much as possible before proceeding.

It had been some time since I last made this dish when I prepared it for Zia. As a result, I misjudged and used a full cup (236 ml) of heavy cream with 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola. That resulted in a very runny sauce. Thankfully, gnocchi was to be our primo piatto so I was able to reduce the sauce to the consistency I wanted without affecting the rest of the dinner. Today’s recipe uses half the amount of cream I used for that dinner.

It’s not a bad idea to have extra gorgonzola and cream on-hand the first time you make this sauce, just in case your idea of the perfect gorgonzola sauce differs from mine. You can add more cheese or cream, as required.

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It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Blueberry

I don’t care what the weatherman says. The calendar says it’s June and that means it’s ice cream season. Time to dust off the ice cream machines and get those canisters into the freezer. Now I’ve shared several ice cream recipes but this one, blueberry swirl cheesecake, is Number One among family, friends, friends of family, and families of friends — but don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you … 

Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN

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Porcini Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling

Last week I demonstrated how easy it is to make ravioli, tortelloni, and manicotti using wonton wrappers. Now that you know what to do with the wrappers, today I’ll show you how to make a filling.

Given the stated purpose of these two posts, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a filling that was overly complicated to prepare or that required a dozen ingredients. Using only dried porcini mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and goat cheese, this filling could not be easier to make and yet packs a great deal of flavor into each pasta. With the longest step in the process being the wait for the mushroom-leek mixture to cool after being sautéed, you can easily make enough wonton wrapper ravioli in an afternoon for that evening’s dinner. Yes, you can do this.

Thursday I’ll be leaving for Michigan, where the Dial-Up Modem is King. As a result, the Kitchens must close temporarily and there can be no post next Wednesday. My next entry is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5th.

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Porcini Mushroom, Leek, & Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • .7 oz (20 g) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 oz (85 g) leeks, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 10.5 oz (298 g) goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

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Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, remove from heat, and add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms to paper towels, being careful not to disturb sediments in liquid. (Reserve mushroom liquid. See Notes.) Use another paper towel to blot the mushrooms dry before chopping them to a small dice. Put aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add leeks and mushrooms, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. Once cooled, combine mushroom-leek mixture with goat cheese and stir to thoroughly combine.
  6. Filling may now be used to fill you favorite pasta.

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Variations

This recipe is not set in stone. Don’t have any leeks? Use half the amount listed in sweet onions. Don’t like goat cheese? Use ricotta. No porcini? Use 3 to 4 oz (85 to 113 g) fresh crimini mushrooms. Don’t like this filling at all? Don’t worry. You may prefer to use either of these 2 fillings: the traditional Bartolini ravioli filling or the Bartolini sausage ravioli filling. Still not quite what you’re looking for? In a few weeks I’ll be posting an asparagus-based filling recipe.

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Notes

There’s really no way of determining how much pasta you’ll be able to fill with today’s recipe. That will depend upon the type and size of the pasta you wish to make. Because of this, I wouldn’t invite 10 guests to dinner the first time you make a homemade stuffed pasta, whether or not you use wonton wrappers. Better to wait until your 2nd attempt or at least wait to make your guest list until after the pasta is made.

When making this filling, I allowed the goat cheese to warm a bit so that it would be easier to combine with the other ingredients. Depending upon the pasta to be filled, you may find it easier to chill it again before using it to stuff your pasta.

Do not discard the liquid used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms. Once the sediments have settled, pour off the liquid, leaving those sediments behind. The liquid can then be stored/frozen for later use in soups, sauces, risotto, or pasta dishes, to name a few.

Although you can use any sauce yo wish to dress pasta using this filling, I chose to, again, keep it simple. Once it was cooked and drained, I gently tossed the raviolo in some melted butter and garnished it with flaked Parmesan cheese, as seen in this post’s opening photo.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

BBQ Shrimp

Gamberetti alla Griglia

This weekend is a 3-day weekend and start of the grilling season. I thought it only fitting to feature Grandpa’s Barbecued Shrimp as this week’s blast from the past. Easy to prepare, whether you serve them as a snack, appetizer, or main course, you and your guests will love them. You can learn how Grandpa did it by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Baked Haddock

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