esterday, I shared a simple pizza sauce recipe and a few house-sitting pictures with you. Today, I’d like to follow that up with the resulting pizza and a house-sitting anecdote.
What follows is a prime example of what it’s like to be me. See, I seem to be a magnet for “oops” situations. We’re talking a rapid series of events that will cause my brain to completely freeze, and my I-work-8-hours-a-day-on-a-computer fingers on my left hand to start involuntarily making ctrl+Z keystrokes. Sometimes, it’s my own fault. But most of the time, it feels like mischievous cosmic forces are at work, putting me in ridiculous situations for their own amusement. (See also this post.) It’s cool though, because apparently the universe and I have similar senses of humor. (I am also well aware that this cosmic torment might actually be better defined as “karma,” since I have a bit of a penchant for mischief myself.)
The story begins on Friday evening of last week. I’ve finished my work, wrapped up a number of care-taking chores, and I’m ready to enjoy a glass of wine. I grab a corkscrew from a drawer, remove the cork most of the way from the bottle, then start to pull the rest of it out (which, for me, usually requires a bit of upward pull and a little bit of wiggling back and forth). But right as I start to pull, the entire thing pops right out. And since my cork wiggle had begun with a tilt towards me, the metal top of the corkscrew wound up in the outer corner of my eye socket. Luckily, after about 10 seconds of my brain only being capable of thinking, “holy $&*#, HOLY $&*#,” my memories of bad ankles and high school soccer practice kicked in, and I was able to switch gears to, “ice pack [or bag of frozen corn] — 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.” After enough icing to calm myself down and dealing with the fact that a white shirt was a bad ice pack wrap choice (I was also bleeding a little), I did manage to enjoy my glass of wine. I also examined the cork, which turned out to be about half an inch shorter than any other cork I’ve ever seen. You win this round, universe.
One of the things I quickly learned about house-sitting in a rural place is that it requires a lot of planning ahead, food-wise. On occasion, I realize that I’m running low on staples, but I really don’t feel like driving half an hour to buy anything. That is how things like this pizza come into being. (And yes, the bag of corn that saved my poor eye is the same one that went onto this pizza!) There happened to be a lone zucchini in the vegetable drawer, and with a dwindling pile of garlic scapes and some random scallions, a delicious pizza was born!
Zucchini & Sweet Corn Pizza
Saute zucchini and corn over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until most of the water has cooked off.
Shape dough into a circle (or whatever shape you wish). Evenly distribute sauce, then sprinkle on half of the cheese.
Evenly distribute toppings, then add the rest of the cheese. Brush honey and olive oil mixture on the crust.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the crust begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool, then slice and serve.
I’m sitting here, staring at these little ravioli on my computer screen, trying to think of something nice to say about them. And I’m finding it rather difficult. Not because they weren’t good — they were, in fact, quite good (aside from a mediocre pasta dough experiment, which I will address at a later date). But because I’m sitting in my 91° room, while a fan blasts 91° heat towards my face at high speeds long after the sun has set. So when I look at these ravioli, all I can see is warm, hearty food that was cooked over a pot of boiling hot water, then tossed into a sizzling hot frying pan. Not the sort of thing one dreams about on an evening like this, when throwing together a minimum-effort burrito and cracking a cold beer feels borderline commendable. But a few days days ago, in the balmy 78° weather, these things really hit the spot. So I will now attempt to transport my consciousness back in time, so that I may present these things with the level of enthusiasm they deserve.
First off, if you’ve ever had roasted mushrooms before, I really don’t need to convince you that these ravioli are delicious. And if you haven’t, just imagine perfectly tender, succulent mushrooms that pack an insane amount of flavor. Now think about mixing those up with chèvre and parmesan. Oh and then there’s the whole pan-frying pasta in butter part too. Sold? Sold!
Roasted Mushroom Ravioli with Thyme & Garlic Scapes
yield: approximately 2 1/2 dozen medium ravioli
To roast the mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 450°. Toss mushrooms with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper, then spread across the bottom of a baking dish. Roast mushrooms for 15–20 minutes, or until they look nice and tender and smell divine. Remove and let cool.
To make the filling:
Once the mushrooms have cooled down, dice them and transfer to a bowl. Mix in chèvre and parmesan (and fresh herbs, if using). Set aside.
To make the ravioli:
Roll pasta dough out into a rectangular shape on a well-floured surface (making rectangle as symmetrical as possible), until thin but not in danger of tearing (about 1/16 of an inch thick). Distribute spoonfuls of filling along half the surface of the dough. Brush a little bit of water in between the spoonfuls of filling, then cut off the unused portion of the dough. Carefully transfer it on top and press to seal.
Cut out ravioli with a sharp knife or a pasta wheel. To make extra-sure they are sealed, press all around the edges with a fork. Trim ravioli, re-knead the leftover dough, then repeat the process until all of the filling has been used. Freeze any ravioli that you won’t eat immediately.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the ravioli. Cook until they begin to float (this should only take a few minutes). Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan over medium heat, then add the cooked ravioli, garlic scapes, and half the thyme. Pan-fry for a few minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Top with the remaining fresh thyme, then serve!
Ha! Look at these silly things. (They’re pretty adorable, aren’t they?)
Cutsey-wootsy relationship stuff—usually not my thing. Pet names? Ick. Public affection? No way. (One of my boyfriend’s favorite ways to torment me is to try to hold my hand in public, then laugh as I uncomfortably squirm away.) But there’s just something about over-the-top food that I can’t resist! I’ve been making a delicious beet & chèvre ravioli for a couple years now. And I’ve happened upon a few posts for beet pasta in the past that involve squeezing beet juice directly into the dough. I started thinking about that pretty bright red dough recently, and a little heart-shaped cookie cutter just happened to find its way into my shopping basket a few days later. My fate was sealed. These cute ravioli were so happening.
The beauty of this dish is that it can be made well in advance, so you don’t have to spend an entire day dealing with roasting beets and making pasta dough, while also trying to find time to curl your hair, touch up your nails, and pick out the perfect outfit. And boys—not to exclude you—this will leave you plenty of time to buy flowers and google how to set a table. (I’d actually probably have to google that too . . .) Just make them sometime in the next few weeks, then stick them in the freezer until it’s almost dinner time! As I’m writing this I’m actually convincing myself that this is the best Valentine’s Day dinner idea ever. No need to cook all day, or bother with reservations so you can sit in a restaurant packed with other couples. This year, say it with pasta!
Beet & Chèvre Ravioli Hearts
yield: approximately 2 ½ dozen ravioli
Preheat the oven to 400°. Pierce the beets a few times, then place in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until beets are tender. Remove from the oven and let cool, then peel.
Prepare the filling:
Ready your food processor* with the grater attachment. Chop the beets in half or thirds (whatever will fit), then grate. Switch to the chopping blade. Add a tablespoon or two of water, then pulse until everything is finely chopped.
* If you don’t have a food processor, grate the beets, then finely chop them with a sharp knife. Transfer them to a bowl, then add the water and stir.
Transfer beets to a piece of cheesecloth. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, a gold filter or fine sieve should work as well.) Squeeze the beets over a large measuring cup or bowl, until you have ⅓ to ½ a cup of juice. (The beet-filled cheesecloth actually kind of looked like a human heart by the time I was done with it, and my kitchen looked like the scene of a murder. If you’re anti-Valentine’s Day but pro-gross things, consider making these just for the sheer amusement of squeezing bright red juice out of something that’s reminiscent of an organ.) My apologies to anyone I just totally grossed out. (And a beet-stained high five to my kindred spirits.)
To make the dough:
Add flour to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yolks and the beet juice, then stir to combine. When you can no longer mix with a fork, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth.
Roll the dough out into a large, even rectangle approximately 1/16 of an inch thick. Cut the rectangle in half.
Grab about a tablespoon of filling (or whatever will work best for the size of cookie cutter you’re using) and mold it into a heart shape. Arrange filling hearts about an inch apart from each other until you’ve covered half of the dough (there should be some filling left over).
Dot a little bit of water around the edges of the filling, then place the other half of the dough rectangle on top and press to seal. Using your cookie cutter, cut out each ravioli. Pull up the dough trim from around the ravioli, knead until the smooth, then cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside.
Gently remove each ravioli from the counter (they may resist a little, depending on how sticky your dough is). Press around the edges with a fork to seal, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. When you’ve finished, reroll the remaining dough and fill with the remaining filling.
If you are preparing these ahead, transfer the cookie sheet to the freezer and let sit until the ravioli have frozen, then place them in a heavy-duty ziploc bag. (If you are going to be cooking them immediately, follow the directions below.)
Note: One of the issues that I discovered while preparing these for today’s photoshoot is that the beautiful bright red color of the dough tends to leach out into boiling water. I actually decided to try steaming a second batch, just to see if they’d hold their color better. The result was a slightly brighter ravioli, but they were also a little bit chewier and not nearly as good. Then several hours after this post went live, I received some great advice from Gerry over at Gewoon Lekker Gewoon. She’d made a similar dish last year, and experienced the same disappointment of beautiful red ravioli that had turned an icky washed-out mauve color after cooking. Her solution: boil them in beet juice! If you’re going to juice the beets yourself, you will want to do so right before you’re ready to cook the ravioli (as Gerry mentions also dealing with less-vibrant juice from the day before). If you don’t have access to a juicer, getting enough beet juice for boiling is going to be a bit of a pain. I’d suggest getting as much juice as you can out of some beets, then mixing it with just enough water to cook the ravioli in. And if you don’t want to go the beet juice route at all, just keep a careful eye on them while boiling, and remove them as soon as they begin to float.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ravioli and boil until they just begin to float. Now normally, I’d suggest pan-frying these in a little bit of butter after they’ve finished cooking, but that may also detract a little bit from the color. If you keep a close watch and only fry them for less than a minute on each side, they should be fine. If you don’t want to risk it, then just serve them as is (and maybe garnish with some parmesan or poppy seeds).
Lots of ♥ 🙂
I finally did it. I put pumpkin in something that isn’t a cookie. Or a muffin. Or a cinnamon roll. It’s taken over a year, but can you blame me? With so many other dinner-friendly varieties of squash out there, the adorable little pumpkin begs to be lovingly cradled from the store all the way to the kitchen, then turned into delectable treats. (I refuse to believe that I’m the only person who carefully searches the pumpkin pile until I’m sure I’ve found the cutest one, then proudly parades it around the store.)
This was my second attempt at a savory pumpkin dish. The first, sadly, was not a success. I made pumpkin gnudi that were more like boiled pumpkin paste blobs than pasta. (As I started to make the dough, it quickly became apparent to me that my pumpkin purée was too watery. I attempted to compensate by adding more egg, cheese, and flour, but it did not do the trick.) Luckily, I did not give up on pumpkin for dinner! And these ravioli were far better. I have since seen a few pumpkin gnocchi/gnudi dishes kicking around the gawkerverse, so I will definitely be giving that one a try again. (I will not be outdone!) 😉
Pumpkin & Sage Ravioli
yield: approx. 4 doz.
Note: I kind of threw this dish together on a whim, so my measurements below are approximations. Please feel free to adjust ingredients as you see fit. Also, if your pumpkin purée seems a bit watery, cook off some of the water in a pan over medium-low heat.
Mix all of the filling ingredients together, reserving ⅓ of the sage for garnish.
On a floured surface, roll one batch of pasta dough out into a large rectangle, until it is thin, but not in danger of tearing (around 1/16 of an inch thick). Drop tablespoons of filling over the surface of the dough, leaving about an inch between.
Roll the second batch of dough out into another rectangle, doing your best to replicate the size/shape of the first. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers), rub a little bit of water on the surface of the first dough between the filling, to ensure a proper seal. Carefully place the second rectangle of dough on top, and press all around to close. Cut ravioli with a knife or pasta wheel. To make sure they’re extra sealed (and extra cute), press all around the edges with a fork.
Note: If you still have some filling and a bit of dough leftover after trimming off the edges, knead the dough back together, and roll out again. Use a biscuit cutter (or any other round sharpish thing) to cut out as many circles as you can. Spoon filling into the center, brush water around the edges, then fold over and seal. (That’s why the little guys in my pictures look like halfmoons, rather than squares.)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook until they begin to float (this should only take a few minutes). As usual, I’m advocating the pan-frying of the ravioli after they’ve finished cooking. Add a tablespoon or two of butter to a pan, then add the ravioli and leftover sage and fry over medium heat, until golden brown on each side. Garnish with a little more sage if you like, and maybe some freshly-grated parm.
(Any leftover, uncooked ravioli can be frozen in a heavy-duty ziploc bag.)
Well it seems that March, like February, has just flown by. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve been wondering when it’s actually going to begin to feel like spring in the northeast! We had a few 40° days in the beginning of the month, abruptly followed by an appalling amount of snow.
And after a lot of shoveling, a few more warm days, and a lot more cold days, the snow has finally begun to disappear. Luckily, those few spring-like days in early March put me in the mood to start my seedlings. (Quite a feat for me, queen of procrastination that I am.) So even though it has been crummy and cold outside, I’ve had little bits of spring sprouting and growing in my kitchen.
Look at them—my babies!
Speaking of seeds, did you know that quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain? I discovered quinoa about six years ago, when I randomly bought a box of it in the organic aisle of the grocery store. And after reading the back of the box while I was waiting for it to cook, I learned what a wonderful, highly-nutritious complete protein it is! I also learned how to pronounce it (bonus).
My favorite, lazy way to make quinoa is to throw in some peas and soy sauce. But this time, I was curious how it would work as a risotto. The answer: quite well! The only thing that could have made this dish better is some shrimp. My boyfriend thought it was a little too lemony (although I didn’t mind it). If you don’t love lemon, you might want to use the zest of only half a lemon, and leave the juice out all together. But if you add shrimp, use it all!
Asparagus & Lemon Quinoa Risotto
4½ cups of stock (chicken or vegetable)
1½ cups of quinoa
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 lemon (zest & juice)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp of butter
¼ cup of parmesan cheese, grated
¼ dry white wine
Forgive my image-heavy post . . .
I was testing out my new flash on these in-process photos.
Soak quinoa in a bowl of water for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, bring stock to a boil in a large pot (you’ll want to use a pot that has a well-fitting lid). Keep the lid on the pot when you aren’t actually transferring things in and out of the pot, to keep evaporation to a minimum.
Once the stock begins to boil, add asparagus. Boil for 5–7 minutes, then transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Place in the fridge or an ice bath. Bring the stock down to barely a simmer and cover.
While asparagus cooks, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large, shallow pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Drain quinoa and add to the pan. Saute for about a minute, then lower heat slightly. Using a ladle (or something similar), ladle in just enough stock to cover the quinoa. Let simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, then ladle in the same amount of stock. Continue until the liquid is gone, and the quinoa is fully cooked (when the white germ ring becomes visible around the outside). If you’re running low on liquid and your quinoa isn’t fully cooked, just add some water to your stock pot, bring it to a simmer, and then continue with that.
As the last of your liquid is being absorbed, add in asparagus and white wine. Once the liquid is gone, remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice and zest, and parmesan cheese.
Sidenote: One of my favorite things to do with leftover risotto is to use it in a frittata (with hot sauce and maple syrup). I haven’t tried it with quinoa, but I don’t foresee it being bad!
So sorry! I’ve been wallowing in post-holiday laziness. But I’m back, and I’m ready to show you how to make something tasty!
For a long time, I had no idea what to do with leftover ricotta cheese. I would buy a container, use a few spoonfuls of it on a pizza, then pull it out of the fridge several months later and recoil in horror at the scary pink color it had turned. Recently, I decided I needed to correct this problem. With a mostly-full container in the fridge, I set out find a recipe that required a large amount of ricotta. And that is when I discovered gnudi. If you like gnocchi but have little-to-no patience, gnudi is for you. Instead of peeling, chopping, boiling, and mashing potatoes and then waiting for them to cool before you actually get to the pasta-making part, you just mix together ricotta, flour, parmesan, and a couple other things. In less than 10 minutes, you have pasta dough. Just roll it out, cut it up, and throw it in a pot of boiling water. You could stop there, but pan-frying makes them even better. Aside from the deliciousness that brown butter will impart onto anything it touches, the frying gives the gnudi a nice, crisp outer texture. I think mushrooms compliment the pasta wonderfully, but feel free to add whatever you want—they’re versatile!
Pan-Fried Gnudi with Brown Butter & Mushrooms
(adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious)
yield: 4 servings
At this point, I like to put the bowl of dough in the fridge for 15–20 minutes. I find that cold dough is less sticky, and therefore easier to work with. In the meantime, slice mushrooms and saute in a little bit of butter, until mushrooms just begin to brown and soften. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove dough from fridge. Grab a fistful of dough and place on a well-floured surface. Roll out to form 1-inch thick ropes, then cut into pieces.
Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. While you wait for it to boil, roll out and cut up the rest of the gnudi. Once the water is boiling, add in half of the pasta. While they cook, brown half of the butter in a pan. When the gnudi are puffy (this will take around 4 minutes) transfer them to the pan with a slotted spoon.
Fry gnudi until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate or large bowl. Repeat process with the second half of the pasta. Once the second batch is browned, add the first batch and the mushrooms to the pan, and stir until evenly warmed. Remove from heat and serve!
Do you still have some Thanksgiving leftovers hanging around? Are you growing a little tired of turkey sandwiches? Please say yes. And then please, make this.
This year’s holiday was quite a success, if I do say so myself. It will be a model for all future Thanksgivings I host. From now on, I will always brine my turkey. I will happily delegate dishes to friends and family to preserve my own sanity. And I will always make a pot pie out of the leftovers. In fact, I will probably make larger meals all winter, just so I can make more pot pies. They are the ultimate cold-weather comfort food. And they are awesomely good.
I will list the ingredients I used below, but you can use whatever you’d like. Just make enough stuff to fill your pie, and hold it all together with some gravy. You really can’t go wrong!
Turkey Pot Pie
(adapted from Bon Appétit via Epicurious)
Roll out one round of dough and place it in your pie pan. Trim off any excess and chill in the fridge.
Melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add in scallions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms just begin to soften and release a little liquid. (If you are using onion instead of scallions, cook onion for a few minutes, until it becomes translucent, then add the mushrooms.) Add carrots and green beans and cook for another two minutes. Add turkey, gravy, peas, mashed potatoes, herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat. Let simmer until it has thickened slightly.
Remove mixture from heat and let it rest for a few minutes, then pour it into your chilled pie crust. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
When the pie is nearly done chilling, preheat your oven to 400°. Roll out your second dough round until it is big enough to cover the top of the pie. Trim excess, then pinch edges to seal. Brush top with egg white. Score a few times to release steam during baking.
Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the crust begins to turn a pretty golden brown. Remove pie and let it rest for at least 15 minutes (this will be difficult, because it’s going to smell good).
After you’ve waited for as long as you can stand, cut pie into hearty slices. Serve it with a side of leftover cranberry sauce, if you are so inclined. Be prepared to go back for seconds!
For the record, I love butter. Love it. So for me to replace it with something else—especially something healthy—the end result has to be delicious. And this certainly is.
Last fall, I was going crazy for roasted butternut squash. Then one day, I happened upon a recipe for a butternut squash and parmesan sauce. I’d never thought about puréeing the thing before, but it seemed like a potentially yummy idea. I decided to try making a faux alfredo, leaving out butter entirely. And oh my, was it good! I’m not going to say it was better than alfredo (I feel like a statement claiming anything to be better than alfredo might potentially be blasphemous), but it is equally good, in a different way. The squash gives it a nice richness and depth of flavor—it’s a surprise to find out that there is no butter in it whatsoever. And it’s healthy (or, not as unhealthy), so you can justify snacking on the leftovers incessantly (and there will be leftovers—this yields a lot of sauce). If you don’t like leftovers and you aren’t feeding a family of 8, I recommend cutting this recipe in half.
Butternut Squash Alfredo
yield: approx. 4 cups of sauce
Preheat oven to 425°. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and pulp. Arrange squash in a pan, cut side down (you may need to halve your halves or use two pans if you can’t get it to fit). Cover with tinfoil and roast for 45 minutes, until squash is tender.
Remove squash from oven and let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, scrape out soft squash meat with a spoon. Combine squash, half & half, parmesan, and salt in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth (using an immersion blender would work fine as well). Add sauce to whatever pasta dish you’d like! I’ve used this as a sauce for lasagna before, and it was quite good. My favorite way to use it, however, is in a sort of faux mac & cheese. I cook an entire package of chicciole pasta (they hold sauce well and they look like screaming faces), steam one small package of frozen peas, saute one medium-sized head of broccoli (cut into small florets), combine everything (including sauce) together, distribute between two baking dishes, sprinkle breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese over top, and bake for 20–30 minutes. So good! Because it’s so tasty, I’m having trouble envisioning other ways to use this sauce. I welcome suggestions!