February 24, 2010

Holy Ravioli!

Sam and I had an ambitious Monday.  We’ve become very good at planning for the week and trying to get as much as possible out of one or two grocery runs–as much as I talked about “shopping like a Parisian”, it’s now pretty tiresome.  But on Monday, we didn’t feel like having anything we’d planned for, we felt like cooking outside of the pantry.  Sam’s love of making pasta hasn’t worn off and he was dying to try ravioli, so we decided on a sweet potato version. Luckily, my shopping run was minimal, and the whole process was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be!  Maybe that was because I didn’t actually have to hand make the pasta. But the filling was delicious and simple, that I would be tempted to try my hand at it the next time.  Paired with a simple butter sauce, and tinged with aromatic thyme, this meal was satisfying and special on a raw Monday night.

Homemade Ravioli Dough

3 eggs
2 ¼ c. flour
pinch of salt

In a large glass bowl, add the flour and create a well for the eggs.  Quickly whisk the eggs then pour them into the well.  Combine the flour and eggs and as soon as it starts sticking together, knead the dough until it is no longer sticky.  

Wrap the ball in plastic and let it sit on the counter for 20-25 minutes.  Split the dough in half and roll each ball through the pasta maker on the widest setting at least 3 times.  Continue rolling the dough through at least 2 times at each successive setting until you get to your desired thickness. 

Sweet Potato Filling

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. milk
salt & pepper
¼ c. freshly grated parmesan

Peel and boil the sweet potatoes.  Alternatively, you can steam them in the microwave, which is a great idea when you only have two burners.  Once tender, chop the potatoes into manageable pieces and discard any tough or discolored parts.  Using a hand mixer, blend the potatoes until smooth.  Add the butter and milk and blend again.  Mix in the thyme, parmesan, salt & pepper using a spatula and taste.  Let cool for a bit before you dole out tbsp. sized filling for the ravioli.  Close and cut out the ravioli using a knife, or as I did, biscuit cutters.  They worked very well in sealing the ravioli.  When ready to eat, bring water to boil and cook the ravioli until all of it has risen. 

Butter Sauce
¼ c. butter
sprinkle of fresh thyme
salt & pepper
dash of fresh nutmeg

Melt the butter in a frying pan.  Add the thyme, salt & pepper, and nutmeg and stir until the butter just begins to froth and get brown.  Pour over the ravioli and serve with parmesan.

February 21, 2010

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef...

Sam and I needed a vacation.  After a not so relaxing long weekend away and a business trip to LA (for me), we were ready to sit around and do a whole lot of nothing this weekend.  Of course, that never works out exactly how you’ve planned, but we did an excellent job of staying (mostly) in our neighborhood and using the weekend as a great stay-cation.  That included a delicious Saturday night of local beef and collard greens, a good bottle of wine, and a whole lot of watching of curling (is it just me, or is that “sport” on more than ever these Olympics?)
One of our favorite weekend activities is a trip to Chelsea Market.  If you live in New York, it is a must visit.  Every time we go, the selection just gets better and better – it’s really become a one-stop-shop for all our foodie desires.  With the addition of a great cheese shop filled with an all-American selection, and a big time local butcher, there’s little need to go anywhere else for all the fixings for a great gourmet meal.  Biggest plus?  Our gourmet meal for two cost only $20 – a price unheard of in our expensive Manhattan zip code.
Our meal was simple – a sirloin tip roast, collard greens, and polenta – but really hit the spot. Plus, I found another green winter vegetable that I just can’t get enough of! I made enough polenta to feed an army, but I’m going to use it later this week, so be on the look out! 

Roast Beef for Two

1 ½ lbs. sirloin tip roast
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy pan.  When the oil is very hot and smoking, add the beef and sear, browning on all sides, about 2 minutes a side.  Remove from heat and add to a roasting pan.  Put the roast in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the temperature in the middle of the roast reaches 150 degrees.

Prepare the polenta according to the package instructions.  For a creamier polenta, add a tbsp. of butter and a little whole milk or cream once the polenta has finished cooking.

Culbreth Collard Greens

My southern grandfather would have been very proud of me on Saturday night.  My first attempt at cooking this hearty green was a success!  I chose to cook this much like I do kale and broccolini. 
olive oil
1 bunch collard greens, chopped length-wise, then in thirds.
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp. water

In the same pan that you browned the beef, heat oil.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until tender.  Add the collard greens and salt generously.  Add the lemon juice and turn to coat all of the greens.  Add the water and cover.  Cook for roughly 5 minute, or until the greens are just tender but still retain their crunch.

February 12, 2010

The Perfect Pairing for a Long Weekend: Cranberry Walnut Muffins

Long weekends are the best.  I love waking up on Monday and having it not be a “Monday”.  And for those days, what you really need is an easy muffin you can quickly bake in the morning that will leave your house or apartment smelling delicious for the whole day. This is especially enticing when it’s cold and snowy and you don’t have much incentive to leave said home. This long weekend also happens to be Valentine’s Day, and these spicy muffins flecked with cranberries, orange, and nutmeg, these will warm you to the core.  The perfect remedy for a chilly long weekend.

I made these muffins this week and they were particularly good when toasted with a little butter or orange marmalade.  I added orange zest and walnuts because I like my muffins to have a bit more texture, but I’m sure they would be delightful without those additions.  Nigella calls them “Christmas-Morning Muffins”, but I would suggest baking them from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day and any time in between.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins (adapted from Nigella’s Christmas-Morning Muffins from How to Be a Domestic Goddess)
Makes 12 muffins

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. nutmeg
Juice from one orange
1 tbsp. orange zest
¼ c. milk
¼ c. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. chopped walnuts

2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and nutmeg.  Squeeze the orange juice into a liquid measuring cup, then pour in the milk until the mixture comes up to the 2/3 cup mark.  Add the melted (and cooled) butter, egg, and the zest to the milk and juice and whisk to combine.  Pour the liquid ingredients in to the dry and stir til the ingredients are just combined.  Gently fold in the cranberries and walnuts and fill the muffin cups.  Mix together the topping ingredients and lightly sprinkle the mixture onto the tops of each muffin.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

February 8, 2010

A Whole Grain Kind of Monday

Ah the super bowl.  That special time of year when it seems perfectly normal to eat chips and salsa and beer for dinner.  Until you wake up and your body is in revolt.  As such, I knew I needed a healthy and nutrient packed dinner tonight.  I went to my standbys of course, Brussels sprouts and kale, but I also decided to live a little outside of the whole grain box.  I’ve discovered farro, you see, and although I might be a little late jumping on the bandwagon, I’m hooked.  It’s nutty and rich without needing much coaxing, and prepared risotto style it was filling and comforting.  Added bonus, because it’s not as starchy as Arborio rice, it does not require the same amount of constant stirring that a traditional risotto would.  I used a recent NY Times recipe for my inspiration and loved the earthy taste of the mushrooms with the farro. I prepared a raw Brussels sprouts and kale salad on the side, which with a citrus and sweet dressing was just what the doctored ordered.

Mushroom Farro Risotto (adapted from The New York Times)
Serves 2-3

Olive oil
¾ c. farro
½ c. onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
¼ c. white wine
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
salt & pepper
¼ c. grated parmesan

Submerge the farro in water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside. In a heavy pan heat the oil.  Add the onions and cook until tender.  Add the mushrooms and stir frequently for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are completely tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the farro and toast lightly then add the wine and allow the liquid to absorb completely.  Add the thyme and cook down.  Add 2 cups of broth and cover the pan.  Let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check the risotto, the liquid will most likely be completely absorbed.  Add the remaining cup of water, cover, and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed.  Add salt and pepper to taste and incorporate the parmesan just before serving.  Garnish with parmesan and pepper.

Brussels Spouts and Kale Salad (from Real Simple)
Serves 2-3 large side portions

5 large Brussels sprouts, sliced very thinly
1 ½ c. kale, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. maple syrup
salt & pepper

Using a mandoline, thinly slice each Brussels sprout.  Slice the kale into thin strips and add both vegetables to a medium sized bowl.  Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and add to the greens.  Toss to combine.