Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Squash Ravioli

I have been dying to try to make homemade ravioli for a year now, and I finally decided to do it last weekend.  I had a cute squash from my CSA on hand, so I decided to make squash ravioli.  After researching on this website what type of squash I had, I was pretty sure it was a Buttercup Squash.  It tastes similar to a sweet potato.  I am not going to lie, this ravioli took a lot of work.  My entire evening was dedicated to this dinner (which ended up happening at 10 pm), but this is not to discourage anyone from making their own, because the raviolis really are delicious and pretty.  I just wanted to give you fair warning.  

I decided to change things up and use Martha Stewart's pasta dough recipe instead of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It's recipe.  There are a few differences between the two recipes, and ultimately I found the Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It's recipe to be better.  Compared to Martha's, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It's addition of olive oil, made the dough less sticky and easier to handle.  Plus, I made the dough in a large bowl instead of on the counter like Martha demonstrates - the dumbest and messier decision ever.  Click here to compare recipes.

Here are the ingredients for Martha Stewart's Cooking School's Fresh Pasta Dough:
-2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring
-3 large eggs, room temperature
-Pinch of course salt
-Semolina flour, for baking sheet (I used coarse cornmeal)

Create a mound of the flour on a large clean work surface, and then create a well in the middle.  Lightly beat the eggs and salt with a fork in a small bowl, then pour into the well.  I would have provided more pictures, but my pasta turned into a sticky mess.  Large eggs, plus a small well plus a countertop equals disaster!  It eventually worked out in the end, but I definitely needed my friends assistance at one point!  Continuing on, use a fork to work the flour into the eggs.  Then use your hands to work in the rest of the mixture, a bit at a time, just to form a sticky dough (don't force the flour to be incorporated; it's okay if some remains on the work surface).  For a more detailed look of pasta dough making, check out my original pasta dough post here.
Knead the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Form dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.  I found that when I went to unwrap the dough, the plastic wrap stuck to the dough.  I would recommend wrapping the dough in a clean, damp kitchen towel.  While the dough is resting, create the ravioli filling.

Ingredients for Martha Stewart's Cooking School's Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling:
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-Coarse salt and pepper
-1/2 small butternut squash (1 1/2 pound), halved lengthwise and seeds removed (I used the buttercup squash)
-1 large egg yolk
-3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
-Fresh pasta dough
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1 tablespoon chiffonade of sage

To begin, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
Oil the baking sheet, and place squash cut side down.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through.
Measure out 1 3/4 cups of the squash filling, and keep the leftovers for another use.  The leftovers can make a delicious mashed squash with Parmesan and a little salt and pepper.  Place half of the 1 3/4 cup filling in a bowl, set aside, and place the other half in a food processor with the egg yolk, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, and season with salt and pepper.  Pulse until smooth, then add the mixture to the reserved squash, and gently fold to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.
Now it is time to roll out your dough.  If you have a pasta maker, you are a lucky duck.  This is the most difficult part of the process.  Divide your ball of dough into four equal parts.  Take one part and flatten it out into a small disk on a well-floured work surface.  Gently roll out the dough with a rolling pin, careful not to put a lot of pressure on the edges, to prevent sticking to the counter.  Roll out until the dough is almost transparent, and you can start to see your countertop coming through the dough.  This takes several minutes.
Now you are ready to make the ravioli.  Take about one teaspoon of the squash filling and place on your sheet of dough, spacing each dollop about 1 inch apart.  Only fill up a little less than half the dough.  Now take a pastry brush dipped in water and brush between dollops.  This will help seal the ravioli.  Fold over the empty half of your sheet on top of the dollops.  Use your fingers to gently pat out the air bubbles.  Air bubbles may burst the ravioli while cooking.  Then use a knife or pastry cutter to create each ravioli square.
Sprinkle Semolina flour or corn meal on a baking sheet, and place ravioli on top while you are completely your batch.  Do not worry if the Semolina flour sticks, it will fall off while cooking.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Gently place ravioli in water and cook for about 4 minutes or until tender.  Toss with melted butter, fresh sage, and shaves of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

If you do not want to cook all your ravioli at once, simply place your ravioli on a baking sheet and freeze for about 10 minutes, and then place the ravioli in an air-tight bag.  These will last up to 4 months, and you can cook them in the same amount of time without thawing them out.  Enjoy!

Last year around this time, I made chocolate meringues.  Click here to check them out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CSA Week Sixteen

Hello! I cannot believe it has already been four months of fresh produce.  It is sad to think that I only have two months left before my CSA comes to an end until next summer.  Here is what I got:

-Mesclun greens
-Green beans

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Best Thing I Had In My Mouth - Marcus Samuelsson's Cured Salmon

Chef Marcus Samuelsson (red arrow).  Photo taken by Anna.  Thanks Anna :)
So I am starting a new series about the best thing I had in my mouth each week.  I have caught myself saying the phase quite a bit these last few weeks, and as each week passes I am always finding something new to rave about.  I am a little backlogged, so I thought I would begin from a couple weeks ago, at NYC's Fashion's Night Out.

My fashionista friend Anna led the way through the city, and even sweetly thought about special events that I would be interested in, such as seeing Marcus Samuelsson at Macy's.  He was hosting a little cocktail hour and chatting with guests about how to host the perfect party.  It was pretty crowded, and when you combine that with free food and drink, it can get a little pushy - okay, a lot pushy.  You would have thought people hadn't eaten for days, and poor Anna was like a ball in a pinball machine.  We did finally get the most delicious amuse bouche - a piece of cured salmon with some fresh herbs on top of a thin corn biscuit (really not too sure on the bread part), accompanied by an Uptown Girl cocktail (click here for the recipe).  And that my friends, was the best thing I had in my mouth the whole evening.  And there was some tough competition: Joe's Pizza, the Waffles & Dinges Food Truck, and the "Is there really alcohol in this?" Arnold Palmers at Carolina Herrera.  And the answer is: yes there is.  Who knew there was ice tea flavored vodka?
Waffles & Dinges.  Photos above by Anna.
Check out my BluePrint Cleanse review from last year, here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cafe Habana

A couple weeks ago, I met up with friends in Soho after the Food Truck Festival fiasco.  We decided to eat dinner at Cafe Habana, a place my friends have been raving about for a while.  Because it was early evening, we didn't have to wait long and soon got seats at the bar - the best spot in the house to see all the action.
We ordered mojitos, micheladas, and just a plain old beer.  The mojitos were fresh with tons of mint, although a bit on the sweet side for my taste.  The michelada was good, but Caracas Arepa Bar's are much better.  All around though, it was a good start to the evening.
My friend insisted we start out with the corn, and I was not going to fight her on it.  I mean, she has been talking about Cafe Habana and its corn as if there was no other reason to go there, but for the corn.  It lived up to its reputation; it was to die to for.  The grilled corn comes on a skewer, and the corn is rolled in cotija cheese and chili powder.  Spicy, sweet, salty, and a little zip at the end from the splash of lime juice.
For dinner I got the Baja style fish tacos.  Although the fish was fried, it did not seem greasy, and the cabbage and tomatoes really brightened the whole dish up.  Seriously though, the best part of the meal was the soupy black beans.  I am guessing they were probably cooked in some animal fat, because they were so flavorful.  They were so good in fact, that I stopped feeling guilty for eating them after the second bite.
One of my friends got the Cuban sandwich, which was voted best NYC.  The pressed sandwich is filled with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles, and is served with a side of fries.  As a spectator, I thought the sandwich looked delicious, but my friend said it was a little underwhelming.  I snuck a few of his fries while he was in the bathroom, and they hit the spot.  They were slightly flimsy but still crisp, and were only enhanced with the soft and fluffy centers.
If you are in Soho and in the mood for a little Cuban fare, I would definitely recommend trying Cafe Habana.  The place is pretty small, so if you do not feel like waiting for a table, there is always the take-out joint next door.  You at least have to come and try the corn!  But if you cannot make it in, then you can always try the drippy Mexican corn, posted here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Garlic, and Bread Crumbs

Here is a simple pasta recipe that I have been making for a couple years, using broccoli rabe, some stale bread, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Have you ever watched The Minimalist with Mark Bittman?  I love this New York Times series.  It is sweet and to the point, and this is where the recipe came from.
Here are the ingredients for Mark Bittman's Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe, serves 4 to 6:
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed

-3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered
-A chunk of stale piece of bread to make about 1 cup of bread crumbs, chop into small pieces
-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
-About 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed, washed, and roughly chopped
-1 pound of spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta
-Freshly ground black pepper
-Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add broccoli rabe and cook uncovered until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.  Set aside.  Add pasta to the water, and cook until done.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  When oil is warm, cook garlic until it is toasted to golden brown.  Be careful not to burn.  Remove garlic with slotted spoon, and then add bread crumbs and red pepper flakes.  Cook until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
When pasta is done, drain it, reserving a little cooking water.  Toss pasta in skillet with broccoli rabe mixture, moistening with a little reserved water if necessary.  Adjust seasonings and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Click here to watch Mark's video for the recipe.

Check out the first ice cream I ever made (last year) - Chocolate!  Click here.

CSA Week Fifteen

Hi!  Got a lot of great produce from my CSA:
-Broccoli rabe
-Bok choy
-Salad turnips
-Green beans
-Hot House tomatoes
-Grape tomatoes
-Seckle Pears
-Dozen eggs

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Parked: Food Truck Festival

Over Labor Day weekend, I headed downtown with my picnic blanket and took the free ferry over to Governors Island to enjoy some treats from the Parked: Food Truck Festival.  It was a gorgeous, breezy day (thanks to Hurricane Earl), perfect for laying in the grass.  Unfortunately, the combination of the nice weather and the festival caused the island to be rather crowded.  My friend proclaimed, "The reason we don't do anything cool, is because it is always crowded."  This is true, but I tried to keep a positive attitude as we approached the island.  Plus there were some great food vendors to look forward to, such as Rick Shaw Dumplings, The Cinnamon Snail, and Red Hook Lobster Pound.
I had envisioned the food trucks to be placed around the small island, but to my dismay, all the trucks were parked in a circle on a large patch of dying grass.  Some vendors did not even bring their trucks, but just set up tents.  Long lines soon ensued, and a tangle of people we created in the center of the circle.  It got me to wondering what I was getting myself into.  My friend and I ended up picking the Desi Food Truck (Indian cuisine) to eat from, because it was the best decorated.
While he stood in line at Desi, I stopped by Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream truck to give it my third and final try (see my previous review here).  Fortunately, the line went moderately quick, and the service was very friendly.  I chose their two most popular flavors - hazelnut and espresso ice cream.  I was disappointed for the third and final time.  At first lick, the hazlenut ice cream really screamed hazelnut, but by the fifth lick I started to notice the icy texture, and lack of flavor.  The espresso on the other hand, actually was creamy and tasted delicious, although you could get a pint of Haagen-Dazs and have better.  I will say that is was a nice way to waste some time, as my friend had moved about 5 feet from the spot I had seen him last.
By the time an hour went by, yes an HOUR, we had made friends with the guys in front of us.  We discussed and demonstrated the various ways to prevent people from walking through us in order to get to another line.  Dancing, elbows, lunges, and shoulder-to-shoulder action are all ways to do this somewhat successfully.  At least it entertained us.  Then by the time we had made it to the upper quarter of the line, the owner of the truck past out some menus.  This is when I realized the food truck was on 27th and Fifth Avenue, literally a block away from my office.  UGGHHHH - I knew this truck looked familar.  Finally after an hour and a half, we made it to the front of the line, only to be told they were out of the aloo masala kati roll, my food of choice.  A mixture of devastation and anger filled my body, I had to walk away from the truck, as my friend ordered the chicken tiki masala and the last paneer masala kati roll.
New friends photographing their iPhone timer, clocking at 1.5 hours.
So the verdict - was the food worth an hour and a half?  Absolutely not.  My friend said the chicken tiki masala was alright, but my kati roll was actually pretty tasty.  Besides the disappointing Food Truck Festival, the rest of the day was nice and relaxing.  I definitely recommend going to Governors Island before it closes for the winter, and instead of attending a food truck festival, visit your favorite food trucks in their usual locations.  Lucky for us, we made up for our food faux-pas by eating at Cafe Havana in the evening.  More on that later :)

Last year around this time, I posted about Torta Barozzi, the most amazing chocolate cake ever.  If you have a little time, you must make it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

CSA Week Fourteen

Hi!  This week my CSA welcomed in fall with squash, apples, and pears.  Here is what I got:
-Cherry tomatoes
-Bell peppers
-String beans
-Salad turnips
-Bok choy
-Mesclun greens
-Barlett pears
-Dozen eggs

This week I am going to pickle some green beans using this recipe by Bob McClure of McClure's pickles (swapping the cucumbers for the beans).  If you need some tomato inspiration, try this recipe for some Rustic Roasted Tomato Salsa by Rick Bayless.  Instead of buying fire roasted canned tomatoes, just roast your tomatoes under the broiler until the skins have charred black spots on both sides.  Let tomatoes cool, remove skins, and finish the recipe as usual.  And if you need a pear snack, try this recipe from Apples and Butter blog.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Murray's Cheese

Have you been to Murray's Cheese?  Do you live in New York City?  If you answered "no" to the first question, and "yes" to the second question, then please stop reading this post and immediately go to Bleeker Street.  As a former cheese-hater, I give 95 percent of the credit to Murray's Cheeses for changing my cheese-hating ways.  Growing up, I would not eat anything with cheese on it.  I would rip the cheese off pizza until I was in college, where it was socially unacceptable to do so.  I would send back salads that had a sprinkle of cheese.  The smell of my mom's cheese dip, still makes me gag as I pass by the crock pot, but Velveeta isn't cheese right?So please prepare for a lengthy post, confessing my love and alliance to Murray's Cheese.  At the end of it, there will be a recipe, I promise.

I have only been to the original Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleeker Street, but there is also a shop in Grand Central Station.  The store has a large cheese counter of course, and also has a charcuterie section, as well as special products such as honey, pickles, and gourmet ice cream.  Behind the counter you will find friendly cheesemongers ready to help you and answer any questions you have.  But the best spot in the whole store is the class room just in the back and up some steps.
Fritz on left and Garrett on right.
My first class was a gift for my birthday a couple years ago.  It was a beer and chocolate pairing class, taught by Fritz Knipschidt, owner of Knipschidt's Chocolatier, and Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery.  After my first class, I was hooked, and I have taken many more classes since.  Some of my favorites include Perfect Pairing of Wine and Cheese, the Mystery of the Cheese Caves, and most recently, the In A Pickle class.  Each class is set up with long tables placed in a u-shape, with the instructor up front.  At each seat, there is a plate filled with the cheese, or chocolate, or any other gourmet food you are learning about, and usually some wine and water.
Oh, and besides the food you are learning about, there are fresh baguettes, dried cherries and apricots, walnuts, and my favorite - Marcona almonds.  Along with your delicious plate of food is a packet that has information on everything you are trying for the night, as well as a space for you to take notes.  Another staple for each class, is the education and events coordinator, Sascha Ingram.  Sascha has a genuine and upbeat personality, which helps loosen everyone up at the start of the class, as she introduces the instructor and tells us what is to be expected for the night.  She also teaches a few classes here and there too.  I highly recommend saving a bit of your dough (classes range from $50-$75 usually), and signing up for a class.  It is well worth the money, and it a fun way to learn more about cheese, etc. from someone who really knows.  Every instructor I have had is passionate about the products, and want you to like them as much as they do.  Click here to view their class list for the fall, and sign for one - their classes fill up pretty quickly, especially the classic Cheese 101 class.

So my recent class was taught by the dreamy Bob McClure, of McClure's Pickles.  Bob is young guy (actor, writer, and pickler), living the dream with help from his brother (who is co-owner of McClure's Pickles), and support from the rest of his family.  Bob has been making pickles with his grandfather since he was six years old, and his has been using his great grandmother Lala's recipe for his pickles.  That night we snacked on pickles (love the McClure's Spicy Pickles), cheese, and a jam and mustard, and then got our hands dirty and made some classic garlic dill pickles.  This week I opened my jar, and I was thrilled to have the crunchiest pickle I have had in my life.  Besides the crunch, which is of high importance to me, the flavor was great too.  Bob emphasized the importance of getting the freshest ingredients you can, encouraging us to go to the farmers market, get some kirbys, and throw them on some ice (do not freeze), until ready to use - which should be as soon as possible.

Here are the ingredients for Bob McClure's Garlic and Dill Pickles:
-6 pounds small pickling cucumbers
-12 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (Bob recommended Christopher Ranch peeled garlic, if you are making a lot of pickles)
-1-2 bunches of dill
-3 cups water
-3 cups of distilled white vinegar (vinegar should have 4-5 percent acidity so it can keep the bacteria out of the jar)
-1/4 cup pickling salt (Kosher salt can be substituted)

1.  Wash cucumbers, and place in a large deep bowl with ice.  Cover and put in fridge.  Let cucumbers soak in ice while you prep other materials.
2.  Wash dill thoroughly and trim off roots (if any remain).
3.  Place peeled garlic in a small bowl and pour hot vinegar over garlic.  Let stand for 1 minute then pour vinegar out.  The hot vinegar inactivates an enzyme that turns the garlic blue when you pickle it.
4.  Fill a large pot with water.  Place a har in the pot and make sure the water is at least 1 inch above the top of the jar.  Remove the test jar ad bring water to boil.
5.  In another large pot, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt.  Bring the brine to a rapid boil.  Stir the salt to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of pot.
6.  While pots are getting up to a boil, take cucumbers out and quarter them.  Then take 1 spear, grab your mason jar and place inside the jar.  Make sure cucumber stands 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the rim if the jar.  Trim your cucumbers to this size.  (Keep the little bits too for later).
7.  After water is boiling, submerge mason jars in pot and sterilize for about 90 seconds.  Remove jars carefully with jar tongs.
8.  In each jar, place 2 halves of garlic, one small handful of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar, making sure cucumbers are below the "neck-line."  (If using pint jars, double the amount of dry ingredients in each jar).  Be sure to pack the jars tight enough that the jar could be flipped over and nothing would fall out.
9.  Place 2-piece lids in boiling water for 90 seconds, then carefully remove and place in a bowl.
10.  Fill jars with hot brine, leaving about a 1/4 inch of space.
11.  Cap and seal jars.  Turn them over to make sure you have an adequate seal.  Repeat until all jars are completed.
12.  Place jars back in boiling water pot.  Process sealed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
13.  Wait a week to two weeks before eating.  Refrigerate after opening.  Pickles will keep for up to 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place.
I would definitely make these again if there are any Kirbys left from the season...otherwise I am thinking of using my green beans from my CSA for pickling.  I think they could be pretty delicious too.