April 26, 2010

Cheese Ravioli with Fried Sage and Browned Butter

Filed under: Pasta — by Carla


I love to cook just for me.

Not normal at all, I know, but when my husband is away for the night, I often turn on the Coltrane, Krall, Ray Charles, mix a cocktail and improvise dinner with whatever is in the house. The other night I had a yen for pasta. Whether using a hand cranker or the electric KitchenAid -roller, making pasta is a lot of fun. You take a little blob of dough and turn it into something ethereal…a magical silk purse from a sow’s ear sort of thing.

After a rummage in the frig, I found a smidge of ricotta left over from last week’s lasagna, goat cheese, a wedge of Parmesan, mozzarella, and a bunch of sage leaves. Of course, it all added up to cheese stuffed ravioli with fried sage and browned butter. I flipped on the music (added Big Night to the mix), lit the fire and had a great time making and eating those tender cheese stuffed bites. The salty/creamy, stuffed ravioli juxtaposed with the browned butter and fried sage is one of my favorite flavor contrasts. I’m not crazy about the taste of raw sage, but when fried to a crisp in butter it morphs into something delish. The bonus is that the butter takes on the flavor of the sage turning it into a nutty, sagey sauce. The dish paired beautifully with a breezy little Sauvignon Blanc from Spain appropriately named Las Brisas.

Every time I roll pasta I’m reminded of the creative time spent with those Playdoh factories we had as children. Oh, the hours spent extruding shapes and molding imprints with brightly colored blue, red, yellow and white Playdoh. And here I am, still having a great time playing with dough. Only now the reward is dinner. For one.


Kitchen Counter Point: It’s definitely no fun for your hard earned ravioli to come undone in the cooking water. That’s why it’s important that you push the air from the inside edge of the filling to the outer edge of the pasta when sealing it. If air remains inside the sealed pasta, it expands when heated and pops open your pasta, so this is a pretty important tip. Also be sure to seal the ravioli, pressing down on the seams to make sure that they don’t come unhinged. I like to use a fork.  Finally, cook the ravioli at a gentle boil. That way the force of the bubbles is less likely to burst those little pillows apart.


Serves 1 (plus leftovers for lunch the next day)

Pasta (or use purchased fresh pasta sheets)
Makes about 1-1/4 pound, serves 4-6 (extra can be frozen for another day)

2-3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more if necessary
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
3 tablespoons goat cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon fresh chives (if they’ve come up in your garden yet), minced
1 teaspoon parsley (ditto), minced
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
Pinch nutmeg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra Parmesan cheese

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the eggs and pulse several times until clumps of moist dough form. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 4 piles, gather each into ball and knead until smooth, sprinkling lightly with flour if sticking, about 3 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let the dough rest at room temperature at least 20 minutes.

While the dough rests, combine the cheeses, egg, herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg and taste for seasoning.

Rolling dough into sheets:
Freeze two of the dough balls for another time. Set the pasta machine to the widest setting. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the other covered, flatten the dough into a rectangle and run ut through the machine. Fold it in thirds crosswise, as if you were folding a letter. Dust the outside lightly with flour and putting the open end through first, run through roller again. Repeat this process on the widest setting until the dough is smooth and elastic. It may take 3 or 4 times. This is a continuation of the kneading process and gives the dough a chance to absorb more flour if it is too sticky. Then continue to roll through the narrower settings (one time through each setting, without folding). Dust lightly with flour as needed to keep it from sticking, until the pasta sheet is the desired thickness (if hand cranking, roll all the way to the thinnest setting and if using the KitchenAid roller roll it down to #5). Place the sheet of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Repeat with the remaining pasta piece. If the pasta tears at any time during the rolling process, just fold it in half, dust the outside with flour on both sides and run it through the same setting one more time.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a gentle boil.

Fill a small bowl with water and a pastry brush. Dust the counter lightly with flour. Lay out the long sheet of pasta, fold it in half and make a mark on the dough at the halfway point. Open the strip of dough out again and brush half the surface very lightly with water. Drop small spoonfuls of your filling on the damp pasta sheet, about 2 inches apart. Fold the other half over the filling, making sure all the filling is covered and at least a 1-inch border remains around the edges. Using your index finger, gently press out the air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife, pizza cutter or ravioli cutter to cut each ravioli into squares and press down on the edges with the tines of a fork to make a tight seal. Dust a sheet pan with flour to prevent the pasta from sticking and lay them out on the sheet making sure not to let them touch. Repeat with remaining dough sheet  and filling.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it is sizzling hot, add the sage leaves, brown them on both sides and then transfer them to a plate. It should take about 2 or 3 minutes. The butter should be browned and full of sagey flavor. Remove the pan from the heat making sure that it doesn’t burn.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water and stir, making sure that they don’t stick on the bottom. Cook the ravioli at a bare simmer until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain into a colander or scoop from the water with a slotted spoon and add the ravioli to the warm browned butter. Toss gently to coat. Pour the ravioli out onto a heated plate and top with the fried sage leaves, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with extra grated Parmesan cheese if desired

April 15, 2010

Chocolate Orange Shortbreads

Filed under: Cookies, Uncategorized — Tags: — by Meredith


One of life’s little luxuries I enjoy the most is afternoon tea. There’s almost nothing better and it’s possibly the best part of being able to work at home. I might eat lunch on the run or at my desk, but I always make a concerted effort to sit down in the afternoon, when the house is quiet, before the kids come home, and have a cup of tea. And of course, what is a cup of tea without a cookie. And really, what is a cookie if it’s not chocolate.

This Chocolate Orange Shortbread, from The Mixer Bible, Second Edition is one I often turn to when I’m looking for a culinary Calgon moment. It’s rich, buttery goodness is ever so slightly cut by a bright note of orange, and the dough comes together so easily. For this recipe, we are making it in a mixer, but it could just as easily be done in a food processor or even by hand.

chocolate-shortbread-0121 Kitchen Counter Point- Although these cookies are great rolled out and cut into rounds, for a different twist, I also like to roll out the dough slightly and then press it into a small (I use a 7-1/2 inch), fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. It takes about 20 minutes to cook and I cut the cookies into wedges with a serrated knife when they are still slightly warm. You will need two tart pans for this recipe, or just keep one half of the dough chilled while the other is baking and then repeat the process. Make sure to thoroughly cool down your pan though before pressing the second batch of dough in. You don’t want to melt it before it gets in the oven.
Chocolate Orange Shortbreads

Makes 2 dozen cookies
1-1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp orange zest, finely grated
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Position racks in top third and bottom third of oven and. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, using the paddle, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Stop to scrape bowl down. Add in the orange zest and reduce the speed to low. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Gather the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch. Cut into 2-inch circles and place 1-1/2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake shortbread for 5 minutes. Reverse sheets. Bake until shortbread looks dry and feels firm to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Cool on sheets for 1 minute. Remove to racks and cool completely.
Place the bittersweet chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Fit a pastry bag with 1/8-inch plain tips; spoon chocolate into the bag. Or, spoon chocolate into a small plastic bag (cut off 1 tip from each bag). Pipe chocolate
decoratively over cookies. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in single layers between sheets of waxed paper.)

April 2, 2010

Pan Fried Arctic Char with Red Wine Sauce

Filed under: Seafood — by Carla


I’ve been craving fish lately. Like my father before me, I have a tendency to cater to my body’s cravings… not always healthy ones vis à vis Belvedere martinis and Vosges chocolate, but I do sometimes find the will to accommodate wholesome urges.  And so this morning I set off to the fishmonger to scope out his most recent arrivals. As luck would have it, there were many worthy fish in the case to choose from but I couldn’t resist the call of the Arctic char. Its beautiful dappled skin glistened. Its neon orange flesh looked rich and moist. He had obviously been swimming only moments before. A magnificent specimen, I had them wrap him up with a little bag of ice to keep chilled for the ride home.

A quick stop at the grocery rounded out dinner. A few bunches of aspiration broccoli found their way into my cart along with a bag of cremini mushrooms for a risotto. But, before continuing on I must succumb to a bit of a brag. This was no ordinary week-night. My son Corey and his soon-to-be bride, Lyndsey, were coming over for a celebratory dinner. A recent college graduate, he’d just gotten his first “real” job.

Because I wanted the meal to be prepared quickly once the kids arrived, I made the risotto earlier in the day, chilled it off and shaped it into risotto cakes which are quite possibly even better than risotto with their crispy outsides and creamy ins. The leggy broccoli needed only a zap in a pan with nothing more than olive oil and garlic. As for the fish, after a quick sauté I made a red wine sauce by adding a bit of shallot and about 3/4 cup of wine to the pan. I used an Oregon pinot noir since that was the wine that we were drinking at the moment. In about 2 minutes it had reduced sufficiently and only required a tablespoon or so of butter to gloss it up.

As you can imagine, the fish was superb. So fresh and artlessly prepared, it was a lesson in simplicity. While sipping the last of the wine, I mused on a day that began with a craving for fish and ended with two cravings satisfied. One for the tastebuds and another in witnessing two young lives successfully launched. Ahhh… life is good.


Kitchen Counter Point: The simple rule to remember when cooking fish is 7 minutes per inch. So if your filet is about 1-inch thick, it will take roughly 7 minutes to cook it through. Because it takes a minute or so for the cooking to actually begin, I usually cook a filet for about 4 minutes on the first side and then 3 on the second side. I use a medium high heat because I like the flesh to brown a little. When cooking a thicker filet like halibut, I will brown it on both sides and then pop it in a hot oven, pan and all, for about 5 minutes so that it has a chance to cook through. Simple, really.

Serves 4

4 six ounce filets of arctic char, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
3/4  cup red wine (pinot noir, syrah, or a blend)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Salt and pepper the fish. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot add the fish skin side up. Cook for about 4 minutes, flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to a heated plate and cover with foil.

Pour off any fat in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the shallot. Saute for about 1 minute or until the shallot is tender. Add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the butter and swirl to blend.

Plate the fish and pour over the red wine sauce. Serve immediately.