Butternut Agnolotti

Greetings and salutations dear readers.

I have another pasta recipe from Classic Pasta at Home for your hungry eyes. This time it’s agnolotti with butternut squash filling topped with butter and sage.

I had never heard of agnolotti before making this and the best way I can describe it to you is that it is a semi circular version of ravioli. You could also say it’s like an un-folded version of tortellini as well.

What you’ll need

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 36 large fresh sage leaves

The first step is to bake your squash and to do so, pre-heat the oven to 375. While the oven is heating up, cut the squash in half lengthwise and then remove the filling. Once the seeds have been removed and discarded cut each half into 10-12 chunks. Place these chunks into a baking pan, pour the water in and then cover the pan with aluminum foil. We will then bake the squash until it is tender which will be about 40 minutes or so.

While the squash is baking, go ahead and start making your pasta by placing your flour on a clean work surface and shaping that flour into a mound. Beat three eggs and then create a well in the center of the dough. This well should be deep enough to keep the juices of the egg from seeping through which you may have guessed is where the eggs will be placed. Once those eggs are placed, carefully beat the flour into the egg until the consistency of the egg and flour is even. In other words, when the danger of egg juice spilling everywhere is no longer a threat.

Once everything is nicely mixed, knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and then cut the dough in half.

You are now ready to flatten one half of the dough with a roller. Roll the dough until it’s thin enough to go through a pasta machine roller and then roll that dough through the machine under the setting of 1 about 7-8 times.

Once that cycle is complete you can do the same to your remaining dough half as well.

Hopefully 40 minutes went by while you were making your pasta and you can go back to making the filling by removing the squash from the oven and allowing it to cool. As it cools, go ahead and mix one egg, the breadcrumbs, and 1/3 a cup of Parmesan cheese together. Check back on your squash. If it’s cooled enough, go ahead and scoop out the filling to purée in a food processor. Once it’s smoothly puréed you can add it to the cheese/egg mixture. Top this mixture off with nutmeg and salt to your liking.

Let’s check up on that pasta again. We are now ready to create or agnolotti shape. This is simple enough, just get a round cookie cutter and circle out the dough. Once you’ve got your circles, add 1/2 a teaspoon of filling in each circle and then fold. Seal the edges by rubbing a tiny bit of water. This will help it stick.

Once every agnolotti has been filled and shaped, allow it to sit for about 30 minutes.

During this time, go ahead a prepare your boiling pot by filling it with water and well boiling. As the water boils, get a sauté pan and melt your butter with the olive oil. Once the butter has melted, lower the heat to low and add the sage leaves. Cook until they become crisp, which is about 7-8 minutes. Remove the sage and allow it to drain on some paper towels.

Keep the oil butter in your pan though, we will be mixing that with the pasta later.

Hopefully by now the water is boiling and if so, go ahead and add the pasta in. Be sure to stir it in gently.

This process should take only two minutes and once those two minutes are up, again carefully remove the pasta from the water. The cookbook recommends using a large sieve. I do not have one, so I just very carefully poured the water out into a colander.

Once the water is drained, add your pasta to a large serving bowl and then pour in that butter oil along with some salt and pepper. Coat by gently tossing and then add 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the sage for some more tossing.

You should know have warm buttery pasta to consume like below.

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I was proud of myself with this recipe. As some of you know, I’ve had some mis-haps with making my own pasta, but I believe I’m getting better at.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a lot of work for me, but I have high hopes that I’m getting closer to having this process become smoother and more streamlined.

As far as the taste of this particular pasta, never underestimate the power of sage and butter my friends. It’s quite the dynamic duo. The sage has an intense earthy flavor with a touch of bitterness and the butter just makes the bitterness melt like putty. It’s like cream with a kick.

The butternut squash filling is so good that I ended up eating my leftover filling as a side dish for lunch. It looked like baby food but it tasted like dessert my friends.

Combine these elements together and you get quite the meal. So go ahead and try it out, it will not be one of many regrets in your life. I promise.

 

 

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A Fool’s Angst

I made the mistake of cracking open my high school journal last night.

Why did I do this?

Well, I saw an ad for a comedy show where you read embarrassing exerts from teenage angst ridden journals.

My reaction was, “Oooh I possibly have comedic material!”

I know I got some material in there, but I had to stop after the first few entries cause they were the embodiment of Smashing Pumpkins’ Melancholy and Infinite Sadness.

Let me give you a prologue.

When I was young I didn’t have a whole lot of friends. My siblings were not close in age to me and neither were my cousins who were also older. I was the baby on both sides of my family.

This forced me to be a bit precocious which made me real popular with adults, but not so much kids my age. I struggled with making friends.

Fast forward to my teen years and that feeling stuck around. I didn’t relate to most girls my age and the boys my age liked me, but because I was a girl…well let’s just say you can’t join the boy scout’s club if you don’t have the right equipment.

Not gonna win any literal pissing contests I’ll tell you that much.

So here I am, this precocious girl of 13 who happens to befriend an older German exchange student. She not only likes me, but thinks I’m awesome. A year or two later, she sets up her little sister to stay with my parents and me.

I was thrilled. I was going to learn so much about Germany and have a cool female friend! I couldn’t wait.

Then the day came to pick her up from the airport. My family and I were anxiously waiting at the German girl’s gate.

Back then you could wait at the gate for people, I know, 1999 was a crazy time.

Now I want you to picture this 15 year old girl who is nerdy and slightly chubby and who has never had a real boyfriend, never been kissed and will never know how much in common she had with Tina Belcher because Bob’s Burgers didn’t exist yet.

See this girl go from a radiant smile to sudden panic as she sees this tall, thin, beautiful blue eyed girl walk into her view.

She instantly feels less than and she tries to brush it off because she already knows she’s just feeling insecure and it wasn’t fair to not give this girl whose older sister she loved a chance just because she felt ugly in her presence.

So, time passed and as much as she fought those insecurities it got worse and worse. It felt like this girl did everything better than her and that everyone liked her more.

Boys seemed to fall instantly in love with her while the chubby girl just felt invisible.

The chubby nerdy girl wanted so much to be seen and to be liked, but she felt only her parents did and even that seemed to be slipping away from her with the seemingly perfect girl staying at her house.

All of that is documented in the first pages of my high school journal.

I can still feel the pain of rejection when I read it. I cried a little. I wanted so much to hug 15 year old version of me.

I’m not ugly anymore. I never was to begin with, but as I grew older I did become more attractive in regards to society’s standards. I’m still not a thin blue eyed girl, but I’ve got other things going for me.

Yet some days I still feel ugly, fat, and unlikable. It’s exhausting to feel that way.

This isn’t my point, though. My point is that as much pain as I felt back then, I’m proud of how it made me stronger and more empathetic to anyone I ever sensed could even possibly be jealous of me.

German girl was not kind about my jealousy. She rubbed it in my face as often as she could and this is a major reason why it matters so much to me to diffuse jealousy when I sense it from others. I know that pain too well.

I wish everyone would extend that same kindness, but not everyone does.

In the end there’s no point in dwelling on my disappointment of others. I can only control myself and remember to be kind.

I urge all of you to do the same.

 

White Beans can Crostini

My next recipe comes from Light and Healthy and is a continuation on the crostini recipe I wrote about months ago.

This recipe challenges you to not be a basic with your tiny garlic bread and instead asks you to be extra vanilla with white beans and arugula.

I’m not so sure that joke worked. Maybe I need to get my money back from that comedy class I took.

What you’ll need

  • 1 large baguette, cut on the bias into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, one un-cut and two minced
  • Olive oil spray
  • 2 15 ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 shallot minced (3 tablespoons worth)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 ounce of arugula, chopped (1/2 cups worth)

The first step is to mix the beans, oil, lemon juice, and 2 garlic cloves in a food processor until the mixture is smooth. It’ll look a lot like hummus by the time you’re through.

Next, combine this mixture in a bowl along with the cayenne and shallot. Feel free to also season with salt and pepper as well.

Once this is combined, cover the bowl and allow it to rest under room temperature for about an hour.

When you’ve got 10-15 minutes left waiting for that mixture to settle go ahead and prepare your crostini by following the crostini recipe I mentioned earlier.

When that basic recipe is complete, your bean mixture should be well settled. Take a tablespoon of the bean mixture and spread it on each slice. Then sprinkle arugula on top and you are finito!

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This is a little larger than crostini, but the taste will be the same

As you can see in the photo, I purchased bread that was little bigger than what is called for. You’ll actually want to select a baguette that’s about half the width of what I ended up with.

If you want to be a goody two shoes and follow the rules that is. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter. I can assure you it’ll still taste great.

So how is the taste?

Pretty damn good. As I mentioned earlier, the bean spread reminded me of hummus and that follows through in regards to taste as well, but my favorite part of this recipe is the arugula.

I love arugula. It’s springy and tastes so fresh and green with it’s slightly nutty flavors. Combine that with a bean spread and you just feel…I don’t know…one with nature I guess.

Like you’re just meeting mother nature and your nonna for a light picnic. That’s the best way I can describe it.

So go ahead, plan your fantasy picnic and be one with the universe.

 

 

 

Vlad’s Kebabs

Dearest readers, how have I missed thee.

Apologies for the hiatus. I was too busy to cook the last few weeks, which meant I couldn’t write about cooking.

Our time apart has been well spent, though I did miss all of you. In case you’re curious what kept me, well I was performing in a little play called Othello and I’ve been taking a stand-up comedy class so expect classier jokes in the near future.

My pesky day job is also a thing that keeps me away, but that’s not fun to talk about so I’d rather move on to my next recipe which is chorizo and mushroom kebabs from I Love Spice.

What you’ll need

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 24 slices of chorizo, each about a half inch thick
  • 24 button mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and cut into 24 squares

Kebabs are the best aren’t they? They don’t require a lot of skill. You just grill some stuff and then stab it with a stake.

I dare say this had to be Vlad the Impaler’s favorite meal to cook.

I must caution you readers, however, that when it comes to chorizo we can’t be all Vlad the Impaler about it. We have to choose wisely and pick the right chorizo. Not every chorizo can be impaled. Mexican chorizo, for example is usually grounded and crumbly which means it is unable to be staked.

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Sorry Vlad, you just can’t impale Mexican chorizo

What we want to buy is Spanish chorizo which usually comes cured and dried aka a solid form of sausage.

My neighborhood Vons did not have Spanish chorizo, but they did have longaniza which google has told me is similar to chorizo and even better is in a solid shape that one can hopefully impale.

Now that we got that important info out of the way, the only step that I need to advise you on is roasting your pepper.

I recommend roasting it in an oven with a pan coated in olive oil under 400 for 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, turn the pepper so it can have an even tan and roast for another 20 minutes.

Once this step is over, remove the pepper from the oven and allow it to cool so you can remove the skin and cut it into 24 squares.

While the peppers are cooling you might as well get started on cooking your chorizo. To do so, get a skillet and coat that in olive oil. Heat the skillet under medium heat and then add the chorizo.

Now if you got dried and cured chorizo, you should only need to cook this for 20 seconds, but if you had to substitute like me, you’ll need to cook for a longer amount of time, because 20 seconds is going to give you a health code violation for sure.

Once your meat is cooked throughly, we can add the mushrooms into the skillet. Cook this for 1-2 minutes. You’ll know the mushrooms are ready when they look slightly brown and are glossy just like Vlad after a hard day of impaling people.

Speaking of Vlad, we are now ready for his favorite part! Making the actual kebab!

All you have to do is impale a bell pepper, followed by a mushroom, and then a kebab.

You can use a toothpick to make this more of an appetizer or get your large stake and make it a meal.

The choice is up to you for your enjoyment.

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So as you may have guessed from the professional photo above, I failed. Turns out that longaniza is not easily impaled. It is more solid than Mexican chorizo, but it fell apart when I tried to stab it.

I will say that this combo is tasty one, so if you find the right chorizo do give it a try. Otherwise I recommend making yourself some chorizo and eggs instead of a kebab.

 

Nectarine and Radish Salsa

This refreshing salsa come from Cooking Light’s summer edition and I can tell you now if you want to make it right, please wait til summer.

Frequent readers know that I like to challenge myself and be resourceful and sometimes rebellious in my cooking. I do this not only for the value of entertainment, (which is hopefully entertaining to you as it is to me), but so you can learn from my mistakes.

I personally trust those who inform me of their mistakes more than those who claim perfection.

Show me the person who is perfect and I’ll look for some kind of loophole. Like maybe they came from space. It’s not a thing that should be ruled out folks.

What you’ll need.

  • 2 1/4 cups (1/4-inch) diced nectarines
  • 1 1/2 cups radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

The major ingredient in this salsa is nectarines which is why I strongly suggest you only make this dish in the summer. I made it in the winter and could not find nectarines to save my life.

I also could not find fresh peaches, which is the alternative I was hoping to use. What I opted for was canned peaches, which messed with the texture of the salsa and left me feeling a bit disappointed.

If you absolutely have to use canned peaches as a substitute, drain the liquid as much as possible.

Other than nectarines, the ingredients should be easy to find. The rest of the steps are also easy peachy.  All you have to do is mix everything together and then let it sit for a half hour.

That’s all there is to it.

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Again, this turned out ok, but the texture was off which disappointed me.  The canned peaches caused too much saturation and as I mentioned earlier were too mushy.

I think if done right, it should come out like a fruity ceviche which I suppose can also be a bit saturated, but I’d say a good ceviche should be more like a steady creek stream instead of a roaring river or lake as it was in my case.

Despite my disappointment I do recommend giving this is a try. I’m sure it’d be satisfying in the summer time on a hot day.

I look forward to hearing if that’s the case.

Smoke on the Sausage Salad

I was surprised when I opened up The French Farmhouse Cookbook for my next recipe to find that putting sausage on your salad is a thing.

I’m an omnivore who enjoys the fine cuisine of sausage, but never have I ever had a sausage salad.

Then I thought about it more. Why is that such a surprise? I mean why not put sausage on your salad? We put steak, chicken, and even seafood on top of beds of lettuce and call it salad. Yet, this was a shocker to me.

What was not a shocker, spoiler alert, is that it’s quite good.

What you’ll need.

  • 2 smoked sausages, such as kielbasa
  • 2 cups of white wine, such as Sancerre Blanc
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 7 ounces of escarole or curly endive leaves (8 cups loosely packed), rinsed patted dry, and torn into bite-size pieces

Our first step is to cook the sausage in that fine white wine you bought and are hopefully drinking as you cook because why not? Crazier things have been done.

The cookbook says to add water until the sausages are covered with liquid. It also says you can use all of the wine. I took this as for yourself, but it might have been about the sausage.

Oops…

Anyway, bring the sausages to a boil, then reduce the heat to allow it to simmer partially covered for 20-30 minutes.

As the sausage is simmering, go ahead and make the salad dressing which consists of whisking the vinaigrette, salt, pepper, shallot, and olive oil together. Next, add this dressing to the escarole and toss.

When time is up for the sausages, remove them from the pan and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. It is also suggested that you create a rosette pattern with the sausage bits.

I have to say that I appreciate this authors dedication to beauty and creativity.

Serve your sausage piece of art alongside bread and that wine that you may or may not have drunk while cooking.

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My final result turned out to be another simplistic dish that satisfied the pleasure centers of my tastebuds. The combination of juicy plump sausages soaked in white wine and bitter vinegar soaked escarole left me wondering why I never tried it before.

So, yes I do recommend sausage on a salad and look forward to others making this discovery as well. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Legend of Gnocchi

Nonnas worldwide cried out in unison while I attempted to make gnocchi from scratch. The biggest disappoint probably  came from Anna Sartor whose recipe I tried to follow from the Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook.

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Don’t judge me Anna!

I know I revealed my hand early here, but when I started this blog I promised to tell the truth of my misfortune. I never ever claimed to even be a sous-chef let alone an expert cook, but I thought I could handle gnocchi. No one warned me. No wise elder came to me to say…

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I hope Link knows how lucky he is

The good news is that after I failed to make gnocchi I did find that there is a tool that will make your life easier and even though it’s not Christmas yet, my wise elder of a mom has gifted me my master sword for Christmas so I can conquer the gnocchi monster and save Zelda.

That magical item by the way is called a potato ricer and trust me, you do not want to skimp on that. You’re going to need it.

The other stuff you’ll need is

  • 3 large potatoes (boiled with jackets on)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of grated cheese

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I need to defend my honor. This cookbook was written in a time where more people cooked on the regular and even my mother defended me and said that the ladies who wrote these recipes assumed people knew little details because at the time most people did know.

It’d be like if I told all of you how to boil pasta. Which, some people out there may not even know how to do that I realize. Which is partly why I make the joke to follow package instructions, but you never know what people know or don’t know.

The first step is to boil the potatoes before you peel them. This step is where I let myself down. There is no instruction of how long to boil and I  did not use my critical thinking skills which I’m famous for at my day job.

I forgot that potatoes take awhile to soften and used the ole put a vegetable in a pot of water, turn the stove setting to high, and once boiling remove.

That is not enough time for potatoes my friends.

So what do you do? You boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they rise to the top of your pot. The chemistry of cooking is very important when making gnocchi so be sure to do the fork test to make sure 20 minutes was enough time.

If you don’t know what the fork test is, it’s just sticking a fork into the potato to make sure it’s tender, but don’t let the potato become mushy either.

Once the potato is done boiling, drain the water and allow them to cool and dry.

The next step is to peel the potatoes and them mash them in the potato ricer. As you do this it’s very important to keep an eye on how saturated the potatoes are. If they are too wet it can cause issues. Like I said earlier, chemistry is important when making gnocchi.

All of you already know I didn’t have the master sword when I made this, so what did I do? I peeled and diced the potatoes and then spent an hour trying to mash them with two wooden spatulas.

I do not recommend this method for making gnocchi, but I do recommend it as an alternative muscle building and toning exercise for your arms.

Hopefully you’re just breezing through with the potato ricer and are now ready to combine the flour with the potato. When these two ingredients are mixed, make a well for your egg and then beat the egg into the flour to eventually create your potato dough.

Use the kneading and rolling method to create a smooth voluminous dough ball.

We are now ready to pretend to be a kid again by making play-doh snakes. If you’ve never done that, all we are doing is taking a chunk of the dough and rolling it into a long, thin breadstick shape.

Once you have that shape, you then cut the dough into 1 inch pieces and make a little print on top with your fork.

By the way I didn’t get this far and was un-able to experience the joy of making potato snakes. My chemistry was bad and the potato was creating a glue like effect that made it near impossible to mix the dough. Nothing I tried could create the right consistency and I gave up.

This is why I’m harping on the whole chemistry thing. So please do pay attention if you want to succeed.

Once the gnocchi is created we can now boil. This is where you can use the whole put the stuff in the water, set to boil, and when it comes up to the top remove.

It looks like I did use some critical thinking, just not for the right item.

Once that happens, Anna then instructs you to serve like a casserole. This is not how I’ve eaten gnocchi but I could be misinterpreting her instructions. I’d just normally pour sauce on top and sprinkle some grated cheese. Which is what she says to do as well, but she also mentions layers which tells me this is being served more like lasagna.

I failed making the gnocchi so when I saw this casserole step I tried making my potato junk into a casserole. I did this by layering it up and then baking until the cheese on top melted a little. The end result is pictured below.

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The potato casserole experiment

It didn’t turn out bad, but it wasn’t good either.

My mother and my LA/cooking BFF have already expressed interest in making this with me. Neither have made gnocchi before, but are up for the challenge.  I’m surprised that my mother hasn’t. I think she left that task up to her older sister. Whoever becomes my champion will be featured in an update to this post. I will select retry and look forward to having some assistance. Stay tuned.

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Gamers always retry