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.

EAB4257E-B5EC-4FCC-8FC0-4F1637B155E5

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

q0kkhhia_400x400

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.

fullsizeoutput_1fa

 

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.

l2yzr8nwtxiiuedl5elc0w.jpg

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.

gzSvEp5QSoiq0t0foDIEuQ

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.

fullsizeoutput_1de.jpeg

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…

TakeThis

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.

q0C8Q5o6RcWsfuu5eUORhA

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 2.16.32 PM

Gamers always retry

Darling Party Bread Spread

Olives know how to party according to Carol Darling from Tastes of Monroe County.

By the way, I didn’t know Darling was a real name. I thought that was just a cutsie thing made up for Peter Pan. The Darlings. Wendy Darling. Pan’s little precious.

I wonder if that’s why Tink was so annoyed with him. Maybe she felt he picked Wendy to give a thimble kiss to based on her last name. It seems something a man with Peter Pan syndrome would do right?

Sadly I’ve become a bitter lady and what once was a cute movie about a boy who got to fly and hang out with a badass fairy is now a metaphor of all the immature men out there promising you Neverland and not delivering.

That’s why it’s called Neverland, cause it’s never going to happen.

You know what can happen though? Olive party spreads.

So let’s forget about the Pans in our lives and deal with the bitterness by cooking.

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup of finely chopped pecans
  • 2 large hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 4 ounce jar of green pimento olives, finely chopped

Another reason this recipe is your answer when recovering from bitterness about Pans is that all you have to do is combine all ingredients together and then stick in the fridge.

Like with Pan, you’ll have to wait around, but only for 6 hours and un-like Pan the olive spread will deliver on it’s promises.

Enjoy the spread with crackers or bread as the title suggests. You can party with either one. I myself chose crackers.

q8+y8e0qTs69Eb8X0g6inQ

If you just look at the ingredients in this spread it sounds very odd, but don’t discredit it. It’s actually palatable. I was pleased with the results. The consistency and taste were similar to a cream cheese, cheese ball my uncle makes. Which is scrumptious by the way.

The mayo combined with the egg created a smooth cheese-like texture while the olive, onions, and pecans assisted in giving a slightly bitter and chunky flavor. The olives did make it more bitter than a cheese ball, but I still feel like they are similar enough that you could call them first cousins.

Despite the similarities, I don’t think it’s a healthier alternative to a cheese ball. If your mind was going there. I’d need a nutritionist to look into it, but I’m pretty sure mayo is just as bad as cream cheese. It might be slightly less in calorie-intake, but not enough to justify as a replacement if you have a cheese ball addiction.

Whether you do or not, I recommend trying this spread out. It’s not difficult to make and most of you know I like to encourage trying new things. It makes life enjoyable.

Pear Ravioli

This Pear Ravioli is the second and final installment of ravioli recipes my family learned together during our cooking class many years ago.

If you recall from my entry about Pumpkin Ravioli, I had a couple of ideas that I thought would make this process easier. One idea was to use an ice cube tray to help me portion the filling. That didn’t quite work out, so I am now thinking getting a ravioli gadget is worth it.

That being said, I felt my ability to do this manually so to speak went a lot smoother. I still had some imperfectly shaped ravioli, but I feel with more practice and some gadgets my problems with ravioli will be solved.

Keeping all of this in mind, the great news about making your own ravioli is that even if you mess it up, it’ll still taste yummy. I can’t make that case for everything, but knowing this is great for your morale if you end up struggling.

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup of fresh pears, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan, asiago, or percorino cheese
  • 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2/3-1 cup of parmesan

Our first step will be to make the filling and that consists of combing the pears, ricotta cheese, and the grated cheese of your choice from above.

Just mix those three ingredients together and then set aside.

The sauce and filling are a breath of fresh air to make. The real challenge is making the ravioli and that challenging process begins with making your own dough.

When making my pasta dough, I enjoy this recipe and culinary lesson of making pasta by this wonderful pasta scientist. She breaks down all the different ways you can make dough and the science behind it. My mother always said cooking is a lot like chemistry and this article makes that apparent. You can find her informative article here.

Once you’ve made your dough, the next step is to pull apart a quarter of your round dough ball and flatten that with a roller or pasta maker into a large rectangular shape. This step will be repeated until it’s all gone by the way. Taking only a 1/4 just helps maintain the portion we need for each batch.

By the way, feel free to look up how to make ravioli on that same link from above. There are other articles on that site and one of them is specifically for ravioli.

Back to my own process, once I made this rectangular shape, I attempted to use my ice cub tray as a measuring tool of filling size and more.

It did help me determine how large each ravioli piece should be, but it wasn’t as useful as I had hoped. I ended up discarding the tray and folding the dough in half from top to bottom after I placed my filling.

To place the filling I used a teaspoon to scoop out my filling. Then I placed that filling on the bottom portion of the rectangle about an inch above the border and the center of the bottom half. Each ball of filling was about 2 inches apart, give or take. That part is pretty easy to eye ball.

Once my filling was placed, that’s when I folded the top half over the bottom. I then used my fingers to sculpt the ravioli by creating a border between each piece and pushing the filling even more into a circular shape.

Once I felt things were even, I then cut the dough to separate each ravioli piece from the other and with a fork indented lines around the border.

While you’re making the ravioli by the way, I do suggest you boil a pot of water, so that once the ravioli is done you can just dump it in to cook.

That process should take around 7 minutes and while it’s boiling is the perfect time to make your sauce.

Making the sauce is even easier than making the filling. All you do is heat the cream, butter, and parmesan in a sauce pan until the cheese and butter has melted. Salt and pepper to taste and that’s all she wrote for the sauce.

Now all we need to do is strain the water once the ravioli is done cooking and serve individually with the sauce on top like below.

gzvsdpbwrjmxjsonsy4sa.jpg

This is another challenging recipe that I personally want to improve on, but turned out well despite that fact. I need to be more patient and thin out the dough more, because I always end up with leftover filling and thick pasta.

I enjoyed the pear version over the pumpkin as well. Sweet pear bites go well with bland (that’s my opinion) ricotta and that cream sauce is simple but comforting and yummy.

Despite the challenges you might face, I think this recipe is worth trying out because even if you fail with the ravioli, it’ll still taste good. Just maybe don’t serve it to any judgemental people in your life until you perfect it. If you care about their judginess that is. I personally enjoy making judgy people squirm sometimes. That sentence alone I’m sure has caused a great disturbance in the grammar police force. As I type it, it’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror.

It’s good for their mental health to be challenged to relax a little don’t you think?

Hopefully it is, otherwise I’m being seduced by the dark side and could use some help.