Delaney’s Cannelloni & Orange Coast Magazine

canneloni

Now, before I begin five days in a row of muffin posts, I must first describe my latest discovery at Delaney’s Culinary Fresh, (you know, the fresh pasta I am obsessed with.) I’m not sure how long owner Jordan Stone has been selling cannelloni, but last Sunday, after spotting them at the farmers’ market, I couldn’t resist breaking my red pepper-linguini routine. And when these spinach- and ricotta-stuffed cigars emerged from the oven bubbling beneath a layer of crispy parmesan cheese, I wasn’t sorry I had.

DCF products make dinner preparations so simple: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and lay the cannelloni on top. Spread a little more sauce on top of the cannelloni and place them in the oven. After 20 minutes, add a couple handfuls of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. A sprinkling of chopped parsley at the very end adds a nice, though uncritical, touch of freshness. Serve with bread and a little salad.

Unlike most filled pasta dishes, particularly the cheese-laden ready-made varieties, these cannelloni taste light — or as light as a cannelloni can taste. And the women at DCF have somehow accomplished this without sacrificing any flavor: From the thin, semolina dough to the subtly flavored spinach filling, these cannelloni are a real treat. Ben made a really good point, too, noting that “The cannelloni aren’t sloppy.” Filled pastas such as manicotti and lasagna — think school lunch line — so often are overly cheesy and watery and heavy. These are not.

Also, just a quick note on parsley. The trend these days, it seems, is to use Italian parsley — the flat leaf variety. I’ve gotten so used to using it, I forget to even consider curly parsley. The other day, however, I remembered some words of wisdom from my grandmother. Sometime last year, my grandmother started buying curly parsley again, preferring its flavor to Italian. And I think, (correct me if I’m wrong, Gramma), an episode of the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network inspired her to make the switch. In any case, the other day at Trader Joe’s, all that remained was a carton of the curly variety, and so, I bought it — it was delectable. Very flavorful. I used it all week, even in a recipe for cottage cheese muffins which I cannot wait to share with you. So, I guess all I’m saying is not to overlook curly parsley if you cannot find Italian.

And lastly, if you are interested, check out this article, “Linguini Lust,” in Orange Coast Magazine. The article is not on-line, so you’ll have to click on the image at left to read it. Though you may feel you’ve heard enough from me about Delaney’s Culinary Fresh, here you’ll get a little more insight into Stone’s background. She began her fresh pasta business by making compound-butters and selling them in front of her local grocery store. As a single mother, she spent many years working two jobs to support her three daughters — it’s quite an inspiring story.

Now, while a purchased tomato sauce will work just fine for these cannelloni, a homemade sauce can be prepared with little effort: Sauté an onion in a mixture of oil and butter over medium heat until translucent, about five to 10 minutes. Add a jar of peeled, crushed tomatoes such as San Marzano or Pomi brand. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer 20 minutes over low heat. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or oregano or any seasonings you like. Taste and add a pinch of sugar if necessary.


New Theory: Everything Tastes Better With An Egg On Top?

eggontop

I know. My egg consumption is out of control. I can’t promise the end is in sight either, so please just bear with me as I plow through a few more dozen.

On another note, I have a story to recount about my husband that you might not believe. Last night, Ben almost threatened not to accept my “friend request” on Facebook. I know. Unbelievable. It was one of the sadder moments of my life.

This is what happened. Yesterday after dinner, while Ben was washing dishes, I mentioned that I had just become friends (on Facebook) with one of his old hockey buddies. Great, Ben said, and then admitted to feeling bad about not checking his email more often and rarely responding in a timely fashion to “friend requests.”

“You have a Facebook account?” I asked as I typed his name into the search box. “I’m going to invite you to be my friend.”

Brace yourself, this is where it gets sad. Ben turned to me and said, “OK, but don’t expect … ” stopping mid-sentence upon seeing my face.

“What?” I asked. “You to be my friend?”

“Well, it’s just that … it’s just that I’m never …”

It was too late. Ben could utter no words that would repair the damage. “It’s cool,” I said, as the world as I have known it silently shattered. We didn’t speak for like 2 minutes. It was terrible.

When Ben finished the dishes, he hopped on his computer and confirmed my friend request. While my heart still stung, I couldn’t bear the silence, and I appreciated the cyber gesture. I know, deep down, my love of life meant no harm. (I apologize for all the drama … maybe it’s the eggs?)

On another note, I learned on Sunday that one of the vendors (I forget the farm’s name) from Carlsbad will be bringing these zucchini blossoms to the San Clemente farmers’ market every week from now until the end of summer. These might be one of my favorite foods.

I think the best way to prepare them is this: Buy some goat cheese. If you feel like it, season it with salt, pepper, some herbs, shallots, whatever. If you don’t, don’t — plain goat cheese works just fine. Place a small — small — amount of goat cheese inside each one. Don’t over-stuff … it doesn’t make them better. Pinch the flower closed. Place a small amount of milk or buttermilk in a shallow vessel. Place a small amount of cornmeal in another shallow vessel. Heat a nonstick pan over medium fire. Add a mixture of oil and butter. Meanwhile, dip each blossom in milk and then in cornmeal. When the butter begins sizzling, add the blossoms to the pan. Let them cook until golden brown. Remove and serve with anything.Yum.

Also, I just tried the curry spaghetti from Delaney’s Culinary Fresh. I have sworn by the red pepper linguini in the past — still my favorite, I think — but this curried spaghetti was awesome. I didn’t add anything to it, except for some reserved cooking liquid, salt and pepper. Oh, and a fried egg.

And I sort of, though not very meticulously, tested my theory about cooking fried eggs slowly. In a nonstick pan, I heated some butter over medium fire. I added the egg when the butter sizzled. I covered the pan, and after a few minutes, when it looked done through the foggy transparent lid, I removed the egg and threw it on my pasta. There is something really special about an egg yolk over pasta. Or rice. Or salad. Or bread. Or everything, I have concluded.

Fajita Pasta, Farmers’ Market Arugula, Breakfast Crepes & Other Random Thoughts

fajitapasta

I know this sounds like a weird idea, but it’s pretty good. On Sunday, I bought a package of chipotle spaghetti, the latest addition to the Delaney’s Culinary Fresh pasta line. I followed owner Jordan Stone’s suggestion and sautéed peppers and onions with chicken, adding cilantro at the end. I dumped this mixture over the pasta with about ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid and a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano – yum!

So I don’t have much to report, just some random thoughts:

• I almost lost it today at Barnes & Nobles. I had a coupon for 20% off, something Ben had earned after purchasing a book on-line. After spending a half hour in BN, I went to the checkout carrying my goods, the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook and Heat. The woman behind the register, endowed with bionic vision, looked at my coupon for one second and told me it had expired. I challenged. Today is the 18th, I said. This certificate expired at 6:56 EST, she said, 15 minutes ago. She cut me no slack and then tore my coupon in half. I was shocked.

The arugula from both the San Clemente and Laguna Hills farmers’ markets has been delectable. Look for smaller bunches, like this one pictured below – I was disappointed with a very large, extremely bitter tasting bunch I purchased a few weeks ago. Serve with a lemon vinaigrette and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano for a simple salad.


• Before Ben and I moved across country, I told many people I planned to work on a dairy farm once I got to California. I was going to learn how to milk cows and make cheese. Not a well-researched plan. As far as I can tell, there is one dairy operation in SoCal and it’s many miles from where I live.

• After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, however, I now know I can make cheese at home. The book gives a recipe for making mozzarella in 30 minutes and recommends purchasing Cheesemaking Made Easy, a book filled with a host of other simple cheese recipes. It’s in the mail, and soon I hope to post about ordering bacterial cultures and making my own chevre, mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta, etc. Yum.

This past Sunday morning, Ben and I enjoyed brunch at La Galette Creperie with several friends. I ordered the farmers’ plate, pictured below, and Ben ordered a bacon-, cheddar- and egg-filled crepe. Though Ben has recently declared he does not like crepes, he politely cleaned his plate.

• Last week, I saw a whale splashing about not too far from the San Clemente Pier – It was amazing!

• Mayonnaise: I like it. Not as a main ingredient in pasta or potato salad, but as a condiment. A couple teaspoons on a sandwich, I am rediscovering, makes such a difference.

• Do you ever feel there is nothing in your grocery-store meat department that is morally acceptable to buy for dinner? The February Bon Appetit, the “green” issue, lists a few eco-friendly meats: bison, grass-fed beef and heritage pork. Great, but I’m chastised if I send away for these meats. I’m going to a Roots of Change meeting tomorrow night to learn more about sustainable farming in Southern California. Will report back.

• And lastly, over the weekend, I read a very entertaining book: Skinny Bitch. I so badly want to quote the opening paragraph of one of the chapters (entitled “Pooping”), but feel I must refrain. This passage will make you laugh out loud. Please email me if you do not own the book and want to laugh. Lindsey and Mr. T., Meredith and Lisa, Bates and anyone else with a penchant for bathroom humor, please contact me.


Fajita Pasta
Serves 4

left-over roasted chicken or 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or thighs
olive oil
kosher salt
chile powder
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter,
plus more to taste
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red peppers, cored and thinly sliced (green peppers would be fine too)
cilantro to taste, washed and coarsely chopped
1 lb. fresh pasta, such as the Delaney’s Culinary Fresh chipotle spaghetti
¼ cup to ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleaning). Place the chicken on top. Drizzle with a little oil, and season with salt and chile powder to taste. Roast until done, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a plate to cool.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil with the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Add the onions and peppers and sauté until tender and browned, but not caramelized (think fajitas — hot, charred peppers and onions in a smoking hot cast-iron skillet).

3. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Pull the meat from the bone and shred or cut into thin strips. Add the meat to the pan, season with salt, chile powder and cilantro to taste. Stir, then turn off heat. Transfer to a plate. Keep skillet on the stove.

4. Season the boiling water with a pinch of kosher salt. Cook the fresh pasta for 2 minutes. Just before draining, reserve one half cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Place the cooking liquid in the skillet and place over high heat. Let reduce, scraping up any charred bits from the pan. Place the pasta in a large bowl. Add another teaspoon of butter and ¼ cup of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Add ¼ cup of the simmering cooking liquid and the pepper-chicken sauté, and toss gently to combine. Taste, adding more cooking liquid by the tablespoon and grated cheese in necessary.

5. Serve, passing more cheese and fresh-cracked pepper on the side.

A More Prudent Farmers’ Market Pasta

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As I mentioned on Monday, I have a new Sunday dinner tradition: Delaney’s Culinary Fresh pasta mixed with anything I find that morning at the farmers’ market. Last week, I could not resist buying a variety of beautiful, wild mushrooms despite a slightly sketchy story about their origin.

Fortunately, I have made a cyber friend, Melanie Lytle, author of the blog Livin’ the Vida Local, who set me straight. On a year-long mission to eat food grown primarily in the San Diego foodshed, Melanie has extensively researched local food producers, from those setting up booths at farmers’ markets to those selling meat, fish and dairy products in shops. Her blog has already been a tremendous resource for me.

After reading in an article Melanie sent me that the mushrooms I purchased last Sunday might actually have been shipped from Japan, I felt quite deceived. I now know, however, on this big West Coast, I must become a more savvy farmers’-market shopper.

And last Sunday I did make some prudent choices as well, including 8 (yes 8) bundles of Swiss chard which I purchased from the Eli’s Ranch (a farm located in Fallbrook) stand. It was a little excessive, I admit, but I had just read in Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food, about the importance of eating leaves as opposed to seeds and about how the shift from a food chain with green plants at its base to one based on seeds — a shift embodied in the Western Diet — has had detrimental consequences to our health. (More on this book in an upcoming entry.)

So, I may have fibbed a little. Delaney’s Culinary Fresh pasta has become a little more than a Sunday night tradition. It has been more like a twice-a-week dinner affair, which supplies us with leftovers for lunch at least twice a week as well. The simplest and most delicious way I have thus far prepared this fresh linguini is this: Sauté sliced onions and fennel together over medium heat until caramelized. Transfer to a bowl. In the same pan, sauté Swiss chard with garlic and red pepper flakes until wilted and add to the bowl. Cook the pasta for two minutes, add to the bowl of vegetables, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve. Ben has been very pleased with this combination, loving particularly the toothsomeness of the pasta and the texture of the chard.

As I mentioned above, I will devote an entry entirely to In Defense Of Food, but for now, I’ll give you a little preview. In the last 50 pages of the book, Pollan gives some basic rules to help readers more simply figure out what to eat. Here are a few: Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food (such as Go-Gurt Portable Yogurt tubes). Avoid Products that make health claims (because even products such as corn oil can make claims such as, “One tablespoon of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease”.) And my favorite: Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Here’s another good one — one that is particularly relevant to this delectable fresh linguini: Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A.) unfamiliar, B.) unpronounceable, and C.) more than five in number. As a little experiment, I pulled a bag of egg noodles from my cupboard. Here are the ingredients: semolina, durum flour, egg yolks, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid. The Delaney’s Culinary Fresh red pepper linguini, on the other hand, is made with semolina flour, red bell pepper, egg and sea salt — ingregients we all recognize and know how to pronounce.

Visit the Delaney’s Culinary Fresh Web site to read owner Jordan Stone’s inspiring story, to find other locations to purchase this handmade pasta, and to read other ways to prepare a wonderful dinner in no time.

Farmers’ Market Linguini II
Serves 4

5 thin slices pancetta (Note: This can be omitted. I’ve made this basic recipe twice now, once with pancetta and once with olive oil, and both are delicious. Substitute a tablespoon of olive oil for the pancetta if desired.)
2 small heads fennel
one onion
kosher salt

two large heads Swiss chard, escarole or kale, washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
1 lb. red pepper linguini
purchased, if possible, from Delaney’s Culinary Fresh
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
freshly cracked black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Slice the pancetta into thin strips or cut into small dice. Place in a large, nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cook until the fat melts and the pancetta begins to brown. When the pancetta turns dark brown and becomes crispy, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set aside. (This could take as long as 20 minutes or as fast as 10, depending on how patient you are with the heat dial and how much time you have to spare.)

3. Meanwhile, slice the fennel into half moons. Slice the onion into half moons as well. After removing the pancetta from the pan, sauté the onion and fennel together over medium heat until slightly caramelized. (Again, this can take more or less time depending on patience.) Season lightly with salt. Once slightly browned, transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, if using chard, cut the stems from the greens and chop into 1/2-inch chunks. Cut the greens roughly too. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, add the stems and sauté over medium heat until tender, about five minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the garlic and the greens and season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Using tongs, rearrange the greens until nicely wilted. Turn off heat and add fennel-onion mixture to pan. Toss to combine. (If cooking the pasta right away, you can keep the pan on low heat.)

5. Cook pasta for two minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add a few large handfuls of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Add vegetables and reserved crispy pancetta pieces, and toss. Serve immediately, passing more cheese and freshly cracked pepper on the side.


NOTE: Comments on this post have been closed due to an infiltration of spam. Please email me if you have any questions: ali.c.stafford@gmail.com. Thank you.

Farmers’ Market Mushrooms & Melograno Nostalgia

mushrooms

I seem to have been deceived. Contrary to what I believed before arriving to the West Coast nearly three weeks ago, it does rain in Southern California. And it also gets cloudy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. And while I’m not longing for East Coast weather by any means, yesterday, while shopping at the San Clemente’s farmers’ market, I found myself craving my all-time favorite pasta dish — pappardelle tartufate — found in only one place: a little, Italian BYOB, located 2,378 miles away (as the crow flies) in Philadelphia.

I have been mocked by many about my love for Melograno. Whenever anyone I know visits Philadelphia, I point them to the corner of 22nd and Spruce; whenever I learn of anyone living in Philadelphia who hasn’t been to Melograno, I gasp, and then point them to the corner of 22nd and Spruce. I also tell them what to order: the baby arugula and prosciutto salad to start; the papardelle tartufate as an entrée; and the tiramisu for dessert. Melograno serves many other delectable appetizers, desserts (and entrées) too, but the papardelle tartufate —a mix of homemade pappardelle pasta, wild mushrooms, chopped walnuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle oil — must never be substituted.Anyway, while at the market yesterday, I began chatting with Don of Don’s Farm in Wildomar, CA. Don sells eggs, preserves, honey, apple butter, avocados, squash and a host of other vegetables. He also a variety of mushrooms — maitake, brown beech, white beech and royal trumpet — though I am unsure if he grows or just sells these mushrooms.

In any case, Don briefly described the growing technique: these bunches each grow in a bottle in a temperature-controlled room under a fine mist. They are not hydroponic; they are not grown in soil; they are totally organic. Don tells me, “they” — I’m not sure who this refers to, thus the confusion as to who is growing the mushrooms — are building a multi-million dollar facility to increase production of these prized fungi. (As a supporter of small, diversified farms practicing environmentally responsible growing techniques, I am instinctively averse to the idea of this facility: Is growing mushrooms this way any different than the way Earthbound Farms grows their organic greens, in large facilities requiring huge amounts of energy to keep the temperature controlled to prevent the greens from wilting? I’ll have to investigate further, for now, however, I’ll continue to enjoy these delectable fungi.)

Don recommends keeping the mushrooms in their plastic wrappings until cooking time. Do not wash them, he says, and snip off just the outermost end before cooking.

These are the maitake, meaning “dancing mushroom” in Japanese:
I cannot say this recipe replicates Melograno’s pasta exactly, but it has satisfied my fresh pasta-truffle oil-wild mushroom craving. And this pasta, purchased at the Delaney’s Culinary Fresh stand at the farmers’ market, while completely different than the pappardelle at Melograno, is unbelievable. Last week I bought a pound of the red-pepper linguini and this week a pound each of the lemon basil and red pepper. The pasta will keep, I am told, for up to a week in the refrigerator or months in the freezer. Requiring only two minutes in boiling water to cook, this flavorful pasta remains toothsome and chewy and has already become a Sunday evening tradition.
Farmers’ Market Linguini
Inspired by Melograno in Philadelphia
Serves 4

8 pkgs. mixed mushrooms: I used a mix of white beech, brown beech and maitake purchased from Don’s Farm at the San Clemente’s farmers’ market (Note: I only used four packages and found that was not sufficient for the one pound of pasta. I am doubling the recipe I made today as a result. I would guess that each package of mushrooms weighs about 4 ounces, so a total of 2 lbs. (or 1.75lbs at least) of mushrooms is required for 1 lb. of pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, plus more to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 lb. fresh linguini (I used fresh lemon-basil linguini purchased from the Delaney’s Culinary Fresh stand at the San Clemente’s farmers’ market, but any fresh or dried pasta will do. I actually think a dried orecchiette or bowtie pasta might be a better shape to toss with the mushrooms, though this fresh pasta is unbelievable!)
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
truffle oil, optional
a few big, thick shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano to top each plate
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil with one teaspoon of butter. When hot, add half of the mushrooms, shake the pan once, then let them cook undisturbed for one to two minutes — this will help them get a nice brown, seared edge. Shake the pan again, and if necessary, stir and rearrange the mushrooms with a wooden spoon. Let cook until tender and slightly caramelized. Add half of the garlic and thyme, kosher salt and pepper to taste, and let cook for one minute longer. Transfer these mushrooms to a bowl then repeat with remaining oil, butter, mushrooms, etc. When all the mushrooms have finished cooking, return the first batch to the sauté pan to keep warm.

3. Cook the fresh pasta for 2 minutes. Alternatively, cook dried pasta until al dente. Drain. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add a dab of butter and a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Add the mushrooms and toss gently to combine.

4. Place small mounds of the pasta on all plates. Drizzle each serving with a tiny (or not so tiny) amount of truffle oil, if desired. Top each with the thick shavings of Parmigiano.

Note: Melograno also adds chopped walnuts, which add a nice crunch and good flavor. I forgot to purchase them and so did not include them in the recipe, but they would be a nice addition to this dish.

Simple Pasta Salad

Kristina's pasta salad

Many years ago, I traveled to the Cape with my aunt Marcy to see my Great Aunt Phyllis’ family. I don’t remember much of our short visit except that I returned home with the recipe for a pasta salad that we soon named after my cousin, Kristina, who had prepared the salad for us during our visit. That summer and for many summers that followed, we prepared this salad often — it’s particularly good warm, when the just-boiled shells melt the cheese, just slightly cook the tomatoes and soak up all the flavors of the olive oil and lemon juice.

Also, feel free to make adjustments based on your preferences: feta may have been used in place of mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes in place of the roasted red peppers, etc. This salad can also be prepared ahead and served at room temperature — it tastes better the longer it sits in fact.

Kristina’s Pasta Salad
Serves 6 to 8 as a side

1 lb. shells
½ cup pine nuts
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 bunch scallions (finely diced red onion is nice, too)
3 roasted red peppers (or used jarred)
2 balls (large size) or a small tub of ciliegine mozzarella
1 bunch basil
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 lemon, halved
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and a large pinch of kosher salt. Cook about 8 minutes or until done but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place pine nuts in a small skillet over low heat. Toast, stirring often to avoid burning. Remove from heat when evenly golden brown. Set aside.

2. Cut grape tomatoes in half lengthwise. Remove ends from scallions and discard. Chop thinly, using mostly the white and pale green parts (some of the dark green is ok, too). Chop the roasted red peppers into small strips. Cut the mozzarella into cubes about the same size as the cherry tomatoes (or if you are using the ciliegine, use them whole or slice in half). Set aside.

3. Place pasta in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over pasta until nicely coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add all of the prepared ingredients. Remove tiny leaves from basil stems and add directly to the bowl. Stack four to five larger basil leaves on top of one another. Roll into a tight spiral, then cut into thin strips. Add to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the top of the whole mixture starting with just one half. Add a few handfuls of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss gently with a large spoon. Taste, add more salt, pepper, olive oil or lemon juice if necessary.

Pumpkin Ravioli

pasta7

Happy Belated Halloween! Well, this certainly won’t be the last pumpkin recipe of the season, but it’s the last for a few weeks at least. With Thanksgiving just weeks away, I have to admit I have been thinking a lot about pumpkin pie and pumpkin ice cream. Maybe that’s because I have a pecan pie sitting on my counter. I need to do something about that — I had a slice for breakfast. I wish I were kidding.

Anyway, I can’t pretend this recipe will take little effort. It might take all day actually. However, this recipe can be made over a few days: Roast the squash and make the filling one day; make the dough and shape the ravioli the next; cook them immediately or freeze them indefinitely. The sage brown butter sauce takes no time to prepare, so having these tasty pillows on hand (frozen) makes for a simple dinner.

And I guess they really can’t be called ravioli. I’m not sure what shape they are, but they’re yummy nonetheless.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown-Butter Sauce

Filling:
1 sugar pumpkin*
olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
*Winter squash such as Hubbard, red kuri or butternut make fine substitutes for the pumpkin. One sugar pumpkin yields about two cups of flesh.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil on a baking sheet. Season inside of pumpkin with salt and place cut side down. Roast for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserts easily through the skin into the flesh. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Scoop out flesh and place in a bowl. Add the two cups of cheese and season with salt to taste. Mix to combine. Taste and add more salt until the mixture tastes well seasoned — there is no salt in the dough, so this is your only chance to season the ravioli. Add the eggs and mix to combine. Set aside

Dough:
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
5 large eggs lightly beaten

Mound flour in the center of a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center of the mound of flour. Add the eggs to the center. Using a fork, beat the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, start kneading the dough in the bowl and then transfer to a large, lightly floured wooden board and continue to knead for 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should feel elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before using.

To Make:
4 T. unsalted butter
8 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano

To make the ravioli, divide the dough into 4 pieces. Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap at all times. 
Lightly flour one of the pieces of dough, and shape into a rectangle about ½-inch thick.

Pass through the widest setting on a pasta machine. Fold the dough in three, like a letter, and pass through the same setting again feeding the short end in first. Repeat this step 2 times, adding flour as needed.

Without folding the dough now, repeatedly pass it through the machine rollers, reducing the space between the rollers after each pass. When it has passed through the thinnest setting, it is ready to be shaped into ravioli. (If the dough gets too long and difficult to deal with, cut it in half and feed each piece through separately until each has passed through the thinnest setting).

The dough should be just less than 6 inches wide. On the bottom half of the dough, place heaping teaspoons of the squash filling, evenly spaced every 1½ inches. Fold top half of dough over bottom half. With a knife or fluted roller, cut between each mound to create the individual raviolis. Gently pinch to seal the two dough layers together, using a tiny bit of water if necessary. Transfer to a baking sheet dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap while you shape the remaining sections of dough.

At this point, decide how many ravioli you want to cook, and then freeze any remaining: Do not store ravioli in the refrigerator — they become a soggy mess.

To serve: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Place butter in a small sauté pan and heat until it bubbles. Add the sage leaves and let sizzle until crisp, about 1-2 minutes total. Turn off the heat, remove leaves with tongs and drain on a paper towel. Set aside. When water boils, add ravioli and cook until tender about 2-3 minutes (frozen ravioli also take only about 3 minutes). When ravioli are done, drain, or remove with a spider, but do not rinse under cold water. Place ravioli on a serving platter. Heat butter again until hot and begins to brown. Return the sage leaves and then spoon brown-butter over ravioli. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Mandy’s Spaghetti Sauce

pasta8

For the past few weeks, I’ve neglected to bring my husband any of his favorite treats when I visit him. No brownies, no cookies, no granola, no power bars, no quick bread — no sweets at all, in fact, for my favorite Marine (who just graduated from The Basic School … yay!). And I hate to admit it, but if ever there were a time when he needed that extra brownie, it’s now.

Thanks to my sister-in-law, Mandy, however, a weight-lifting, football-watching, Gamecocks-cheering fireball from South Carolina, who gave me her spaghetti sauce recipe, I have been able to bring Ben Tupperwares filled with pasta and meat sauce. Mandy makes this recipe in bulk for a number of reasons: For one, with a six-month old running around — almost running around — she has little time to make dinner every night. Second, she doesn’t love to cook (although she’s a culinary whiz), so having this sauce on hand minimizes the time she spends in the kitchen. And lastly, she has to feed not only herself and baby every night, but also her professional-powerlifter husband, John. (John holds a world record in his weight class for a dead lift and squat combination score.)

This recipe yields two quarts of sauce and freezes beatifully. For one pound of pasta — spaghetti, macaroni, shells or any other pasta variety — one quart of sauce works perfectly. With tons of fresh basil and a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, this spaghetti makes a wonderful dinner. Thanks Mandy!

Mandy’s Spaghetti Sauce
Yield = 2 quarts

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the meat and brown, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic, and sauté until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, 1 cup water, and seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste, add more salt or sugar if necessary, and serve over pasta immediately, or let cool until ready to serve.

Note: This sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator or indefinitely in the freezer. For a simple healthy meal, cook whole-wheat spaghetti, add lots of chopped fresh basil and a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

Korean Flank Steak and Chilled Soba

STEAK

Korean Flank Steak

Most people go to Morimoto for sushi. For fatty tuna rolls and tuna belly sashimi, some aficionados will pay any price. Indeed, the sushi at this Stephen Starr, Iron Chef-run restaurant is arguably the best in the city.

I go to Morimoto, however, for something else. Morimoto’s cha-soba — chilled green tea soba noodles served with dashi-shoyu, a savory dipping sauce — cannot be found anywhere else in the city. Many sushi restaurants serve soba noodles, hot and cold, but few serve this green tea variety.

Cha-soba translates to tea-soba and describes the noodles, which are made with matcha (green tea powder) and buckwheat flour. Partly I enjoy the dish’s assembly — seaweed-green noodles nested on ice in a bamboo box arrive next to a bowl filled with the dashi-shoyu and a plate of sesame seeds, scallions and freshly grated wasabi — but mostly I love the chewy texture and distinct green tea flavor of the noodles.

Chilled soba made with traditional buckwheat noodles:

Chef Masaharu Morimoto suggests, as communicated through his attentive servers, tasting the dashi, seasoning it with wasabi, dipping the noodles into the sauce and eating directly from the bowl. A combination of kombu (dried kelp seaweed) and bonito shavings (dried, flaked mackerel) steeped in mirin, soy sauce and water make the dashi, a flavorful and aromatic stock. Dipping the noodles, as opposed to dressing them, in a chilled broth spiked with fresh wasabi — a treat for any sushi lover — ensures a perfect ratio of sauce to noodle.

Ordered on its own, this dish, costing $12 a serving — although not the best deal for noodles in the city — makes a perfect summer lunch and when paired with sushi or grilled fish or steak, a side dish worth sharing at dinner. Cha-soba for me, like a toro-stuffed maki roll for most Morimoto patrons, induces a bliss matched by no other noodle-serving restaurant in the city.

And before I went green, I used to enjoy — adore — Morimoto’s kobe beef carpaccio: thin slices of delectable, tender meat, rubbed with ginger and garlic and seared with a hot sesame-olive oil mix. Now, however, I don’t know how I feel about kobe beef. Is it grass fed? I really don’t know enough about the treatment of kobe beef cows, but I do know that the grass-fed beef from Livengood Farm in Lancaster is delicious. All who enjoyed the grass-fed hamburgers for the Fourth of July can attest. This marinade for flank steak (grass-fed, purchased from Livengood’s at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market this past Tuesday) can also be used for skirt or hanger steak.

Like Morimoto’s carpaccio, this steak recipe has tons of ginger and garlic. The sugar in the marinade helps the meat char nicely on the grill and the soy sauce balances the sweetness. The Asian flavors in this Korean-style flank steak makes it a perfect entrée to serve with the chilled soba.

Grass-fed cows at the Livengood Family Farm in Lancaster, PA:

Korean-Style Flank Steak
Serves 4

¼ C. sugar
¼ C. + 2 T. soy sauce
1 T. + 1 tsp. mirin
6 large cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, white part only, minced
1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 T. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
1½ lbs. flank steak
oil for greasing
kosher salt to taste

Whisk together the sugar, soy, mirin, garlic, scallions, ginger and sesame oil until smooth. Transfer to a resealable plastic storage container or a Ziploc bag. Place the meat and let marinate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the grill to high. Remove steak from marinade and discard. If meat has marinated overnight, season it very lightly with salt or not at all . If meat has marinated for just a few hours, season lightly with salt. Grease the grill grates with oil.

For flank steak about 1-inch thick, grill four minutes on one side. Flip, grill three minutes on the other side for medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes before slicing across the grain.

Chilled Soba Noodles with Dashi-Shoyu
Adapted from Sally Schneider, A New Way To Cook, (Artisan, 2001)
Serves 6

½ oz. kombu (kelp seaweed)
2½ C. water
½ oz. dried bonito shavings
½ C. mirin
½ C. soy sauce or tamari
12 oz. soba noodles or green tea soba noodles
wasabi powder
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
sesame seeds
1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips

Place the kombu and the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer. After one minute, remove the kombu and discard. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bonito shavings and do not stir. When the bonito has sunk to the bottom, after a minute or two, strain the broth through a fine strainer, pressing on the bonito shavings with a spatula to extract all the liquid, then discard.

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin to a boil. Add the kombu broth and the soy sauce and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water or plunge into an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

When ready to serve, mix wasabi powder with water to make a paste and set aside. Place all of the garnishes — scallions, sessame seeds, nori and wasabi — in separate bowls. Divide the noodles among six plates. Pour the dashi-shoyu into 6 small bowls large enough to handle a serving of chosptick-filled noodles dipped inside, (much larger than what is pictured.) Give each diner a bowl of noodles and sauce and let them garnish their noodles as they please.

Zucchini Pappardelle

zucchinipapardelle2

My favorite restaurant in Philadelphia is Melograno, a BYOB at 22 and Spruce. Every time I go I can’t help but order the pappardelle tartufate, a mix of homemade pasta, wild mushrooms, walnuts, Parmigianno Reggiano and truffle oil. I try to branch out, but ultimately never have the courage — I always give in when the waiter appears.

This recipe only resembles Melograno’s signature pasta by way of the shape of its noodles. I purchased a fluted roller at Fante’s and fresh, whole pasta sheets from Talluto’s on the Italian Market and cut the pasta into 2-inch wide strips. The noodles cook in three minutes and their heat instantly cooks the thin ribbons of zucchini when gently tossed. A recipe for linguini with julienned zucchini in Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne cookbook inspired this recipe. Tons of basil and parsley make this a perfect summer pasta.

Zucchini Pappardelle
Serves 4

¾ lb. fresh pappardelle* pasta
¾ lb. zucchini
kosher salt
pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped parsley
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or peeler, cut the zucchini lengthwise into long thin ribbons about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside in a large serving bowl

Place the oil and the garlic in a large nonstick sauté pan and turn heat to medium. Heat only until garlic begins to sizzle. Add the pepper flakes and remove from the heat.

Eggplant, purslane and summer squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market:
Add the pasta to the water, and using tongs, gently move pasta around to make sure it is not sticking. Cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta — do not rinse — and add to the bowl with zucchini. Return the sauté pan with the oil to a burner over medium heat and when the garlic begins to sizzle again, add the parsley and the basil and immediately pour over the pasta and zucchini. Add the Parmigiano, season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and toss gently. Taste, adding some of the reserved cooking water, more olive oil or more salt and pepper if necessary.

*Delicious fresh pasta sheets can be found at Taluto’s on the Italian Market. For a pretty presentation, purchase a fluted roller at Fante’s and cut the fresh pasta sheets into 2-inch-wide strips. Dried pappardelle works well also.

CSA Week 11

1 bunch Chiogga beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
1 head red leaf lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
3 candy onions grown by Back Forty Ranch
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
6 tomatoes grown by Green Valley Organics and Countryside Organics
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Countryside Organics
2 green cucumbers grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green zucchini grown by Meadow Valley Organics
4 patty pan squash grown by Green Valley Organics
1 pint grape tomatoes grown by Farmdale Organics