Monday, September 3, 2012

Birthday Dinner: Pea and Parmesan Wonton Ravioli

Man was I naive.  On May 20, the day of my last post I did not realize that a veritable crap storm was heading our way (sorry to be gross, but really there is no other way to say it).  A lot of things in our life took a turn for the crappy and Husband and I spent a lot of hours trying to bolster each other's faith in life.  Anyway, about 3 months later things have resolved themselves and we're back to normal.  Hopefully NOW I can keep my goal of posting once a week. To the food post!

Husband's 30th birthday was a few days ago.  As per usual, he didn't want a fuss and I was left with the task of planning a special but unfussy 30th birthday jubilee.  I'm happy to say everything turned out well and fun and we even got some time to ourselves without Toddler or Dog, which is a rare and precious thing.  Because his birthday was on a Monday we didn't do anything too special on the actual day but I did make him these great Pea and Parmesan Wonton Raviolis and they were well received.  I've actually been making these for years (I got the recipe from Gourmet Magazine, back when it was a thing) and every time I make them the reaction is the same: "Hmm... these are like candy"

And every time I make them I never make enough so I thought I'd share the recipe.  You can also find it on, just fyi. But I have WAY more instructions in here to make your life easier, believe me. I've been making these long enough to have come up with a few tricks.

These are so great because they are fast, healthy and so easy.  Oh and delicious - you really can't beat them.  Also, a word on the wonton wrappers.  These can be a bit hard to find, most of the time I find them around the produce, but the other day I found them in a fridge/cooler thing, so I would ask if I were you.

Read the instructions once or twice before you actually do this recipe.  It's not a hard recipe, but like I said, I have added instructions that will make your life easier and keep you from swearing.

Pea and Parmesan Wonton Ravioli
Makes enough for about 2-3 people.  You'll be surprised how many you throw down.

2 2/3 cups frozen peas
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tsp. chopped fresh mint
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
About 32 wonton/dumpling wrappers

1. Place the peas in a small pot and fill it with water just until peas are covered.  Then cook peas just until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. Drain peas and place in a small food processor (I tried using my blender but the mixture is too thick so I wouldn't recommend it.  If worse come to worse smash peas with fork).
3. Add cheese, mint, a small pinch of salt and pepper.  Pulse mixture until it is smooth. If it is too dry and unyielding add a little olive oil, just enough to make it so the mixture binds together.  Beware that you don't make it too wet.

4. Put a small cup of water on your working surface. Grab one wonton wrapper and place flat on a clean surface.  With a spoon scoop about a teaspoon of filling and place it near a corner of the wrapper leaving enough space to seal the wrapper.  Dip your finger (you can use a brush, if you're making a mess, but I like to use my finger) in the water and wet only the two edges of the wrapper closest to the filling.  Then bring kitty-corners of the wrapper together to make a triangle shape - do not seal yet. Squeeze out the air starting from the filling and ending at the edges then press the edges together to seal. Picking them up is easier than trying to do them flat on the surface. The wrappers are pretty resilient so as long as you're gentle they won't break.  Just make sure your fingers are not too wet because they become very sticky very quickly.  Place wonton on a dry plate or sheet of wax paper and keep it covered with a dry dishtowel or paper towel so it doesn't dry out.
Wrapper with filling. So here you would only wet right and bottom sides.
5. Repeat the process until you've used up all of your filling. Make sure that every so often you're drying the surface you're working on otherwise the wrappers will start to stick and get messy.

6. Now boil water in a large pot and add a small splash of oil, if you don't do this the wontons will start sticking to the side/bottom of pot or each other.  Add wontons in 2 or 3 batches and cook for about 2-3 minutes each batch.
Right out of the pot.

7. Scoop out with slotted spoon and SERVE IMMEDIATELY. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle pepper and some more cheese.  If your house is like mine and you have to yell ten times before anyone shows up to the table, you want to spray the plates you will be using with a little Pam.  These guys, again, are very sticky so without the oil they'll start sticking to each other and the plate and eventually become kind of hard to tackle with a fork.

Vegan Note: These are almost vegan. If you want you could skip the cheese and instead add just a pinch more salt to the filling mixture.  Then when it's time to serve lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

There you go.  I served this with a spinach/berry salad (also a Husband favorite) and it was a light, refreshing, and filling dinner.
So go try them!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eggplant Lasagna

I always have a hard time knowing how to start a post about food because I always have about a million thoughts surrounding one recipe but I promise to try to make them coherent.  Oh, and my new goal is to post one recipe a week.  I think this is a doable, not-too-stressful approach to the food blog scene so we'll see.  Stay tuned to see if I can keep my word.

ANYWAY, to coherent thoughts!

Ok, so a few weeks ago a friend told me that she was thinking about joining a CSA (rant on CSA to come) and that part of the shares would include eggplant.  She then said that she didn't have a whole lot of experience cooking with eggplant and was wondering what she might make with it.

This comment stuck with me and reminded me that I hadn't cooked with eggplant in a while.  Challenge formed.  I know that eggplant is not uncommon in Italian cooking and one thought led to another, long story short, I bring you Eggplant Lasagna.  In this version we use the eggplant instead of pasta sheets.  It's pretty cool.

This was actually a great clean-out-your-fridge dish.  I think I might start a series of recipes called "Clean Out Your Fridge" since I seem to go to them quite often.  Anyway, I didn't have any meat in the house so I decided this was going to be a hearty vegetarian dish.  I love it when dishes are so deliciously hearty and vegetarian that they make you forget that there isn't any meat in there.  That being said, if you rather do a traditional meat sauce for this, then by all means.

A few words on eggplant.

Eggplant can be a bit bitter so it's best to salt it and let it sit for about half an hour to get rid of some of the bitterness.   I used a common  large purple eggplant for this dish but I'm sure others would be just fine.  Just remember that size matters so you're not layering your lasagna for years.

Also, interestingly enough, eggplant is a source of potassium and folic acid as well as nicotine.  It's a close cousin of the tobacco plant and has the highest nicotine concentration of any of the edible plants.  Don't worry, it's takes A LOT of eggplants to equal the nicotine content of a cigarette.  

Lastly, because there are only two and a half of us around, I decided that this recipe would make two small lasagnas and that I would freeze one.  Freezing is easy, I just layered my lasagna, let it cool completely, then covered it very very well with plastic wrap and then covered it with aluminum paper and stuck it in the freezer.  If you want, you can just make a normal 13x9 size lasagna but you might have left over ingredients.

Ok, let's get started.
This picture really doesn't do it justice.  Anyone want to be my photographer?  I'll pay in food.

Eggplant Lasagna
Makes 2 small lasagnas

2 large purple eggplants
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 colorful bell peppers, diced
4 cremini mushrooms, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 24oz jar of plain tomato pasta sauce
2 15oz jars or whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
shredded mozzarella, optional
basil leaves, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Special Equipment:
2 -2.2 quart baking dishes (about 8x12) or
2- 8x8 baking dishes or combination of both

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
1. Begin my slicing your eggplant into thin slices lengthwise, about 1/4 of an inch.  I found this to be easiest by cutting off both ends of the eggplant, standing it up, then slicing downward (I'm sorry, I also wish I had taken a picture).  Dice up the bottom end of the eggplant and put it to the side with the rest of the veggies.
2.  Place your eggplants in a single layer on a cookie sheet or cutting board and moderately salt.  Then leave them there while you prepare the rest of the dish.  Don't worry, they'll turn a little brown but still taste fine.
3. In a large pan (I used a 12 inch) place enough olive oil to lightly cover the pan, about 4 Tablespoons.  Heat for a few minutes over medium-high heat and add the onions.
4. Once the onions a bit soft, about 3-5 minutes, add the carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and extra eggplant and sprinkle with salt.  Cook until veggies start to soften about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 min.
5.  Add the pasta sauce and turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook for about 10min giving the veggies a stir every so often.
6.  Meanwhile, put the ricotta in a medium bowl, add the eggs and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Beat the ricotta mixture until smooth.
7. You are now ready to assemble! Before you start piling on delicious layer after layer, make sure that the saltiness of the sauce is satisfactory to you.  This is also a good time to add the basil leaves to the sauce - just tear them with your hands and throw them in, then give it a stir.
8. Spray your baking dish with a bit of cooking oil spray then place enough eggplant slices to cover the bottom of the dish.  Don't be stingy but also remember that those eggplant slices have to last a whole lasagna.  Layer one fourth of the sauce on the eggplant, then layer one fourth of the ricotta mixture.  Repeat process one more time.  End by layering some eggplant on top then sprinkling mozzarella to your heart's desire. Then repeat with the other lasagna.
9. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and make a one inch slit in the middle of the foil.  Bake for about 25 minutes, just until the eggplant is soft then remove foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is nice and gold.

Yay!! You're done!! Now be careful cutting it because it can get a bit tricky.  I hope you guys enjoy this as much as we did.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Breadcrumbs

I completely forgot to give you a lecture on breadcrumbs.

For ALL recipes, including the Crunchy Cauliflower recipe below, use Panko Breadcrumbs. They're pretty easy to find in a good grocery store (hello, Wegman's!) or in the Asian section of the not-so-good ones. They are Japanese breadcrumbs used for tempura, but have so many other uses. They're light and airy and so so deliciously crunchy. They also absorb less oil so if you've coated say chicken or fish, it'll be a little bit healthier. So unless you have a gluten allergy, start using Panko breadcrumbs.

And if you have a gluten allergy, get yourselves so gluten-free breadcrumbs and make Crunchy Cauliflower.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crunchy Cauliflower with my bestie Gwyneth

And we can breathe again. I'll post the rest of my Thanksgiving recipes when I find my notes, which may be never so don't hold your breath. I can report however, that Gluten-Free Thanksgiving was delicious and a success and I can't wait until next year.

Ok, so in my efforts to treat my body better this year (New Year's resolution) I have had to come up with creative ways to eat a healthy lunch. I like eating healthy, I really do. I know that sounds like a lie, but I assure you I never lie about food. Anyway, it's not the eating healthy that's hard, it's the getting full. I think we can all agree that eating healthy leaves you feeling empty, then you eat dessert and then it all goes downhill after that. Enter cauliflower.

In my efforts to make myself a better lunch I decided to turn to cauliflower. I wish I could remember what made me think of cauliflower but I can't. Oh, I know, I found a great recipe on Bon Appetit for cauliflower steaks and made it (since we're also trying to cut down the meat we eat around here. I know, we're turning into the worst) and loved it but we had roasted cauliflower left over. What to do? Enter Gwyneth Paltrow.

During the summer Gwyneth Paltrow released a cookbook which got her a cover on Bon Appetit. I must say that I was happy to see my best friend (in my head) Gwyneth in the mail and promptly tried her recipes. Sadly they failed to impress. Sorry Gwynnie. I did, however, pick up a few cool tips such as roasting the hell out of grape tomatoes and making breadcrumbs to add texture. Enter mash-up recipe.

Mashing up recipes is my favorite because it makes me feel cool and like I know what I'm doing in the kitchen. Plus it adds a lot of flexibility to your cooking. Anyway, so thus was born Crunchy Cauliflower. Roasting cauliflower is the only way to go as steaming it makes it gross and adding the breadcrumbs for garlicky texture will leave you wanting more.

A quick word on cauliflower. I know it's not the sexiest vegetable (what is? a carrot?) but it's a powerhouse. It's low on carbs (sorry carrot), high in fiber, folate and vitamin C. I promise you will never look at cauliflower the same again.

Crunchy Cauliflower (ok so this picture doesn't do it justice)
Serves 2

1 cauliflower head
1 tblsp olive oil
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 small garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and cut cauliflower in large chunks. Evenly place cauliflower on baking sheet and roast for about 20 min. Cauliflower should be starting to brown and soften. I would peek in there every so often, different ovens have different temperaments.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic and salt and pepper. I like mine salty. Consistency of breadcrumbs should be like damp sand, not soaking, just damp. Add more oil if needed.
3. Pull out your cauliflower. Place breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet and place in oven. Roast breadcrumbs for 3-5 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown color.
4. Measure about a 1.5 cups of cauliflower per person and divide the breadcrumbs on top of the cauliflower. Enjoy

Store left over cauliflower for repeat performance or use it in soup, pizza, omelet, quiche or pasta.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the Stocks

For me making your own stock is about one thing and one thing only: gravy.

There are a ton of recipes that call for huge amounts of ingredients so that you have enough turkey stock to spare for stuffing and the like. And that's great, it really is, but since we're trying to not kill ourselves (or our pocketbook) this year we're going to stick with making just one quart. Besides, once we collect the pan juices after the turkey is done that is going to give us a little bit more delicious liquid to work with.

Oh, make sure that when you buy a turkey it has the giblets in there so you can make this wonderful concoction.

Ok, so stock is so simple that I'm at a loss for more words. Let's just get started.

I love the way the turkey neck looks in this picture. It makes it look like I'm cooking a dinosaur. Last words. Promise.
Easy Turkey Stock
Makes about 1 quart

Turkey giblets
1 1/2 quarts of low-sodium chicken stock
1 small onion
1/2 parsnip
1 carrot
1 celery stalk, leaves and all
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife
2 bay leaves
a pinch of dried thyme
a pinch of pepper

1. Make sure your vegetables are all super clean. Don't bother peeling anything and if you want cut your veggies in a couple of big chunks but there's no need to get any fancier than that.
2. Put all ingredients in a 2.5 quart pot and cook over medium-high heat. Allow stock to boil and then turn down the heat to medium.
3. Let stock boil down to about 1 quart, this will take about 2 hours or so. The more you let it boil down the less you'll have but the more wonderful and intense the flavor.
4. Strain your stock into a container and save for later. You now have liquid gold.
I guess I do have a couple of last words. Don't salt this. It's easier to control the salt at the end of the dish for which you made the stock. For example, worry about salting the gravy, not the stock. Or worry about salting the stuffing, not the stock. The end.

Cranberries Simple-Sauce

It's ok for some things to be complicated such as our taxes and modeling real estate deals. Cranberry sauce is not one of these things. It should be easy and simple and compliment the turkey not fight it for attention.

I modified the following recipe from an Alton Brown recipe that I've always really liked. It's easy, simple and so quick to make. The only thing I didn't like about Alton's recipe is the proportions. It makes a TON and unless you're feeding a your entire extended family, you're never going to need that much. Even for leftover sandwiches. So here goes.

Simple Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 (12oz) bag of cranberries, get rid of the icky ones

1. Heat the cranberry juice, orange juice, and honey and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling bring the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add cranberries and let them simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. ONLY15 minutes, otherwise the sauce will start to break down and it'll get watery and bleh.
3. Take sauce off heat and smoosh a few of the cranberries with the back of a spoon (only if you want to).
4. Once sauce has cooled a bit you can put it in a mold so that you can slide it out on Thanksgiving day and cut it into pieces or you can stick it in a dish and spoon it out.

Voila! Now just don't stick your finger in it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So It Begins....

Thanksgiving is upon us!!!

I feel like there are two important food holidays in this country. Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. I know I should say Christmas, but I'm sorry, it's Thanksgiving. There is so much food, so much fun to be had, family and friends are around, it's not that cold, the leaves are pretty. It's awesome.

During this month the magazines at the grocery store are plastered with phrases like, "Thanksgiving? Stress No More!!" Which I thought was weird. If ever there was a time to stress over a meal it's this time. Stop stressing about regular weekday meals and start stressing about Thanksgiving, say I. It's ONE day of the year, let's all save the instant potatoes for any other Thursday and bring out the real Yukons for Thanksgiving. I mean c'mon on people, is that all our assigned day of gratitude means to you? A glob of canned cranberries? No!

Ok, let me calm down. Truth be told, I don't think any meal should be that stressful (nor do I think you should ever use instant potatoes). And to be perfectly fair I think that what those magazines are trying to get at is that "If you plan your Thanksgiving carefully, it will be stressful no more." Which (finally!) brings me to my point.

Thanksgiving planning can be fun! Thanksgiving cooking can be great with family and friends around to help! Thanksgiving is not the time to show off!!!

If you're hosting, chances are that people are coming over to be fed cozy, familiar, real things. Food can be a powerful tool in helping you let people know how much you love them. Make the mashed potatoes from scratch your husband knows and loves. Make that sweet potato casserole that always makes your sister smile. Make the stuffing you know you'll be sneaking out to eat at midnight. If ever there was a time to label a meal as "comfort food," this meal is it.

Fight it, just fight the urge to make the pumpkin souffle. Too many things can go wrong...

Really the key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is to plan early, start early and use paper plates. I have already started and in the next few days I'll be posting the things I've made in hopes that they'll be useful, if not this year, then maybe next. For now, here is Thursday's menu:

Bacon-crusted Turkey
Apple Pomegranate Green Salad
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Yam Casserole
Sausage and Herb Stuffing (gluten-free, no less)
Sauteed Kale with Roasted Veggies
Marinated Tomato Salad
Simple Cranberry Sauce

What are your Thanksgiving faves?