Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, and, to start the New Year off right, we are planning a traditional dinner that is supposed to bring you luck. It’s already working because we can give you the recipes for everything on the menu (except the dessert — which is a secret), so that you can share in the luck.
For the Hoppin’ John, we’ll make up the black-eyed peas using the black beans recipe and the rice will be Basmati. A nice simple, but satisfying dinner; we think you’ll agree. And, just so we don’t forget: Happy New Year!
Q: How was it? A: De-lish-ous. Everything came together to make a great New Years’ Day dinner. The Black-eyed peas were perfect, with just that bit of smoky taste, the collards cooked long enough to bring out the flavors, and the cornbread with tiny bits of jalapenos (in some) was just the thing!
Q: How’d it come together? A: With any type of beans start them early, they’ll hold up. So we started the beans in the morning. At the same time, we rinsed, soaked, and dried the rice. Around 4:00 we mixed the dry ingredients for the cornbread and cleaned and sliced the collards. We also started a slow re-heat on the beans. At 5, we started heating the oven, cooking the collards, knowing they could cook awhile, and waited. Around 5:15 we added the liquids to the cornbread and started getting those in the oven (we had two batches of corn sticks) and got the rice going. Rice got turned off around 5:30 — it can sit a bit – until the last of the cornbread was almost done. Then we started serving, taking out the last of the cornbread, right before serving up the collards. Everything hit the table right around 6, and it made for a great meal. We hope your meal was good, too.
As you have seen, we often get a lot of summer squash from the CSA, and, like the zucchini stories that everyone has heard, it is difficult to decide what to do with it. That’s why we were excited to find a recipe for Zucchini Relish in Lucy Baker’s Edible DIY. It sounds like a great way to use up zucchini. We modified it a little, partly because we didn’t have all the ingredients, and partly to bring it closer to the super easy pickle recipe that we like. Continue reading “Zucchini Relish”
We happen to love pound cake. It is, without a doubt, one of our favorite cakes. It tastes great, keeps well, doesn’t need frosting, can be toasted when stale; basically an all-around great cake. So we were excited to see that Dorie Greenspan had a recipe in Baking, From my Home to Yours; we were hoping for a great pound cake recipe since most her other recipes are tops.
Now, we’ve made pound cake in the past, and some have been better than others, with the best so far being one where we whipped the egg whites and folded them into a batter — we’ll write that one up when we make it again.
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4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
You’ll be creaming the butter and sugar, so you’ll definitely want to get the butter up to room temperature. Same with the eggs, they’ll blend in better. And vanilla, use pure extract only.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter a 9×5 or 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan.
Whisk most dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. With a mixer, preferably a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Basically, mix the daylights out of ’em. Let that mixer run on medium-high a good five minutes, so the butter/sugar mixture turns pale and gets fluffy and light.
Add eggs. One at a time, drop in the eggs. Mix on medium for a minute or two. Then add the next egg. Once you’ve added all the eggs, it’ll be like an egg butter mousse so ….
Add vanilla. Add the teaspoon of vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Fold in flour mixture. Carefully fold in the flour mixture, folding until it just becomes incorporated.
Put batter in pan. Scrape batter into loaf pan, and smooth off the top.
Bake. Pop it in the oven on a middle rack and bake for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool. Let cool on a rack in the pan for 30 minutes. Then remove from pan and let cool to room temperature.
There! A pound cake, made from scratch.
We liked the simplicity of this cake, but it is not as good as we would have hoped — a bit dry, and a bit denser than we’d want, so this is just a three star, implying it was worth trying, but we’ll be going back to a recipe where the egg whites are folded into the batter.
Okay, we’ll be the first to admit it, ravioli are a bit fussy, but not so fussy that you can’t whip up a batch or two. And, here’s a tip, kids, write it down, get a couple of people working on the ravioli; it’ll be over in no time. We happened to make enough so that we could freeze some for later and it’ll be nice to take out a bag of raviolis and just cook ’em up and cover with a sauce.
We’ve made these mushroom ravioli a couple of times; they are full of mushroom flavor, and people really like them. By using homemade pasta, the ravioli have a nice toothsome bite, not all mush like some ravioli you’ve (and we’ve) had. So let’s mix up a batch of ravis.
Makes about 4 generous servings (70 good-size raviolis)
Chop that onion and garlic, chop all the mushrooms into small dice (1/8 to 1/4 inch), rehydrate and chop and dried mushrooms.
Toss those four tablespoons of butter into a large skillet and start it melting. When it’s pretty hot, toss in the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is just beginning to brown.
Add mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid is gone.
Add the cup of wine and reduce again.
Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Add between one and two cups ricotta and egg, and mix it in thoroughly.
Run the pasta dough through your pasta machine until you reach a thickness that you like. Drop teaspoons of filling on one side of the sheet, making sure they are about 1/2-inch apart. Fold over pasta, cut, and seal.
Set your freshly made pasta on a clean towel to dry.
Bring several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, and boil about 16 raviolis for 3-4 minutes, testing for doneness. Remove with slotted spoon, and boil up the next batch.
To maximize the mushroom flavor, try to get some porcini mushrooms in there; we use some dried ones that we reconstituted. Other than that, consider using portobella, crimini, or whatever you can find that you like. The wine is optional; it adds flavor, so consider it. As far as ricotta, when we want ravioli for special occasions, we make our own, but feel free to buy it to save a bit of time.
Mise en place. Chop that onion and garlic, chop all the mushrooms into small dice (1/8 to 1/4 inch), rehydrate and chop and dried mushrooms.
Saute onion and garlic. Toss those four tablespoons of butter into a large skillet and start it melting. When it’s pretty hot, toss in the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is just beginning to brown.
Add mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms in and let them cook. They’ll produce a lot of water, so your job is to cook it off. If you’ve used dried porcinis or other dried mushrooms, toss the liquid that you’ve used for soaking them in, too. Mushrooms have mild flavors, so you want to concentrate all those flavors into each ravioli.
Cook down. Let the mushrooms simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone. It’ll start to smell really tasty.
Add wine. Once the mushrooms have cooked down, add the cup of wine and reduce again. It’ll take a while, but you’re not making a Chef Boy-ar-dee product here, you’re scratchin’ up real food.
Season to taste. Once you have cooked down all the liquid, season those mushrooms with salt and freshly-ground pepper. By waiting until the liquids are concentrated, you won’t run the risk of concentrating the seasoning and making salt-block raviolis.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool. The bowl is where you’ll make your filling; let it cool, because you’ll be adding an egg and you don’t want it to cook.
Add ricotta. The ricotta makes for a richer-tasting ravioli, so add between one and two cups, and mix it in thoroughly.
Add egg. The egg will bind everything together when you boil up the raviolis; otherwise, the filling would just crumble when you bite into them.
Roll out pasta. Run the pasta dough through your pasta machine until you reach a thickness that you like. For our machine, we find the setting of ‘4’ works great. Try to get a sheet about 3 inches wide, and however long is easy to handle, and place it on a lightly floured counter. If you don’t have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin and elbow grease. They’ll look a bit more rustic, but they taste great.
Add filling. Drop teaspoons of filling on one side of the sheet, making sure they are about 1/2-inch apart.
Fold over pasta, cut, and seal. Carefully fold the pasta over lengthwise to cover the filling, press down and cut between each filling-lump (we have a funny zig-zag wheel that works a treat, but a knife will work, too). Then, using the tines of a fork, seal all the sides.
Place on towel. Set your freshly made pasta on a clean towel to dry, and make your next ravioli. As we said in the introduction, this goes a lot faster if you can get an extra pair of hands on the production line.
If you’re not cooking soon, refrigerate all your raviolis. Just transfer the towel to a cookie sheet and pop in the fridge. Or, you can freeze ’em on the cookie sheet, and when frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.
Boil ravioli. Since these are fresh pasta, they cook up fast. Bring several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, and boil about 16 raviolis for 3-4 minutes, testing for doneness. Remove with slotted spoon, and boil up the next batch.
Serve with your favorite sauce. We made a variation on the hand-crushed marinara sauce, which was pretty good, but a nice cream sauce would be a good choice, too.
These raviolis are outstanding, but they do take some time so as far as worth it goes, we’d probably give ’em four stars. They are definitely worth having for a special occasion, and, if you freeze some for later, they become even more worth it.
Ricotta cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make; we’ve only had it fail once — for this post of all things. But we persevered and made our own 100% scratched ricotta that will go into our mushroom ravioli. Even though ours failed the first time, we’ll provide that as our recipe and we’ll tell you what we did for the second.
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1/2 gallon milk
1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
Juice of 1 lemon (or 1/2 tsp citric acid)
Use the freshest milk you can find and be careful to avoid the Ultra Pasteurized milk; they won’t make cheese. You can use whole, 2%, 1%, or even skim. It’ll all work. The first batch we tried to make with the lemon juice. It looked good for a while and then something happened and the curds disappeared, we don’t know what since we’ve made ricotta with fresh lemon juice before and it was fine. If you want to go the citric acid route, you can easily find it on-line — it’s generally included with those cheesemaking starter kits (we have one, it’s a lot of fun).
Pour milk in a 3 quart sauce pan.
Add salt and lemon juice (or citric acid).
Heat. While heating stir the milk so it won’t scorch. Heat the milk to 195°F. It will seem to curdle, but that is just the cheese separating from the whey.
Let stand 5 minutes.
Drain. Line a colander with butter muslin — not cheese cloth, the holes are too large — and pour the curds and whey through.
Drain more. Tie the butter muslin shut and suspend it to drain. Let it drain for 30 minutes.
Done. You’ve made cheese. How easy is that?
Now, we’ll be honest, we don’t always go to the trouble of making our own ricotta cheese, but we do make it for that special dinner. It’s really easy and it (almost) always turns out. Four stars.
While Lucy Baker called this Chocolate-Almond-Hazelnut Spread in her book Edible DIY, she suggested that it was more like a grown-up version of Nutella. We like to pretend we’re grown-ups, so we’ll call it Grown-Up Nutella. Nah! Nah! And you can’t make us change it (unless you’re Nutella’s lawyers, in which case…). Continue reading “Grown-Up Nutella”
Here’s a nice little Christmas gift for you: Chili-Lime Peanuts. They are fast and easy to make up (yay!), really tasty (bet you can’t eat just one), and perfect snacking for New Year’s Eve (they’ll pair nicely with the finest Champagnes, and even the Champagne we buy)! Continue reading “Chili-Lime Peanuts”