Monday, October 25, 2010

What's up: Two sauces and five thoughts

So real quick here, I made two sauces for my ravioli.

The spinach, feta, pine nut ravs got a hastily improvised lemon cream sauce that went something like this: I heated a tablespoon or so of butter, stirred in a wee bit of flour, added some cream or half-and-half (we always have this in the house but not always cream) and then some lemon zest and juice. I sprinkled with a little chopped basil and viola.

This picture of the basil cream sauce the smoked salmon ravs got looks like crap, but boy did it taste good! Here's a real recipe:

Basil Cream Sauce

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 ounces pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint cream

In a food processor, combine basil and garlic. Begin processing, and pour in olive oil in a thin stream. Process for about 40 seconds, or until mixture begins to emulsify. Add pine nuts and Parmesan, then blend for 1 minute.

Heat cream in a saucepan over low heat until simmering. Pour half of the hot cream into the processor with basil pesto, and pulse for 20 seconds to incorporate. Pour mixture back into cream, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened.

So sauce-schmauce. Do you what's really on my mind?
  • My daughter reports that she has invented a new religion. We're atheists. I'm horrified.
  • I recently took a Lebanese cooking class. It was fun, and I learned to make some really good stuff.
  • My house has a door you can lock, open, and walk through. The front of the house almost is not partly covered with tarps. We have way less money than we used to.
  • I have a brilliant new idea for political campaigns. Ok, it's really a pretty stupid idea, but so are a lot of people running for office.
  • Ten percent of the way through (on the Kindle we read in percents, not pages) and I have officially called "uncle" on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I'm not proud. I don't hate it or anything, but I just cannot take it any longer. Life is too short. At least mine is—I guess he thought his was too long.

That's what's up.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Still there? Back to ravioli

You know, the ravioli post series was not meant to drag on for three months. And it hasn't been three months yet, but still.

To roll out the excusesJust to bring you up to speed, here's what's been up since I made pasta dough for the first time:

  • I went camping with Sophie's class at the Presidio—sort of like camping in Golden Gate Park but not quite. Last year she did not want me to attend, but this year she really wanted to sleep in our teensy backpacking tent instead of a large group tent, and children were required to have an adult in their tent, so she decided I might be useful for this purpose. It required me to camp with a whole bunch of people (I think upwards of forty at times), which is not really my thing. And not Sophie's either it turns out. She opined more than once "I wish it were just us, camping by ourselves." Our little tent was good for crawling away and pretending we were doing just that.
But then if we had been doing just that we would have missed a mandolin around the camp fire, catching up with people we really like and don't see much of in hectic everyday life,
and hiking to here, which you'll note is not in the mountains. Camping in the city's not all bad.

But it's not like we went camping for weeks. I also

  • Had my first migraine. Disco balls started floating across my vision field and I became so dizzy I could hardly stand yet look up signs of a stroke or aneurysm on my computer. Since I had never experienced anything like this and wasn't exhibiting quite the textbook migraine symptoms, off to the emergency room I went, where received a scan of my head (so much easier than an MRI!) and was told I was having a retinal migraine, probably due in part to STRESS.
  • Received an annual performance review at work where my boss advised to "make friends with" and treat in a "gentle, motherly way" a coworker I may be working on projects in the coming year. You can imagine how my head nearly exploded at that suggestion. I said no. Will. Not. Do. That. No way. I will be professional and cordial, and that's all that should ever be required of anyone in the workplace. Ever. Period. I think she gets it.
  • Survived Husband's two surgeries, ankle and knee, realizing how much he really does do around the house now that I've had to do most of it for the past three weeks. It's how people over fifty get ready for the ski season you know. And no, I did not treat him in a gentle, motherly way.
So don't you think a person who survived all that deserves one of these?

Me too, but they're really expensive and we're forging ahead on our ten-year house remodel plan, Husband's job may be evaporating, and . . . well, that's another post. So I pulled one of these out of the back of a cupboard and found that this low-tech method worked fairly well.

It's important to make sure the pasta dough is thick enough to hold the filing. The setting one in from the thinnest worked best for me.

A good dusting of flour ensured that the finished raviolis did not stick to the plate (your opportunity to learn from my mistake).

But now to the fun part. You almost cannot go wrong with ravioli filling—almost anything that sounds good is. A quick trip through the food processor, and you're good to go.

I made two:

Feta spinach pine nut

Smoked salmon

Both delicious and easy.

Feta Spinach Pine Nut Ravioli Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach
1 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the spinach until fully wilted, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.

Combine the cooked spinach, feta, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until mixture is the consistency of a fine paste.

Smoked Salmon Ravioli Filling

6 ounces smoked salmon
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
lemon juice to taste

Combine ingredients food processor and pulse until mixture is the consistency of a fine paste.

These instructions for using a ravioli mold give a clear step-by-step illustrated explanation.
To cook, fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli, stir gently, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered until the ravioli float to the top and the filling is hot, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Up next—any minute now—a quick sauce recipe. Seriously.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Homemade ravioli: The dough

Very busy garden spiders setting up shop all over my yard the past few days have drawn my attention to the fact that it is fall. Not spring.

Do you have these at your house? They are everywhere here.

Which means I'm a total loser when it comes to completing my spring kitchen to-do list. But wait—did I actually say I would complete the list in spring? Or did I just propose the list in spring? Fact is, I've been a little disappointed with myself for technically only completing half the list (fried anchovy-stuffed olives and pate de fruit). Part of it is Trevor's fault because I wanted to make picture-perfect macarons with him when I was in his neighborhood this summer, but he had to go eat rice with his Persian in-laws that day.

And I really haven't been a loser when it comes to the homemade ravioli. On the contrary, I've been a positively industrious ravioli maker, but it's taken up so much of time, I haven't had time to post it all. It's been so much more involved than I thought and has, in fact, spun off it's own list:
1. Learn to make homemade pasta dough.
2. Master the mechanics of ravioli making.
3. Come up with a few fillings.
4. Discover the perfect sauce.
See what I mean? But as my favorite co-worker will say when I ask if he has completed the next step in a project "I dood it!" But it's too much for one day, so here comes the ravioli post series.

Today is the pasta. Or the noodles. When I was growing up we seriously did not ever use the word pasta. It was all noodles. Pasta was just a fancy word for the same thing, and we were an unpretentious family.

I only have one food processor (can you believe it??), and it was busy making something else, so I was happy to find that a bowl and a fork work perfectly well to blend this dough.

As far as ingredient proportions, Lisagh correctly observed that it's about the feel.

You want to add enough water that you can pinch the dough together. Sort of how pie crust dough feels.

I pushed it around with the heel of my hand on a floured board until it was slightly elastic and had lost its stickiness.

Then came the fun part.

Remember this? It was called the Fun Factory, and when your Playdough was new and springy and your machine was not clogged up with dried crusty dough what fun it was!

My hand crank pasta machine was almost as fun. I divided the dough into pieces about the size of a fist (mine as small) and ran them through a couple times each on successively tighter rollers, folding the dough in two each time before feeding through.

Lots of flour at the end was important so the dough didn't stick together

Basic Pasta

1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix with a fork. Stir in 2 tablespoons water.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness.
I'll be back (promise!) to make the ravs. Two kinds! Just guess.