Monday, October 17, 2011

Harvest Fundraiser

  My dear friend, Janice and I will be cooking a fundraising luncheon to help raise money for the Food Bank of NY.  Come eat some good food and help someone else eat at the same time.  If you read this blog and you a local, or visiting we hope you join us!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wrappings and Fillings - The Origami of a Potsticker

Gone are the days of traveling with a passport, a paper map and a change of underwear.  In packing for my two week trip, destination Hong Kong and China mainland. I have triple checked that I have my laptop, camera, chargers, magic jack, Tylenol PM, and an unheard of four pears of shoes.  Clearly traveling light means something different to me now then it did a carefree decade ago.

Despite having to pack and prepare for this journey, I was inspired by Heidi Swansons's post "Golden Pot stickers"  on her blog 101 Cookbooks.  Maybe it because of the Asian influence or maybe it was because she also was preparing for a flight that I was moved to making pot stickers before this trip  (Once again I leave my kitchen a mess at a very inopportune time.)  In this post I will recommend that you try Heidi's recipe that looks practiced, well-tested and tantalizing.  Mine was, in fact, a disaster.  Let me apologize if you came to this site in search of a recipe and instead found me droning in about the current up sweep of my life and how it connects with the joy I find in the craft of making food.  In my defense I tried to write a fabulous recipe for you, one indicative of this new culture that I am traveling to.....a culture that I know little to nothing about.  That was the problem.

I made the filling for these pot stickers the way I would have made a ravioli, a vegetable, tofu ravioli.  I was drawing on my own knowledge about cooking and cuisine and this time I fell short.  The effect was bland and mushy with the faintest hint of what I assumed to be Asian flavors:  ginger, scallions, soy sauce, shitake mushrooms  Like an ethnic stereotype, it was an incomplete, inaccurate representation of what a real Asian food experience could be.  Food without that deeper complexity is just filling your stomach.

Not everything I make is a success, design, food, or writing, but what I have come to know is that the process is what keeps me going just as much as the desired result.  There was a calm that cam over me in folding these wrappers into neat little four-cornered envelopes, trying to get each one more perfect than the last.  A talented artist friend of mine, Jaclyn, told me that when she feels anxious about something she folds origami paper cranes.  There are beautiful bowls full on of them on display in her home.  (Was I anxious?  Could have been the 14 our flight ahead of me.)

Anyway, I will probably be too busy to see many of the tourist sites on this trip but I do hope I come away with a more authentic idea of Chinese cuisine than what comes in the little white cardboard boxes in New York.    Maybe then you will get your recipe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Accompaniments: Pickled Serrano Chili Peppers

Usually, when I am making a dish that requires a hot pepper I only need one or two at a time.  But then there I am at the supermarket and all I see are packages of hot peppers.  There just isn't a way that I will use up 20 serrano peppers this week.  But I can pickle them to use later!  I always have a jar of pickled hot peppers in my fridge and I use them in place of the fresh ones in any recipe that calls for one.  They tend to be less hot but still very flavorful. 

Pickled Serrano Peppers

  • 1 lime cut in eighths
  • 1 clove of garlic sliced or quartered
  • as many chili peppers as you can fit in a jar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 3 tablspoons salt
  • white vinegar
Add lime, peppers, garlic, spices adn salt to a 16oz sterilized mason jar.  (To sterilize a jar and lid, place them in a pot of boiing water for 10 minutes.  Add vinegar until it rises above one fourth of the jar.  Fill the rest of the jar up to the lip with water so no air gets in.  They are ready to go after about 2 days.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunday Dinner at Home: Roasted Acorn Squash Ravioli

Let me start by saying that I do not have a pasta machine.  I have never had one and I am pretty sure my grandmother didn't either.  Saying that doesn't mean that I am opposed to one.  I didn't mean that in the belligerent I-will-never-have-one-and-you-shouldn't-either kind of way.  Quite the contrary, we would probably have fresh pasta more often if I did have a pasta machine.  But you can make fresh pasta without one and it isn't as hard as you think.

Do you remember what it was like to want to get your hands dirty?  Or to be a kid and need the satisfaction of a tactile experience?  I could not pass a pile of leaves my father had just raked without jumping in it.  How about running your fingers through warm sand and digging down to the cool, damp sand underneath?  When I was an art teacher my students would ask "When do we get to use clay?" starting on the first week of school and every week that followed until we actually did use clay.  They would cheer on painting day from kindergarten to high school.

That is the joy of making something from scratch.  It literally feels good.  Like cold water and wet clay on a potter's wheel...someone stop me because I will go on forever.  Pasta making is like that too except afterwards you get to eat it!  If you are really nice you might even share it with others.  So what if it took me all day and my kitchen was a mess?  Maybe my furniture, counters, hair and eyebrows are covered in flour, but I had fun.  Delicious fun.

Roasted Acorn Squash Ravioli with Fried Sage Leaves 
For the pasta:
  • 3 eggs
  • approx. 3 cups of flour
For the filling:
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small or half of one large onion diced
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 5 sage leaves chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
For the garnish:
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • remaining bundle of sage leaves

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wrap your acorn squash in aluminum foil and pop it in.  This will roast for about an hour and a half.

On a clean dry surface, scoop out your flour and make it into a pile (like a mountain, as my aunt would say).  With your fingers, make a hole in the center (like a valley, if you will).  You want to make sure this hole goes down to the surface and that the "walls" are pretty high.  Crack one of the eggs into the center of your flour. Gently scramble the egg with a fork.  it will begin to absorb the flour.  When it becomes more of a cough you can begin to knead it with your fingers.  Form the dough into a disc and repeat with the following two eggs.

On a floured surface, roll out your dough from the center out.  The flour is what makes the dough expand so if the dough is too sticky or not spreading, add more four to the surface.  Roll out the dough as thin as you can get it without breaking.

In the meantime, you might want to get started on the filling.  Add your butter, pancetta and onion to a hot skillet.  Turn down the heat to medium and sautee` your ingredients until your pancetta is well cooked and your onion is translucent.  Salt and pepper to taste

When your acorn squash is done, take it out, unwrap it, cut it in half and let it cool.  When it is cool  enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and throw them away.  Then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Add the squash, pancetta and onion mixture, chopped sage and Parmesan cheese to a food processor and pulse until smooth.  (Or mash it together with a fork if you prefer.)

Lay out one sheet of the pasta and add a spoonfuls of your squash mixture, each about 2 inches apart. Brush a little water on the dough in between.  Lay another sheet of pasta on top and press around each lump of filling with your fingers so that the dough sticks together. Cut your ravioli apart with a knife or pizza cutter.  You want to lay the ravioli out on a tray with some space between them to keep them from sticking together before you cook them.  Boil about three or four at a time, until they float to the top and pucker slightly.

In a frying pan or hot skillet, melt about 3 tablespoons of butter.  When the butter is hot and melted but not yet brown, add the sage leaves with a generous sprinkling of salt.  Let them fry until they darken and curl.  Drizzle over the ravioli.