Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving Celebration

This picture isn't the best. You can't really tell what anything is and the portion-size on that white stuff looks way too big. Actually, this plate is comprised of 3 turkey cranberry raviolis, sauteed kale, roasted squash puree, and store-bought whole berry cranberry sauce (for some reason I always like it better than any homemade version I've ever tried).

I made this ravioli two years ago for a pre-Thanksgiving feast we had then. To be honest with you, it was so good that after my first bite I exclaimed, "This is just as good as when I learned to masturbate." That's very crude, I know, but masturbation is healthy, do it before you marry too early or sleep with a loser, I'd say.

I had a similar experience the first time I had butter on a baked potato although I would describe that as a religious experience.

The ravioli gravy turned out a lot better this time, I thought. It thickened up a lot better. The trick is being a really vigilant stirrer. Don't leave it unattended for the entire duration of making the gravy. Stir constantly...which is easy for us because Mark loves to stir so much so that I make fun of him for it. He's a compulsive stirrer.

Turkey & Cranberry Ravioli
from Giada at Food Network

Serves 6

* 1 lb pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat (I used an 85/15 ratio)
* 1/2 c. tablespoons cranberry sauce
* 1/2 c. tablespoons grated Romano
* 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
* 6 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 80 store-bought wonton wrappers


* 1.5 sticks butter
* 4 shallots, chopped
* 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
* 1 c. chicken broth
* 1/2 c. tablespoons heavy cream
* 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


To make the ravioli: in a medium bowl, stir together the turkey, cranberry sauce, cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper. Place 10 wonton wrappers on a work surface. Brush lightly with water using a pastry brush. Place 1 tablespoon of the turkey mixture on each of the wonton wrappers. Top with another wonton wrapper. Push out any air bubbles and press the edges tightly to seal. (I don't recall this being a big deal last time, but Mark had a lot of trouble with these this time. He did a lot of shouting. The comments on the recipe suggest alternatives such as making the meat mixture into a loaf and cover it with the gravy or turn the meat mixture into meatballs and serve with pasta and sauce. I like the lightness of the wonton wrappers. We're going to remake this for Mark's parents later this week and we plan to make the meat mixture into meatballs and serve it with the gravy on top of fresh pasta).

To make the gravy: in a medium, heavy skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir until cooked, about 1 minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Add the cream, parley, salt, and pepper and cook, without boiling, for 2 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook until tender but still firm to the bite and the turkey is cooked, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain the ravioli into the gravy and stir to coat. Serve immediately in individual dishes, drizzled with the remaining gravy.

The kale was a simple saute. I heated some olive oil, added in some leftover chopped onion (about 1/4 c.), 3 chopped garlic cloves, 2 tsp. red pepper flakes and some S & P. Then I added the kale until the skillet was full, put the lid on and let it wilt down, then added more until the kale was all in the skillet. I used one bunch. The best tip I know when preparing any type of sauteed greens is to just chop them really small. That makes the finished product have a glorious texture. I take the spines out of my kale/greens and put them in a freezer bag for future veggie stock endeavors. Otherwise, you just chop them very finely and they can go into the pot with the greens. I used some chicken stock and a tiny bit of cream to add liquid if the skillet got too dry.

Many hours before the meal was to be served, I prepped the squashes. I cut the ends off of a medium-sized butternut squash then cut it in half. I cut an acorn squash in half, placed both squashes in a big, rimmed casserole dish and sprinkled them with S & P, drizzled them with olive oil, and roasted them for an hour at 400 degrees. Afterward, I checked for doneness by poking them with a fork. The acorn squash was done, so I took it out, but the butternut still had a ways to go. I roasted it until it was done, about 45 minutes more.

After the squashes were cooled, I spooned out their flesh (I love the sound of that statement) and set it aside. In a small saucepan I sauteed 4 strips of chopped bacon until they were done. Because I was using center-cut bacon, the rendered fat was not significant. I added the squash flesh, mashed it with a potato masher, added chicken broth until it was the desired consistency, then added 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper. That's it, kids. Check for S & P and you're good.

We had several folks over that night. Claudia brought a delightful feta-cream cheese dip that I wish I'd eaten more of, Shane & Sarah brought some of my favorite chocolates which came in handy, because we were too lazy/full to finish our cookies for dessert. Randy picked up the slack in the gravy-making when Mark left his post. Other than Claudia wishing a palsy upon me, the night went pretty well. Little Margot got to meet our friends and was adored by all.

My friends Jeff & Susan were expected to be there, but were not because I called the wrong Susan in my phone, leaving all the pertinent info on her voicemail. The right Jeff & Susan thought I left them hanging, I'm sure. The Susan I called sent me a bewildered email on Monday morning.

This is Margot with a lamb friend:

She has a cold and some eye issues right now, but she's on the mend.

I'm kinda ashamed to say it, but we've been bitten early and put up our tree.

Gnocchi is too fat to climb in it like a squirrel this year, thank goodness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Soups

Lately I'm only interested in making soup. The act of eating soup is one of my favorites (I can tell you honestly that I like it more than pasta, though it may not seem that way) and the ones I am most attracted to are usually easy and quick. Though I'm an avid menu planner, some nights I'm just all out of ideas. I know I'm at my best when I devise a lovely soup out of my pantry rather than going for the ever-so-easy frozen pizza pitfall (we usually dress them up a bit with spices and whatever veg we have hanging around, but a $5 frozen cheese pizza is hard to beat at times).

I'm fond of topping soups with a salad of sorts which isn't always necessary, as was the case with this wonderful Roasted Tomato Soup from our lady Ina:

It required nothing. We had it with big crusty pieces of bread, but they weren't required. If I were going all out, I think it'd be great topped with shavings of parm or romano (or both), fresh arugula, and avocado, but it was wonderful all on its own...robust and hearty. I made sure not to puree it completely, leaving it nice and chunky.
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil (I only used enough to lightly drizzle the maters)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (I used dried, like 2 tablespoons. I don't know what it is with me, but basil has just been turning me off lately)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (used 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water (I used chicken stock)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

I have no idea why Ina calls for all of that olive oil. She tends to be a little on the crazy side when it comes to adding fat/expense to recipes. It always seems like she's cooking her last meal or something. Heck, I may order the deep fried Chicken Crispers at Chili's, but I don't act like that at home (disregard upcoming fried chicken post, please). I don't see the need.

Regardless, I made this soup a couple of weeks ago when tomatoes still seemed decent around these parts, but as it turned out, mine were kinda flavorless, even after the roasting. I maybe should have roasted them longer or added some sugar to them before roasting to accentuate their natural sweetness. I ended up adding about a tablespoon of sugar to the soup after I pureed it. Roma tomatoes usually look okay year-round, so I think you could make this at any time if you just added a little sweetness to them...honey, agave, sugar, whatever floats your boat.

The soup was incredibly rich and really good on the reheat (as is the case with most soups).

The next soup was recommended by my good friend, Amanda.
Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup
from RecipeZaar

SERVES 4 -6 (change servings and units)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 cup minced onion (about 1/2 small onion)
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 4-6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
* 1 (14 ounce) can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
* 1 (9 ounce) package fresh tortellini or dried tortellini
* kosher salt
* cracked black pepper
* 10 ounces fresh spinach or frozen spinach, defrosted and chopped
* 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)


1. In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.

2. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring often until onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil.

4. Add the tortellini and cook according to package instructions.

5. When tortellini is almost done, add spinach and taste, adjusting seasonings with salt and pepper.

6. Serve immediately.

7. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

I used fresh spinach and veg broth. I also added in some roasted quartered button *mushrooms I had leftover from a salad earlier in the week. They added a nice meatiness.

I have to emphasize that you should be very careful to not add the tortellini in until you are ready to eat. I buy the frozen kind and it cooks in less than two minutes. If you let it sit in the broth too long, they get bloated and fall apart. If you aren't feeding a crowd and expect to have leftovers (the 2 of us ate on this at least 3 times each), I would recommend cooking the torts in a separate pot according to package instructions. Once al dente, drain them and reserve separately from the soup. To serve, spoon some torts (this also helps you to limit your fat intake as well, as you only get as few or as many torts as you'd like) in your bowl and ladle the soup on top.

*The mushrooms were tossed with olive oil and shoyu (could use soy sauce) and roasted for 40 minutes in a roasted a 375 degree oven (stir twice during duration).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuffed Poblanos

That Ezra Poundcake, she's always ahead of the game. I was just about to post about these peppers which we've been making for over a year, and she goes and does a good job of it. We make these peppers quite often, most recently a couple of weeks ago when we decided to be work-week vegetarians. They're simple and usually only require us to pick up the peppers as everything else is stocked in our pantry (Our well-stocked pantry is my crowning glory. I'm very proud of it.). And those peppers, they can be procured a few steps from my house. I do not have to drive for this recipe! It trumps frozen or pick-up pizza.

Stuffed Poblanos from Everyday Food


Serves 4

  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in puree
  • 1 jalapeno chile (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat), minced
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves (2 whole, 1 minced)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (19 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese (we use cabot cheddar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise (stems left intact), ribs and seeds removed


  1. Preheat oven to 425. In a blender, combine tomatoes in puree, jalapeno, half the onions, and 2 whole garlic cloves; puree. Season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine beans, cornmeal, 1/2 cup cheese, remaining onions, minced garlic, cumin, and 3/4 cup water; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Dividing evenly, stuff poblano halves with bean mixture; place on top of sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle poblanos with remaining 1/2 cup cheese; cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake until poblanos are tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover, and continue to cook until sauce is thickened slightly and cheese is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes.
I'm lazy as all get-out and I don't have good, fast, efffective knife skills, so I usually chop the onions and garlic in the food processor before I start this recipe. Also, I grate the cheese in the food processor before I start this recipe, without cleaning out the bowl, really. I mean, it's all going to the same place and it saves me time. Even though I don't have to wash dishes by hand anymore, I still try to conserve dishes.

We don't repeat many recipes in this house, but this one, as I said before, is made every couple of months. I tend to cook it less by about 10 minutes or so because I like the peppers to still be crunchy and not so soft. I agree with old Ezra in that the recipe could be tweaked to your interests, but I don't mess with what ain't broken. This is one of our favorites as it is.