Monday, October 22, 2007

Recipe- Ravioli Caprese

Sometimes I'm too ambitious, especially since I do get very upset if a dish doesn't turn out right. NH watches me with amusement and a little annoyance when things aren't going right in the kitchen. I can develop a pretty fatalistic attitude (it's not going to be edible, it's not worth it, we should get the phone to be ready to order takeout, etc). Sunday night was one of these nights, but fortunately it had one of the better endings.

I was home early on Friday evening and caught a newish episode of 'Everyday Italian' on the Food Network. Each dish was inspired by a different island Giada has visited in Italy- Capri, Sicily, and Sardinia. The first item on the menu was 'Ravioli Caprese,' from Capri. Immediately I was paying attention- Capri is pretty high on my list of places I'd just die to go to. Then, she started the dough.
This dough is just flour and water- just flour and water! Usually there is some kind of binder like egg in dough, so this intrigued me. I'd say I've recently hit intermediate level with dough, and I knew this was something different and interesting. The filling she made- chicken, ricotta, and basil- sounded yummy, as did the sauce- olive oil, lemon zest, and more basil. Yum! Always more basil, can't have enough.

Right away I decided I was going to make them Sunday night- I wouldn't be home to make dinner until then. NH would help me and we would make dinner together in a nice romantic way.
I searched several stores for a ravioli stamp and had no luck. I figured I'd use a stainless steel measuring cup until I realized the handle would be in the way. Without getting too nitty-gritty, in the end we used a champagne flute to stamp out the dough- yes! It actually worked out fairly well, that bit at least.

Ravioli Caprese
adapted from recipe by Giada de Laurentiis

2 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup very hot water

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1 egg
1/2 cup finely shredded rotisserie chicken
1/4 cup shredded Fontina, Parmesan, and Asiago
2 Tablespoons finely chopped Basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped
2 teaspoons grated Lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Dough: In a large bowl, combine flour and water. Stir to combine with a wooden spoon, into a large ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.
Filling: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

Cut the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces (the dough will be sticky!). Add extra flour as necessary for rolling but use only a little as needed. For each piece into a 2 x 6 inch rectangle. Recover the dough with plastic wrap.
Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 4 x 19 inch rectangle, approximately. Place 9 rounded Tablespoons about 1 inch apart down the center of the dough. Flip the dough over the filling. Press down around the edges again with your fingertips to seal. Place the finished ravioli on wax paper and continue with the remaining dough and filling.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add half the ravioli and cook, stirring occasionally, until they float to the surface, 3-4 minutes. Drain into a serving bowl and cook the remaining ravioli.

Pour the olive oil over the cooked ravioli. Add the basil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Gently toss to coat and serve immediately.

NH did a great job preparing the filling, and I made the dough. It was more difficult to work with than I thought it would be. Very sticky for starters. Next I made the mistake of not rereading the recipe and where I should have divided the dough to start with I did not, so it was probably a little overworked. As we were stamping the ravioli out some had difficulty sealing the filling in and it poked out; both of us figured at least some of them would fall apart. But as you can see, they hung together! My trouble with the dough caused us to have fewer ravioli than the recipe should have made, but we ate them all! Each was supposed to be pillow-light; a few were but there were some that I could tell were heavier than they should have been. Next time I'll work on the dough more and learn from this experience.

We froze the remaining filling that we didn't use, so I can't wait to make another batch!

Recipe- Cherry Crostada

Summer dessert in the middle of October? Yes! Frozen berries- yes, frozen- are terrific quality these days, have you noticed? I could make peach cobbler for NH in January if I wanted.
NH and I had dinner with MIL and FIL (aka Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law) in Walnut Creek on Saturday. Finally we got to taste the very famous paella that FIL makes on the charcoal barbecue outside. As my contribution to dinner I made this dessert. It was quite a culinary adventure, begun in San Mateo and finished in the oven in Walnut Creek. I made the dough at home in the morning. During the hour drive, my dough sat in between the bags of frozen berries to stay cold. I brought along my rolling pin and pie dish, and two little baggies filled with flour, and sugar and cornstarch.
When it came time to assemble and bake, I simply dumped the thawed berries in a bowl with the sugar and cornstarch, gave it a stir, and poured into the pie dish. I then rolled out the dough, put it over the fruit, and baked until it bubbled.
I know it was well-received by NH and FIL, who love cherry desserts. True to form, NH ate the leftovers we took home for breakfast in the morning. :-)

Cherry Crostada

1 cup all-purpose Flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry Flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
zest of 1 Lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons ice water

5 cups (about 30 ounces) frozen cherries, thawed
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 Lemon

Combine flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahreinheit.

Stir cherries, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch in a 10-inch diameter pie or baking dish. Roll out crust to a 14-inch diameter circle (approximately). Place the crust over the berries, and fold over itself until it fits inside the dish. Cut a 2-inch slit in the center of the dough. Bake until the crust is golden and the berries are bubbly, about 40 minutes.

I realized after that I forgot to cut the 2-inch slit in the dough, which is probably why I had a little berry leakage on one side. I like the color it gave the pie, so I don't mind at all. But you probably don't want any explosions in the oven which is why you do it, so next time I need to remember to cut the slit!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Recipe- Apple Pumpkin Challah

Today is a bread-baking day.

Enough time had passed since my last date with the bread machine, and I was dying to use up the last of the can of pumpkin I opened a week ago. I hate the thought of throwing away something like that because I didn't come up with another way to use it. I made pumpkin muffins a week ago for New Husband, so I popped the leftover pumpkin puree in the freezer and decided on some pumpkin challah.

I wanted to do something a little more special. One of the best bread-machine creations I've ever had is an apple challah recipe. Mom and I made it together a few years ago, back when the machine and the oven were still a total mystery. At the time it was fun, but seemed too difficult to possibly attempt on my own. Lots of time has passed since then. :-) My brilliant idea was to combine the two recipes- the pumpkin challah dough with the apple cinnamon filling.

The pumpkin challah recipe makes 2 braided loafs. I altered the original a bit by substituting whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose. I feel I can definitely call this my original recipe with the alterations I've made.
The moist dough emerges from the machine a gorgeous, well... pumpkin color! It feels wonderful in your hands, springy and plump- much less sticky than a pizza dough.

Apple-Pumpkin Challah

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup canned Pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons walnut oil
3 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup Whole Wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons gluten
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons SAF yeast

3 medium tart Apples- peeled, cored, and diced
juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter

cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Place all the dough ingredients in the pan according to the machine's directions. Program for the Dough cycle and press Start.

Prepare the filling: Combine apples, lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon in a bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, chill, and drain before use in filling the dough.

When the dough cycle ends, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, and then each half into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into an approximate 12x3 inch rectangle. Brush with a little melted butter and place 1/6 of the filling down the center of each portion. Starting from the long edge, roll each rectangle and pinch the seams to seal well.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 3 ropes parallel to each other and braid the ropes, alternating the outside ropes over the center (not much, but you get the idea). Turn the challah so it covers only half the sheet. Brush with a tiny bit more melted butter and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining 3 ropes, turn to fit the sheet, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to an hour. *Do not let is rise any longer, or the challah may collapse in the oven.

15 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Cool on a rack before slicing.

This recipe created one of the better smells that have emanated from my kitchen, and I can hardly describe to you the joy and victory I felt when I pulled my perfectly formed creations from the oven.
One loaf is coming to my office tomorrow morning to be shared, and the other has gone straight into the freezer to stay first-day fresh for my in-laws when we visit them next week. Fingers crossed they like it too!

Daytrip to Napa

Torrential downpours dominated Friday, but the clouds parted to reveal blue skies and warm weather on Saturday. What a blessing- this day took New Husband and I to Napa Valley for the day.

It's been a year since our last visit, which was an anniversary trip for just the two of us. That day we visited 4 wineries and had a very romantic dinner at Julia's Kitchen at the Copia in downtown Napa.
This time we met another couple, A (my chef partner!) and J. We hit 5 wineries:
Artesa Winery- beautiful modern facility built right into the hills.
Domaine Chandon- sparkling wines galore
V. Sattui Winery- busy winery with an Italian deli. The tasting was free!
Heitz Cellars- small winery with a much older crowd
Louis D. Martini Winery- good wine but even more memorable breadsticks at the tasting bar

We had lunch on the patio at Domaine Chandon. The four of us split a cheese board and a salmon plate, and A and J split a salad too. The three cheeses- a buttery triple-cream, a veined goat cheese, and a hard sharp aged cheese- were all delicious and came with a chutney jam and plenty of bread. The creme fraiche and greens that accompanied the salmon were also excellent. Domaine Chandon also offers sandwiches in the tasting salon, an option that wasn't available on our last trip.

Dinner was a treat at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. We sat outdoors beneath a fig tree; the air was brisk but comfortable, possibly our last chance to eat outside this year. My passionfruit bellini was a nice end to a day with lots of drinking. I abstained from the bread we were given, but it had a wonderful fresh-baked aroma. All four of us enjoyed our entrees- J went for the meatloaf with horseradish barbecue sauce and garlic mashed potatoes; A chose the fish special- halibut with potatoes in a delicious sauce. NH had wood oven duck with potato croquettes and an asian-citrus glaze. My mushroom tamales- with creamy grits, swiss chard, and Yucatean salsa- were delicious and satisfying.
Dessert really put our meal over the top- what a treat! I indulged, and NH and I each ordered our own and shared. Oh man! My Campfire Pie will remain one of the top desserts I have ever had at a restaurant- Toasted marshmallow, fudgy dark chocolate, and almond brittle in a cookie crust. The thick slice of pie was slightly warm and melty from the oven. Every bite was heaven. NH's apple crisp a la mode was deliciously spicy and warm. It had a crunchy crisp crust and soft apples underneath- the scents of ginger and cinnamon were pronounced. There's something delectable about the way a scoop of ice cream melts into a crisp- I alternated bites between the two and was sad to see it gone. I'll return to Cindy's just to eat these desserts! Altogether it was a deeply satisfying dinner, one where all the dishes were perfectly chosen.