10.30.2012

The Revenge of the Homemade Ravioli


It’s this close to Halloween, the spookiest, scariest, fake-bloodiest night of the year (unless, of course, it gets trumped by a sad turn with the election next Tuesday). There will be lots of horror movies, trick-or-treaters, costumes, parties, candy and, in my house, ravioli. 

Boo!

The last time I made ravioli was two years ago, around this time. There were jack-o-lanterns glowing from the inside all around the house, a fire was burning in the fireplace, and twelve people sitting down to eat in my living room. And, among other things, I served them ravioli. More specifically I served them duck confit and pimiento mashed potato ravioli with braised chanterelle and lobster mushrooms. Sounds pretty fancy, right? My dad was in town at the same time we were hosting a Dinner at Eight, and so the menu was composed of the elements of all of his favorite foods, duck confit and pimiento mashed potatoes being a couple of said foods. The meal was very good and the evening was warm and festive. Or so I thought...

Are you scared, yet?


As I said, everyone seemed happy, elated even, with the meal and the evening. It seemed as though everyone had commendatory things to say about it. To my face. But then about a week or so later I read, in a public forum, that a guest and her date did not leave pleased. Some of what I read was fair enough and some was not.  Nature of the beast, I suppose, but it is exceedingly difficult not to take a sharp panning personally.

Now you’re scared, right?

I very rarely critique restaurants any more here and that is due, in large part, to this experience. So I asked myself, who am I to deign to review and criticize chefs and restaurant owners in a public forum? I am neither a Nobel Prize winning journalist - or hell, a journalist at all - nor an acclaimed food critic. And I do not visit an establishment three times with groups of people to sample as many menu items as possible and to check consistency prior to writing a post. What if I visited a place on an off night? We all have an off night, even the very best of us. Moving forth I decided to mention some restaurants here and there, but to be extremely cautious and thoughtful with any negativity.





What I did do following that review of, what was essentially, my style, my structure, my home, my peeps, my creative vision and my food, was make pasta over and over and over again. But not ravioli. Until last night. And it was insert expletive here awesome.


So, in some way, I triumphed. I knew that this ravioli would make even the toughest carbo-loading 'critic' warm and fuzzy inside, whether or not they aren’t a fan of toothy (read toothsome).

Yes, revenge is a dish best served cold. But this ravioli is not.


Mwahahaha... Happy Halloween!




Acorn Squash Ravioli with Sage Browned Butter


Serves 4 (Main Course) or 6 (Appetizer)


Pasta Dough and How Ravioli-ize It


I happen to have a pasta machine. If you don’t you can still make ravioli your just going to have to roll the pasta out with a rolling pin.

I have done this myself. It is a lot of work but it can be done. You just need to roll the dough out really thin. Do not roll the dough out too thin. The pasta will split when you are cooking it and most if not all of your filling will be floating in your pot of water.

I found that when making my ravioli it works much better if you roll out a piece of dough, fill and seal the ravioli and then start all over again. If you roll all your dough out you take the chance of your dough drying out too much and it will make it more difficult to work with and you’ll end up with a very tough pasta.

Remove your ball of dough from the bowl and knead all of the flour and crumbs in for a couple of turns. Now cut the dough in half. Then cut each half in 4 pieces. You will end up with eight balls of dough. Put all of the dough except for the piece you are working with back into the bowl and cover it with the towel.

Flatten your dough a bit and dust with flour. 

Now place the piece of dough on your clean and floured counter surface.

Using a spoon place a dollop of filling along your piece of dough in a straight line, leaving about an inch of space in between and on each end. Each dollop is a little bit less then a teaspoon of filling. You really have to play with your filling because each piece of dough is going to be a different size. No two pieces of pasta roll out the same width or length.

Have a small bowl of water on the counter and dip your finger in and run a damp bead of water down each edge of the pasta and between each spoon full of filling.

Now flip the dough from the back over your filling.

Run your finger between each pocket of filling to remove most of the air and cut each ravioli apart. Trim it up just to even the edges.

Run your fingers around the edge of the filling forcing the air out. Use a fork to seal the edges.

Homemade pasta cooks really fast, about 2 minutes. You will be able to judge whether your pasta is too thin or thick if you cook a few when you first get started. To cook the ravioli boil a pot of water and add ravioli. Gently boil until the ravioli float. Once they are floating the filling and pasta are cooked through. 


Ravioli Filling

1 acorn squash, diced and roasted*
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced 
2 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon butter 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese 
1/4 cup parmesan cheese 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg  
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar 
dash of red pepper flakes 
salt and pepper 
4 tablespoon butter 
2 teaspoon fresh sage

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. To get maximum flavor from the squash, peel the rind and dice into small cubes. Place the cubes on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30-45 minutes until all sides are nicely caramelized. *Note: If you don't have the time (or patience) to peel the squash and cube it, you can alternatively follow this procedure: halve the squash. Place each half cut-side down on an oiled parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes.

In the meantime, warm 1 tablespoon butter in a medium sauce pan. Saute the onions and 2 tablespoons chopped sage until the onions are transparent. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Saute for one minute longer, then set aside.

When the squash is finished roasting, combine the squash, onion mixture, mascarpone cheese, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, sherry vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Pulse until the texture is creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste


Sage Brown Butter
4 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Melt butter in a 12 to 14-inch saute pan and continue cooking until golden brown color ("noisette") appears in the thinnest liquid of the butter. Add sage leaves and remove from heat. Add lemon zest and set aside. Add the cheese, spoon over ravioli and serve immediately.


One year ago: The Blue Goat
Two years ago: Pecan Shortbread
Three years ago: The Grilled Cheese Truck

10.18.2012

Jason Shaw


I started seeing Jason Shaw about seven or so years ago. I had a client up on Kings Road, just a few houses down from where Paris Hilton was living at the time. I had a somewhat unusual (unhealthy?) fixation with Paris Hilton. I thought she was kind of brilliant in an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of way. I never thought she was a mastermind, mind you, but I applauded her unwitting ability to turn her foibles into farce for her hungry public. She, again unwittingly, showed us our own reflection as gossip-hungry imbeciles. She was exactly what Hollywood is. And I, albeit self-reflexively, ate her every move right up.

Oh and she, very briefly, and pre-sex tape, pre-nipple/crotch slip(s), dated Jason Shaw who was a model slash actor at one time. And I happen to know this because, as I said, I was for Paris Hilton what bazillions of pre-nubile tweens are for Justin Bieber. If she was on a Trapper Keeper or a lunchbox, and I was like thirteen years old, I so would have had to have it. Move over Holly Hobbie (I actually had that lunchbox).

Okay, so, back to 2005 when I started seeing Jason Shaw. I guess he lived or worked or was dating someone on Kings Road. Out of the five days a week I drove up there, to my client’s house, I would see him driving up or down the street in his black Mercedez SUV at least half of those days. The first few times I didn’t think much of it. I would text Heather, “Jason Shaw. Again!”, as we would always text each other if we saw anyone. I would text a lot of my friends if I saw anyone. But only Heather knew who Jason Shaw was.

Then I started seeing him in places other than Kings Road. But only in his car. The same car. Always driving. We’d pass one another at Crescent Heights and Hollywood. He’d drive past me at the stoplight at Santa Monica and Poinsettia. We’d be right next to each other on Sunset. I started to think he was getting it. That he saw me, too. That we’d be sharing knowing looks. Like we were in on something together and only we knew. Maybe we were to be star crossed lovers? I mean, he was kind of cute in that pretty-jock-surfer-pop-music-Oakley-wearing-sort-of-way. He was definitely the guy I would have had a crush on in high school that would have definitely not had a crush on me back. So that’s always appealing.

Some time passed. I no longer needed to go up Kings Road as often as my business grew and I hired someone else to do that. I still saw Jason Shaw, but not with as much frequency. Then a few years ago I started to see him again. A lot. The crazy thing is that the new Jason Shaw hot spot was (and still is) my very own street. I see him driving up and down it all the time. In the same car. I see him when I’m driving up or down the hill. I see him when I’m taking my trash cans to the curb. I see him when I’m getting my mail. I even saw him at the dog park once - not in his car! And last week, while I was getting a cup of coffee at the Canyon Store, I did a stretchy move and twisted around. Right at that exact moment, that one ten second period while I stretched my back, who do I see in his car turning from my street to go down the hill? Of all the cars moving at that intersection at that time, where do my eyes fall? You got it. Jason Shaw.

What are the chances?




The thing is, I probably, we all probably, see the same people, see each other, a lot more than we know. I would be curious to know how many times I’ve seen that person, that so and so, in their cobalt Blue Prius zipping around town. But they’re not Jason Shaw. Who, I would imagine, probably needs a new car sometime soon.


Back in the Summer of 2009 I posted the recipe for pimiento cheese. More specifically, my mom’s pimiento cheese. We spent an afternoon making it together. And you should read the post. It’s fun and tells the story of the pimiento cheese. What’s so funny is that that very pimiento cheese, my mom’s pimiento cheese recipe, is being sold right here in sunny SoCal. Yep, the heralded Lindy & Grundy sells cute, little 8 ounce jars of the stuff. Erika and Amelia love it. Most folks that try it do. And since my mom is moving back to Richmond in January, she has passed the reins over to me. Last week, much like the afternoon in 2009, we went through it again. To make sure I get it just right. Because now, I’m the one making and selling this pimiento cheese.

And not unlike running in circles with Jason Shaw, seeing him over and over again, the recipe I will share with you today is the very one I shared back in the Summer of 2009; pimiento cheese. Pimiento cheese is good any manner of ways, but I only just learned from Amelia at Lindy & Grundy that it’s especially delicious on a burger. So I bought a pound of their Grundy Grind, and grilled up a couple of pimiento cheese burgers. And yes, this is a pretty rad application for the stuff.

By the by, this Saturday, I’ll be at Lindy and Grundy with my mom, doing a tasting for this very recipe. So, please, come and say hi and try a taste. Hopefully Jason Shaw will be there.  







Pimiento Cheese Burgers

Makes 4 Burgers


2 lbs. ground beef, formed into 4 medium-size patties
4 hamburger buns, toasted
A dash of worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Ketchup
Duke's Mayonnaise
Sliced red onion
Iceberg lettuce
4 slices tomato

Season patties with worcestershire, salt and pepper. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium-high (or heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat). Grill burgers, flipping once, until cooked to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium rare. Spread 2 tbsp. pimento cheese over each burger; cover and let melt. Serve burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mayo.

10.05.2012

To Everything, There Is A Season.


According to my calendar it is officially Fall. But according to the thermometer, leveling at a tranquil 90 degrees today (or, it was when I started writing this), it is still very much Summer. Most people don’t think LA really has seasons, but we do. The changes are subtle and nuanced for the most part: June Gloom and the ocean layer, the smell of Night Blooming Jasmine, a shift in the quality of light, the Santa Ana winds (and the wildfires fires that follow), and perhaps most obviously, the produce at the markets. The Halloween (and some Thanksgiving) decorations are in the stores and all my magazines are showing up in my mailbox with pumpkins, fall leaves and all manner of oranges and browns on their covers. Except Vogue.  You can always tell it’s the beginning of Fall when you get the tome that is the Fall Fashion issue of Vogue. Tolstoy, step aside.

This is my favorite time of year. I never liked back to school (except the movie), but I always loved back to school shopping. Trapper Keepers, pens, notebooks, rulers, I coveted them all. Argyle, wool, jaunty hats, layers, scarves - who doesn’t get excited for all that? And, though we don’t exactly get vibrant yellow, orange, and red leaves falling from trees here in LA, we do have little pockets, stretches of streets that give us but a glimpse of that. Most of Halloween was filmed less than a mile from my house. And that’s certainly all Fall-y looking. But I can’t lie, I miss the East Coast this time of year. I would love to feel that clean, crisp bite of cool air on the tip of my nose as I walk down the street on my way to meet friends for a welcoming glass of red wine and perhaps a cheese plate. Wearing some cute, little layered number. With my Trapper Keeper.

This always seemed like it would be the best time of year to fall in love. Actually, I suppose it was this time last year that I did just that.




This year, ushering in Fall, has been a bit wonky. Which is why, perhaps, I have been seriously absent here in my blogland. Beso, my dog, my baby boy, my mascot, and my constant companion for the past twelve years, is sick. Again. He has had the worst luck in the huge-things-that-can-go-wrong-in-the-health department. And he is one tough nut. This sick is a bad one and one that will always be with us from here on out. Poor little guy just has too big of a heart. Literally. Anyway, he’s standing strong and getting even more mountains of love than usual, so we won’t dwell on that anymore here.

As an adult, the thing that I geek out about the most with that which is Fall is that it lends itself perfectly to my kind of cooking. I like to cook big. And not just quantity, I like to cook big, comfortable, classy, confident and strong food. I’ve said it before, food that loves. Food that hugs. And even though the past week has been hotter than the devil’s oven, I just couldn’t help myself - I made lasagne and then I slow roasted a chicken for five hours. Additionally, I’ve got all the fixins to make another lasagne with butternut squash and rapini. In the lineup this week I will also be making a chili and the most exciting thing, a Lima bean and ham hock pot, with a real, Southern Smithfield ham. I see lots and lots of brown butter and sage on my horizon. And pasta. And red, red wine. And snuggling with my Autumn love, Fred, my spunky, firecracker of a pup, Eduardo, and my sweet, little Beso - who, I suppose is in the Autumn of his years. And sort of looks like a Lima bean. 




Ham Hock & Lima Beans

Serves 8-10 (12?)

1 Large, meaty ham hock
3 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Medium onions, chopped
2 Lbs. dried large Lima beans
3-4 Stalks celery, cut into pieces
4-5 Carrots, cut into pieces
2 Bay leaves
Celery salt to taste
Kosher salt & fresh , black pepper to taste

Clean and soak Limas. Drain and rinse beans.

Cover beans and ham hock with water, add onion, bay leaves and garlic and simmer until tender (about 2 hours). Add celery, celery salt and carrots for last hour of cooking. When ham is done, and falling off the bone, remove from pot and cool. Remove skin and bone and cut into bite-size pieces. Return to pot and continue cooking until beans are done.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a crust of bread and a big glass of big, red wine. Or a hearty stout. Enjoy!