Thursday, January 29, 2009

Handmade Ravioli

For years ravioli was my favorite food when anyone would ask.  (Nowadays I have digressed into the very childish favorite food of pizza.  I can't help it, I just LOVE pizza!)  I have been wanting to attempt homemade ravioli for some time now and was inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Art and Aioli, to finally try it.  We had the semolina flour leftover from galaktoboureko, and we got a fluted pastry wheel for Christmas.

I started making the dough which was supposed to be "stiff" and immediately thought that it was too dry.  Brett encouraged me to keep stirring and sure enough it tightened up...a lot.  I got tired pretty quickly so Brett jumped in and did the 10 minutes of kneading.  While he did that, I got my filling ready.  I say "my filling" because Brett and I each wanted a different flavor ravioli.  I went with a very traditional 4 cheese filling: ricotta, parmesan, romano, and asiago.  When Brett was done kneading he got to work on his filling: ham and swiss.

Once the dough had rested, it was time to roll it out.  I started to tear the ball of dough in half (half for me and half for Brett) and realized that this was going to be very difficult to roll out.  The dough was extremely elastic!  As soon as you did anything to it, it would start heading back to the way it was.  I had to use two hands on the roller and all my body weight to roll that baby out. I thought I would never get it thin enough that I could see through it, but sure enough, it got there.  Now I know why pasta rollers exist.

I used the nice little squares on my rolling mat to gauge where to put the filling and egg wash, and where to cut.  They made such cute little ravioli.  They looked almost professional, except for the fact that they were way too thick.

Once they were in the boiling water, some of them started to pop up to the top instantaneously (the sign that they are done) but I could not accept that they were ready, so I let them go the full recommended three minutes.

Some of you may find it funny that I went through all the trouble of making handmade ravioli and then poured some Prego on top.  Oh well.  At least I know that Prego is good.  I had to have one guarantee in this meal.  The ravioli were good but just way too thick.  I ended up eating the thick part all the way around and then having one wonderful bite left from the middle with all the filling.  We think that because of the thickness that they were a little under done, but we aren't sure.  Brett's turned out good too.  His ham and swiss filling was more flavorful than mine, but I'm a sucker for tradition.

While the meal was an overall success, we have vowed not to make homemade pasta again until we have a pasta roller.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Baked Fries

Baked Fries is an oxymoron.  Fries are meant to be fried!  It's in their name.  It's the very definition of fries!  I have tried unsuccessfully to make baked fries twice now and there will not be a third time!  This time the recipe came from  The Food You Crave.  It was different because it involved garlic (mmmm) and teeny-tiny matchstick fries.  The best part of this recipe was using the tiniest fry cutter for my mandoline slicer.  I cannot get over how awesome that tool is; I cut up 2 potatoes in no time flat!

I tossed the potatoes in the garlic infused oil, sprinkled some salt and then put them in the oven.

Well before the allotted time had passed, I could hear a sizzle from the next room.  I went to check on my fries and "Yikes!" I had to pull them out immediately.

The brown ones were inedible.  The lighter ones in the middle were soggy but had good flavor.  I salvaged as many as I could for an afternoon snack.  There is no substitute for real fries.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Santa Fe Pizza

We love pizza around here (if you haven't noticed) so naturally one of the first sections I looked at in my Bon Appetit cookbook was the pizza section.  Their recipe for Santa Fe Pizza caught my attention and earned Brett's approval, which is a rare combination.

I made the pizza dough from scratch.  While it is good, I'm still not entirely satisfied with it, so in the near future I will try some new ones.  I almost forgot to preheat the pizza stone, which is supposed to heat for 20 minutes before you put anything on it.  I remembered about 15 minutes before putting something on it, and everything went fine.

The toppings are ground cumin, red onion, cilantro, chicken (I used Foster Farms pre-cooked and sliced,) corn, and lots of cheddar cheese.  No sauce!  Kind of weird huh?  After it bakes you put some salsa on top.  We also chose to put some sliced avocado on top.  We'll definitely see this again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


No, I'm not speaking jibberish, it's Greek!  Galaktoboureko is our favorite Greek dessert.  We've tried it in several restaurants and have always wanted to make it at home.  Simply put, it is a semolina custard baked in a phyllo dough crust with orange syrup poured over the top.

Ever since election night, when we used phyllo to make a strudel, we have had leftover phyllo that we've been saving for galaktoboureko.  Brett's job was to find a suitable recipe and my job was to find semolina.  I had to hunt a little but I found some at the third store I tried.  We had all our ingredients for about a week and we either didn't feel like making it yet or we would forget to thaw out the phyllo.  Well yesterday the stars aligned because I remembered to set out the phyllo and Brett felt like baking.  A strange coincidence, that I swear we did not plan, is that we used our leftover phyllo from election night on Inauguration Day.  I even made a (very corny) joke that we should call our dessert galakto-Barack-o....get it?  Well, I think it's funny anyway, and it got a smile out of Brett.

Brett made the orange syrup and the semolina custard while I watched.  When it came time to work with the phyllo I assisted by handing Brett new sheets and keeping the unused sheets covered to prevent drying.  He was in charge of the butter brush and layering.  The recipe called for half the sheets on the bottom and half the sheets on top.  We put 6 sheets on the bottom and then poured in the custard.

The baking dish we were using was pretty small (we halved the recipe) so the overhanging phyllo dough was able to fold over on top of all the custard.  We decided to put one new layer on top to hold it all together.  The recipe recommended cutting it before it went in the oven.  

We baked it and it turned out nice and golden.  Brett poured the syrup over the top to give it more flavor and to make it nice and shiny.

It was hard to extract just one (very large) serving from the pan but Brett used a spatula and a fork and I had a fork also and we managed to get it out relatively cleanly by using teamwork.

Yummy!  It was certainly good.  It's hard to go wrong with phyllo and custard.  The only problem was that we could not discern any sort of orange flavor.  Next time, we'll have to amp up the orange.  But otherwise, it was a total success.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fancy Pants Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

I hate sandwiches.  I know it's a very weird thing to hate, but I do.  It might be the sliced sandwich bread, because I do like nice breads that are served in restaurants.  It might be the lunch meat, although I do occasionally eat a slice of lunch meat with a slice of cheese.  I also thought maybe it was my gag reflex to anything with mayo or mustard, but I won't even put a PB&J sandwich anywhere near my mouth.  So it's a mystery.

I do, however, love grilled sandwiches!  Go figure.  I was looking through the soup section of my new Bon Appetit cookbook suggesting things for Brett and he asked, "Why do we have to have soup?"  My response was, "Because I'm looking in the soup section!"  So I turned to the sandwich section instead and found a recipe for, "Grilled ham and gouda sandwiches with frisee and caramelized onions."  We both love smoked gouda cheese and caramelized onions so this sounded like a winner.  We of course promptly agreed to leave off the frisee.

I started by thinly slicing a large onion.  I love my Mandoline!

The caramelizing process takes a long time and I actually stopped short of the suggested time because the onion slices looked (and smelled) like they were beginning to burn.  It's amazing how much they cook down.  From one large onion I had just the right amount for two sandwiches.

I assembled the smoked ham, smoked gouda, and caramelized onions on sliced sourdough bread and grilled them up.

They tasted great and were so hearty that I couldn't even finish mine.  This bodes well for the Bon Appetit Cookbook as well!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Although it took me until college to try it, Spinach and Artichoke Dip is one of my favorite appetizers to get in restaurants.  CPK has a really good one, TGI Friday's sucks (we don't even go there anymore,) and Red Robin's is by far the best.  So when I opened up my new cookbook by Ellie Krieger, I was not surprised to see Spinach and Artichoke Dip simply because, well, the title of the book does say The Food you Crave.

When I told Brett that I wanted to make it, he looked at me warily because he suspected, and so did I, that it would not meet our high standards and thus was destined to disappoint.  However, he did agree that we should try it.  I was excited because the point of the cookbook is to make healthy versions of foods that otherwise are usually not very healthy.  This excited me because I like to try and cook healthy, but at the same time it made me worry because healthy things usually sacrifice flavor.

Most of the recipe is made by combining everything in a food processor, so I got out my mini (another reason to get excited) and got to work.  The artichoke hearts alone did not all fit in the mini food processor, so I immediately knew that this was going to take much longer than I intended.  So instead of combining everything in the food processor like the recipe said, I pureed the artichokes and spinach separately and then combined them by hand with sauteed onion and garlic, reduced fat sour cream, mayo, Neufchatel cheese (which I guess is lower in fat than cream cheese but tastes pretty much the same), grated mozzarella, salt and pepper and then pureed it some more in (very small) batches.  This did take a while, but it came out beautifully smooth.

When it was done baking, the moment of truth had arrived.  I eagerly got a giant scoop.  It was delicious!  Not the same as Red Robin's cheesy oooey goooey deliciousness, but delicious in it's own way, and certainly more healthy.  Brett liked it too, although not as enthusiastically as me.  We almost ate the entire dish, but I was about to burst at the seams and had to stop.  I know what I'm having for lunch today!

I always think it bodes well for a cookbook when the first recipe I try from it is a huge success so I can't wait to try more!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baked Pota-DUH

As someone who lives in a tiny apartment with limited counter and pantry space, just about anything perishable goes in the refrigerator... even potatoes.  I've been doing this since I've been living on my own and I've always wondered why my baked potatoes come out weird.  The center takes forever to cook through, and as a result of the longer cooking process, the skin gets all crunchy and shriveled and the outer potato is almost inedible.  I even expressed my difficulty with potato baking in a previous post (Baked Potato Soup) and many of you provided some great tips, but they didn't seem to help. 

Recently I was flipping through my new Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook and found a section on produce selection and storage.  There I saw it as plain as day, "Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator.  Chilling turns the starches into sugar, producing unappetizing flavors."  Oops!  We recently tried Baked Potato Soup again with properly stored potatoes and they baked perfectly.  Problem solved!  I feel a little embarrassed that it took me this long to figure it out, but I've certainly learned from my mistakes.  I wonder what else I shouldn't be keeping in the fridge.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's Been too Long!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!  I know I'm a bit late with the sentiments, but that doesn't mean they are any less heartfelt.  We were in Chicago for two weeks for a beautiful white Christmas (I shoveled snow in sub-zero temperatures) and then up in Orange County for about a week for the New Year (for the first time since I was a little kid I was good and asleep at midnight.)  The most I did in the kitchen during those three weeks was toast some walnuts for something my mom was making.  But now I'm back in my own kitchen with two new cookbooks in hand (and a few new gadgets) so the new material is coming!

For Christmas I received the pizza stone and wooden peel that I had requested and I couldn't wait to get them home and try them out.  Here's the sleepy eyed Christmas morning picture of me opening it.  (Thanks TKO!)

Upon our return, Thai Veggie Pizza was among the first things on the menu.  Brett carefully read the directions for the stone and I made the dough.  Regular readers will find it no surprise that Brett wielded the pizza peel.  I can just imagine what a horrible doughy mess would be in the bottom of our oven if I had done it.  We covered both the stone and the peel with cornmeal to prevent sticking.

 We also made the executive decision to not try and take the pizza out of the oven with the peel.  We just removed the whole stone.  I did goof around with the peel once the pizza and stone were safely out of the oven and it is pretty clear that I would have shoved the whole thing off onto the rack.

As advertised, the crust was light and crisp and pretty darn delicious.