Spring Kale and Goat Cheese Ravioli

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I used to love Olive Garden when I was little but I always thought the name ‘Olive Garden’ had very little to do with the actual experience of eating there. I do remember an olive or two in the salad and I suppose there might be a garden involved somewhere in the process of producing the food, though I doubt it looks very much like the gardens any of us have at home.

In warmer weather, I do crave lighter foods and I like to taste vegetables throughout as many courses of the meal as possible. Salads are of course incredibly easy to make this time of year but with a bit of work, it’s possible to make the entire meal taste bright and vegetal and that’s exactly what many of us crave as summer sets in.

I love the fresh goat cheese from Lynnhaven. Their cheese is grassy, a bit tart and perfect for making a vegetable dish a bit richer. I’ve found great fresh goat cheeses at markets in nearly every region of the US. Most of my guests are omnivores but none of us misses meat when we eat this ravioli. Nor do we miss the unlimited salad. A regular bowl of salad on the side seems to do just fine.

Spring Kale and Goat Cheese Ravioli

Start by making a batch of basic pasta dough. I use a little extra egg yolk when I have very fresh eggs on hand.

In a food processor, add:

1.5 Cups Flour

1 Egg + 2 Egg Yoks

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

Turn processor on and slowly add ½ cup of water until dough forms into a ball.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.


For the filling:

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat with one clove of chopped garlic

Rinse and chop a small head of spring kale and add to pan

Sautee for 4 minutes or until the kale softens

Add a splash of white wine or lemon juice and cook for another minute or so

Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature

In a small bowl, stir 6 oz of fresh, local goat cheese (soft chevre rather than aged) and add the kale mixture

Add a pinch of salt and a bit of ground black pepper


To Assemble:

Using a pasta maker, roll dough into sheets and cut into 12 4”x4” squares

Add tablespoon of filling to each square and top with another square of pasta

Seal with a fork or with your fingers

(You can cover them at this point and leave them in the fridge or even freeze them to make another time)


To finish:

Heat a small saucepan of salted water until it comes to a boil

While water is heating up, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium/low heat and add a pinch of salt and a few sage leaves or whatever herbs you have on hand and a drizzle of lemon

Cook ravioli in boiling water for 2 minutes and then strain and add to pan with butter

Toss ravioli in sauce and serve 3 ravioli in each bowl

Drizzle the remaining sauce over the pasta

Garnish with pea shoots or a few pieces of raw kale


Serve with Unlimited Breadsticks



Pepper Roulette– Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

Shishito Peppers #2

Pepper Roulette– Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

The farmers say that 1 out of every 12 of these peppers is very hot and that you should be careful. I’ve certainly eaten a fair number of hot ones over my shishito pepper eating years and I’ve never found them to be excruciatingly spicy or anything like that. The rare hot one is somewhere between the medium salsa at a New Hampshire Mexican restaurant and a jalapeno. But it can be a rush to put a plate of these on the table and then watch to see who gets the hot one. It’s like a very low stakes game of roulette where if you lose, you simply have to have a sip of water and then you can play again. Speaking of low stakes, this is one of the easiest and fool-proof dishes that I’ve ever made and they are always delicious as long as you find good peppers at your farmers market and have a decent cast iron skillet. That’s not to put down the great Spanish tapas bars in NYC like Txikito that do this dish beautifully. It’s just that it’s accessible for most home-cooks as well. So get ready for pepper roulette and remember, always bet on shishito.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

Preheat broiler

Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil over 1 Pint of Shishito Peppers

Add a pinch of Kosher salt and toss to coat

Put peppers in a cast iron skillet and broil for 5-7 minutes or until they start to blister

Taste again and add more salt if desired

What am I, chopped liver? If so, hopefully from pastured, local chickens.

When I was home in NH, I visited the Concord Farmers Market. NH has a great list of all the markets in the state by date and season so it’s not at all hard to find a market near you. Especially when you’re in NH. That’s partly because there are tons of great markets but also because NH is around the same size as the average flat screen television. At the Concord, NH market, I found a farmer selling his own pastured chickens.

In NYC, the poultry farmers often sell out of livers before I’m able to get there. Some of them go to restaurants and others to the many home cooks who love them. But I’m not sure if I know anyone in NH who likes liver. I vaguely remember my dad saying “That’s the one food I won’t eat. Too strong. Ok, I’m going out to chop some wood.” To be honest, I was repulsed at the thought of eating liver in any form up until a few years ago. But I decided to go for it at the market. “We don’t have livers because they’re sitting at home in my freezer. They just don’t sell,” the farmer told me. I asked if he could bring a few in the next Saturday and we would buy them then. He agreed and we came back the next Saturday at noon. “Sorry. I don’t have any livers. I brought them in but they sold out first thing in the morning.”  I guess there was something of a liver revolution going on in NH but unfortunately, it requires one to be at the market early in the AM.

I made it a point to get livers back in NY and was fortunate enough to find some from John Fazio, a farmer known for his ducks and rabbits. He recently started raising chickens (which are also very good) and sells the livers separately. Livers taste ‘meaty.’ I liken them more to a very rich sausage than anything else. With good local onions and some toasted bread, you’re good to go.

I have not given up on the livers from NH, but unfortunately the weekly farmer’s market does not return until the spring. When it does reopen, I will take my place on the front lines of the NH liver revolution. Live free or die eating good livers from local chickens.

Chicken Liver and Onions $9/6 Servings = $1.50/serving

Trim 3/4 pound of livers and blot dry with paper towel

Chop 2 large local onions

Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium high heat in cast iron skillet

Salt and pepper the livers heavily and add to pan

Saute, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes

Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and add onion to pan

Increase heat to high and saute for another 5 minutes

Turn heat off and add livers back to pan along with 2 ounces of bourbon or cognac

Turn heat to low and cook for 3 minutes or just until alcohol is cooked out

Pour contents of pan into food processor and run on high until mixture forms a smooth puree

Spoon mixture into ramekins and refrigerate

To serve, toast 6 slices of bread

Spoon or spread liver onto toasts and enjoy

Crostino #2 – Fava Bean

Fava beans got a nice bit of publicity when Hannibal Lector expressed affection for them in Silence of the Lambs. Well, sort of. I’m sure favas would have been happier had they not been mentioned in the same breath as human liver but still, good to be recognized. I suppose if an actor’s dream was to get on TV and then suddenly made his national debut on Cops during a crystal meth bust he would have mixed feeling as well. More exposure? Yes, but not the nicest kind.

I do not think of cannibalism when I think of favas. What I do think of though is one of the richest and deepest tasting vegetables I have ever eaten. I don’t see them as often on menus because they are quite labor intensive but it’s worth it. The prep is similar to the fresh peas in the Pea and Asparagus Salad but there is one additional step and the cooking time is a tad longer. Give this a try. I find this puree to be as rich as many meat dishes and it’s ideal for a vegetarian with a hearty appetite.

Fava Bean Puree Crostino

Farmer’s Market bill $6 /2 servings = $3/serving

Take 2 pounds of Favas out of their pods (I say pods instead of shells because the shells are actually something different) This step is not hard and you can put kids or friends to work doing it while you help or watch them and smirk.

While you’re shelling, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil

Place shelled favas in water and reduce heat to a low simmer

Simmer for 15 minutes (I’ve lost track before and they are more than fine when slightly over or undercooked so no worries)

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and keep nearby

Drain favas and shock in ice water bath for 3 minutes

To remove the shells, squeeze the shell gently and the fava bean should pop out

Mash fava beans with a fork along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a serious pinch of salt and some black pepper

Toast 4 slices of good bread and top with a dash of olive oil and a tiny bit of salt

Spoon fava mixture onto bread and finish with a pinch of red chili flakes

Anthony Hopkins was so good in Silence that it may be hard to undo your previous fava bean associations but this hearty dish may be a step in the right direction.

Crostino #1- Fresh Chickpeas with Smoked Paprika

Almost all foods are better served on toasted bread. Perhaps not ice cream, fruit or fried rice, but almost everything else. Crostini also give you the safety net so if a topping doesn’t work out, you can at least be happy that you got to eat some good bread. These crostini, however, work out very well and are a great way to use awesome seasonal foods.

I don’t think I had ever seen fresh chickpeas anywhere. Not even on TV. They come in little shells that are not hard to remove. I now recognize them and I look out for them because they are easy to make and apparently extremely good for you. I add some smoked paprika at the end which is a good spice to have around if you want to play with Spanish flavors in your cooking. I just dust them with the paprika at the end. What struck me most about these chickpeas was how pure their flavor seemed to be. Canned chickpeas often have lots of water in them and these do not. They were also picked a couple days before I used them.

I’d love to hear other folks’ favorite crostini and bruschetta recipes using local ingredients. The possibilities are endless and they can even serve as a light lunch or dinner with a salad. I’ll post another one in a few days.

Chickpea Crostini w/ Smoked Paprika

Farmers Market bill $3 / 2 servings = $1.50 per serving

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil

Shell chickpeas and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until fairly tender (you’re going to cook them again so no need to cook them all the way through)

While chickpeas are simmering, drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat

Add one clove of chopped or pressed garlic and saute for 2 minutes

With a slotted spoon transfer chickpeas to skillet and increase heat to medium high and saute for 3 minutes

Toast 4 slices of crusty bread from a local bakery and drizzle the top with olive oil and a pinch of salt

Spoon chickpea mixture onto each slice and dust tops with smoked paprika

If you like this spicier, you could add some cayenne or chili flakes.

As you serve this, think of what kinds of crostini you might serve the next night and make a note of it.

3 Minute Meals

I really enjoy 30 Minute Meals on Food Network. In fact, I like almost any task that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. I would have gone to law school if there had been a 3o minute version and I don’t mind getting my teeth cleaned if I’m certain it won’t last more than 30 minutes. But like most of you out there, I feel 30 minutes is far too long to be in the kitchen. Yes, if 30 minutes is great, 3 minutes must be 10 times more enjoyable. That’s indirect variation which can be solved by finding the value of the constant k but that’s not the point of this post.

Scallops cook faster than almost any other main course that I like to make. When you come across scallops as fresh as the ones I’ve been getting at the market, you’re best bet is to cook them in a very hot pan for around 90 seconds per side. I’ve found wonderful scallops from both Pura Vida and Blue Moon. I also found some local pickled veggies that I diced up and served on top of each scallop along with some sauteed arugula. They are nice looking when they come out of the pan and they have a sweetness I’ve never tasted even from scallops from a high end fish market. They’re wonderful and they take only 3 minutes out of your precious day.

Seared Scallops with Arugula and Pickled Veggies

Drizzle olive oil in 2 frying pans and set one to high and one to medium

I wait until the hot one is smoking before adding the scallops

Season Scallops with salt and pepper and place in the hotter pan for 90 seconds

While the scallops are cooking, add a few handfuls of arugula (or other green) to the medium pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper

After 90 seconds, turn scallops and stir spinach

Cook another 90 seconds. Cut into one of the scallops. It is best when it’s slightly pink in the inside

To plate, place scallops on plate and top with a spoonful of sauteed greens.

Chop up a pickled cucumber, string bean, or whatever you can find and put a small piece on top of each scallop. (You can skip this step but it adds a nice acidity and crunch).

Eat well.


Ramp Stamp

There’s something a little sleazy and exciting about the ramp market. I’ve been reading ‘ramp rumors’ online about certain restaurants that have them earlier than everyone else. I even asked about the source of the ramps I recently ate at a Brooklyn restaurant and was told that it was a secret and that they wanted to make sure there were enough for the restaurant. I would call them sexy but there aren’t many foods that belong to the onion family that scream sensuality. Well, at least not for most of us. There was a strange girl I dated in Ohio but that was more an issue of…well it doesn’t matter.

Ramps are finally here. Some farmers describe them as ‘wild leeks’ or ‘very oniony things that are good in pasta.’ I describe them as the short-season little gems that can be hard to find unless you get to the market much earlier in the morning than I usually do or are able to bribe a farmer. Either way, once you get your hands on these guys, you’re in for a treat. They are not cheap and sell for around $3/bunch in Manhattan. Some farmers will sell two bunches for $5.

When scallions are cooked too long, they tend to lose their bite and can even become bland. Ramps on the other hand, can be cooked in much the same way without losing any of their flare. If you haven’t tried them before, I recommend serving them with something neutral like toast or pasta. You really don’t need to do much. Once you’ve gone through the trouble of finding them, you are rewarded with a very easy cooking process. Here’s one idea:

Ramp Crostini

Heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive oil in skillet over medium heat

Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic

Cut ramps in half and add to pan along with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper

Toast 4 slices of crusty bread

Saute Ramps and Garlic for 5 minutes

When toasts are done, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and sprinkle of salt

With tongs, top toasts with ramp mixture

If you’d like, you could add some fresh herbs or shavings of a firm pecorino.

Eat well.


The Breadcrumb Diaries Part II ($3.50/Serving)

So after talking about how lots of American dishes like stuffed mushrooms and baked clams use too many breadcrumbs, I got an intense craving for, well, baked clams. I mean the kind with lots of breading. I’m not talking about a brief, passing hankering either. I mean an intense obsession. When my wife asked me if I had dropped off the dry cleaning, I replied “I like baked clams. The kind with lots of breading.”

So Pura Vida at the Union Square Greenmarket has had some of the most delicious clams I’ve ever tasted. Maybe others can weigh in on whether this has something to do with the season or something like that. They are sweet, fresh and not at all fishy. They are much like the clams I sometimes get on the Maine coast in the summer but lately, I think they’ve been even better (sorry New England roots).

Here is a simple and inexpensive way to enjoy these yummy mollusks. You don’t need much water in the pot because the clams themselves will release a fair amount of liquid when they open.

Baked Clams with Lots of Breadcrumbs (6 per person)

Farmers Market Bill $7 + leftover breadcrumbs /2 servings = $3.50 per serving

Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees

Bring a cup of water to a boil in a large stock pot

Rinse or scrub 12 clams and add them to the pot and cover.

Steam for 5 minutes or so and take them out of the water as they open.

Melt 3 tablespoons or so of local butter (pastured if you can get it) and add a cup and  a half of breadcrumbs and mix together

Remove the tops of the clams and detach the clam from the bottom shell (not hard to do)

Lay the clams out in a baking dish and spoon a heaping tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture on top of each one

Bake in oven for 6 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.

Take these out when they look good to you. Everything is already cooked so there’s no need to worry about cooking everything through. You could also prepare them earlier and throw them in the oven later on. If you want a fun variation, you could add some diced slab bacon to the breadcrumb mixture or an egg and some chopped herbs (parsley or whatever you have around). I would also squeeze some lemon on top at the end or even drizzle a little vinegar. I’d love to hear some other variations that you guys like.