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

 

 

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The Walking Dead Broccoli Rabe

ImageThe Walking Dead Broccoli Rabe

“These should have died, but they somehow survived.” said the farmer.

Several farmers here in NYC are offering incredibly flavorful greens that survived multiple winter frosts and snowstorms to emerge even sweeter than they were before. They are the delicious undead veggies of the farmers market. One farmer explained that many winter vegetables like carrots and parsnips are so sweet because they have to work so hard in the cold weather and that ‘work’ produces sugar. But some greens, like broccoli rabe, that are normally more vegetal, work hard enough to survive the winter and develop the same kind of sweetness.

The taste is hard to describe but if you can imagine the freshest tasting green you’ve ever tasted and then add a little hint of an almost honey-like sweetness, that’s pretty close.

I like to balance the sweetness with the heat of chili flakes and I like to use a touch of sherry vinegar for some acid. But truly you don’t have to do much to make this stuff taste delicious and I ate several leaves raw on the way home from the market and they were great.

So ask around at your local market and see if anyone has any wintered greens left over. If you can find them, you’re in for a treat. If not, sit tight. Hunker down and watch out for The Governor.

Wintered Broccoli Rabe with Chili Flakes and Sherry Vinegar

Farmers Market Bill $4/4 Servings ($1/serving)

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over low heat

Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic a pinch of chili flakes

Keep the heat low as you’re actually making a garlic/chili oil while you prep the rabe

Rinse and chop 1 head of wintered broccoli rabe

Remove garlic slices with a slotted spoon and increase heat to medium-high

Saute rabe for 5-7 minutes

Add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper, 1.5 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and return garlic slices to pan

Toss together and taste for seasoning. If desired, add more chili flakes or salt and pepper.

Grilled Cornish Hens with Garlic Scape Pesto

Grilled Cornish Hens with Garlic Pureed Garlic Scapes and Lemons (farmers market bill $18/2 servings= $9/serving)

When I say Cornish, surely you must think of everyone’s favorite Celtic language. Or maybe a taste that reminds you slightly of corn.  Not corn entirely but corn-ish. But when I hear the word, I think of the Cornish Game Hens that are popping up at farmers markets all over  the place. They are really just small chickens but their meat is delicate, they cook quickly, and they can take bold seasonings. I’m also seeing lots of garlic scapes hanging out at the farmers markets these days often for a dollar or 2 per bunch. And if there is a better way to blast a dish full of garlic flavor, I’m not sure what it is.

I like to puree the scapes in a food processor along with some lemon juice and salt. Herbs are great here too if you have any hanging around. Also, I love grilling some dandelion greens or even chard right alongside the birds.

Cook well and see you in Cornwall!

Grilled Cornish Hens with Garlic Pureed Garlic Scapes and Lemons

The night before:

Puree 4 garlic scapes, 2 cloves of garlic, and the juice from 1 lemon (reserve lemon halves for later) in a food processor.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pulse to blend together.

With a chef’s knife or kitchen shears, split hen down the middle

Put the halves in a large bowl and pour garlic scape puree over

Cover and refrigerate overnight

Preheat a gas grill with the flame on as high as possible

Remove hen from marinade and pat dry

Grill hens skin side down for 5 minutes and then rotate and cook for another 3

Turn heat to low and flip hen over

Baste with marinade and place lemon halves on top of hen

Close grill top and cook for 12-15 minutes and then check thigh temperature

When the thigh temperature reads 175

Remove hen from grill and let it rest for 10 minutes so juices have time to reincorporate.

New Haven Style Clam Pizza (from Behind Enemy Lines)

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New Yorkers are proud of their pizza. There are good slices to be had on corners in the Village, amazing pies to be found throughout most of Brooklyn and upscale pizzas served in trendy restaurants with hipster waiters promising that their crusts are ‘bold and festive.’

But 90 miles away in New Haven, there is an even more intense, albeit smaller pizza pride movement. Indeed the clam pies at New Haven’s legendary Pepe’s are truly remarkable. The pizza is not cheese-heavy and the flavor hints of the very best Pasta alle Vongole you’ve ever tasted. Garlicy, buttery and briny at the same time but with a chewy crust. I’m afraid to sing the praises of New Haven’s pizza while only 3 blocks away from one of New York’s most intense pizza joints which has had a line out the door for the last 25 years but sometimes, I prefer New Haven style pies. And I like them even more when they’re made at home with local ingredients.

I had been playing around with Mario Batali’s pizza crust recipe using local honey to add the tiniest bit of sweetness to the dough. And don’t get me started on local clams. They are one of most affordable ways to make a top-tier local meal at home. And because a good clam pie has only a little cheese, it’s an ideal way to showcase firmer, sharper, local cheeses.

So get that pizza stone in the oven and get ready for what could be…hang on…someone’s coming. I mean “New York has the best pizza in the world! I love it. I don’t like anything else.”

New Haven Style Clam Pizza (from Behind Enemy Lines)

Farmers Market Bill $7/2 servings = $3.50/serving

Make enough pizza dough using your favorite recipe to make 2 large or 4 small pizzas

Roll out pizza into an 8-9 inch round

Preheat pizza stone to 500 (or 550 if possible) for half an hour

Coarsely chop 3 cloves of garlic

Steam a dozen small clams in a half-cup of water and reserve cooking liquid

Remove clams from shell and set aside

Add 1 and 1/2  tablespoons of butter to clam cooking liquid and stir in chopped garlic

Grate a half-cup of firm, local pecorino or other sharp cheese

Dust pizza peel with a small handful of cornmeal

Place crust on pizza peel

Sprinkle cheese on top along with a pinch of salt

Spoon clams on top of cheese and drizzle butter/garlic mixture over the top

Place pizza on stone

Bake pizza for 6 minutes or until brown on top

Serve with a local IPA or red ale

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Have you ever upgraded to a nicer version of something and then missed the old one a little bit? The new video games are impressive but I do occasionally miss the days when  Mario and Luigi were two-dimensional. My father recently got a Smartphone and remarked that it had ‘an awful lot of buttons compared to the old one.’

Most of the farmers markets in the US are about to be flooded with what most people consider the best vegetables of the year. It will start with pea shoots and some greens and then move into peas, asparagus, and artichokes. The corn and tomatoes will come in for the finale and stay for some time before local eaters go back to cold storage fruits and vegetables.

I’ve certainly eaten my fill of parsnips and potatoes this year and I was ready to splurge on some of the beautiful greenhouse greens at the market to tide me over until the spring veggies come out. In a way, I wanted to speed up the arrival of spring. I found amazing microgreens and fresh goat cheese from Lynnhaven, my favorite goat cheese producer in NY. But on the way out of the market, I started to notice the bins of onions and apples. They weren’t as pretty as the greens I had in hand but I couldn’t get myself to leave without some cold storage action.

Together, they make a ‘sort of spring’ salad that is fresh and light but with a little nod to the delicious fruits and vegetables of fall and winter. The apples and onion also add a more serious crunch that really holds up to the richness of the goat cheese.

I am very excited for the spring foods to come out but in the meantime, I plan to enjoy the comforting local foods of the past few months. I may even try to unlock the lost levels in the 4-4 fire world in Super Mario Brothers. Does anybody remember how to do that?

 

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 Servings= $3/Serving

Mince small clove of garlic and place in mixing bowl

Add 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Whisk in a 3 tablespoons of good olive oil

Add a pinch each of salt and black pepper

Peel and slice a large red onion

Core and slice 2 tart apples (granny smith work well)

Place onion and apple in bowl with dressing and add 6 oz. of baby greens

Toss to coat well and plate

Check salad for seasoning again and adjust if necessary

Break apart 3 oz. of local, fresh goat cheese and spoon on top of salad

For those who do not keep Kosher: Steamers in Ham Broth

Steamers in Ham Broth

Well hello Kosher readers! While I love the insightful comments you’ve been sending in about my Jewish dishes, I’m not sure this recipe is for you and perhaps you should come back next week for a recipe you might like better.

Pork and shellfish can range from good (bacon wrapped scallops at an office party) to great (Portuguese Clam Stew with Tomato and linguiça) to exquisite (Spanish Paella with Clams and Chorizo). But whatever the specifics of the dish, there is something exciting about the brininess of shellfish with some rich pork mixed in.

I don’t keep Kosher although my grandmother taught Kosher cooking at one point and many of my friends keep Kosher now. Growing up, we never ate Christmas or Easter hams even though I always knew they were tasty. Now I have no problem serving pork in my home, provided it comes from a local, small operation with extraordinarily high animal welfare standards. I think Tamarack Hollow fits the bill and they make a ham that is simply life changing for most of my guests who have tried it. But for some reason, I don’t serve ham all that often and when I do, I rarely save the bones. But the bones themselves are so full of flavor and nutrients that it would be wrong for a true Home Cook Locavore to pitch something that could so easily be used to make another meal. But what really inspired this dish, were the glistening steamer clams from Pura Vida out of Long Island. These clams rivaled those from Northern New England and begged to steamed and eaten. So 2 dozen steamers were on their way home and a ham bone sat in a bowl in the fridge along with some old carrots and an onion or two. While not the usual method of bringing shellfish and pork together, why not make a ham broth and then steam the clams in it making an even brinier and more delicious broth to serve with the clams? A squeeze of lime and a sprig of cilantro brightens up the dish and gives it an almost palate cleansing quality after each bite.

I noticed some great looking Kosher short ribs at the market this week and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. For now though, it’s time for pork, shellfish, and some very nice weather.

Steamers w/ Ham Broth (Farmers Market Bill $16/2 Large Servings = $8/serving)

For the ham broth:

Place a bone from a large ham in a stock pot

Add 2 carrots, 2 onions and whatever other veggies you have around along with 2 bay leaves

Cover bone and vegetables with water

Simmer for 2-3 hours, skimming every hour or so

Strain and taste stock adding pepper and possibly some salt (the ham bone adds some salt already and the steamers will be briny as well so go easy!)

 

For Steamers

Add 2 cups of ham stock to large skillet and bring to boil over high heat

Scrub 2 dozen local steamers and place in pan with ham stock

Cover and steam for 5 minutes or so or until all steamers have opened

Spoon a dozen clams into each of 2 serving bowls and pour remaining broth over steamers

Drizzle the juice of half a lime into bowls and garnish with a couple sprigs of farmers market cilantro

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken–It’s ok to be bitter

A little bitterness is ok. It’s not so good in relationships, after elections, or in the workplace, but it’s fine in a good Manhattan or tossed with pasta and some leftover chicken. In fact, pastured dark meat chicken is so meaty that a good bitter green really balances the dish. There might be another version of this dish to be made with white meat chicken and a more neutral green like spinach but for me, it’s better go for the fuller flavors. Escarole is available now at many farmers markets but if you have trouble finding it, you could easily substitute mustard greens, ramps, or even arugula. Talk to your farmer. It’s a fun way to do your shopping.

It’s important to stretch farmers market proteins. They are far more delicious than almost any meat to be found shrink-wrapped at the supermarket, but they are also more expensive. There are many reasons for this, most of them related to the higher land and labor costs of smaller scale, responsible farming. but as a home cook, it’s not hard to bring the cost per meal down by doing some creative things with the leftovers and possibly changing your cooking and eating style a few nights a week. (Here is an earlier post about making farmers market chicken more affordable).

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the ‘leftover meals’ even more than the more protein-heavy ones. It might be the season, or it might be the fun of making such tasty meals in such a short amount of time and for so little money. I’m not sure. It didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t invited to the roast chicken dinner that my neighbors threw last Thursday. Actually, that might just be sour grapes. Or bitter ones. It doesn’t matter. This dish is yummy.

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken

Farmers Market Bill $7/2 servings = $3.50/serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil

Pull the meat off 2 chicken thighs or legs

Chop 2 cloves of garlic or 3 stalks of fresh spring garlic

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat

Add garlic and chicken and saute gently for 5 minutes

Add 2 cups of chopped escarole

Add a cup of stock or white wine and lower heat slightly

Cook pasta according to package directions but drain a minute or 2 early

Toss drained pasta into chicken and garlic mixture and re-season with salt, peppper, and some red pepper flakes

Serve in pasta bowls with a quick grating of Pecorino or Parmesan if desired