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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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

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.

Balcony Omelettes

Balcony Omlettes!

I always thought that a garden on a 10th floor balcony would be protected from squirrels. But no. Even though we have only a few small plants, squirrels are willing to climb the 10 stories for a shot at some organic vegetables. I always knew squirrels were serious about their health and diets and had high standards for local produce, but this is a little much. My wife planted garlic chives and marigolds, which actually repel them.

But because we made such efforts to protect our crop, I find myself savoring every bit of produce we get from our tiny garden and making sure nothing goes to waste. Now and then we have some extra herbs and vegetables that are more than we need for dinner. Sometimes there are extra eggplants or hot peppers but most often, we have extra cherry tomatoes and basil. They are of course good on their own or in pasta but if they need to be eaten the next morning, they work well in omelettes.

There is something energizing about having such fresh herbs and vegetables in the morning and there are very good local eggs available all over now. I’ve also been cooking with crème fraiche from Ronnybrook Farms. (I love the crème fraiche from VT Butter and Cheese Company as well). It’s tangy and rich and works really well with the bright taste of fresh tomato. Obviously, there are endless combinations of fillings that work here but I find this to be the most simple and satisfying. It works.

Omelette with Balcony Tomatoes and Basil ($2.50/serving)

In a small cast iron skillet, heat  1.5 teaspoons of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat

Beat 3 eggs together with a pinch of salt and pepper

Pour egg mixture in skillet and let cook for about a minute

When bottom of omlette just starts to firm up, spoon two teaspoons of crème fraiche into middle of egg mixture

Cook for another 30 seconds or so and add a few halved cherry tomatoes and some basil leaves

Fold omlette and plate with some extra basil leaves on the top.

Check balcony for squirrels.

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

Good Tomatoes in Great Gratin

Good Tomatoes in Great Gratin

I found a Vanilla Ice CD on Ebay for $.01. I can’t think of anything else that costs so little, but apparently that’s all a recording of a past-his-prime pop star can command these days. The tomatoes hanging around the farmers market this time of year in the Northeast, if there are any at all, are not as pretty as they used to be. They are like old pop stars now past their primes, and upstaged by the fresh heirloom kale and beets now making their way up the charts. But I sometimes take pity on the little guys. And while I probably wouldn’t serve them plain (as I might in the summer), they have great potential that can be easily realized in the right dish.

A Tomato Gratin is a great way to welcome the cooler weather. Last year, I wrote about different ways to use leftover breadcrumbs in The Breadcrumb Diaries and one of my favorite uses to this day, is to use them to top gratins of different kinds.

This gratin is very simple to make and very easy to shop for. If you don’t see tomatoes at your market, try asking your farmer. She might have some in the truck waiting for a good home. If she does, grab 5 or six of them, preheat your oven, and get ready to play that funky music.

Tomato Gratin

Preheat oven to 400

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

Chop a large onion and sauté for 10  minutes or until very soft

Slice 5 or 6 large tomatoes and set aside (these can be red, yellow, or even green)

Grate 4 ounces of firm, sharp,  local cheese into a bowl and add ¾ cup of breadcrumbs

Drizzle olive oil into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish

Layer tomatoes along the bottom

Add a teaspoon of the sautéed onions

Sprinkle the first layer with a pinch of salt, a bit of pepper, and a tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture

Drizzle with a bit more olive oil

Repeat until tomatoes reach the top of the pan

Use remaining breadcrumbs and cheese to top the tomatoes and finish with a final drizzle of olive oil

Bake gratin for 15 minutes

If top is not brown, increase heat to 450

Bake for another 10 minutes

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving

Pasta with Roasted Peppers and Local Pecans

Thanks to all who have submitted roasted red pepper ideas! It seems many of you like to eat them in pasta. Me too. One of my favorite recipes involves tossing the peppers with some pasta and toasted pine nuts. There are local pecans here in Florida so I thought I’d give those a try. So let’s get started: Step one. Toss peppers with pasta and toasted pecans. Step two. There isn’t a step two because that’s it. Once you’ve roasted the peppers at the beginning of the week, this can be a very fast weeknight meal. If you can get local pasta, even better. I’m doing mine with a local pasta called Peperonata Pasta.  If you can’t find local pasta, no worries. Enjoy the local peppers and thank your farmer next time you see him or her.

Spaghetti with Roasted Peppers and Pecans (serves 2)

Set salted water on stove to boil

In a small frying pan, toast  1/2 cup pecans nuts over medium heat until fragrant (watch carefully as they burn quickly!)

Add 2 tablespoons of  Olive oil and a clove or two of minced garlic

Add a ½ cup of roasted red peppers and sauté over medium heat until pasta is ready

Drain pasta and toss with peppers and pecans

I like this dish with some chopped fresh parsley or basil but you could just as as easily use tarragon, oregano, or whatever you have around

If you want to add chili flakes, sprinkle them on at the end