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goat cheese ravioli with walnuts

He loved to tinker and immerse himself into just about anything he hadn’t tried before. So it was no surprise when my dad trotted in one day with a pasta rolling machine under his arm. We were little munch-kins barely able to see above the kitchen counter and for that moment we thought this shiny silver thing with a crank on it was the coolest thing ever.

As kids we loved learning how to gently roll out those sheets of fabulous yellow tinted dough; linguine laying out on every single piece of flat surface we could find including draping it over the back of the kitchen chairs. He was always bringing fun and adventure into our lives including in the heart of the home – the kitchen. For me, these are treasured memories of my dad that I’ll always keep close.

As a treat during the post holiday sales, Fattie and I bought ourselves a pasta machine so we could roll out fresh Italian dishes whenever the urge presented itself. So, what to do on a Saturday night? Yup – you guessed it – pasta!

We decided on ravioli because we both adore it and it’s such a joy to sink your teeth into this handmade goodness…..I wanted to make a lobster and crab recipe but we settled for this over indulgent goat cheese & walnut number. It really is fantastically rich and yummy.

pasta machine

 

Ravioli Dough

Courtesy of Tyler Florence & The Food Network

You’ll need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yolk, for egg wash

In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour and salt. Add eggs 1 at a time and continue to mix. Drizzle in oil and continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Cut the ball of dough in half, cover and reserve the dough you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with flour. Form the dough into a rectangle and roll it through the pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at its widest setting. Guide the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. *Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue until the machine is at its narrowest setting. The dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick.

Dust the counter and dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta. Brush the top surface of dough with egg wash. Drop 1 tablespoon of cooled filling about 2-inches apart on half the sheet of pasta. Fold the unfilled half over the filling. With an espresso cup or fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling and form a seal. Use a crimper to cut each pillow into squares. Check to make sure the crimped edges are well sealed before cooking. If making ravioli in advance, dust with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

ravioli 2

 

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Walnut Sauce

Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse & The Food Network

You’ll need:

Filling:

1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced lemon peel
3 large pasta sheets

Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan

In a bowl combine the goat cheese, walnuts, basil, oil, garlic and lemon peel, and mix well. Set aside.

Put pasta sheet on work surface with long side facing you and put packed teaspoon of filling 2 inches apart lengthwise along half of the pasta sheet (you should have 10 to 12 mounds). Around each mound of filling brush dough very lightly with water. Fold dough lengthwise in half over mounds of filling, gently pressing around mounds to force out any air, and seal edges well. With a fluted pastry wheel trim edges and cut between mounds of filling to separate ravioli.

Line a large tray with a dry kitchen towel and arrange ravioli in 1 layer. Make more ravioli with remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling in same manner, transferring to kitchen-towel-lined tray and arranging in 1 layer. Ravioli may be made 8 hours ahead and chilled on towel-lined tray, covered loosely with plastic wrap.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, shallots and garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and cream, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high until the liquid has thickened and reduced by nearly 50 percent in volume, about 4 minutes. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli until they are tender and rise to the surface, carefully stirring to keep them from sticking together, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander. Transfer the cooked ravioli to the pan with the sauce, and gently toss to coat and heat through.

Divide the ravioli among 6 serving plates or shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with walnuts and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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As a kid, I flipped when my parents received food as gifts.

close up

You know, jars of unbelievably scrumptious homemade jams made with love by your great-grandmother, those baskets of specialty foods presented so beautifully, the warm baked bread, sweet mouthwatering fudge, freshly harvested homegrown produce from my grandfathers garden, and oh, the heavenly assortment of cookies at Christmas time!

Not only is it a fantastic present for someone that truly enjoys tasty treats (and my parents certainly did) it’s also such a gracious and thoughtful gift. Giving a little piece of yourself to the recipient.

shredded

Of course, it’s almost impossible for a kid to really appreciate these homegrown and homemade goodies. So, now as an adult I understand my parents hesitation in sharing these eats with the 3 greedy vultures in their home who were completely oblivious and ignorant of the muscle and devotion that has been poured into picking the fruit, growing the tomatoes, or kneading the bread.

But I secretly did appreciate the effort and love that went into making each treasured snack and someday wanted to grow up to be the giver of these yummy gifts.

baked bread

Feeling nostalgic for those days and remembering the taste of my Great Aunt Freida’s famous freshly baked bread (well it’s more like sweet cake), the bread that as teen-agers my brothers and I would devour in one sitting, I knew I just MUST get the recipe from her and bake some straight away.

Baking this deliciously moist bread warms your kitchen with such a marvelous aroma and sends me right back to begging my mom if we could crack into yet another cherished loaf.

Great Aunt Freida’s Fabulous Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, shift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together.

In a separate bowl whip eggs until foamy, add in oil and follow with zucchini and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined. Fold in nuts if using.

Divide batter equally in 2 standard greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 min – 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. Alternatively, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes or 24 muffin tins for 20-25 minutes.

This bread stores and freezes well.

sliced

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Sitting on our bums the other day taking in a little BBC Food we witnessed the super tall Canadian chef Michael Smith create an interesting and cleverly wrapped bacon potato dish.

bacon whole

Since Fattie loves bacon, potatoes, and cheese (uh, who in their right mind doesn’t?) he just had to give it a go. The first effort was full of flavor but the second attempt – as a side dish to filet mignon for a dinner party of twelve – was simply scrumptious. This is NOT a low fat dish but it is fabulous and a cool way to serve bacon and potatoes.

Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart

Courtesy of Michael Smith – serves 8

You’ll need:

  • 2 pounds or so of room temperature bacon
  • A minced onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 cups of grated aged cheddar
  • 5 or 6 large unpeeled baking potatoes
  • A sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Carefully arrange the bacon in a radial pattern from the center of the bottom of a ten-inch, non-stick pan to the lower edge of the rim and continuing up and over it. Let the ends hang over. The slices should overlap slightly around the sides of the pan.

To reduce the thickness of the bacon in the center stagger every other piece starting it two inches from the center and extending it further than the adjacent slices. With the palm of your hand, flatten the center area, leaving no gaps in the bacon. Season the bacon with pepper then sprinkle on several tablespoons of the grated cheddar.

 

Slice the potatoes as thinly and uniformly as you can, about a quarter inch thick. Arrange a circular pattern of overlapping slices around the inside bottom edge of the pan. Continue arranging overlapping layers of the potatoes until the bottom is evenly covered.

bacon pan

 

Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Mix the onions and garlic together and sprinkle some of the mixture onto the potatoes. Continue with a layer of the grated cheese. Cover with another layer of the potato pressing it down firmly before continuing with alternate layers of the potatoes, onion mixture and cheese until the pan is full. Continue with several more layers insetting each a bit from the edge of the pan until the top is an inch or so higher than the pan’s rim.

Fold the overhanging bacon neatly up and over the top of the potatoes. Trim a small piece of parchment paper and place it in between an ovenproof lid and the bacon. This will prevent the bacon’s ends from pulling back and shrinking during cooking.

bacon slice

 

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for at least two and a half to three hours. You’ll know it’s done when a small thin bladed knife insert easily. Pour off as much of the fat around the edges as possible. Let the tart stand for fifteen minutes then invert it onto a cutting surface.

Slice into wedges and serve immediately. You may refrigerate any leftovers and reheat them later it in a microwave.

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Of course, it’s always wonderful and such a treat to have someone cook dinner for you, but Fattie’s food is absolutely grubbing – so it’s double the fun.

He casually and ever so cutely whipped up this appetizer: gravlax carpaccio.

So, yeah, you know carpaccio is typically super thin slices of raw beef drizzled with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, usually sprinkled with green salad leaves such as rocket, arugula or radicchio and then topped with thinly sliced or grated Parmesan cheese, sometimes pine nuts will even make an appearance. But do you know what gravlax is?

Let ME tell you.

Gravlax is a Scandinavian delicacy consisting of raw salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. In Swedish, grav means “buried,” while lax means “salmon.” But it’s also known around the area as graved laks (Danish), gravlaks (Norwegian), graavilohi (Finnish), and graflax (Icelandic).

Back in the day, the fishermen used rub the ingredients on the fish and bury it in the sand above the high tide line, ‘fermenting’ the salmon. Uh. Crazy. I know. The modern version of this dish is not fermented at all; instead the salmon is ‘buried’ in a dry marinade of salt, sugar, and dill, and cured for a few days in the fridge.

So, combining the two – gravlax and carpaccio – Fattie came up with this glorious appetizer. Yes; it’s VERY tasty and even easier to prepare.

gravlax carpaccio

My Gravlax Carpaccio

Makes 4 appetizers

You’ll need:

  • 8-12 ounces of gravlax
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Handful of baby capers, rinsed – roughly 2 teaspoons or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced celery
  • A couple handfuls of fresh arugula or rocket
  • Parmesan cheese for grating
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation:

Equally divide the salmon onto four appetizer plates laying it flat.

After combining the olive oil and lemon juice, drizzle it over the salmon. Sprinkle evenly with capers and celery. Top with salad. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Enjoy.

Gravlax is usually expensive to buy but very easy to make. Feeling adventuresome? Wanna drum up your own homemade cured gravlax? Here’s a good recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

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If you like bread pudding, you will LOVE this recipe. It’s absolutely devoured every time I make it. The sauce is amazing….This is the ultimate comfort food.

Steve’s Killer Bread Pudding courtesy of the Foodnetwork

breadpudding

You’ll need:

1 cup raisins
1/4 cup dark rum (recommended: Myers’s)
1 1/2 loaves stale French or Italian bread, torn into pieces
3 cups milk
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream or 1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rum Sauce:
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 ounces evaporated milk
4 tablespoons margarine
1 egg, beaten
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons dark rum (recommended: Myers’s)

Preparation:

Place raisins in a small bowl with rum and soak for a couple of hours. Drain raisins and reserve soaking liquid.

Place bread pieces in a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Add raisins to dish. In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, heavy cream, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, lemon zest, and salt, and mix well to ensure the sugar has been dissolved.

Add the reserved raisin soaking liquid to the milk mixture and pour over bread. Let sit until bread has soaked up all of the milk mixture for at least 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place baking dish in another large pan and add water about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour or until bread pudding has set. Remove bread pudding from oven and let cool to just warm.

While bread pudding is cooling, make Rum Sauce:

Combine sugar, evaporated milk, margarine, egg and yolks in the top of a double boiler and cook, stirring well, until thick. Do not let sauce boil. Keep warm until serving time. Whisk in rum just before serving.

Serve bread pudding drizzled with sauce.

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Can’t help it. I adore risotto.

Every gluttonous mouth watering bite is comforting to my soul. There is just something so remarkably satisfying and sensual about the creamy rice texture once it has lapped up all that glorious stock and Parmesan has been delicately melted and laced throughout.

Risotto

We have the Italians to thank for most gastronomic delights (yes, of course the French get loads of props too). If you’ve never indulged in risotto, I beg you to allow this sensational dish to pass your lips.

Last night was my lucky night.

(more…)

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PF ChangsYes, if you’ve trotted your bootie over to PF Chang’s, it’s almost certain you’ve bitten into one of their famous chicken lettuce wraps at one time or another.

I was feeling a little nostalgic for my suburban mall (silly I know – I haven’t been to one of those lovely joints since I left the states) and decided to cook these babies up last night. There are many variations to this dish but this one comes pretty stinking close to the real deal. Don’t be intimidated by the laundry list of ingredients or the numerous preparatory steps involved. There’s no qualification needed to assemble these bad boys. These are actually quite simple to drum up and your mouth with thank you.

P.F. Chang Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 3-4 as an appetizer

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