Premeditated Pasta

Ravioli with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

The other day I was craving ravioli.  Toothy, substantial ravioli.

Out came the rolling pin, flour, olive oil, eggs, and salt.  The camera?  I glanced at it from across the kitchen counter but didn’t feel compelled to record a step-by-step.  When my hands are communing with the most basic of ingredients, it borders on spiritual.  (And if you hadn’t already gathered, my lil’ ol’ blog ain’t Martha Stewart, but I’ll give you some good ideas.)

Earlier, I roasted a small stash of veggies.  When I pulled them from the oven, their heat-altered beauty was breathtaking.  Garlic glowing like topaz.  Cherry tomatoes with garden-fresh goodness in every wrinkle.  Mushrooms in hues echoing their earthy origins.

Out came a Chianti bottle and a rustic-looking bowl.

(That’s about as Italian as my props get.)

As I snapped away, a rapturous aroma propelled my menu “plan” in ten different directions.  To chop or not to chop?  (Apologies to Shakespeare…)  Tomato sauce or filling?  Garlic-y Alfredo sauce?  Mushroom and tomato sauce?

The plus side of photographing dinner-in-progress is that it generates more ideas, which intoxicate me as much as aromas.

Maybe even more.

Ravioli art

Pasta Its Whats For Dinner

Once everything cooled down (including my inflammatory food imagination), I opted to make the filling out of freshly-made ricotta (another near-spiritual experience without photographic evidence), basil, oregano, half the garlic, an egg, a good amount of grated Parmesan, and one mushroom slice per pasta packet.

By the way, ravioli “rectangles” taste just as good as square ones.

As for the cherry tomatoes, I tossed ‘em on top.  (Cherry tomatoes — self-explanatory.)  After a drizzle of olive oil, some additional Parmesan, and a grind of the peppermill, dinner was served.

Well… photographed (quickly) and served.

I don’t mind taking pictures as long as dinner’s still hot when I eat it.

Has food photography changed the way you cook — or eat?

Enjoying premeditated pasta,

~ Kimby

Lasagna… Sort Of

Lasagna noodles

Calling all cooks who’ve ever added something “extra” (or unorthodox) to a meal in order to make it happen (and… relying on your understanding in advance.)

I had four lasagna noodles left to my name.  Half a jar of ready-made pasta sauce (yes, occasionally I succumb to convenience) enhanced with garlic, sauteed cherry tomatoes and olives, of course — whatever was on hand.

The kitchen is my playground!

Olive This Sauce

Next, I added a smattering of Italian herbs, some freshly grated Parmesan, and Italian sausage & ground chuck browned with onions &  garlic (popped into the freezer for future consideration) … you know how it is.

Meat Sauce

Then I topped it with a hefty dose of cheese.  Never mind that it was Cheddar; such is “weeknight lasagna” on the spur of the moment.  Help me out here… is it lasagna or lasagne?  I need to know authentically — even if my recipe isn’t.

Many thanks for overlooking my grammar police tendencies. xo

Lasagna

Did I mention olives?  As far as I’m concerned, olives and pasta reside in the same food group — or in close proximity in my world.  (Unbiased opinion proffered for your consideration…. )

But, yeegads!  I was out of ricotta!  Enter Greek yogurt…

From humble beginnings arise great things.  (Quote attributed to “unknown.”)

Players

The Man of Few Words was due home for supper in an hour (and per my usual modus operandi, time got away from me.)  Knowing he’d be happy with a corn dog if I so deemed (he’s soooo easy to cook for), I did my wifely best to justify my time at “home” while he slaved away 8 hours in 100° Oklahoma heat.

“Look what I did all day” on a plate… so to speak.  Not that I’m motivated by guilt — or justification.  But, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. ;)

For the record, TMOFW would never consume Greek yogurt (no matter how much I wax on about its glories) but time was a wastin’.  How could I thicken it up?  Make it more “ricotta-like?”  Hmmm…

I promptly added a couple of eggs and threw in Parmesan cheese, along with select Italian seasonings.  (Basil, oregano, parsley.)  Too soupy.  Tossed in Panko bread crumbs.  (Beggars can’t be choosers.)  Still too soupy.  Threw in some finely shredded Cheddar…

(Cheese – even the un-Italian kind — gives the illusion of cheese filling, yes?)

Then I added a lil’ more heft with plain ol’ bread crumbs.

Yeehaw!   Jusssst right!

(Picture Goldilocks saying that wearing cowgirl boots or flip flops, but do not attempt to try this at home unless you have 35+ years’ cooking experience under your belt and/or total confidence that a few eggs and “mock ricotta” will rise to the task.)

By the way I don’t normally resort to deception in the kitchen…

(She laughs.  Bwaaaahaha!)

After an appropriate amount of time in the oven (40 minutes?  I lost track), this Greek yogurt-laced “lasagna” emerged victorious from the oven.

(Apologies for photo quality; the sun was really bright or setting; I forget which.)

Dinner Is Served

For good measure I plated it with warm bread drizzled with garlic butter as a tasty distraction.  (Side salad not shown.)  Bread always floats my boat; his, too.

Although I’ve been known to eat leftovers from his plate… or start early.

Pay no attention to the “bite” on-screen (or plate)…

Garlic Bread

Sometimes a girl’s gotta make do with the ingredients on hand.

Make supper – dinner? -- on the fly.

(I hail from farm country where supper is the evening meal.)

Whatever works!

Got any substitutions you’ve recently tried, successfully or not?

Do tell.

Enjoying a dang tasty meal in spite of “deception,”

~ Kimby

P.S.  In the event I don’t reply to your much appreciated comments, I’ll be HERE (or other secret fishin’ holes around the lake) most of this weekend.  I said I was taking August off, and all (and I meant it… no deception intended.)

Fishin' Hole

An Off The Cuff Post (and Best, Easiest, Tastiest Grilling Recipe So Far This Summer)

Green Things

One of the things I love about summer is the spontaneity inherent in the season.  Grab something and throw it on the grill!

(Even better if it’s flavored with an impromptu compound butter…)

In this particular case, I was trimming haricot verts on the veranda when my step-son mentioned his “pork chop packets” — fresh green beans, carrots, and compound butter, topped with a boneless center-cut pork chop.  Oh my!  I took it a step farther and seared the chops before encasing them in foil.  Sorry, no “after” photo… they were devoured in a heartbeat.  (Vegetarian version expounded on below…)

Summer Veggies with Compound Butter

As for the compound butter, anything goes.  Key words:  have at it… spontaneous… impromptu!

This batch included softened butter smashed with sliced green onions, basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, and freshly ground pepper — but use whatever tickles ya or whatever’s on hand.  Throw it in the fridge in plastic wrap for a bit to let the flavors “marry,” then add a dab to the packet before adding the veggies (to keep them from sticking), top with a seared chop and a generous dollop of compound butter, seal, and you’re good to grill.

(Note:  Be sure to seal the foil packet well.  Turn once during grilling.  If in doubt about “doneness,” test chops with a meat thermometer before consuming.)

Compound Butter

Regarding the off the cuff portion of this post, I’m finally home again.  Missed ya bunches.  Couldn’t resist writing.  Plus, I’m making these again for supper tonight.  So, so good.  I also imagine they’d be good with chicken.  Or salmon.  Or steak.

Or, just veggies for my vegetarian pals. :)  Use your imagination…

On a personal note, I need to restructure myself and my blog a lil’ bit.  So many ideas, so little time — up until now!  After spending the equivalent to two months away from the place that makes me happiest since January, I’m feeling out of sorts.  Off my game.  Sluggish.  Can we say move it or lose it?!  (Photos may or may not be forthcoming, lol.)

More good things to come though, including the winner of my giveaway later this week.  (Giveaway is closed.)

Happy grilling and stay tuned for transformation…

Enjoying unpremeditated meal planning, writing, and rediscovery,

~Kimby

A Noodle By Any Other Name

Noonles

It’s no secret that I love pasta.  (Understatement of the year…)

But prior to this, the only pasta I’d made from scratch was plain ol’ noodles.  (Insert happy memory here:  When my son was a wee babe, he called them “noonles.”)  Family food memories are a delight, aren’t they?

During my early noodle-making years, I seriously underestimated how large uncooked “noonles” can grow when they simmer (after cutting them in a hurry, I might add…)

The result was a hefty batch of noonles, which my kids promptly dubbed 2 by 4′s!  To this day, we refer to my homemade chicken noodle soup as “2 x 4 Soup.”

Homemade 2 x 4 Soup

But, this kitchen exploit involves grown-up pasta…

Laced with spinach, toothy, and as large (or small) as you care to cut it and tossed with freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil or, my favorite – butter, sea salt, & freshly ground pepper — Spinach Pasta is sure to bring out the kid in you.

The grown-up kid.

Homemade Spinach Pasta

(adapted from bell’alimento — thanks, Paula!)

6 oz. fresh spinach

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

Extra virgin olive oil (enough to lightly coat skillet)

Pinch of Kosher salt

Grind of black pepper

2 1/2 to 3 c. flour

3 eggs

Salt, to taste

In a large skillet, saute the spinach in olive oil until it begins to wilt.

Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about a minute.  Remove from heat; season with salt & pepper to taste.

Transfer spinach to a sieve; allow to drain.  Press out as much moisture as possible with the back of a spoon and place drained spinach in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

In a large bowl, measure 2 1/2 cups flour.  Make a well in the center; add the eggs and a pinch of salt.  Mix with a wooden spoon — or your hands — it’s fun!

Add pureed spinach a little at a time until the dough comes together in a ball.  (I left mine a bit “sticky” to compensate for the flour used when rolling out “noonles” with a rolling pin.)  If you happen to be the proud owner of a pasta machine, please refer to your manufacturer’s instructions.

FYI… you may not use all of the spinach.  (If not, reserve the rest for another use.)  You also may (or may not) use the remaining flour.  It was humid the day I made this batch, so I used less spinach and the resulting “noonles” weren’t as green.

Also, I wish I could be more precise, but pasta-making isn’t an exact science!  Use your judgment and have fun with it.

Cover the dough with a clean towel; allow to rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into fourths; roll out a portion at a time to your desired thickness.  (Sprinkle with flour as needed to keep from sticking.)

With a sharp knife or pasta machine, slice “noonles” into desired widths, bearing in mind that they swell when they cook. :)  Allow them to rest (covered) while you roll/cut the remaining dough.

Meanwhile, bring a large kettle of water to a boil; add salt to taste.

Throw in your desired portion; cook until al dente and serve immediately.  The remaining uncooked noodles may be dried on a rack (or your counter top if need be…) and frozen for later use.

On a roll

No matter what you call them, a noodle by any name is worth it.

I’m not kidding!

Enjoying grown-up “noonles,”

~ Kimby

Salmon Cakes with Lentils & Creamed Peas

I looked at my calendar wrong!!!  (Ever do that?)  My musical endeavors don’t start until next week.  Sigh…

At the risk of hitting you up with three posts in a row (with sincere admiration to those who post every day), here’s “one last one” before radio silence… plus, it happens to be “Fish Recipe Friday” and I thought you might like this.

Fishing has been pretty slow lately and sometimes a girl’s just gotta have salmon.  (Not that there are salmon in our lake — don’t I wish?!)

But with just two of us in the household (and only one who will eat salmon), I often end up with leftovers — even after a single-serving indulgence.  I quickly turned to Food Network for inspiration, whereby I discovered salmon cakes.

I’ve made tuna cakes and, my favorite — Maryland crab cakes – but never salmon.  Unfortunately, my first attempt turned out more like patties than cakes.

Patty cake, patty cake?

(Please disregard the gulley in Cake 2; I taste tested pre-photo)

The original recipe didn’t call for breading, but I rather liked the crunch it added.  (Both versions were delish, by the way!)  After honing my “patting” skills, I pondered what else to serve.

Since we had leftover lentils in the fridge (and only one of us will eat lentils…), I figured toasted pine nuts and almonds would add crunch, too.  Bear in mind, I rarely serve the same dish the same way twice — just call me the Queen of Leftover Conversions. :)

Still, it needed something…

The Salmon Cake and Lentil Tower

Crunchy, meet creamy!

Reminiscent of the tuna hotdish with peas that I consumed by the truckload as a child (and still love to this day), here’s my “grown up” interpretation.  Plus, one can never consume enough legumes. :)

Salmon Cakes with Lentils & Creamed Peas

(Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe on Food Network)

2 Tbsp. butter, divided

1/4 c. green bell pepper, diced

1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced (I used jarred roasted red peppers)

1/2 Tbsp. capers, drained

1 egg, beaten

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes (fresh is better, but I was out)

1/8 tsp. hot sauce

1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

3 to 4 oz. cooked salmon, flaked

3/4 c. toasted bread crumbs, divided (I used whole wheat crumbs)

In a large skillet, sauté the peppers and capers in 1 tablespoon of butter until softened; remove from heat and set aside.

Combine egg, mayonnaise, and seasonings in a bowl.  Add salmon, sautéed vegetables, and enough bread crumbs to bind the mixture; stir gently.  (Reserve remaining crumbs for coating.)

Cover salmon mixture; chill for 30 minutes.

Form mixture into cakes.  Dip into reserved crumbs.  Refrain from patting, unless you want “patties”…

Melt remaining butter in a skillet.  Fry cakes until golden, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels; keep warm in the oven.

When ready to serve, plate the cakes with lentils and creamed peas or whatever else your lil’ ol’ heart desires (or the “leftover stash” in your fridge yields.)

For each portion, press 1/2 cup prepared lentils into a ring.  (I used a biscuit cutter — whatever works!)  Invert onto serving plates.

Top “lentil towers” with salmon cakes; drizzle with creamed peas.

Salmon Cakes drizzled with Creamed Peas

Guess what?!

I still ended up with leftovers… oh well.

Thanks for bearing with me and see ya next weekend!

Enjoying the exponential properties of salmon,

~ Kimby