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

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

Bending The Rules (Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Grilled Salmon)

I am (and always will be) rule-oriented.  I can’t help it; it’s in my DNA.

(The Man Of Few Words teases me about it occasionally — he nicknamed me “Miss OSHA.”)

Life (for me) feels better when I follow the rules.  Except when I’m in the kitchen.

There, all rules (real or imaginary) begin to relax a little — bend a little — and I find myself embracing rebellion.

“It’s a no-no to serve fish with cheese.”  Really?

(Profuse apologies to Scott Conant, whom I admire very much.)

At my dinner table, cheese periodically finds its way onto the same plate as a creature of the sea.  Gasp!

Call me food-rule-disrespectful, but it tastes good!  Of course, I’m mindful of “which cheese” with “what fish,” so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavor of said fish (my fellow “rule followers” will appreciate the amount of research behind that statement…) and when push comes to shove, I’ll serve it on the side, like I did this Lemon Pasta.

Laced with lemon juice and laden with shredded Parmesan (cheese…), it was the perfect accompaniment for a hot-off-the-grill slab of salmon, if I do say so myself.  (Actually, I couldn’t say so myself — my mouth was too busy enjoying the flavor.)

A quick note about my pale-looking asparagus, though… I forgot to dunk it in ice water after I blanched it.  Gasp!  (tee hee)  Maybe my DNA is restructuring.  I feel more relaxed about “rules” already.

Bending the rules (or forgetting them altogether) still makes for a mighty tasty meal.

Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Grilled Salmon

(pasta recipe adapted from a very old issue of Bon Appetit)

1 salmon filet per person, grilled until fish flakes easily with a fork

2 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 c. pine nuts

1 large onion, chopped

1 T. finely minced garlic

1/2 t. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/4 t. Kosher salt

1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. chopped Kalamata olives

2 T. capers, rinsed and drained

1 lb. pasta noodles (your choice), cooked and drained

1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese (reserve some for garnish)

Juice of 1 large lemon

1/4 t. ground thyme (or 1 tsp. finely minced fresh thyme)

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute pine nuts in 1 tablespoon olive oil until lightly browned; remove and set aside.

Add remaining oil to skillet; increase heat to medium-high.  Add onion; cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, olives and capers; cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Add cooked pasta, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, and thyme; toss to coat.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.  And fish.

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Enjoying bending the rules now and then,

~ Kim

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Comfort Food II

Sometimes life throws you curve balls and after all of the scrambling around is done, the only thing you can do is sit down with a plate of comfort food and savor every bite. (Or at least that’s what I do!)

After some recent family health concerns (serious enough to make an unplanned trip to Minnesota), I was left with a feeling of wanting to connect with the familiar once I got back to Oklahoma. Since I grew up in the land of yah sure, you betcha, eh? :), it only seemed right to tap into my “hotdish” heritage.

Alternatively known as a casserole, covered dish, or the perfunctory “dish to pass,” hotdish is a comforting food indeed. Nary a potluck dinner or church supper goes by without someone exclaiming, “I MUST have your recipe!” (Some folks even come armed with recipe cards!) In a way, blogging is a bit like that — exchanging recipes “electronically” — and maybe that’s why I love it so. It’s comforting to share good food!

No matter what you call “hotdish” there are three requirements. It must be 1) hearty; 2) flavorful; and 3) big enough to feed a small army. (That’s where the sharing part comes in.)

Considering my repertoire of church cookbooks and recipes I’ve been blessed to receive, I could keep you supplied in hotdish for many years to come, but I decided to concoct one of my own. Let’s see… hmmmm… what are my favorite things?

Italian sausage. Sauteed mushrooms. Roasted red peppers. Olives (lots of ’em.) Mozzarella “pearls.” Onions, green and black. Pasta with some “tooth” to it.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah… the link to my first Comfort Food post.  :)

Melded together with a tomato sauce of your choosing and a liberal dose of Mozzarella on top, you’ve pretty much got it covered… literally!

“My Favorite Things” Hotdish

7 to 8 oz. of your favorite pasta — farfelle, shells, rigatoni, etc. (I used penne rigate, which is described as having a sharp, diagonal cut on the end, similar to a quill pen) :)

1 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste

1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild (I used Lovera’s Hot Italian Sausage from Krebs, Oklahoma)

Butter/olive oil/bacon grease (or a combination thereof…)

8 oz. whole mushrooms, quartered

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

4 to 5 green onions (including tops), sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 roasted red peppers (I used Mazzetta’s Roasted Bell Peppers, a gift from Mom, xo), drained & diced

1/2 jar Mazzetta Napa Valley Bistro Blend Olives, drained

8 oz. Mozzarella cheese “pearls” (or cubed Mozzarella cheese)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Paul Newman’s “Sockarooni” Sauce)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Grated Mozzarella cheese for the top — as much or as little as you desire

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring water to boil in a large kettle. Add salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.

Meanwhile, remove casings from sausage. Heat butter/olive oil/bacon grease (whatever combo tickles ya) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir occasionally to break into “bite-sized” chunks, until browned and cooked through. Remove sausage to paper-towel-lined plate; reserve drippings in skillet.

Add the mushrooms and sweet yellow onions to skillet; saute over medium-high heat until golden. Add green onions, garlic, and red peppers; heat through, taking care not to fricassee the garlic. (!!!) Mix in drained olives, sausage, and pasta.

In the same skillet (or a large casserole dish or Dutch oven), combine the above with Sockarooni Sauce (or your own) and Mozzarella pearls or cubes; stir to coat. Mix in the Parmesan cheese ’til blended.

Put everything in an oven-worthy vessel (if you haven’t already); cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove cover. Sprinkle the hotdish/casserole/whatever with grated Mozzarella cheese; heat until melted, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how “browned” you like it. Serve with warm bread and a salad.

Enjoying the comfort of sharing,

~ Kim

What’s your favorite “hotdish?”

My True Love Gave To Me…

It all started with a package of Portabellas…

And a trip to Lovera’s Italian Market

All, courtesy of The Man Of Few Words.

When it comes to gift-giving, he throws convention out the window.  (Gotta love a guy who knows nothing would thrill his wife more than quality ingredients and time to play with her food.)

This is one of the yummiest pasta sauces I’ve tasted recently, by it’s lonesome or served as a “side” with Portabella Pork Chops (which I’ll share in an upcoming post.)

Linguine with Gorgonzola Sauce

(adapted from the recipe on the back of the package)

8 oz. Dell’Alpe Parsley & Parmesan Linguine (or linguine of your choice)

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 c. cream (I used half & half)

1/2 c. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cerignola and Castelvetrano olives (for garnish)

Prepare pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, heat butter and cream in a small saucepan.  Stir in Gorgonzola and Parmesan until melted.  (I left a few “chunks” of Gorgonzola…)

When pasta is al dente, drain and return to pan.  (Reserve some pasta water to thin the sauce, if desired.)  Pour sauce over pasta; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with olives or what have you.  Serve immediately.

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An unexpected gift?  You bet!  I’ve learned to expect nothing less from my true love.

Wishing you peace, joy, and gifts that tickle your fancy,

~ Kim

Pasta Fit For A King

I remember the first time I saw Elvis’s car.  I was young and dumb and bluer than Blue Suede Shoes.  Uh huh huh.

It was my first sales trip to Nashville and I was on a junket tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  (Such are the perks of young, dumb sales reps.)  Frankly, it was a fascinating place and I felt right at home.  Artificiality was no stranger to me (being a food ingredient rep and all) and somehow rhinestones and wigs fit into the general scheme of things.

Wandering amongst the displays, I amused myself, in spite of my limited knowledge of country singers and their hit songs — and then I saw it.  The Golden Cadillac.  Elvis’s car.

I remember thinking to myself, “Wow.  That’s really something.”

In a corny, but sincere way, I meant it.  Gaudy?  Yes.  Excessive?  Yes.  But in that moment, I’d connected with him.  With The American Dream.  Success suddenly seemed possible to the point of being frivolous, and I loved it.

Fast forward to my kitchen one recent evening.

All the elements of a hit were present:  Succulent mushrooms.  Fresh garlic.  A sweet, yellow onion.  Chardonnay.  Heavy cream.  Hope Creamery butter.  (Good ingredients, like catchy lyrics and a solid hook, are mandatory for culinary success.)  But, there’s also the element of it.

Elvis had it — that undefineable something that set him apart from everyone else and made him memorable.  Why on earth I was thinking about him on this particular evening was beyond me.  That’s what I mean by “it.”

I pondered potential seasonings as the onions caramelized.  Freshly ground nutmeg?   Kosher salt?  A twist of the pepper mill?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Grace notes to a sizzling melody.

When the onions were nearly done, I threw in the mushrooms and sauteed them for a couple of minutes, then gently laid the minced garlic over the top.  The ensuing aromas hinted at greatness.

Following a splash of Chardonnay (Elvis was a splashy guy), I deglazed the pan, then added a few tablespoons of heavy cream.  Nice, but it still lacked it. 

For some reason, I thought of Cognac.  Had any been lurking in the cupboard, I would’ve doused the sauce liberally with it.  Perhaps even excessively.  But, Cognac wasn’t in the budget this week (or in any recent week that I can recall), so I dispensed a frivolous glug of whiskey over the lovely mixture and set it ablaze.  (No fancy maneuvers or rhinestone jumpsuits required when pyrotechnics are involved.)

As the flames flickered out, the pale sauce melded into a hue that I can only describe as the color of Elvis’s Golden Cadillac — and it tasted as rich as it looked.  Success.

“Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you.”  Golden Cadillac Pasta.  Thank you, Elvis.  Thank you very much.

Enjoying “Graceland,”

~ Kim

P.S.  Sorry, no recipe — this was “one of a kind” — like him.