My Nana’s ravioli (spinach and ricotta)

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While my family was not too happy about this, I spent this past holiday at home making ravioli for my partner and I. No travel, no visitors, just quiet, cozy cooking.

My first memory of ravioli is from my Nana, and I have never had any that taste quite like them. Any homemade ravioli are usually pretty dreamy, but these have the added bonus of nostalgia for me. The flavor difference between these and other spinach-ricotta ravioli is a tablespoon or two of grated, glassed onion. I always use fresh ricotta and spinach, and that makes a difference in terms of texture and flavor for sure.

I used the same pasta recipe as I normally do, so I’ll just include the filling recipe here.

1 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, drained for at least one hour in cheese cloth and colander
1 cup cooked spinach, chopped fine and squeezed completely dry
2 tablespoons grated onion, glassed in a bit of olive oil (cooked until translucent but not browned at all)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1 small egg

Mix all ingredients together, except for egg, and season to taste. Add egg and mix to combine. Once you fill the pasta sheets, let dry for a bit before cooking in slowly boiling water. They only need to cook for about a minute, or until they float to the surface.

 

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Fig bars (aka my new favorite cookie ever)

I have always loved any kind of fig cookie (or “fruit and cake” if you remember the commercial from the 80’s). A dear friend’s mother-in-law made homemade fig bars based on a Mark Bittman recipe, and I knew my life would never be the same. These are, hands-down, my new favorite cookie and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.

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I love that they are less sweet than commercial brands, and you can add different dried fruits to the filling to mix it up. I’ve done cranberries + figs, and I want to try apricots next. The day they are baked, the pastry is crispy, almost pie-crust-like. As they age, the crust is more cake-like, and they are good for at least 4-5 days, unrefrigerated (as long as they’ve lasted in my house). I served them as part of a cheese plate, and they were amazing with a very stinky triple cream.

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar (can reduce if you’d like a less sweet cookie)
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 cups flour (can use whole wheat or gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dried figs, chopped
1 cup orange juice

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and the egg until well blended, then add the zest.

Stir together the flour (I prefer whole wheat flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for about an hour. I found it helpful to divide the dough into quarters first and then chill individually so I could pull out one at at time to roll and fill.

Combine the figs (or other dried fruits) and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the figs are soft and the juice is fully absorbed. Purée with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Heat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 of the dough into a long rectangle about 4 inches wide. I ended up having to use parchment paper to help with transferring the rolled cookie log onto the baking sheet. I also had to flip the dough as I rolled, re-flouring to keep from sticking. Divide the fruit filling into 4 even portions and spoon evenly down the middle of each piece of dough and fold up the sides of the dough around it lengthwise; press gently to seal. Bake on ungreased baking sheets, seam side down, for about 15-20 minutes or until the logs are evenly golden (I always had to bake for 20 minutes to get the golden color). Cut into squares while they are still warm and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Savory rice waffles (again)

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This post is only to remind you that you should make rice waffles for dinner very soon, and, more broadly, that you can put so many things in your waffle maker! These rice waffles were pretty basic, but topped with some seared bass, sauteed cabbage and a spicy black bean sauce.

Just take day-old (or week old, I’m not judging) rice, mix in an egg, some salt and any other add-ins (green onions, basil, chopped bacon, diced cooked shrimp). Cook in your waffle maker until the edges are nice and crispy. Top with sauteed veggies, meats, gravies, melted cheese, you name it. You can usually make a topping in the time it takes your waffle to crisp up!

Sometimes you just need nachos

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With everything going on, sometimes you just need nachos. I am not saying that nachos fix anything, but they don’t hurt, that’s for sure. I’ll take all the comfort I can get, plus, I need fuel for getting back up to keep fighting.

These particular nachos included pinto beans, ground bison cooked with onions, garlic and my homemade spice mix (cumin, ghost chilis, chipotles, black pepper and coriander), cheddar cheese, pickled jalapenos, greek yogurt, cilantro and (jarred, *gasp!*) salsa. It was exactly what I needed. Also, please note that I do not endorse “scoop” shaped chips, but these were on sale. What can you do?

To make up for the fact that there is no recipe in this post, here is a photo of some chopped carrots that ended up looking like a heart! I was taking a picture of the knife to send to the gift-giver that gifted it to me, and I noticed the shape of the carrots afterwards.img_0308

Backstage dinner party: grilled asparagus elote style

I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for the band members of DC’s Humble Fire (I might know the drummer) last week. The bounty at the farmer’s market made cooking easy and fun. I’ve made this particular recipe for grilled asparagus elote-style (Mexican street-style corn) many times now, and I suggest you do too.

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Serves 5-6 as a starter or side

  • 2 bundles asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/3 cup crema or sour cream (mayo is also used, could use soy or coconut yogurt to make vegan)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta (could use vegan cheese)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • pinch of cayenne or smoked hot paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the asparagus with oil and grill over high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and beginning to char in spots. Ours got forgotten on the grill for about 5 minutes on this particular evening (because we are so rock and roll), and they were still delicious.

Arrange the asparagus on a large platter in a thin layer (so each spear gets some toppings). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle the crema over the spears and then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Squeeze the lime over and then dust with cayenne or paprika. I garnished with some chive flowers for fun.

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Grilled asparagus is so rock and roll.

Jars of sunshine (aka preserved lemons)

I am totally hooked on preserved lemons, adding them to everything from salad dressing, jeweled rice, marinade, sardine salad, and dips of all sorts. They are super easy to make, just requiring a bit of patience. Luckily, bright lemon quarters packed with garlic and spices make a lovely decoration while you wait.

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First clean or sterilize a large glass jar (running through the dishwasher is fine). Scrub your lemons, peel and slice a few garlic cloves, and assemble some kosher salt, bay leaves, pepper corns, cloves, and pepper flakes. You can just use kosher salt, and these would still taste great, but the other spices are fun to try.

Coat the bottom of the jar with kosher salt. Cut a few lemons into quarters and press firmly into the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with some more kosher salt and add a bit of the spices and garlic. Continue layering in this way until the jar is nearly full. Juice the remainder of the lemons so that the lemon quarters are submerged. You may need to push down on the lemon quarters to really compact them. I will also drizzle a little olive oil over the top to further ensure that no lemons poke up into the air.

Next, wait. And wait. After about a month, the lemon rinds will become soft, the pulp will have a jelly like consistency, and the whole thing will smell tangy and funky and amazing. You can use the entire lemon, rind and all, to flavor all sorts of dishes.

Here are some lemons that have been hanging out in my cupboard for about 4 months.

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Braised Rabbit with Chard, Cabbage and Roast Potatoes

Braised Rabbit with vegetables

I butchered my first bunny! They had rabbit for sale at the farmer’s market, and getting it whole is much cheaper. Thanks to some online blogs about rabbit butchering, I was able to prep the meat properly. I decided to do a long braise in a red wine, smoked tomato and rabbit stock mixture. It was amazing.

Rabbit Stock

After cutting up the rabbit into all its usable parts, I browned the bones and set the stock to simmer with carrots, onions, garlic, red wine and herbs. Then, I dredged the meaty pieces in seasoned flour and browned them on all sides.

rabbit browning in pan

For the braising process, I arranged the browned meat in a casserole with sprigs of rosemary and then layered on smoked tomatoes and the stock I had been simmering.

Browned rabbit in a white casserole with rosemary sprigs

I braised the rabbit for about 2 hours in a 350 F oven. The meat was so tender and flavorful. I can’t wait to try more rabbit preparations. In restaurants, they often feature the back legs, since there is the most meat and they look pretty on the plate. My favorite cut was actually the smaller front legs, because the meat was darker and juicier, kind of like a giant chicken wing.

Rabbit braised with tomatoes

I served this with some roasted potatoes and sauteed chard and cabbage.

Roasted potatoes

We were lucky enough to have this view during an amazing dinner!

Rabbit, potatoes and chard on a white plate with mountains in the background

The Secret to Grits

My lovely partner should really be writing this, but I’ve watched enough times that I think I can fake it. I lived in the south and had my share of grits. I know enough that I basically will not order grits out at a restaurant unless I have it on good authority that they know what they’re doing. Luckily, I live with the best grits maker in the world, and you can wow your friends and loved ones too.

All you need are 1) good quality grits and 2) dairy products (or even, dairy-like products). I have been using Palmetto Farms grits lately (white corn, heritage, stone ground, etc) and love them. I like a large grain grit so that it has some chew to it when it’s done. And for dairy, I like the trifecta of butter, milk and cheese. Most grits recipes use too much water, and a watery grit is the worst! Start with less and add more (or add milk) if you need to. You can never add too much butter or cheese, but be sure to add the cheese at the end so it doesn’t just stick to the pan. This is a basic recipe, but feel free to tweak it or add things like chopped jalapenos or different cheeses (blue or chevre is nice). You can easily make this recipe vegan by using veggie stock in place of the milk and subbing in vegan “butter” and cheese. We have a friend who is dairy-free, and I used some of my homemade vegan nacho cheese and a spoonful of coconut oil based spread. I tried both the dairy-full and dairy-free versions, and both were make-noise-it’s-so-good delicious.

– 2 cups whole milk*
– 1 cup water
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 cup stone ground grits
– 4 to 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar*
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter*
– ground black pepper to taste
*Can sub in vegan options

Bring milk, water and salt to a boil in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Stir in the grits in a slow stream, whisking to keep lumps from forming. Turn heat down to low and cover, stirring every 3-4 minutes until creamy. Taste for doneness after about 15-20 minutes. Add more milk if needed. Stir in cheese, butter, and black pepper to taste. Adjust salt.

Top with … anything! We had a DIY grits bowl buffet last weekend with some friends, and our toppings included: braised dino kale, sauteed mushrooms, diced andouille sausage, sungold tomatoes, oven roasted tomatoes, chopped herbs, avocado and purple cabbage slaw.

Grits Bowl

Tteokbokki, Duk Boki, or Dukbokki (however you spell it, it’s delicious)

Spicy Korean rice cakes. One of my favorite comfort foods. The satisfying chew of the thick rice cakes, the sweet and spicy sauce…I could eat for days, and they’re surprisingly easy to make!

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Here is a picture of mine cooking. Notice the tea strainer that I used to infuse the broth? I didn’t get a shot of them plated, because we got too excited to eat and forgot.

– 4 cups water
– 7 large dried anchovies (you can leave these out, but it won’t have quite the same funkiness, maybe try adding a bit of miso to make up for the umami)
– 6 x 8 inch dried kelp
– ⅓ cup gochujang, hot pepper paste
– 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 pound of cylinder shaped rice cakes (you can find these in the freezer section of most big Asian food markets, or make your own)
– 3 green onions, cut into 3 inch long pieces
– 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled (optional)
– ½ pound fish cakes (optional)

Boil the water with the dried anchovies and kelp for 15 minutes in a wide saute pan. Remove the kelp and fish with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the hot pepper paste, chili flakes and sugar to the pan; stir to mix. Add the rice cakes, green onions, hard boiled eggs and fish cakes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring regularly. Test a rice cake for doneness; add more water if necessary. The cakes should be chewy but not hard in the middle. Serve warm with a side of kimchi.

Banana Bread Ice Cream

I realize that whatever ice cream you are eating in the moment has a certain advantage over all previous and future ice creams, but … I seriously made the best ice cream ever! I am calling it banana bread ice cream, though there is no bread involved (it’s gluten free), and it happened a little bit by accident.

Banana Bread Ice Cream

I was making this pie from Momofuku Milk Bar’s dessert chef Christina Tosi, and decided to make a double batch of the banana cream filling (because when is there ever too much banana cream filling?). The pie, for the record, was amazing. I tweaked the recipe, using agar instead of gelatin, leaving out the food coloring (who cares if the pie isn’t bright yellow?), taking down the amount of sugar a notch and adding a couple dashes of apple cider vinegar to balance the sweetness. The acid made the pie taste more “banana-y” to me. Since the recipe calls for completely ripe/black bananas, the tangy element of a medium ripe banana flavor was missing. I would have used lemon juice if I had any on hand, but the vinegar worked fine.

For the banana bread ice cream, I took 1 cup of chopped walnuts and tossed them with a tablespoon of water to moisten. I sprinkled them with two tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of clove, and a pinch of sea salt. Ensuring that they were evenly coated, I then spread them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and baked at 350 for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I heated up 1/4 cup of dark rum on the stove and then added in 1/2 cup of raisins, letting them soak till plump.

I processed the previously made banana cream filling in my ice cream maker and then added in the walnuts and raisins during the last minute of mixing. I let it fully set overnight in the freezer, and it is truly amazing. The mouthfeel is superb, probably as a result of combining thickening and lightening techniques in the making of the cream filling (eggs and agar to thicken, whipped cream to lighten). The raisins are chewy and sweet, while the walnuts are crispy with a little sea salt here and there. I am desperate to try it in a waffle cone. Let me know what you think!