Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ravioli Worth the Making

I love ravioli, always have. I favor cheese fillings over meat fillings, preferring to have meat in the sauce to go with it. My husband on the other hand, has never once, ever, ordered ravioli if at an Italian style venue, but always has gone with spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs or sausage, if available. 

My free-form ravioli experiment
My earlier free-form ravioli experiment
With that in mind, while I have a couple of times in all my years made ravioli, I had never gotten a rave from him. Since I know that is not his "thing", that's okay, but at least I attempted them. Once I made them - earlier this year in fact - and used some of the leftover cheese pieces (of Romano and Chevre mashed together) I had used in the center of one of the flank steak rolls (appetizers for a Winefest here). There ended up more of the cheese filling than flank pieces, and I just got the idea to mash them up with some of my homemade pesto and fill ravioli. They were really good, but to try and explain what I did would have been near-impossible, so I didn't even try. Still, since my husband seemed to like those ravioli well enough, I had kept this in back of mind to try again at a future date.  

Making the pasta for the ravioli was another thing I  hadn't done too much of, despite having the pasta rolling attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. I did make the past for the earlier ravioli. I was absolutely 100% sure that the recipe I used was in the booklet for my new Breville Sous Chef food processor. I went to the booklet to recreate the pasta. And . . . it wasn't there! I looked through the recipes at least 5 times. I was THAT sure it had been there! Oh well.

My new Ravioliera
My new Ravioliera
Also, in the last couple of weeks I was on the Williams Sonoma website for hours and hours, just feasting my eyes. I went there specifically for a tablecloth, which I bought, but the only other thing I ordered after those hours on end was a ravioli mold. This is not a machine, or even a plate to fit into a machine, but just a mold with 12 little wells. The raised edges are meant to cut the ravioli, once filled and topped with pasta. It seemed, at the time, to be a good idea. Lots of people complained about not having a tool to press the dough into the wells. Others complained about the ravioli sticking in the wells and not coming out easily. Despite this, I ordered it and it came about a week ago. The tablecloth is stunning, and I am so very happy with it. The little ravioli former was beckoning.
Just formed ravioli
Just formed Cheese & Pesto Ravioli

When I made ravioli in the past, it was free-form, seen in the photo above. I am no Mario Batali to just whip them out easily and readily. When I saw this little "ravioliera", I didn't know how large or small the ravioli would be, and there was nothing in the description (nor on the box once I received it) to say what size ravioli it would turn out. I used it the other day, with great success (after an initial learning curve), and it makes 2-inch ravioli. 

Keeping in mind all the negative comments on this little device, I was determined to make it work. I used a pasta recipe from the latest Food and Wine magazine, though I totally forgot to add the water! I tried, belatedly, to work in some water, accomplishing maybe 2 tablespoons worth. The pasta was nicely dry, which usually doesn't happen for me, so I had less problem with things sticking than usual. I rolled the pasta through the pasta roller attachment and though the recipe stated how many times and how thin to roll it - possibly because I forgot the water in the recipe, but there was no way I could form ravioli into the little wells without the pasta tearing. It was just too thin. I went one roller setting less thin, and had no more problems. I did find that it was easier to make one very long piece of dough (ultimately both top and bottom of the ravioli), setting half of it way off to one side covered with a damp towel, while working with the other half set over the ravioli former. I held the dough up while gently pressing the indents into the wells with the thicker end of my marble pestle. One of my round measuring spoons would probably have worked as well. If this is confusing to read, it was not that difficult. Just a matter of some common sense. 
Exquisitely flavorful Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Exquisitely flavorful Cheese & Pesto Ravioli

One comment I had read stated that it was best (rather than heavily dusting the ravioli wells with flour as the instructions suggest) to instead heavily flour the bottom of the pasta dough before setting into the mold. This worked well for me. With a little bowl of water nearby, I moistened the perimeter of each filled well before flipping the long pasta tail from off to the one side back over the wells. After pressing very well all around the edge to seal each individual ravioli, I ran the little wood dowel over the top to cut them apart. I will say this was not exact. It appears either the raised ridges are not of even height, or the wood dowel is not totally smooth. However, it did most definitely leave a deep enough impression so it was easy to go and run my pastry cutter (with the same zig-zag edge) over the parts that were not separated. All in all, after the first piece of dough through, I had a system going and it went very well.

In the same Food and Wine magazine article that I used the pasta dough recipe from, was the recipe for the ravioli filling. I liked the thought of the cheese part, though the actual recipe was for much larger ravioli that would have an egg yolk dropped into the center of the cheese filling before sealing. With my little ravioli of a bare 2-inch diameter, there was no way to add an egg yolk into them. I used the Feta, Romano and Parmesan, then added some of my own Pesto to flavor it instead of adding other herbs and such. 

This was the absolute best ravioli! Even my husband raved about them. Granted, I did nothing special with the sauce part. I fried hamburger, added some onion and green pepper and a larger jar of Ragu and cooked it. But no matter how you look at it, these ravioli were most exceptionally good! If you prefer a simple marinara, Puttanesca or a raw tomato mixture, any of these would be great. I think these were good enough to serve alone with a drizzle of olive oil, but my husband would so not go for that!

Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Cheese & Pesto Ravioli with Parmesan shavings

Makes 58 - 60 (2-inch) ravioli 

2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 - 4 tablespoons water
2 cups "00" or semolina flour (I used semolina)

7 ounces preferably sheep and/or goat milk Feta 
7 ounces whole milk ricotta
1.5 ounces Romano cheese, finely grated
3 tablespoons (preferably homemade) basil pesto
a few grinds of black pepper
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

Place the flour in a food processor. Separately, whisk together the eggs, yolks and water. Drizzle into the processor while pulsing, once all added, process until the mixture starts to come together. Turn out onto a surface and knead a few times to form a ball. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Wipe out the food processor bowl and add in the Feta, broken into chunks, along with the grated Romano. Pulse, then process to completely break down to crumbs. Add in the ricotta, pesto, pepper and nutmeg and process until well combined. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To roll the pasta, a pasta roller of some kind is preferable, unless you have great experience at rolling pasta dough thinly. (I don't.) Cut the dough into quarters, working with one quarter at a time and keeping the remainder well covered. Roll the dough out slightly, into a long oval. Run it through the pasta roller on its widest setting at least 4 times. Turn the setting to the next smaller setting and run it through twice more. Turn the roller to the next smaller setting and run the dough through twice. The dough should be quite thin. If not, use the next narrower setting twice and possibly even one more narrower setting if needed. The dough should be thin, but not so easily torn.

You should now have a very long, narrow piece of dough. Drape half over a ravioli former, or if free-forming, cover half the dough with a towel while forming ravioli with the other half. In a mold, press the well-floured dough into the wells. Use a very small cookie scoop to make even sized little mounds of the filling. If free forming, simply keep the filling mounds evenly spaced for ease of cutting. Moisten the edges all around the filling with water. With the mold, flip the long tail of dough over the top, pressing well around each well to seal. If free-form, moisten the dough all around the filling, and then mold the long remaining tail over each mound of filling, pressing tightly all around each mound to seal. With the mold, run the dowel or rolling pin over the top to make the cuts. Turn out and separate any places that stick, using a pastry cutter. If free-form, simply cut between the mounds with a knife, use a biscuit cutter or use a pastry cutter. Whichever works best.

Once formed, make sure the ravioli are well dusted with flour so they do not stick. They will cook in boiling, well-salted water in about 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce.

MAKE AHEAD:  The ravioli can be frozen. Make sure  the bottoms are well dusted with flour, then set the ravioli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then remove them to a zip-top bag and return to the freezer for up to 3 weeks. They can be cooked straight from the freezer, though the timing might require another minute or two to bring to temperature all the way through.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Remake of an Old Family Favorite

My ethnicity being divided between the Vojvodina area of Serbia and Slovakia via grandparents who immigrated to the US in the very early 1900s, I was brought up in great part on the recipes that came with them from "the old country." One of those recipes (which I absolutely did not like as a child) was Holupki. This is alternatively spelled in so many ways throughout Europe that it would be difficult to cover them all, but in essence, these are hamburger (or pork) and rice-stuffed cabbage rolls. My Mom called them "Pigs-in-a-Blanket", though this has become the title for little sausages wrapped in a dough of some kind. But you get the idea. This is the recipe for Holupki that I have made through the years:

Holupki aka Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Holupki aka Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Holupki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

Makes approximately 12, depending on size

1 large cabbage
2 pounds hamburger meat
(or substitute ½ pound of the meat with ground pork)
1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon sugar (to round out the flavor)
½ teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 or more sprigs fresh thyme
water, as needed to cook

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove some of the outer cabbage leaves, as whole as possible. Place into the boiling water until they are soft, then remove and set aside. When the leaves on the remaining cabbage become too entangled to separate, place the rest of the whole head into the pot and allow the leaves to soften. Remove periodically to trim off leaves at the core end. You will need at least 12 or so viable cabbage leaves for rolling the meat. Take the remaining cabbage and chop roughly. Place half the chopped cabbage into the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. Set aside the remaining chopped cabbage.

In a large bowl, mix together the meat(s), onion, garlic, egg, salt, pepper, paprika and rice. Do not over mix. Trim off the thickest parts of one cabbage leaf, then take one portion of meat mixture (approximately ⅔ to ¾ cup worth) and set on one end of the leaf. Roll, burrito-style, folding in ends and tucking as necessary. Repeat, until all the meat is rolled into cabbage leaves. Place the rolls into the pot, on top of the chopped cabbage. Top with the remaining chopped cabbage. Tuck the bay leaves down between the rolls, and place the thyme sprig(s) on top.

Combine the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Add in more salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. The rolls should not be submerged, but nearly covered. If the tomato mixture is not quite high enough, add water until just the tops of the rolls are visible.

Set over high heat to bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 1½ - 2 hours. Best served with mashed potatoes.

As I grew up and particularly while in Guatemala, far from home and Mom's cooking, I started to have a better appreciation for those recipes that were a large part of my childhood. I will say that although I have made these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls quite a few times over the intervening years, the one reason I do not make them more often is that it is kind of a royal pain to make them. So while perusing Pinterest one day recently, I came across a photo, and them the recipe for what someone called "Unstuffed Cabbage." I am sure many have seen or done this, and I know I have seen this on Facebook also. Somehow though, with the cooler days, I suddenly perked up when I saw this recipe. 

I printed it off, mainly to compare with what I put into my own recipe for Holupki. Turns out it was not so very different - mainly differences in amounts of things. Today I decided to attempt this. It certainly goes together quickly, all things considered. The recipe I read called for browning the hamburger meat, and the rice was omitted. I happen to like the rice-in-the-meat part of this recipe, so I decided to make meatballs of the meat and rice mixture. Of course while they are cooking they start looking a little like porcupines with the grains of rice sticking out every which way! 
Unstuffed Cabbage
Unstuffed Cabbage

Still, the meatballs held together, mostly, throughout the cooking process, and the amount of liquid in the pot diminished a lot. Before serving, I had to add more water and a little more salt for balance. With the stirring and mixing process, many of the meatballs started to come apart. I did not pack the meat when making the meatballs, and maybe this would have made a difference. Who knows? Despite the meatballs coming apart more and more each time I had to mix or ladle, the soup / stew was delicious. Whereas my husband would remove all of the cabbage from the Cabbage Rolls in past, eating only the meat mixture inside - when presented this way he ate everything, including the cabbage, with no problem at all. I would say that this dish was a hit. It tasted great, was totally reminiscent of the Holupki I grew up with, and my husband will eat it. These criteria make this a hit in my book!

Unstuffed Cabbage

Unstuffed Cabbage
Unstuffed Cabbage

Makes a large pot, at least 8 servings or more

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds lean hamburger
1 cup long grain white rice
1 egg
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups water
1½ teaspoons salt
1 onion, halved, cut in thin slices
1¼ pounds cabbage, cut in small pieces
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 (14-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

In a skillet heat the oil and saute the chopped onion until it is just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and toss for a minute or two. While the onion is cooking, set a large pot on a burner and add in the water and 1½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil.

In a mixing bowl, combine the hamburger, rice, egg, 1½ teaspoons salt, paprika and pepper. Add in the sauteed onion and garlic and mix together very well. The meatballs are made in a snap if you have a cookie scoop. I used a cookie scoop, rounding the meat in the scoop as I formed 1½-inch diameter meatballs. Drop the meatballs into the pot of boiling salted water. As they start to be crowded, remove them to a plate using a slotted spoon. Once all the meatballs are set, add to the water in the pot the sliced onion, cabbage, thyme, bay leaves, the three cans of tomato (diced, sauce & paste), the vinegar and sugar. Return to the pot any meatballs that were set aside. Gently stir to combine the whole, then cover and simmer for 40 minutes or up to an hour.

Serve as a soup or stew. We always ate Holupki with mashed potatoes on the side. If you wish, mashed potatoes or other cooked potatoes would also be good with this soup, though with rice already in it, potatoes aren't truly needed.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Great Mulligatawny at Last

I wrote in my recent blog of October 23 about my first attempt at making a "Mulligatawny" soup. Mulligatawny is the Anglicized version of the Indian dish called "Milagu-thanni", or Pepper Water. 

Table Set for Indian Dinner
Table Set for Indian Dinner
In my first attempt, I was using a recipe in a cookbook I own, and I believe one of the ingredient amounts HAD to be a typo: it called for nearly ½ pound (200 grams) of besan, or chickpea flour. I actually used 50 grams less than that, and when I added it to the stock, it seized into nearly a solid mass. I added water and added water and it took forever to cook through, and stirring was an absolute necessity, as it would stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Mulligatawny Leftovers
Mulligatawny Leftovers
All this did not prevent that first try being delicious. We had our friend Rich visiting when I made it that time, and we all agreed it was downright tasty! Still, some changes were absolutely needed, both in the sequence of events in preparation and in the amounts of the individual ingredients. I added more of some, less of others, introduced a few other things and voila! this second attempt was a true "keeper" as my husband calls them. This second try was really a magnificent mix of flavors. It was still quite thick, though I reduced the besan flour by orders of magnitude (only 38 grams). Some of the recipes with photos online showed a runny soup, some showed a slightly thickened soup. Since my husband prefers thick soups anyway, this one suited him perfectly. And let me say that all of our guests on November 3rd were highly complimentary of the flavors of this soup. 
Viognier with Mulligatawny and Pinot with Biryani
Viognier with Mulligatawny and Pinot with Biryani

I am well pleased. My husband went so far as to say he "wouldn't mind" having this soup on any cool evening. This is translated as "please make it more often." No problem from me! Once I got the kinks worked out of the recipe's order of events, it is really easy - though there are quite a few steps.

My husband and I hosted an Indian dinner with two other couples this past Thursday evening, and we all had a great time. The guests brought the wines for the meal, and we found that a really lovely Viognier went splendidly with the Mulligatawny soup! The Pinot Noir shown here went exceptionally well with the rest of the meal, going so far as to seemingly "cool and soothe" the heat of the hot chutney accompaniments.

Somehow I managed to get multiple photos of all the other dishes, but only one of the Mulligatawny soup that evening! I took one more semi-decent shot of the leftover soup I ate last evening.

My Menu for our Indian Feast
My Menu for our Indian Feast
Some of the things I chose to do differently in the making of this soup were the order of cooking the chicken, the red lentils and the besan/chickpea flour. The original recipe called for cooking them all together. This resulted in losing a lot of the soup when removing the chicken wing pieces for bone removal, as much of this thick soup stuck to the wings when taking them out to cool. Another big difference was the use of chicken wings instead of pristine chicken breast to be sliced prettily for serving. I chose instead to use chicken wings firstly because anything cooked with bones will result in more flavor. Secondly, once cooked, the little bits of chicken removed from the bones were of a perfect size to not interfere with eating the soup. 

The original recipe called for removing any skin from the chicken breast to be used. This also removes most any possibility of fat floating on the soup. You might say that skinning chicken wings would be an onerous task, but truly, it took just a very few minutes to accomplish. Cut the wing segments apart and discard wingtips. Set a wing segment with the thickest skin side down. There is always a piece of the thicker skin that protrudes; hold onto this bit, and position a very sharp knife towards the wing and slide the knife away from you. The wing will roll along, leaving most of the skin behind. Easy-peasy.

Skinning Chicken Wings
Skinning Chicken Wings
I chose to cook the initial broth with the chicken wings, then remove them. Next I added the red lentils to cook through and finally the besan/chickpea flour to cook through. The whole soup (minus the chicken) is pureed smooth.  One of the ingredients in this soup is tamarind. I keep tamarind concentrate in my fridge, as I do use it now and again. I served Imli (Tamarind) Chutney with the meal also, so tamarind was used for that. If using fresh tamarind pods, or even one of those blocks of shelled tamarind all clumped together, the amounts will have to be adjusted (they will need to be soaked and sieved to remove fibers and seeds). I used 2 teaspoons of the tamarind concentrate, and it was perfect in this soup. 

How hot to make the soup is also a choice. Since I know my husband does not tolerate more than a very mildly hot spice level, and I didn't know about some of the guests' tolerance levels, I chose to make the main dishes mildly spiced, and then also provide various chutneys and "pickles" in varying heat levels from completely mild to screaming hot, so the guests could spice things to their preferences. I happened to grow cayenne chilies this past summer, and had quite a few green chilies that I'd picked before the temps started dipping too low. I added one whole cayenne chili that I only poked holes in with a knife tip. This provided a nice, mild spice to the soup; not overwhelming for anyone. If your spice tolerance is high, add in chopped whole chilies and dry powdered chili to your taste. Taste-testing this soup along the way is absolutely no hardship!

Milagu-Thanni or Mulligatawny Soup

Serves 8 to 10
Mulligatawny Soup
Mulligatawny Soup

1½ to 2 pounds chicken wings, skinned
2 - 3 tablespoons ghee or oil
6 - 8 cloves garlic
1½ inches fresh peeled ginger
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds (may use regular cumin; taste will be different)
1 tej patta leaf
1 cup red lentils
½ cup chickpea flour (38 g besan)
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
2½ to 3 teaspoons salt
1 hot green chili, holed poked in with tip of knife
1½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
2 teaspoons sugar 
Cilantro leaves for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Set all the skinned wing pieces on the sheet in a single layer and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned. 

While chicken is baking, place the ghee into a large soup pot and add the onion with a sprinkling of the total amount of salt. Cook the onion over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until well softened. Add in the ginger and garlic with the coriander and cumin seeds and continue to cook, stirring for 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the baked chicken pieces and the tej patta leaf with 8 cups of water. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the chicken pieces from the bones. Discard any bones and dark veins or remaining skin. Set chicken aside.

Add the red lentils to the simmering broth and cook for another 25 minutes, until tender. Once the lentils are cooked through, puree the soup and return to the pot (or use a hand blender). Now whisk in the chickpea flour and continue whisking until no lumps remain. Allow the flour to cook through, stirring, for at least 10 minutes. Add in the tamarind, lime juice, turmeric, fenugreek powder, garam masala, remaining salt, whole green chili and the black pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes more. 

MAKE AHEAD: If making ahead (1 or 2 days), chill the soup at this point. 

When ready to proceed, bring the pot back to a boil, reduce heat to a bare simmer and add in the sugar and the coconut milk. Heat gently and serve.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.