Ravioli with Tomato and Garlic Gravy

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Today was ravioli day.  Making homemade pasta is fun and rewarding and homemade tastes so much better.  Years ago I was a guest in the home of a first generation Italian family in Toronto.  Not being Italian I was unfamiliar with the number of courses that constituted a typical Italian meal.  We all sat around a table in a small dining room where the table and the fabric upholstered seats were all covered in heavy plastic.  The first course consisted of antipasto, a beautiful salad and lots of crusty bread.  The leftovers were cleared from the table and the homemade pasta arrived.  Spaghetti with a meat sauce.  And more bread.  It was wonderful.  I cleaned my plate and felt very satisfied and pretty full.  The table was cleared and in came the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and more bread.  It was all I could do to eat a few more bites and listened to everyone say, “What’s the matter?  You don’t like the chicken?”  Who knew the pasta was an appetizer.  But I’m a quick study.  I learned to take much smaller portions.  And to never wear a skirt when the chairs are covered in plastic.

Today our ravioli was the entree.

The first step is making the pasta dough.

Ingredients:

2 cups of AP flour

2 large eggs

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I used a food processor.  Put the flour in and pulse it a few times. Whisk the eggs and slowly add them in with the processor running on low.

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The dough should come together in a ball.  If it looks like small pebbles add 1 tsp of water at a time.  If it is too wet and the dough is sticking to the sides add flour 1 T at a time.  Once the dough has come together in a ball remove it to a lightly floured work surface and knead it by hand until the dough is smooth, a couple minutes.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

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While the dough is resting prepare the filling.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 cup sweet onion in a fine dice

1 cup mushrooms diced

2 cups fresh spinach chopped

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes diced

1 1/2 cups grated Asiago and Paramesan cheese

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In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the garlic, onion and mushroom just until tender and fragrant.  Add the spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from the heat.

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Stir in the diced sun dried tomatoes and the cheeses and your filling is ready to go.

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Divide the dough into six pieces.  Flatten into a disk and run through the pasta machine rollers.  Continue folding and running through the rollers until the dough is thin and shiny.  If, at any time, the dough is too sticky dust it lightly with flour.

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Stretch the dough over the ravioli form.   Fill each indentation with about 1-2 tsp of filling.  Do not over fill.

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Put a second piece of dough over the filling and run a rolling pin over the top.  Invert and remove the ravioli.

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Cover the ravioli with a clean dish towel and prepare the sauce.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

7-8 cloves of garlic chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 pint diced tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

salt to taste

fresh basil

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In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant and tender.  Don’t brown the garlic.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes.

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Stir in crushed tomatoes and basil.  Reduce heat and simmer.

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Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the ravioli until tender.  Approximately 5 minutes.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli to a serving dish.  Ladle sauce over the pasta and serve with grated cheese.

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Enjoy!

NOTE:  You can fill your ravioli with a meat or a cheese filling.  You are only limited by your imagination.  I made 48 ravioli and froze half of them.  I put them in the freezer on a pizza tray and, once frozen, dropped them in a freezer bag for another day.  You don’t really need a ravioli form but I do think you need a pasta maker to roll the dough out properly.  I had extra dough and made linguini with it.

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Marilyn’s Party Mix

Marilyn’s party mix has become a holiday tradition.  About eight years ago I quit smoking and decided to learn to knit to keep my hands and mind busy.  I’m sure this is a story I’ve blogged about previously but regardless…It was a great decision for a number of reasons but one of the best outcomes was the amazing band of women that became a very important part of my life.  We call ourselves the Knit Wits.  We meet almost weekly to knit, take road trips, and share stories and recipes (our pot lucks are fabulous).  Our ages and life paths varied pretty significantly but we all quickly grew to love and respect each other and cherish our time together.  Marilyn was the oldest of the Knit Wits.  She was 80, give or take a year, when we first met and we lost her to the ravages of cancer about three years ago. She was funny and spunky, told wonderful stories, was extremely generous and an excellent cook.  She shared recipes that we all still make and think of her every time we do. One of those recipes is her party mix.  I cannot imagine how much of this she made each year.  She would start shopping in the fall for ingredients.  I’m sure she went through no less than 20 pounds of butter or more each year just for her party mix. She could always tell us which grocery had butter on sale.  She gave party mix to friends and family by the gallons.  I always take some to my daughters for Christmas and her friends look forward to noshing on it.  So much so that I mailed some to a friend of hers in Miami who wasn’t able to make it to Chicago this Christmas.

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Almost everyone has had “Chex Mix.”  Marilyn had her own special version.  She embellished!  Her ingredients included but were not limited to:

Snyder’s pretzel mixes (including jalapeño bits)

Crispex

Cheese-Its (different favors)

Goldfish (different favors)

Bugles

Mixed nuts

Chex (rice, corn and wheat)

Gardellos rye crisps

Pretzels

Marilyn passed away in late August of 2012 and that Christmas we all got together and made Party Mix.  We had large bowls of all the ingredients on an assembly line and added a cup of this, a cup of that until we had filled a large roasting pan.  Then came the buttery, garlicky goodness.

4 sticks of butter

4 T worchestershire sauce

3 1/2 T Lawrey’s seasoning salt

1 T Lawrey’s garlic salt

1 T garlic powder

Peheat your oven to 250.  Melt 3 sticks of butter and add all of the spices.  Stir well.  Pour 5 T of the seasoned butter over the roasting pan full of mix and stir carefully to coat.  Bake for 20 minutes and repeat.  Do this three times until an hour has passed.  Melt and add the fourth stick of butter to the mix and repeat at 20 minute intervals for another hour.  After two hours pour the mix out onto freezer or parchment paper on your counter and allow it to cool completely before packaging it in zip lock bags or other containers.  Marilyn always saved coffe cans and the large containers nuts and other ingredients came in to package her party mix.  Your house will smell like garlic.

It’s addicting.  You will have garlic coming out of your pores and still go back for a little more.  RIP Marilyn.   I will think of you every year when I make this and I know that you are smiling.

 

 

Shrimp Scampi with Homemade Fettuccine

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Sunday my friend and I had a great time making homemade pasta together.  Tonight I used some of the pasta and made shrimp scampi for dinner.  Lots of garlic, oil and butter.  Probably not high on the healthy, low calorie meal pyramid.  Definitely not a dish I grew up eating.  As I think about it, I don’t recall ever eating shrimp or other shellfish as a child.  We ate a lot of fresh water fish but no shellfish or ocean fish except an occasional cod filet at a Friday fish fry.  I remember one time when my parents went out to dinner for what must have been a special occasion.  One of them had ordered lobster for dinner and they brought home the lobster shell to show us.  I remember being fascinated and a little repulsed and wondered how someone could possibly eat that creature!

Scampi is an easy dish to prepare and it doesn’t take a lot of time.  Even if you didn’t make your own pasta I hope you’ll try this.

Ingredients:

1 pound of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup olive oil

5 T unsalted butter

4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

2 shallots finedly diced

juice and zest of one lemon

1/4 cup of minced parsley

1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)

red pepper flakes

salt to taste

pasta of your choosing

fresh grated asiago or parmesan cheese for serving

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This dish comes together pretty quickly so prepping all the ingredients before hand is important.  Press or mince the garlic and dice the shallots.

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Juice and zest the lemon.  Mince the parsley.

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Put a pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil for cooking your pasta.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer cook your shrimp.   Cook in batches to avoid crowding them in your pan.  Cook the shrimp until they start to turn pink, then turn them.  Once cooked, they only take a minute, set them aside on a plate.

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Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flake to the oil.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the white wine or broth.  Simmer for 2 minutes.

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Add the butter until it melts into the garlic and shallot oil.

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Once the butter has melted stir in the parsley, lemon juice and zest, and return the shrimp to the skillet.  Remove from the heat and set aside until the pasta has finished cooking.

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Cook the pasta until it is al dente.  Reserve some of the pasta water before draining in a colander.

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Return the pasta to the kettle or put it into a large serving bowl.  Add the shrimp scampi to the pasta and gently toss.  If additional liquid is necessary add in some of the reserved pasta water.  Serve immediately with some fresh grated cheese.

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Serve with a salad and a nice glass of wine.  If you’d prefer skip the pasta and serve the scampi with a baked potato and a vegetable.

NOTE:  I cooked the shrimp in a cast iron pan and there was a lot of oil splatter on my stove.  I’m not a big fan of cleaning greasy messes so next time I will do the scampi in my dutch oven.  A deeper dish will help to minimize the splatter.  It’s also important to pat the shrimp dry with paper towel before frying.

Asparagus and Garlic Pasta

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On one of our weekly shopping expeditions my friend and I discovered the most awesome pasta made in Grand Rapids Michigan by the Local Epicurean. The box says it is “hand made pasta by passionate artisans.”  I believe them. There are numerous combinations including lemon dill, asiago oregano, portobello Parmesan, red beet, asparagus garlic and several others. I’ve purchased and cooked many different pastas that purport to contain various vegetables but they seem to only be colored pastas. The Local Epicurean pastas actually taste like the ingredients they are infused with. Each package has cooking instructions and a recipe. This is the recipe, slightly modified, for the asparagus garlic pasta.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1 cup asparagus cut into approximately 1″ pieces

1 cup grape tomatoes halved

1 cup of sweet yellow peppers rough chopped

1 cup mini portobellos

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

1/4 cup shallots sliced

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 package asparagus garlic pasta

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Put up a large kettle of salted water for the pasta and bring it to a boil. This pasta cooks very quickly, 4-6 minutes.

Prep all of the vegetables.

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Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add all of the vegetables stirring occasionally. Cook 5-6 minutes until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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While the vegetables are cooking grate a generous cup of parmigiana reggiano.

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Once the pasta is cooked drain but do not rinse.

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Add the pasta, cheese, and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to the vegetables.

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Toss until well combined and serve.  Enjoy every bite.

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You can add shrimp, scallops, or thinly sliced chicken breast but I served it as a vegetarian meal. It could also be garnished with some fresh parsley or basil. Serve with a nice salad and some good bread and you have a meal that you’d be proud to serve any guest. And how easy was that!  If you cannot find this particular pasta the recipe would still make a very tasty dish.

I was recently at Eataly in Chicago with my daughter and was inspired to make my own pasta. I haven’t made pasta in a very long time. Years and years. I just think it would be great fun especially if I can talk someone into doing it with me. Maybe that will be one of my next blogs. We’ll see.

Lemon and Garlic Chicken ala Pressure Cooker

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Can you imagine cooking an entire chicken in 15 minutes that is moist and fall off the bone tender and has a delicious sauce?  It’s that easy in my electric pressure cooker. The beauty of this pressure cooker is that you can brown, boil, simmer and keep food warm. One pan to wash and it’s easy to clean. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can surely prepare this recipe using a roaster in your oven. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken reaches 165F.  I used to be a little frightened of pressure cookers…some of you might be as well. Afraid it would start rocking on the stove and the top would blow off leaving dinner on the ceiling. Trust me, the new electric model is easy to use, safe, and not the least bit scary.

Though I love the combination of garlic and lemon I was a little concerned that the flavors might be too strong but they were not. The sauce had a nice citrus tang but was not overpowering. Good balance.  I think you’ll like it.

Ingredients:

1 roasting chicken cut into pieces (I saved the back for broth)

kosher salt to taste

3 T canola or olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic sliced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp oregano

1/2 cup vermouth or dry white wine

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup chicken stock

Fresh parsley chopped

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Generously salt chicken pieces and heat oil in the pressure cooker. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, and brown on both sides.  Remove browned pieces to a platter. While your chicken is browning squeeze your lemons and slice your garlic.

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Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes to the hot oil and cook for about 1 minute until garlic becomes fragrant. image

Add lemon juice, vermouth and stock to the pot and arrange the chicken in the liquid.

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Lock the lid and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally. Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Bring the sauce to a boil and stir in chopped parsley. If you wish you can thicken the juices with a little flour or corn starch. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

While the chicken was cooking I decided to prepare some smashed cauliflower for a side. An easy, tasty side.

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower cleaned and cut up

3-4 garlic cloves (I know, no vampires in our house!)

1-2 cups chicken stock or broth

1/2 cup Romano cheese shredded

1/2 cup Le Gruyere cheese shredded

2-3 green onions thin sliced

salt and pepper (white pepper if you have it) to taste

2 T butter

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Cook cauliflower and garlic cloves in the chicken broth until the cauliflower is fork tender. Drain off the broth holding a little back to add in while smashing. Add butter to the cauliflower and begin mashing with an ordinary potato masher until the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add some of the broth if necessary. Add the shredded cheese, salt and pepper to taste and green onions stirring well. This is one of my favorite sides!

I was always taught to use contrasting colors on your plate and white and white are a bit off putting. So I added a sizable sprig of parsley (good for getting rid of garlic breath after dinner) and some cranberry relish which I think is a must have for any poultry dish.

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And then there was color.

Lemon and garlic chicken with smashed cauliflower. It’s what’s for dinner tonight. And tomorrow night.

NOTE:  My lemons were particularly juicy and 2 of them made a little over 3/4 cup of juice. I put the extra juice in a small zip lock snack bag and freeze it for a time when I have no fresh lemons on hand.

 

And seriously, parsley IS a good breath freshener.