Let me start first by saying, no, we haven’t set a date yet. Neal and I might be getting married this fall, or we might be getting married next spring. Or maybe we’ll get married fall 2010—though I think I might lose my mind if I’m in planning stages for another year-plus. We figured we’d pick a date once we found a venue we liked. But that’s just it, trying to find a venue has been like Amazing Race meets Survivor. I’ve gotten lost behind the Orange curtain, hit by a cyclist who ran a red light, seen a wedding venue come menagerie and driven all around Sonoma County with Slingblade barking at me from my father’s GPS, “Bear left, cow right.” All this running around is exhausting. And when I get home from a weekend’s worth of talking about tables and chairs and luxury Porta Potties, cranky for having missed my Sunday morning at the farmers’ market, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking.
Which brings me to reason number 2,356 that I love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven: No-fuss cooking. Continue reading
Planning a wedding stinks. At least at this stage. Neal and I will have been engaged for a month (as of tomorrow), and I’ve already cried three times, gotten a migraine and fought with my folks. And I thought not having a preconceived notion about my “dream wedding” would be a good thing. Continue reading
If Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, Repeal Day, which wine-lovers and cocktail hounds alike will be celebrating this Friday, runs a close second. Repeal Day marks the passage of the 21st Amendment to our constitution, effectively overturning the 18th, which banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol in the U.S. for 13 long, dry years. But while everyone is running around Friday, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition by getting appropriately schnockered, I thought I’d pay tribute the creative spirit—the speakeasies, the wine bottles market “for medicinal purposes” and, of course, the moonshine—that helped Americans survive the Noble Experiment by offering up a recipe for some homemade hooch.
Last Sunday my dear friend Brooke and I sat on the curb underneath an old avocado tree a few blocks from the Hollywood Farmers’ Market and flipped through the Chez Panisse Café cookbook before heading into the dizzying array of farm fresh fruits and vegetables. It seemed apropos, really, looking at recipes from Alice Waters, the woman who inspired a generation to get back to cooking in season, who praised farmers’ efforts by putting their names on her menus more than 30 years ago. Continue reading
Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Favas and Sage Brown Butter
Never mind that the recipe was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever followed. A year ago, if you asked me whether I ever thought about making my own ricotta cheese I would have laughed, crinkling my brow like a concerned mother in a movie, and said plainly: no, never.
As frequent readers of SpicySaltySweet can attest, I do like making dishes from scratch. In fact, I get quite the kick out of deconstructing things I used to take for granted. A few years back I made a soupy mess that was my excuse for Greek yoghurt. I’ve made my own butter. I make fresh pasta almost weekly now. But cheese? Cheese is something spiritual—a vehicle for transcendence that no mere home cook could possibly concoct in her kitchen.
But when I stumbled across Julia Moskin’s article about ricotta in the New York Times two weeks ago, I became convinced that making my own would not require divine intervention.
Last Thursday was the Vernal Equinox, the day in the Northern Hemisphere when the night and day are essentially the same length. It is also the official start of spring and my second favorite time of year after fall. But living in Southern California, it’s easy to get a little detached from the seasons—the daffodils, cherry blossoms and tulips started blossoming at the end of February and I’ve returned to wearing flip flops most days—but I find that cooking always keeps me in time with the earth’s clock. Feeling springy, I decided to host “Easter” dinner for a few friends, a slightly surprising turn of events since I’m Jewish. Yet no sooner was the guest list confirmed than I found out I was supposed to work Sunday brunch at the restaurant I’ve been moonlighting at. Rather than cancel I decided to pick a simple menu, prep Saturday and have Neal do a bunch of the cooking while I was at work.
Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive Oil-Fried Egg
I’m a culinary masochist. It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with this, but a few recent cooking endeavors have made the truth difficult to avoid. The facts are, perhaps, best exemplified by my new favorite cookbook: Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist. Nancy’s book is designed to help home cooks create gourmet meals using the bevy of high-quality pre-packaged ingredients lining the grocer’s shelves. Sounds great, right? Used correctly, these jars, boxes and tins are timesaving complements to Nancy’s delicious, well-thought-out recipes. But in my DIY-addled brain I see Nancy’s timesaving devices as the opportunity to try making other, more time-consuming components from scratch. At my house, a meal from Nancy’s book that’s supposed to take a half an hour suddenly takes three— Continue reading
Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown ButterRavioli Dough:
3 cups semolina flour
½ tsp olive oilMound the flour on a wood cutting board, creating a well in the center for the eggs and olive oil. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs, oil and flour, slowly pulling in more flour as the ingredients are blended. You’ll need to continuously reshape the mound to maintain the integrity of the well shape.
Once about half of the flour is incorporated, you should be able to start kneading the dough by hand. Once it’s all come together remove the dough from the board and scrape up any leftover bits and discard. Reflour the board and knead the dough for about six minutes; it should be elastic and a little sticky. Ball up the dough and wrap it in plastic. Let it rest at room temperature for a half an hour.
Butternut Squash Filling:
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp hot chile flake
1 ½ tsp honey
¾ tsp coarse sea salt
5 oz fresh grated asiago
Peel and seed squash and cut into 1/4-inch cubes. Combine squash, walnuts, olive oil, chile flakes, honey and sea salt in a bowl. Toss ingredients until completely coated with oil. Pour out onto baking sheet and cook in 350-degree oven for a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes.
Turn temperature on oven up to 500 degrees and cook squash mixture for 10 minutes more or until squash are tender. Let cool.
In food processor, combine squash mixture and cheese. Blend until ingredients are almost smooth. Scoop squash mixture into a pastry bag or Ziploc, cutting off one corner to squeeze out filling.
Cut your dough in half, forming each segment into a ball with your hands. Wrap one in plastic and set aside. On a large, lightly floured surface, roll out your pasta dough into a rectangle until it is about ¼-inch thick. Fold in half and roll out again. Repeat this four more times, rolling dough out thinner each time. Roll the dough out until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Pipe filling out onto dough strip at 1-inch intervals, about ½-inch in from the edge. Fold the ½-inch of dough over and press to seal edges and individual filling pockets. Cut ravioli with a dough scraper–you may want to trim the edges with a kitchen scissor–crimping the edges closed with a fork. If you have a pastry roller, you can separate the ravioli using that, too. Put finished ravioli on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal until ready to use. You can also freeze them.
To serve: Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook for about five minutes or until ravioli are floating at the top. Drain.
In a sauté, melt ¼ cup of butter, allowing it to foam. As the bubbles dissipate the butter will brown, remove from heat.
Ladle six ravioli into a dish. Top with 2 tablespoons brown butter and finish with fresh-grated asiago and a drizzle of walnut oil.
Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown Butter
Why are people so willing to start off the New Year with pie-in-the-sky expectations—thinking New Year’s Eve is going to be some transformational event—only to go to a large party, get sloppy drunk and end up in bed with a stranger? No wonder New Year’s is always a disappointment? I’m not trying to be Negative Nancy here, it just seems our New Year’s traditions are, shall I say, a little lacking.
What we know as New Year’s Eve is, essentially, an arbitrary designation made by two Roman consuls in 153 BC. Before that, the holiday was celebrated on March 15. And there are plenty of cultures that don’t even follow the Roman calendar, celebrating their New Year in the fall like Rosh Hashana—the Jewish New Year, or February, like the Chinese.
Normally, having spent much of my adult life in the restaurant business, I work on New Year’s Eve. The money is fantastic and, unlike my non-working friends, I wake up January 1st feeling refreshed. But at the beginning of December my dear friend Brooke, of Foodwoolf, and I were eating lunch at Joan’s On Third, when our cheese-pusher, Chester, mentioned he’d just gotten in the sausage for a traditional Italian New Year’s dish, cotechino con lenticche—cotechino with lentils. Continue reading
Anybody can order a pizza when the guys come over for football—and believe me, there are plenty of games where I will, but this early in the season I’m still motivated to make some game time treats. So, after going for an 18-mile bike ride with my boyfriend and father on Sunday, I took quick stock of what I had the fridge and decided to stop by Trader Joe’s to get the fixins’ for quick calzones. Continue reading