August 11, 2006

Back With A New Blog, Ravioli and Marinated Mushrooms

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Earlier this week the new issue of Bon Appetit arrived and in it was a recipe for an eggless pasta. I was ready to try my hand at pasta again, but as usual, I wasn’t happy just leaving the recipe the way it was. I decided that I would use BA’s recipe for pasta dough (which was supposed to be shaped into little shells) to make ravioli. And since I was making ravioli I might as well make 2 different types, one veg, one meat. The veg was pretty basic- spinach and ricotta, sometimes that’s all you need. The meat was a little different. I went foraging in the deep freeze to see what we had in the way of meat that I could grind up. I found some venison and decided that was as good as anything. The venison was acquired in the back yard last year. I have a big back yard. Dad likes to sit in trees. Deer like the apples that fall from trees. Sometimes the deer do not notice that Dad is sitting is a nearby tree. That’s unfortunate for the deer, but very fortunate for my ravioli. I ground up the venison and then cooked it with peppers and onion, some basil from the garden and a few other spices picked at random from the spice cupboard.

So now I had my 2 fillings, all I needed to do was roll out the dough. I like making dough, I like the process of making a flour volcano and gradually collapsing it into the wet ingredients in the middle. What I like the best is actually the kneading process, it’s somehow therapeutic. If you’ve screwed up a bunch of other things in the kitchen, kneading dough, be it pasta, bread or otherwise is a great stress reliever. And you get to be messy and use your hands, it’s fun. For real. So anyways, I made my dough with no problems at all, but I knew I was working towards the tricky part for me, which is using the pasta-roller-outer to get the dough to the proper thinness. I didn’t even bother trying to do this on my own, I enlisted Dad’s help right away. It’s definitely a 2 person process, and with 2 people the rolling out went quite smoothly.

Now for assembling the ravioli. The pasta-roller-outer came with a sort of hand roller, similar to a paint roller with a few spiky wheels on it. This appeared to be what you would use to make ravioli. The only problem was that the wheels were spaced much too close together for my liking. A roller like that would have produced very small ravioli and by now you should know how I feel about small things. It wasn’t going to happen. I used the edge of a dough scraper to make my cuts. Dough scraper may or may not be what it’s actually called, but that’s what I use it for. It’s a flexible metal rectangle that’s rounded on one side so you can hold onto it and it’s great for slicing through dough and then scraping it off the counter when it wasn’t floured well enough. This made plain squares though and I wanted pretty edges like the ravioli roller would have made. This led me to use the edge of the roller to re-edge the ravioli. I did about 6 of them and said to hell with it, the ravioli can be straight squares.

For the sauce I more or less also followed the pasta sauce recipe that was in Bon Appetit. It called for fresh tomatoes and all I had to do was walk out to my garden and fill a basket. I generally refer to the garden as if I’m actually the one growing all of this wonderful produce. HA! Although I love the results, much to my parents chagrin, I hate the process. Mom and Dad spend hour after hour in the garden; weeding, watering, planting, doing whatever it is you have to do to keep a garden going. At my house this is no small task, there are lots of gardens which include vegetables, fruit, herbs and a ridiculous amount of all sorts of flowers. Some of the gardens are raised, some are built around water features, one of them is in the foundation of an old barn (which also includes the zen rock garden), basically, there’s just a lot of work to be done. For a long time my parents tried to get me to help out. They tried making it part of weekly chores, tried guilting me into it, tried bribing me, I wouldn’t even do it when they offered to pay me quite well for it. They’ve given up now and we’re all happier. I cut the grass, that’s my contribution. However, I also pillage the garden on a daily basis in search of ingredients for whatever I’m making. This means that most of what I make has only the freshest ingredients, (like my pasta sauce) and if we don’t grow it there’s always the Tuesday morning Farmer’s Market. The only downside, if you chose to view it as such, is that whatever is in season gets used as much as possible so that nothing goes to waste, recall at this point my cooking adventures with rhubarb and zucchini. Last year we were inundated with cherry tomatoes so we dried them in the oven and put them in mason jars with olive oil and some herbs. We’re still eating them. But I’m not complaining, I love what I get out of the garden. There’s currently a loaded peach tree in the barn foundation and any day now I’m going to be picking (and then cooking with) multiple baskets of peaches…

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Yesterday when I was looking through the fridge for something or other I noticed there were some mushrooms that should probably be used up shortly. I didn’t want them in what I was making at the time, but decided to marinate them overnight and then grill them up today. My friend’s mom makes great grilled marinated mushrooms, however this friend is currently in New Zealand and although I’m sure her mom would have been thrilled to give me the recipe had I of called her, I decided to wing it on my own. My marinade was some variation of the following ingredients- fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar. I just kept adding stuff until I thought it tasted alright. I am pleased to say that my hodge-podge of a marinade produced some excellent grilled mushrooms which I then placed into a bowl of 2 varieties of lettuce, which were, of course, picked fresh from the garden.

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