Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fennel "Ravioli" with Chunky Tomato Sauce

(55-60 "ravioli")

Fennel, goat cheese, tomato and kalamata olives give this dish an interesting flavor combination that's a nice change from the usual fare.

This tasty filled pasta freezes well and can be prepared ahead of time if you wish.

fennel "ravioli"
1 tbsp butter
1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated2 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, divided
about 60 wonton wrappers

shaved Pecorino Romano for garnish

Heat the butter in a skillet (with lid) over medium heat and stir in the chopped onion. Saute the onion until soft.

Stir in the fennel bulb and add the wine. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture is soft and has absorbed most of the wine.

Remove the lid and cook a bit longer if the mixture is too wet, otherwise remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine the onion and fennel mixture with the ricotta, Pecorino Romano, goat cheese and parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in one egg and refrigerate mixture for about an hour.

Beat the remaining egg and set aside.

Drop about one teaspoon of filling onto the middle of a wonton wrapper. Wet the outer edges of the wrapper with the beaten egg. Carefully fold the opposite corners of the wrapper together forming a triangle, keeping the filling away from the edges. (As I went on, I was able to get heaping teaspoonfuls of filling enclosed in the wrappers, but take care not to use too much, otherwise they might pop open when you cook them). Pinch the edges together and lay flat. Continue until all of the wrappers and filling are used up.

At this point you can freeze the ravioli if you wish. Place a piece of parchment paper or silicone matte onto a cookie sheet. Lay the ravioli in a single layer on top, edges not touching and place into freezer. When the ravioli are frozen, remove and place them into freezer bags. Return to the freezer.

chunky tomato sauce
3 tbsp butter
3-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 lbs tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
12-15 kalamata olives, chopped
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and when that becomes fragrant, add the onion. Cook until the onions are soft.

Stir in the tomatoes, wine, tomato paste and olives. Cover the pot, reduce the heat and cook until the tomatoes have broken down; about 2-3 hours.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

To serve
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a gentle simmer. Drop in the ravioli and cook for about 3-4 minutes (add an extra minute or two if they are frozen).

Serve with the chunky tomato sauce and garnish with shaved Pecorino Romano.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tomato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

(about 4 servings)

Local tomatoes are finally showing up at the market. This warm sweet and sour bacon vinaigrette is a delicious way to dress up this tasty and juicy fruit.

4 slices bacon
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp mustard
2 lb tomatoes, sliced
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4-6 fresh basil leaves, sliced

Chop the bacon and fry until crispy. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the skillet.

Stir in the red onion and fry until soft. Meanwhile whisk together the vinegar, water, honey and mustard. Add this mixture to the onions. Cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat.

Place the sliced tomatoes on serving plates and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Divide the bacon between the plates.

Spoon the warm dressing over the salads and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Serve.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lemon Scented Lavender Bundt Cake

(one 8 cup tube cake)

Next weekend is Lavender Festival here in Sequim, WA. Sequim lies in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, where it often receives less than 16 inches of rain annually. Combine that with sandy and acidic soils and you get ideal growing conditions for lavender.

This cake has a pronounced lavender flavor which is a bit unexpected in this sort of cake, yet very pleasant. My mum loaned me her lovely 8 cup bundt pan which was ideal. Her pan was heavy cast aluminum and that made a huge difference. My cake turned out perfect! It was evenly browned and it finished baking in 50 minutes. Whenever I use my smaller ceramic 6 cup bundt pan, my cakes end up spending well over an hour in the oven. What a pleasant surprise!

lemon-lavender cake
2 cups wholewheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 lemon
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp culinary lavender
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the wholewheat pastry flour, unbleached flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside

Remove the rind from the lemon, taking care to get as little of the white pith as possible. Place this into the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and lavender. Pulse until the rind and lavender are ground up and combined with the sugar.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour an 8 cup bundt/tube pan and set aside.

Cream the butter in a large bowl, gradually beating in the flavored sugar mixture, one tablespoon at a time. Beat until all of the sugar has been added and the butter mixture is light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Squeeze the juice from the lemon. Combine 1 tablespoon of juice with the milk and stir. Set aside any remaining juice for the glaze.

Stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and when that's been combined, stir in half of the soured milk. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk mixtures.

Fill the prepared cake pan with the batter. Place the pan onto a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 40-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. I usually begin testing as soon as the aroma of cake begins to fill my kitchen.

Cool the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a serving plate.

Prepare the lavender glaze.

lavender glaze
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp culinary lavender
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
2 tbsp butter

In a small saucepan combine the water, lemon juice and lavender. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook another 5 minutes, stirring the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

Strain the syrup into a small bowl. Add the butter to the hot syrup, stirring until it has melted. Brush this glaze over the warm cake.

Serve the cake when it has completely cooled.