Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ravioli is not a four letter word

I have a great summer Saturday routine. Wake up around 9, throw on some easy clothes, grab my grocery bags, and head out the door. I stop by the corner store for some fair trade coffee, then stroll through the farmers' market, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the best wares the Midwest has to offer.

This particular Saturday, a particularly vibrant vegetable caught my eye - and just like that, I knew what I was making for dinner.

*Note: You CAN make ravioli! Yes, you! Sure, there's a pasta-from-scratch way which can be spectacular when you have the time and patience - but there's no reason not to use this method and whip together some fresh ravioli on any given weeknight.

Cavolo e prosciutto ravioli in brodo
(Kale and prosciutto ravioli in broth)
Makes 12 raviolis

For the ravioli:
1/2 large bunch of kale - any variety will work; organic and local if possible! :)
4 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
4 thin slices prosciutto, thinly sliced into ribbons
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
24 wonton wrappers

For the brodo (1 serving):
1 1/2 c good quality homemade chicken stock (the thicker and richer, the better)

To prepare the kale, rinse it well and tear the leaves off of the stems - but do not cut or chop. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, bring about two inches of water to a boil. Add the kale leaves, using a spoon to submerge them, and allow to blanch for about a minute. Drain the water and kale into a colander, and allow the kale to cool for a moment. Grab a clean kitchen towel or some paper towels and wring out the moisture, then stack the kale on a cutting board, chop, and add to a medium bowl.

To the bowl, add the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, prosciutto ribbons, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Using a regular spoon, mix the ravioli filling together until well combined - and since there's no egg, feel free to taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

I like to use a cutting board as my 'staging area' for assemble the ravioli, with my egg wash (the 1 egg beaten with a little water, in a small bowl) one one side and the filling bowl on the other. Since wonton wrappers can dry out easily when exposed to air, keep a damp paper towel over the stack of them while you work. Lay out two wrappers side by side. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of filling to the center of one wonton wrapper - don't overfill! You don't want it to burst and come out during cooking. Using a pastry brush or your finger, outline each wrapper with some egg wash, then flip one of the wrappers onto the other, lining up the edges. Use your finger to get out any air bubbles, then use a fork to crimp the the edges closed all the way around. If you're not cooking your raviolis right away, you can layer then in a tupperware with parchment or wax paper, and store in the fridge for up to three days (or freezer for longer).

Sorry for the extra-poor image quality - my camera is broken at the moment, so these are phone pics!

To prepare the ravioli in brodo: In a large pot, skillet or saucepan, heat up your 1 1/2 cups chicken stock to a boil, and slide in the raviolis one at a time (about 6 per serving). Unlike when cooking pasta, when you use a large pot full of lots of liquid, in this case, it should be very shallow. The ravioli only take about 3 minutes to cook because the wonton wrappers are so thin, and cooking them shallow helps prevent them from breaking open. Gently remove the ravioli to a large, shallow bowl, and pour the brodo over them. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated black pepper and some more parm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Europe in review, part two

All right folks, continuing on my European culinary journey, I left the Netherlands and headed for Germany. After a quick stop in Koln to visit an old family friend, we continued on to a wonderful little town on the Rhine called Bacharach.

After a steep hike to drop our bags off at the hostel (which was a legit CASTLE, by the way) and then another hike back down, we had worked up a big appetite for dinner.  We chose a little place on the main road that had a nice outdoor seating area, and proceeded to have our most memorable meal of the trip.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Europe in review, part one: A culinary adventure

After 2+ glorious weeks overseas, I'm now back in sweet home Chicago readjusting to reality. Laundry is done, pantry shelves are restocked, work emails have been answered, and pictures have been loaded and shared...except here!

My friend Kathleen and I were fearless in trying new things. We tried local specialties in every place we visited, and sought out historic eateries as well as less touristy places.

In our guilt-free vacation vortex, we ate and drank what we wanted, when we wanted - no guilt allowed :) Here are some highlights...

Allow me to kick things off with our first beer of the trip, a freshly poured Heineken in Amsterdam.