Monday, October 02, 2006

Adventures in the Kitchen: Weekend Edition

We've received a lot of fun cooking toys as wedding gifts (no one should get married for the presents, but they sure are a nice bonus), so were pretty excited to get home and use some. (Okay, so we used some before we got married, but not a lot). Since we received a pasta pot in addition to the pasta maker we'd already broken in, we planned a pasta dinner for Sunday night.

First, however, I decided to get all fancy with figs on Saturday. I've never cooked with them before and have been seeing them and reading about them everywhere recently. We were invited to a barbecue potluck, so I decided to bring a salad. We ate an amazing salad at a wedding we went to last month that had figs and a raseberry champagne vinaigrette, so I was anxious to try something similar. I found this recipe and used the vinaigrette, but served it over mixed baby greens with more fresh figs, blue cheese, and toasted pecans. It was amazing. I made the dressing at 11 am and couldn't even wait until noon (or the party in the evening) to make a salad to try it out.

Sunday morning instead of going out to brunch (or going on the bike ride we'd originally planned), I made brunch at home using a variation of a recipe I'd seen on Giada's show earlier in the week. Instead of a whole foccacia we had half of an herb baguette, I used truffle oil instead of meyer lemon oil, didn't use basil (only becuase we didn't have any and I wasn't shopping), and used only half of the milk (because of the reduced bread surface area). It was pretty great. It's more of a bread dish with a little egg than a true egg dish, but I was fine with that. And the truffle oil just made everything smell and taste amazing.

Sunday night we decided upon a recipe from a Mario Batali cookbook I'd gotten last year but never used: a ravioli with white beans and balsamic vinegar. We were really unclear as to how much to make. In his book, Mario states that one recipe (that makes a pound of pasta dough) is enough for 4 people for a starter or 2 for an entree. Since we always cook for 4 to have leftovers and have fairly hearty appetites, we made 1 1/2 recipes hoping to have enough for 2 meals.

The difficulties began with the Mario method of making pasta. As anyone who watches his show or one of his Iron Chef battles knows, Mario (or his assistant) makes his pasta by hand, starting with a pile of flour into which he adds eggs and a smidgen of oil. Then one must knead the dough. This is nothing like kneading bread or pizza dough, which is soft and pliable and friendly. Kneading this pasta dough was hard. I was putting my entire weight into every motion, trying to get the stupid dough to fold. By the time I'd put the requisite 6 minutes into the stuff I was exhausted and sweating. My forearms are actually sore this morning.

Anyway, the dough went to rest and I began on the simple filling. It was pretty simple, but by the time the bean/vinegar/olive oil/egg mixture was mixed, it was a liquid (becuase of the massive amount of olive oil), rather than the bean-dip paste I had expected. Instead of placing large spoonfuls on the pasta squares to be folded into ravioli, we ended up having to have one person hold the square by it's edges and have the other person poor a spoonful of filling into the square as the first person quickly sealed up edges before the liquid could drip out the sides. It was a little messy.

The pasta, however, rolled out beautifully, we didn't squidge out too much filling, and we cooked the whole mess up and served it with the 1/2 pound (!!!) of butter w/ balsamic vinegar sauce. We ended up having plenty (read 2 times what we could reasonably eat in 2 meals), and since we had leftover salad ingredients from Saturday, we were able to get dinner on the table pretty quickly once the ravioli was made. We actually sat down to eat at 8 pm, only an hour later than the originally planned time. And it was pretty tasty, which was a relief after the effort involved. By the time we were done, our raviolis were looking pretty professional. We might actually try this again (although if we make this particular recipe, I'm not using most of the olive oil in the filling or butter in the sauce).


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