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Entries in homemade pasta (2)

Wednesday
Oct242012

Let's Play Squash

Here I go again, revising traditional Italian dishes, making them healthier and hopefully making you wealthier and wise in the process. How? With squash, that's how.

Today's Recipe Revise focuses on ravioli. I've made my own! Imagine that. Acutally, you don't have to imagine it because I'm going to tell you how I did it. I made this particular pasta dough with whole wheat flour, so you could get some good-for-you grains in your diet. Yeah, you need them.

For the "stuffing," I used butternut squash and – get this – NO cheese. I promise, it's still delicious. Topped with a mix of roasted delicata and butternut squashes, this dish is perfectly balanced. The whole wheat pasta has a nutty taste (try it with hazelnut flour if you're extra-industrious) and the squashes are flavorful and meaty. Sage and some grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese give this dish extra life. So, let's make it happen.

First the pasta:

Makes about 30 1" diameter ravioli

What You Need:
100 grams all purpose flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg white for sealing the ravioli 

What You Do:

Measure out your flours using a scale - this is the only way to determine if you have the proper amount. After you've measured, mix them up together in a bowl, so that the all-purpose and the whole wheat are incorporated.

Pour onto a clean surface. I use my counter top, but if you'd like to use a large cutting board, that's fine as well.

Make a well or hole in the center of the flour and pour your beaten eggs in there. The sides of the well will hold them in place.

Using a fork or two of your fingers, start incorporating the flour into the eggs, slowly. Once all the dough is added, you will have a ball of egg and flour. This is a sticky process - don't worry, you're doing it right!

Knead this ball of dough with your hands for about ten minutes. The dough should start to spring back when poked with your finger. This means the gluten in the flour is starting to work and is giving the dough strength. This is good! Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 

After the dough has enjoyed a disco nap, feed the dough into your pasta machine between the rollers at its widest setting. Crank that bad boy through at the widest setting THREE times, folding the dough onto itself in thirds after each pass. Then, start narrowing the settings on the rollers until the dough gets very thin. At the final pass, you should have a very thin sheet of pasta.

Place this on a cutting board and cut out 1 - 1 1/2" squares or circles. I used a cookie cutter for mine, but you can use one of those fancy-pants ravioli cutters or just use a dang knife. Keep it simple people. The fewer appliances you have, the less frequently they get caught in your drawers leaving you cursing the day you bought a can opener. Anyhoo! For more detailed instructions, you can check out a video on pasta making by yours truly here.

For the filling:

What You Need:
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted or boiled until it is soft.
1/4 almond milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 

What To Do:

Take your roasted b'nut and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Reserve it in an air tight container, or start filling your ravioli with it immediately. You can even store it in the freezer for weeks if you like!

Once you have cut out your ravioli squares or circles, take a teaspoon and place small dollops of the squash filling onto the squares. Don't forget to leave half the squares filling-less, as these will be the tops.

Brush the outer rim of the ravioli square with egg white and top with another (unfilled) square. Press the top layer of pasta into the bottom with a fork, sealing it.

Repeat this for all the ravioli.

At this point, you can either freeze them for later use, or start boiling a pot of water to eat immediately. I vote for the second option, but if you must reserve them for later, place small squares of parchment or wax paper between the ravioli so they don't freeze together and create a giant squash chunk. Giant squash chunk is just not as cool as separated ravioli, trust me.

Boil a large pot of water, and once the water is boiling, salt the water. Don't be shy about salting it either. Go for it!

Plop in the ravioli. Even if they were frozen, they will only require about 3 minutes of cooking. They should float up to the top of the water when they are done.

For the topping:

What You Need:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed into very tiny cubes (use the other half from the filing!)
1 or 2 delicata squash, cut in half with the seeds removed and sliced so you have half-moon slices. You don't have to worry about peeling the delicata.
Fresh sage - a LOT of it. Chop it up coarsely
Fresh rosemary, chopped. Just a sprinkle 
Salt and pepper - to taste
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil 

What To Do:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place your chopped squash on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper and olive oil. Using your hands, mix it all up.

Place it in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squashes are soft to the touch.

Plating It Up:

Place some ravioli in a bowl, top with the roasted veggies, and some Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese. 

Optional Bonus Points: Fry sage leaves in olive oil until they are crispy. Place on top of your finished dish. It'll be extra fabulous.

 

 

Wednesday
Jan042012

Dinner With the I.M.O.M. at Alloro

As you know, John and I are always on the hunt for excellence in Italian cuisine. But we also enjoy inventiveness. No one, especially not John, will dispute the appeal and deliciousness of a well-made plate of Veal Parmesan. Or a spectacular, pancetta-speckled rice ball.

But what about something different?

Many of you may be able to picture the contents of an Italian restaurant menu in your head. It never changes, and what starts with Insalata Mista, rolls through Calamari Fritti and Zuppa di Pesce, and winds up somewhere around Osso Bucco. The road map remains the same regardless of season or availability of ingredients.

I like it when people shake things up. I like salt shakers, drinks you shake, polaroid pictures...but it's rare that I find an Italian restaurant that thinks outside the box of penne.

Enter Alloro and the I.M.O.M. What is the I.M.O.M? He is the International Man of Mystery, just not Austin Powers. But similar....Every now and again the I.M.O.M. jets in from Rio or Morocco to take me out to dinner and catch up on exotic happenings in our lives. Like what happens when your neighbors in suburban New Jersey start complaining about your generator. NO! I mean crazy stuff like international living and cotechino.

What is cotechino? I'll get to that.

The I.M.O.M. even carries the giant purple bag that follows me everywhere, especially when it's training season. Side note: You can fit a lot of cotechino in the giant purple bag.

We decided to jet to the Upper East Side to try out Alloro, an Italian restaurant that I was recommended to try by one of my Full Throttle coaches who enjoys giving me restaurant recommendations while making me sprint around Central Park at alarming speeds. My brains are usually addled during this process, so anything he tells me I believe.

And he told me that Alloro's menu was inventive and seasonal. No veal parm here (sorry, John), but you might get a parmesan foam gracing your homemade ravioli.

Before I continue, a word of warning: These are TERRIBLE photos. Seriously, the worst. The lighting was VERY dim and I don't like using my flash...I feel like it disturbs the other diners.

To begin, I selected the Insalata di Salvatore (pictured above), named for Salvatore of Salvatore and Gina, the owners. The presentation was a delight, to say nothing of the taste. Arranged linearly, this salad was a wealth of seasonal herbs and greens (I even detected mint!), accented with pomegranate seeds and blanketed by fresh Parmeggiano Reggiano.

Mysteriously, the I.M.O.M. chose the Salmon Tartar: two healthy cylinders of freshest pink salmon accented with bean sprouts and cubes of soy ginger gelatin. I have to say, I think they could market soy ginger as Jell-O's next flavor...tangy and salty but also deep and flavorful.

For my main meal, I chose the Duck Ragu over Penne. The ragu was decorated with foie gras and - get this! - chocolate flakes!! You mix the whole thing up and what you get is a juicy, salty, ducky, fatty, sweet mess. It would be nice to take a bath in it. Ducks and all.

The I.M.O.M. selected the Homemade Ravioli stuffed with Cotechino. This photo was too blurry and ridiculous to post, so I must describe it accurately. Eight large ravioli arranged in a line arrived on a long, slender plate. A foam of parmesan (that I admit to being suspicious of) graced the tops of the pasta like snow on a roof. Cutting into a ravioli revealed a center densely packed with cotechino. Cotechino is pork – chopped pork that is lightly salted and seasoned. It's not an overly salty pork like bacon. It's more like thickly cut pancetta, but milder. A dessert meat...And a dessert meat accented with a snowy bluff of parmesan foam that was, how do I put this?...AMAZING. So good. I need to foam all my cheeses. NOW.

For dessert we selected the Pomegranate Panna Cotta which arrived in a swirly dish accompanied by ginger gelato and a tiny cannoli, stuffed not with ricotta filling but with a pignoli nut butter/cream. This medley had a little bit of everything, and while they say that if you're a jack of all trades, you are also a master of none, I would argue that this dessert mastered all three of its intended sweet purposes:

1. Thick creaminess with just a slight tang in the panna cotta;

2. A little crunch with a warm nutty filling from the cannoli;

3. And cold, spicy refreshment in the ginger gelato.

Finally, a look at the loo:

I would say overall, I wasn't too impressed with Alloro's ambiance. I wanted it to be a bit more modern to match their intriguing cuisine....something like Rouge Tomate, but on a smaller, cozier scale.

The bathrooms were pretty much the same, although I did get a charge out of the inspirational hand-holding artwork and the fancy, cut-glass soap dispenser.

Overall Dining Experience: Heat

Alloro
307 East 77th Street
NY, NY 10075
212-535-2866