Birthday Ravioli

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Dear Readers,
Another guest blog from the husband. He made his BFF fancy ravioli for his birthday. I ended up making cheesecake, lumpy cheesecake, because I ran out of cream cheese and thought it would be a great idea to substitute ricotta. Lesson learned. 


Even though our friend worked in an Italian restaurant for years, he had never seen ravioli made from scratch. We figured the time had come.

Homemade ravioli is a festive way to celebrate 34 year of life, particularly if you had a near-death experience three weeks prior. Don’t worry readers, no one actually died. Our friend just got hit by a car going approximately 40 miles an hour. Somehow, defying death-by-car statistics, and being punted (by automobile) like a football yards and yards away from the impact site, physically our friend only suffered a broken bone in, of all places, his foot. I figured after his waltz with Death, his food experiences would be heighted, and decided to make my favorite – noodles, the food of 2016!

I scoured the magazines and trusted websites, finding inspiration in a pea and prosciutto ravioli from Saveur. Since I couldn’t locate a major feature of the recipe, pea shoots, the blog lady and I decided to keep the pea and cheese ratio but embark on our own take after that. We made the filling first, pulsing everything together in the food processor into a beautiful light green emulsion.

Next, I mixed the dough and let it sit for two hours to achieve a strong, stretchy gluten network. I had pictured my friend and I bonding as we filled the dough and cut the ravioli squares, but his food    handling was so terrible I lost my temper and banned him from the kitchen. The dutiful wife filled in, and did an admirable job keeping the dough shape consistent while watching the baby.

If you’ve never made ravioli before, two worries creep into the novice:
1. Was the dough rolled out thin enough?
2. Will the fillings stay inside during the 2-5 minute boil?

To the first worry, I recommend going as thin as possible while maintaining control. If you go so thin your abilities won’t allow a successfully filled ravioli, go one degree thicker. We all agreed to a toothsome ravioli, which is why I used second-to-thinnest setting on my machine. As for the second worry, like with most things in life, you just gotta believe. As it turned out, only one of ours exploded that night; and the world did not end.

Proving her sauce mettle again, the wife used some of the reserved filling to build a pesto-like sauce. She added a little of the pasta water, whole peas, fried prosciutto, parmesan cheese and butter. The finished dish was a beautiful layering of pea pillows surrounded by crispy ham bits and fresh mint, and coated with light green sauce. The dish was impressive and delicious. A proper way to celebrate getting older and hopefully wiser (like don’t run at night on winding streets!).
The beginning of the end. This working relationship only lasted a few minutes.
The birthday boy and his lumpy birthday cheesecake. Despite it's lumpiness, this was a good cheesecake. The four of us almost finished it in one sitting. 
And here's trouble. 

Spring Pea Ravioli With Prosciutto & Pea Shoots
via saveur.com
serves 4-6
Below is the original recipe. We really didn't keep careful track of the alterations we made.

For the Ravioli
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1⁄2 cup grated parmesan
1⁄2 cup ricotta
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. minced mint
1 clove garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil

Pasta Dough (the husband made his own recipe, you can use whatever one you like)

For Serving
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 slices prosciutto
1⁄2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
3⁄4 cup pea shoots
1 tsp. lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp. minced mint
Grated parmesan, for serving

1) Make the filling: Pulse peas, parmesan, ricotta, zest, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor; with the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until smooth. Refrigerate filling until ready to use.
2) On a lightly floured surface, divide Pasta Dough into 4 balls. On a lightly floured surface and working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll dough into an 8"-long oval; dust on both sides with flour. Using a pasta machine, pass dough through machine twice, using the widest setting. Using the next narrower setting, pass dough through machine twice more. Continue to roll dough, setting the rollers to the next narrower setting, until dough is 1⁄16" thick. With a long side facing you, place 2 tsp. mounds of filling along middle of dough, spacing the mounds about 1" apart. Brush dough with water. Take another sheet of pasta and lay it over the other sheet of pasta and mounds of filling; press dough to seal, squeezing out air pockets around filling. Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut out ravioli; transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Leave ravioli at room temperature for 1 hour to dry.
3) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook ravioli until al dente, 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 12" skillet over medium-high. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp, 3 minutes. Add peas and pea shoots 1-2 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to skillet, along with1⁄2 cup cooking water, zest, juice, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. Transfer ravioli to a serving platter; garnish with mint and parmesan.


Tortilla Soup in the Crock

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Soup season is short in Southern California. By early February, we are already flaunting crazy 80 degree weather. Personally, I feel cheated out of our chilly 70 degree winter and am outraged to see people in shorts all around. Can we keep the shorts in the closet until March, please?!
In protest, I am still making and eating soup weekly. I've been determined to use my crockpot more this year. To save time and my sanity, and spend more time with the kid and less time yelling at said kid to stop destroying my kitchen. I like crocking overnight, so the husband can wake up to delicious smells early in the morning.

This soup is a combination of recipes pieced together from Pintrest. And because I'm not a fan of chunk (unless it's my own!), I used my immersion blender to create a smooth base, and then added some whole corn and beans for texture. Also, I think the key here is using fire roasted tomatoes and chiles.
 And because I didn't take any other soup photos, here are pictures of Viggo being not a baby, sigh.
It rained for a day in LA, and this kid couldn't be happier. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (15-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 dried pasilla (negro) chile peppers
1 white onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon of chipotle powder
1 teaspoon salt, or more/less to taste
handful of fresh oregano and thyme
bay leaf
fresh lime wedges
optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, diced red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips/chips

1) Add all ingredients (except for lime and reserved corn and beans) to a slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken.  Remove the pasilla chiles and herbs, and discard.
2) Puree using an immersion blender. Add reserved corn and beans and cook 30 more minutes.
3) Serve warm with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and topped with optional garnishes if desired.


2016: Year of Asian Noodles

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Dear Readers,
Somehow it is February. And I've been "thinking" about several posts, but have made zero progress getting the words down, so instead here's one from the husband. Enjoy! 

Back in 2012, the wife and I declared a combined new year’s resolution: learn to make Korean food. Although we dug deep into various recipes in books and online (you still inspire me, Maangi), we never quite cracked the culinary code in a truly authentic way. We came close, and to this day our bulgogi, banchan, and kim chi stew are better for it. 

Here in 2016, my sights are set on homemade noodles. I’ve made simple egg noodles sporadically for several years, the process easily worth the extra effort in texture and flavor. I’ve even taught a community course on the subject! But one day recently, hungry and having opened the fridge one too many times thinking I’d find something new to eat, I grasped the container of plain leftover egg noodles I had made for an Italian dinner a few nights back. Too lazy to make a quick red sauce, my pasta thoughts began a trek from Italy, through Marco Polo (who just might share my Croatian ancestry) back to the source of the noodle: China.

4000 years ago, says my cursory research, the Chinese changed food history by mixing flour and water together and boiling it in stretched out ribbons. That great culinary moment in history came alive and crashed down on me as I made a quick sesame and oyster sauce, poured it on the noodles, and topped it with green onions from the garden. This wasn’t exactly traditional Chinese cooking, but I felt like a whole noodle world was opening up to me with each bite. From this very meal, I wanted to start refining my noodle-making abilities and establish legitimate Chinese sauces in my cooking repertoire.

My “cooking repertoire” is a loose term that is only half-defined by me in the kitchen. The other half, and most of the real cooking skills, is usually handled by the blog lady. It’s a common culinary theme between us that I engage in making the unglamorous things—bread, sausage, pasta—from the raw materials of the pantry. The wife then takes these ingredients, elevating them to the level of a satisfying meal. In this case, I mixed the water, flour, and eggs and got the noodles ready. The wife, craving something akin to Dan Dan noodles, got a pan out to create a peanut sesame sauce. My noodles still have more of an Italian pasta feel than an Asian one, but once topped with the Dan Dan sauce, it worked. Spicy, but cooled by matchstick cut cucumbers, earthy, and deeply satisfying, the dish was a success. On to the next noodle challenge.   
Recently, we spent a few hours at Descanso Gardens, trying to tire out the little guy. Instead, he tired us out, running wild, saying "HI!" to all the old ladies, and screaming after ducks. It was a blast, and below is one of my favorite shots from the day. 
Dan-Dan Noodles
loosely based on a recipe from FOOD52

5.3 ounces ground pork
chili oil (apparently you can make your own, but I had some on hand)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 piece of ginger, approximately 1 tablespoon
2 -3 tbsp douban chili paste, depending on saltiness (I didn’t have this or know what it is, so I used Koread pepper paste instead)
3 1/2tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter
1/2 tsp ground red sichuan peppercorn (omitted)
2 tbsp rice wine
2 1/4  cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bunch of Asian noodles
Chopped scallions or cilantro, for garnish (I used both, and added cucumbers as well)

1) Mix the pork evenly with soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside. Purée garlic, ginger, douban paste, and peanut butter in a food processor until smooth. You don’t have to do this if you don’t mind the sometimes chunky texture of douban paste (I didn’t do this!) -- just mince the garlic and ginger, then combine it with douban paste and peanut butter. In a medium heavy-bottom pot, nicely brown the pork in 1 tbsp of oil. 

2) Add the ground red sichuan peppercorn, puréed paste and sauté until fragrant, with some brown bits forming at the bottom of the pot, approximately 2 minutes.

3) Add the rice wine and deglaze the pot, then add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 or so minutes, until the sauce thickens.

4) Meanwhile, bring another big pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to package instructions. I would suggest NOT using fresh noodles as they absorb the sauce too quickly once combined (WOOPS, WE USED FRESH NOODLES!). Drain the noodles once cooked, toss with sauce, and divide them into 2 bowls. Divide the sauce into the same bowls, drizzle with chili oil, add cilantro, scallions and cucumbers.