Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where For Art Thou, Spring?

It's been a bit since my last blather, as The K-Man and I have been on the slow road to recovery from The Crud of Doom that has been a beeyotch to shake. Needless to say, we haven't been all about the food for awhile. Once we had finally regained our appetites, it was a one-day whirlwind of spring-like temps and we decided we would most certainly be grillin' and chillin' by the weekend. We planted lettuces, photographed the daffodils and crocuses, made fajitas and celebrated the new season. Well, spring may have sprung but Mother Nature apparently decided Spring-like weather ain't stickin' around until She's damn good and ready for it to do so. Therefore, as the snow falls on this frigid March day we decided to change it up and make ravioli...from scratch.

We returned to the Cookbook Challenge with a vengeance and consulted the Cooking Class Italian Cookbook for our guide to homemade ravioli....in fact, it was the dish featured on the cover. The recipe was a tad detailed and labor-intensive, but it was most assuredly worth every minute. Now that we've done it, the recipe will be much easier to repeat and we can play with the ingredients somewhat. I completely recommend this recipe, though.....we made the pasta, sauce and filling all from scratch and it was spectacular. We served the ravioli with a spinach salad tossed with a honey-brown butter dressing from a Tyler Florence recipe in the Food Network Favorites cookbook. The recipes are lengthy so I'm moving on to them and these count as Cookbook Challenge # 34 and 35.

Four-Meat Ravioli

1. Prepare Four-Meat filling; refrigerate.

2. Prepare Plum Tomato Sauce; set aside.

3. For dough, mix flour and salt in large bowl. Combine 2 eggs, oil and 2/3 cup of water in small bowl; whisk thoroughly. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour mixture with fork. Add enough of remaining 1/3 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to form firm but pliable dough.

4. Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. To knead dough, fold dough in half towards you and press dough away from you with heels of hands. Give dough a quarter turn and continue folding, pushing and turning. Continue kneading 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to prevent sticking if necessary. Wrap in dough in plastic wrap; let rest 30 minutes.

5. Unwrap dough and knead briefly (as described in step 4) on lightly floured surface; divide into 4 pieces. Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out 1 dough piece to 1/16-inch thickness. (keep remaining dough pieces wrapped in plastic to prevent drying) Cut dough into 4-inch-wide strips. Place teaspoonfuls of Four-Meat Filling along top half of each strip at 2-inch intervals.

6. Whisk egg yolk and milk in small bowl. Brush dough on long edge and between filling with egg-milk mixture.

7. Fold dough over filling; press firmly between filling and along edge to seal, making sure all air has been pushed out.

8. Cut ravioli apart with pastry wheel (we didn't have this,used pizza cutter). Repeat with remaining 3 dough pieces, filling and egg-milk mixture.

9. Cook ravioli, 1/4 at a time, in large pot of salted water 3 to 5 minutes just until al dente. Remove with slotted spoon; drain well. Add ravioli to reserved sauce. Bring sauce and ravioli to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Four-Meat Filling

5 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned and cooked and squeezed dry
2 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), cooked
3 ounces prosciutto or cooked ham
1 1/2 ounces of hard salami
1 clove garlic
6 ounces ground beef
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mince spinach, chicken, prosciutto, salami and garlic; combine in medium bowl with beef, parsley, eggs, allspice and salt. Mix well.

Plum Tomato Sauce

1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat until melted and bubbly; cook and stir garlic in hot butter 30 seconds. Press tomatoes and juice through sieve into garlic mixture; discard seeds. Stir in tomato sauce, salt, allspice, basil, rosemary and pepper.

2. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer 15 minutes more or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Spinach Salad with Honey-Brown Butter Dressing

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 loosely packed cups baby spinach

1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until shallot is tender and the butter turns a light brown color, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour desired amount of dressing over the spinach in a bowl and toss. Serve immediately.

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