10 Min Din

31 07 2009

I was leaving the office when the sky decided to throw up on me. Amazingly, I was able to get a cab (sometimes a girl’s gotta live a little) and as the cabbie made his slow way throw the wall of rain I realized that we didn’t have much food at home for dinner. I had him stop at Russo’s, this little Italian food store near my apartment. Don’t be fooled by the ignorant reviewers: I’m sure it beats your suburban strip mall and while it’ll do in a pinch  it ain’t no second coming: it’s pricey! I feel like people give it extra props for being near the tragically overrated Venieros. Plus, while their fresh mozzarella is good, their so-called “fresh” pasta is actually frozen. Having said that, I do like having this place around for things like last-minute ravioli (as tonight) and perhaps some tomato paste in a tube (lasts forever!) which can be hard to find.

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

I got some sun-dried tomato & cheese ravioli (’bout 6 bucks) which comes with 12 ravioli but is so rich that it works for three small servings. I got half a pound of fresh moz which was like 3 or 4 bucks and inquired after the sun-dried tomatoes since I was fixin’ to make mini pizzas and realized that while I had flatbread at home I had no tomatoes nor any other veggies to cut through the rich mozzarella. They were $10 a pound. GOOD LORD! But then I figured a little would go a long way. I clocked in at a total of $12 and made my way home not wanting to slave too long in front of a hot stove in my tiny kitchen. I was scheming on tossing the ravioli in some pesto I had at home [pesto recipe: 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup good olive oil, handful walnuts, salt, blended with an immersion blender, add Parmesan cheese when using so it has a longer life in the fridge]. It would have been nice with a salad but sometimes in life, we don’t have veggies and sometimes, during such moments, you find yourself in the middle of a monsoon. Also I was hoping that the pita-like bread I’d bought last week, and the basil from my CSA pickup two weeks ago wasn’t too far gone to use. Lucky me! I mean, the bread sell-by date was far gone but it looked OK, nothing a little toasting couldn’t fix. And I was astounded to see that my basil had held on. Storing Basil: My mom taught me a trick for preserving fresh herbs that really works: clip the bottoms like you would flowers, wrap the stems in a moist paper towel and then put them in bag in the fridge- leave a little room for air, if it’s in a ziplock, leave it open a bit. See photo:

chillin in my kitchen

chillin in my kitchen

So I got my water boiling and my oven preheating at 450 and got to work. Realizing this dinner was going to be vegetarian, and knowing that hubby feels a vegetarian dinner is an exotic form of torture, I defrosted some pork belly we had in the freezer (uncured bacon essentially) figuring I’d get creative with it. So I threw it in a pan & let it get crispy. In the meantime I put together the mini pizzas. It’s probably important to note that the bread I used was Greek flatbread-  basically pita without the pocket [mini pizza recipe: pocketless flatbread,  thick slices of fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes in oil (nice, fresh tomatos (cherry!) work even better), red pepper flakes, salt, handful fresh basil torn by hand, olive oil, put four slices of cheese per flatbread and four tomatoes per pita, a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of red pepper, cook at 450 for 10 min, sprinkle torn basil when removing hot pizza from oven. ] I don’t like regular pita for pizza. Not only is it too thick, they’re something about that supermarket pita flavor that just doesn’t work for pizza.
While the pizza was cooking, I dropped the ravioli in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, I put a tablespoon of pesto into a non-stick pan and when the ravioli floated to the top (it’s done) I used a slotted spoon to remove them & tossed them around in the pan, I added a handful of grated mozzarella and about four or so tablespoons of the water I cooked the pasta in & gently swirled it all around, careful not to tear the raviolis. It should not be soupy or too oily just saucy (like yours true!). And with that, my dinner was done. For hub’s piggy version, I poured the oil off of the pan with the crispy pork belly & added a heaping tablespoon of pesto. I did the same thing as I did for my ravioli, tossing the pesto, ravioli, some cheese, pasta water and pork belly together.
voy-la!
voy-la!
The ravioli con puerco was a little rich for my taste though hubz seemed to dig it. I’d recommend it for those who really dig on the pig & the cheese. The pizza came out good too! The pocketless pita made a nice & crispy crust with no indication that it was on it’s way out only minutes before and the basil added a nice freshness to the cheesy fiesta. Basil goes on really nice at the end where the cheese will cook it a tad but it’s still full of flavor.
Some of us are still figuring out our camera

Some of us are still figuring out our camera

The oven preheat & water boiling time may have added on a few minutes (as did the sink full of dishes I had to wash before I began) but this was a truly quick, not so messy & lotta tasty dinner. Sometimes you don’t need to be fancy to eat fancy.
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Zucchini Blossoms & Other Recent Obsessions

27 07 2009

I have been slacking on the posts big time. No excuse other than it’s summertime & I’ve been slacking on everything . . . except cooking! I realized that I need to overcome my fear of my new digital camera (THANKS JOHNNY!) and just start snapping. In fact, with the bi-weekly CSA pick-ups I’m so friggin busy washing vegetables  that I have little time for anything else! Although me & Johnny made a cooking video that will soon be posted if I can make a foray into the world of techNOlogy. In any case . . . BEHOLD THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOM!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I bought a box of these at the farmer’s market because they were so beautiful PLUS they had been on the menu at my new fave Korean restaurant (more on that later) listed as “ho bak kkot twi kim:” stuffed & fried zucchini blossoms, but we did not order them b/c some among us were suspicious of Korean food they’d never heard of.  I wasn’t totally sure what to do with these when I brought them home but I had plans to make “daegu jeon” which are Korean-style mini fish cutlets (I used flounder, they came out GREAT!). This involves dipping the fish in flour & egg. I figured, hell, let’s put a couple of the flowers in & fry ’em up that way to test them out. I did nothing but dip them first in flour & then in egg & fry them in canola oil. They came out pretty good! Crispy but with a little softness to them and with a subtle, delicate squash flavor. I was scheming on how I would prepare the rest of them.

I came across a recipe in this book someone gave on cuisine from Rome. It involved stuffing the flowers with fresh mozz & 1/2 an anchovy and breading them in a flour & water batter. I happened to have fresh mozz in the fridge but figured, ‘why not beer batter the suckers?’ since the bubbles actually make for a flakier, lighter batter (you can actually use seltzer too). Here goes the recipe I came up with:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup beer

pinch of salt

16 or so zucchini blossoms

1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, grated

olive oil

Okie doke. So I sifted the flour through a strainer & added the salt. Then mixed in the beer to form a batter. It was relatively thick. Then, with help from the lovely Rebekah, stuffed the grated cheese into the flowers just up until where the petals separated, and gently twisted the petals together to close off the blossom.  I poured about a 1/2 inch of oil into a hot pan (most recipes recommend more but I don’t think it’s necessary) and tested the heat by sprinkling in a pinch of flour- when the flour sizzles, your ready to fry. Then I gently dipped the blossoms in batter- if any of the flowers were torn, I simply rubbed some batter over the tear to seal it up. It worked quite well. I fried them,  letting them get a little brown then flipped them, gave them a few more minutes and put them on a plate with a paper towel to drain. They required no more than 5 min in the pan. They looked like this when they were done.

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

Wow. These knocked us out. I can’t say enough about how tasty they were. It might be tasty to include something salty inside to contrast with the cheese, like in the Roman recipe. I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to add anchovies, but next time I make these I might include half an olive or a caper inside for a little extra “somethin’ something'” if you know what I mean. These would go great with a very cold beer, crisp beer: Sapporo would be good, Pacifico or Sol would work too. A (freezing) cold Budweiser or Bud Light wouldn’t be the worst think you could drink with these either (but I wouldn’t recmommend tapping the Rockies). I might consider stuffing these with a tiny bit of jalapeno for kick, in fact simply using pepper jack instead of mozz could take the recipe in a whole different direction. They can also be stuffed with ricotta or goat cheese. So much room for creativity with these pretty little flowers.

These bad boys will only be in season for a few more weeks so if you see these in your farmer’s market, snap ’em up while you can!