Tag Archives: ravioli

Epicurean Evenings

29 Oct
My education and career trajectory is in clinical nutrition, dietary management, and healthcare business strategy, but cooking is definitely my passion. I love the creativity of decadent ingredients, plate presentations, fresh flavors, and lingering over home cooked meals filled with spirited conversation.  My enthusiasm for food, at times, mingles with my love of writing, and that dwells in the core of my spirit.
I have several outlets to feed that need, and at one point I spent time writing for a food and wine magazine. Sometimes my editor (and friend) Katherine would come over to chat about upcoming assignments. I was not inconvenienced by having to answer the door when Katherine stopped by. Always welcome and with a quick “hello I’m here” knock, in she came.

A few years ago on a cool fall afternoon she popped in. A few steps in the door she stopped, her head slowly floated back as her eyes closed, and drew in a deep breath. Then her eyes slowly opened and she said “I just love coming into the house of an epicurean. It always smells so good!”

At the time I wasn’t completely sure what an epicurean was. When I finally understood what it meant, the comment from Katherine turned into an intuitive compliment-one that I savor to this day. What is an epicurean? If you go to the dictionary you will find something like this:

adjective
1. fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating.
Yup, that describes me. I am an epicurean. But what was I cooking on that cool fall afternoon that elicited such a reaction from Katherine? I was teaching myself how to make a brown butter sauce. Dinner that evening included wild mushroom ravioli, and I had decided to stretch my skills by learning a new sauce.
Want to know how to make a brown butter sauce? You’ll be happy you did-it has endless possibilities! High quality European butter is the key here. I always use unsalted for 2 reasons: Salt is a preservative, so unsalted butter is fresher, and I like to adjust my own seasonings.

So here is what I did. Into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, I started melting a half pound of lovely french butter on low heat.


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Soon the butter started to brown. I began removing the foam to clarify the sauce. The aroma that began filling the house was amazing. Warm, nutty, rich!

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My sauce continued to deepen. The flavors were concentrating. And the scents wafting around the house were incredible. I kept stirring.

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Do not walk away from this sauce, as it can burn quickly. Let it deepen slowly and keep your eye on it. But that is it. Simple.

The real beauty in this sauce is the ability to adjust it to any taste. You can add garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, almost anything to customize it to your taste. Add it at any point while browning the sauce. How easy is that? Fabulous!!

The first time I made the sauce, I drizzled it over wild mushroom ravioli and sprinkled it with some fresh parmesan cheese. Since I like acid, I also drizzled a balsamic reduction over the ravioli as well. A garnish of fresh basil perfected the balance. I added a salad and some crusty bread. It was a decadent dinner.

I continue to use the brown butter sauce for a variety of finishes. What can you do with it? Send me an email and let me know!

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Naughty-again!

25 Apr

Naughty.  Last Friday night my home cooked meal was off the chain naughty.  Seriously.  The thing is…it started out innocently enough.  It took a turn to the dark side during a water cooler moment chatting with a coworker.

I wanted to make wild mushroom ravioli for dinner.  I like flavor with an earthy profile (some chefs call it a “dirt” flavor) like mushrooms, truffles, and beets.  And I was seriously craving some earth.  Wild mushrooms would be the food that was going to scratch that itch.  What could be the harm in that?  Enter stage left..my coworker Al.

Foodies get all excited when talking food and recipes.  Al is no exception.  He, like me, is a quirky foodie.  I am an amateur, he, as a certified chef, is a professional one.  I told him what I was making and wanted to pick his brain about a good sauce.  A creamy parmesan sauce? I wondered outloud.  Oh no!  Al had something else in mind.

“A brown butter sauce!” he loudly exclaimed.  Yes, that will be perfect for your ravioli, he said.  Brown butter, drizzled over the ravioli, along with fresh basil chopped, and a bit of fresh parmesan romano cheese.  Yes, he proclaimed.  That is the finish for your ravioli.  At this point my mouth was watering and I was mentally preparing for a much longer run on Saturday morning to counteract my naughty Friday night dinner.  That was that.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

Later in the afternoon, Al wandered into my office.  Clearly, as an eccentric foodie, my dinner was still on his mind.  “You need some acid on that dish, and a balsamic reduction glaze would be just the thing”.  Again, foodies are so quirky.  A “food moment” such as Al’s  hits like a flash, and you just gotta run with it.  And I did.

Here is the story, in pictures, of my naughty dinner.

Step 1...start the butter.  But remember to stir.  Burned butter is no fun!

Step 1…start the butter. But remember to stir. Burned butter is no fun!

The butter is getting brown and foamy.  The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

The butter is getting brown and foamy. The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich!  I removed the milk fat  (the foam) making it clarified butter.

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich! I removed the milk fat (the foam) making it clarified butter.

 

Here it is.  My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness!   Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes!

Here it is. My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness! Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!

You can’t beat a beet!

12 Jun

Beautiful roasted beets!

I have always enjoyed beets.  But for some reason, I have totally gotten into them lately.  Maybe its just that they are in season, inexpensive, and just so darn delicious!  They are amazing grilled.  Roasted in the oven makes them sweeter!  They can even simply be boiled, cooled, peeled, sliced, and chilled.  They can then be enjoyed in a salad.

First, let’s chat about the nutritional value of a beet.  Beets are a root vegetable like a carrot.  They are in season right now.  They contain significant amounts of folate and vitamin C.  Beets are also rich in niacin, vitamin B6, iron, potassium and magnesium.  In other words, beets are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  And bonus!  The red color is a fabulous antioxidant!  (Gentle reminder…antioxidants are great for cell rejuvenation, which can help our organs function better and keep wrinkles at bay!).

Now, onto getting the beets from the garden or market to the table.  If you grab beets in the grocery store, look for firm round beets with nice green stems and leaves.  When you get ready to cook them, wash them up and cut off the greens.  Do not throw those greens away though!  Chop them up and toss them into a salad.  If a salad is not on the menu that day, wrap the greens in a damp paper towel and put them in the fridge.  They will make the most flavorful addition to your next salad!  Promise!

OK.  Back to cooking the beets.  The beets can be peeled, cut into quarters, and spread out onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on then, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss into a 400 degree oven until tender, about  35-45 minute, depending on the size of the beet.  Check doneness with a fork.

Beets are also fantastic on the grill.  Simply grill them on a little pan or some foil.  Again, just wash, peel, and quarter them, add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss them on.  Close the grill lid and let the grill do its job.  I have also tossed beets onto the grill in a pouch made from tin foil.  I literally made a loose pouch around the beets out of tin foil and placed on the grill.

Beets with crumbled goat cheese and walnuts.

I have served beets right off the grill.  I have also added a little crumbled goat cheese and walnuts over the top of warm beets.  I have taken leftover beets and added them to a cold lettuce salad.  Some mandarin oranges are also a great addition to a salad of greens and beets.  Sweet surprise…I have gotten fresh ravioli stuffed with beets at the farmers market.  3 minutes in boiling water, a little parmesan cheese or a simple white sauce over the top, and call it a big huge yum!

Any way you cook them, beets are packed with flavor, nutrition, and antioxidants.  As you can see below, I have grilled them with summer squash.  The colors together are fantastic and make a beautiful presentation.  Get creative or go easy and simple.  Any way you decide to prepare beets, it will be a winning dish.

Simple Grilled Beets! Yum!