Fresh Beet Pasta & Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage, Brown Butter & Blue Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

OK – I am not gonna lie.  This beet pasta almost broke my spirit.  I tried a while back to make a beet-based gnocchi and all I got was about 4 pounds of magenta spackling paste that got on EVERYTHING & stuck to everything like a horny terrier & dyed everything it touched pink.  I added so much flour to un-stickify it that I knew the gnocchi would come out as light & fluffy as pool balls.  It was very disheartening & I threw the dough away without even getting to the gnocchi stage.   Actually – that is not true.  I did make a small batch & served it to two friends.  It didn’t taste bad but they were very heavy & even worse – looked like chunks of raw meat on the plate or some kind of dog treat – like THESE –  that I had dressed up with a nice sauce.  It was pretty nasty.

Still – I’ve had such success with the spinach & my magical kale pasta – I thought I could pull this off with the same ease.

I could not.

I looked over a few beet pasta recipes online & made some mental notes & then decided to basically wing it – based on my vast pasta making experience.  In general – folks seemed to recommend a 1-2 cups pureed beets to 3-4 cups flour ratio with three eggs thrown in for good measure.  I started with a solid two cups of puree, only added two eggs & used a bit more than four cups of flour to get this result:

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I was very excited!  It seemed to come together so easily.  And it was such a vibrant magenta, too!!  But it was during the rolling out process that everything went to Hell.  It was VERY, VERY wet inside that innocent looking ball & it looked like raw meat getting pressed through the pasta-maker gears.  Gross.  And – I am guesstimating – but I think I must have added at least 3 more cups of flour to the dough in the various stages of getting it from that ball there to this:

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Doesn’t it look like giant slabs of bacon?  And it made a FUCKLOAD!  That had to be 8-10 servings of pasta, conservatively.  At any rate – I only used about 1/4 of this recipe to make ravioli.  I made the other 3/4 into fettuccine.

It took FOREVER to manipulate the flour & moisture levels to the point that the pasta could be pressed this thin.  I kept thinking as I made it – nobody who hasn’t succeeded in making regular or spinach pasta a few times (at least) should ever attempt this.  And I couldn’t help but fear that all that flour – that seemed to be twice the level others used – was going to result in a starchy, thick pasta that destroyed any hint of beet – both in color and taste.

The GOOD news is – it made the most beautiful ravioli ever.  I can’t say there was a beet flavor to the pasta but there isn’t really a spinach taste in the spinach pasta.  It really all seems to be about color.  The ravioli held their color pretty well.  The fettucine did not – in that it faded to this color when boiled:

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That might even be a tad more vibrant than it really was.

I started with these beets:

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I roasted three in the oven at 400 degrees to set aside to add to the pasta later.  I boiled the rest for an hour & pureed them for the noodles.  I think the roasted ones – when chopped & added to the pink pasta – will bleed out into that pasta & restore the heavy magenta color it originally had.  We will see.  But this blog is about the ravioli.

Know this – I made two kinds.  One with the beet pasta that was nearly the death of me & one with leftover wonton skins I had in the fridge.  If you want the EASIEST ravioli recipe on the planet – just make the sweet potato puree & saged brown butter – and you will be blown away by how easy & delicious – AND LIGHT – these are.  If you are more adventurous – the beet pasta makes phenomenally beautiful ravioli.  I did not effectively capture their beauty here.  I was still feeling a bit beaten up by the pasta-making process & wanted to get on with EATING this shit.  And I can report – they really were pretty awesomely delicious.  But – no reason to slave over beet pasta.  Just make regular pasta – or use the dang wontons.  You are not trying to run a food blog.  Give yourself a break, for Chrissakes!  🙂

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Fresh Beet Pasta & Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage, Brown Butter & Blue Cheese

INGREDIENTS

2 cups beet puree (4 medium beets?) PLUS 3 more for roasting (optional)

2 eggs

flour – and lots of it – potentially 8 cups

1 tsp sea salt

Sweet Potato Puree

1.5 – 2 lbs sweet potatoes (or yams)

2 small onions – diced

1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

wonton wrappers (6 per serving) – if NOT doing the beet pasta

Sauce

Lots of butter (12 or more TBS)

3 TBS chopped fresh sage

olive oil

1-2 whisked egg whites (optional) – to seal the ravioli.  Water works, too.

Pepper to taste

Blue Cheese (or feta or even shaved Parmesan if blue overwhelms you) as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Roast your yams (having pierced them with a fork several times) in a 400 degree oven.  If using – you can also roast three beets at the same time by covering them with a small amount of olive oil & wrapping them in foil.  Sweet potatoes AND beets should be fork tender in a bout an hour.  You can open the foil around the beets for the last twenty minutes to get a more roasted appearance – if it suits you.  Be sure the sweet potatoes are soft in the center.  Remove from oven & COOL.  When cool – peel the yams & slip the skin & tops off of the roasted beets.  Set aside.

The puree beets – cut the greens off ABOVE the meat of the beet.  Leave the beet in tact & boil like that to retain as much color as possible.  Boil for about an hour or until fork tender.  Drain & cool.

Heat some olive oil in a pan & saute the onions until they begin to brown.  5 minutes or so.  Set aside.

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Mash the sweet potatoes with the cinnamon, nutmeg, grated Parmesan & salt to taste.  Do this in a food processor if you have one & get these guys REALLY smooth.  Once creamy – add sauteed onions & set aside.

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Peel the boiled beets in the sink – again basically by squeezing them.  The outer skin slips right off.  Press the base of the greens off, too.  Put these beets in a food processor & puree.  The rest of the instructions are the same as for regular noodles – with the exception that you put the beet puree in the flour well with the eggs.  I’d start with a well made of 6 cups of flour.

Copy & paste this link

https://delightfuldeliciousdelovelyblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/homemade-pasta-fettucini-noodles-23/

to view the guide to making plain pasta noodles – or got to http://www.delightfuldeliciousdelovely.com & search for “homemade noodles.”  Again – please note: plain or spinach noodles are WAY easier than this beet version so, if you are trying the beet version, BE PATIENT.  This dough WILL come together but the wet to dry ingredient ratio is trickier.

Once you have noodles pressed flat (or once you have your wonton package open) – use a cooking cutter or large glass to cut the pasta into circles (bigger – like 2 inches across or more – are easier to work with).  No need to cut wontons into circles but you certainly can.  Get a small bowl of water (or some whisked egg white) & a pastry brush (I just used my fingers).  Place a circle of dough (or a store-bought easy-peasy wonton) on the work space.  Put about a tablespoon of sweet potato mix in there.  Wet the rim with a brush or your fingers with either water or egg white then top with a second round (or wet & fold your wonton) & seal.  You will get better at guessing how much filling these ravioli can take as you get the hang of it.  You can seal with your hands or the tines of a fork.  I found the pasta & wontons too thin to really seal with a fork.

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Melt the butter in a pan over high flame.  Once hot – add chopped sage.  Saute about 1-2 minutes or JUST until the butter begins to brown.  Add a little S&P.  Remove from heat.

Boil water.  Once boiling (but not rapidly.  We don’t want to beat up the fragile ravioli) – drop the ravioli in.  They will cook quickly – likely less than two minutes.  They begin to float up when they are ready.  Remove with a slotted spoon & put some on each plate.  Spoon some brown sage butter over the ravioli.  Top with some chopped roasted beets (if you are using) and a small quantity of blue cheese (go LIGHT) or feta or Parmesan.  Crack some pepper atop that & serve!

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Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Harissa Spiced Tomatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Yeah – it’s 95 degrees outside here today – and so, of course, I decide to make comfort food.  Still, this comes together very easily & is very flavorful – and makes a big pot that you can serve – or freeze for another day.  Like – an actually cold day when eating a nice thick bowl of hot lentil soup would sound appealing, perhaps.

My first note on this recipe is that you should not be thrown by the fresh fenugreek or the harissa.  You can use chili powder instead of harissa & I will get into the fenugreek thing below.  Basically – fenugreek in all forms – is optional in this recipe.    I just liked the exotic title those two ingredients presented.

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I made this because I had a bunch of fresh fenugreek from my Indian market & wanted to use it before it got more wilted than it had already become.  Fenugreek looks like this

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photo credit

And here is what I found online about it:

Fenugreek leaves  = holba = methi leaves   Pronunciation:  FEHN-yoo-greek   Notes:   This mildly bitter herb is believed to have medicinal properties.   Dried leaves, either whole or ground, are called kasuri methi, and they’re a good substitute for fresh.  Look for fresh or dried leaves in Indian markets.  Substitutes:  celery leaves.

I also saw someone suggest watercress as a substitute.  Watercress sounded closer to me.  Anyway – don’t be thrown by its inclusion here.  If you cannot find it – blow it off.  There is plenty of other flavor going on here.  Also – I used lots more carrots than your typical lentil soup recipe – basically to make it more filling for fewer calories.  And – I used ghee (clarified butter) but you can use olive oil, vegetable oil or a mix of these with butter.  Also – I used MASOOR DAL here –

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masoor dal = masar dal  = mussoor dal = masur dal = pink lentil   Notes:   These are skinned and split masoor lentils.  They’re salmon-colored, cook quickly, and turn golden and mushy when cooked.   Substitutes:  red lentils OR yellow lentils OR green lentils (hold their shape better when cooked)  

but any lentil will do.  Also – I use a lot of spice – more than most other recipes you will find.  Feel free to start with less & add more to your own taste.

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Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups lentils

1 medium onion – diced

8 carrots – sliced

3 celery stalks – sliced

3 inch piece of fresh ginger – peeled & diced fine – or several TBS of jarred minced ginger

2 tomatoes diced

2 large jalapenos – seeded & diced (less or none if you don’t like spicy food)

1 bunch fresh fenugreek (optional) – leaves removed & chopped (alternative – use celery leaves or watercress – or none of them)

6 garlic cloves (or less) – diced fine

2 tsp salt

1 TBS ground pepper

2 TBS curry powder (I used red curry powder but any variation is fine)

1 TBS turmeric

1 TBS Harissa (spicy!) or 1 TBS ground red chili powder (or less if you hate spice)

3 TBS Ghee or oil or butter or combination

1 tsp asafetida (optional) or 1 tsp either garlic or onion powder or a combo

1 TBS cumin SEEDS

1 TBS fenugreek SEEDS (optional)

1 tsp harissa OR 1 tsp red chili powder (yes, in addition)

fresh cilantro

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DIRECTIONS

Rinse the lentils pick out any bits or twigs or foreign matter you may see.   I used 7 cups of water to my 2.5 cups lentils – but you might be using a lentil that needs more – or less.  Just add water as needed to keep them covered in moisture.  Bring to a boil then lower the flame, add the chopped FRESH fenugreek leaves (or watercress or celery leaves) – if using – cover & simmer for as long as your lentil packaging suggests for doneness.  Stir occasionally & be sure your water doesn’t boil away.

While the lentils simmer – chop & dice & prepare all the ingredients that require that.

Heat 3 TBS of ghee or oil or butter & add onion, garlic, ginger, celery, jalapenos, curry powder, turmeric & 1 TBS harissa or red chili powder.  Stir for a minute then add carrots.  Stir another minute.  Add all this to your simmering lentils and return the empty pan to the heat.  Add 2 more TBS of ghee (or oil or butter) and when hot add the cumin seeds & the asafetida & fenugreek SEEDS (if using) and 1 tsp of additional harissa/red chili powder (if using).  Once the cumin starts popping (this happens pretty fast – less than a minute) – add the chopped tomatoes.  Be careful – as the oil will spit at you when you add the wet tomatoes.  Saute these for 2-3 minutes – until the tomatoes soften.  Add all this to the simmering lentils.

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Add the S&P (more or less to taste).

Simmer just until the carrots & lentils are tender.  Add more water if needed throughout this recipe or cook off broth you feel may be in excess.  Serve with fresh chopped cilantro.

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Taco Cupcakes with Chipotle Fish & Mango Salsa or Garlic Lime Fish or Spicy Soyrizo or Rustic Corn

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

So – I really enjoyed the results I got from the lasagna cupcakes – and thought, “Why not try other savory cupcakes?”  There really is no end to what you can prepare in the cupcake pan.  And what a great way to make lots of little freezable, single-serving sized portions!  So – since I had taco fixings on hand – I thought I’d experiment there.  Here are the four versions that I made but do not feel you need to follow these very loose recipes much at all.  It’s kinda like a Color Me Mine kitchen project where you can put anything into these taco cupcakes that suits your fancy.  I made three different kinds using wontons (as I did with the lasagna cupcakes) and then one version using corn tortillas.  The tortilla version came out a tad more rustic in appearance because I used tortillas cut round with a cookie cutter & therefore they had no outer shell to hold them together.  The others came out a bit more elegantly – exactly as the lasagna versions had.

Here are the corn tortilla taco cupcakes:

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TACO CUPCAKES

Ingredients

corn tortillas OR wonton skins

Grated cheese (I used pepper jack)

Salsa – (I used mango-peach salsa and regular salsa and salsa verde)

Fish (I used tilapia)

Soyrizo or chorizo

1 7oz can chipotle peppers in adobo

Olive oil

honey

limes

1/2 poblano pepper seeded then charred over your stove burner & diced

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BLACK BEANS

1 15oz can black beans – drained & rinsed

1/4 onion – diced

1 carrot – diced

1 celery stalk – diced

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 cup tomato paste

GARNISHES (your choice) – Anything you’d put in a taco –

Guacamole (recipe below)

Avocado

Cabbage or lettuce – chopped

Diced Tomatoes

Cilantro

Sour Cream

Grated cheese

sliced jalapeno pepper

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DIRECTIONS

Chipotle Fish

In your blender or food processor – puree

1 can chipotle in adobo

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp each S&P

Marinate your fish (or half your fish) in this for an hour or more.

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Garlic-Lime Fish

Place your fish (or half if you are doing a chipotle version, too) in a single layer in a marinating dish.  Squeeze the juice of two limes over it & add a lot of sliced garlic.  I used about 6 cloves.  You can go lighter or heavier.  Sprinle with a little S&P – toss a bit & let marinate for about an hour.

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Black Beans

In 1 TBS olive oil, saute the onion, carrot & celery until they begin to soften.  Add the can of drained black beans, cumin & tomato paste.  Stir around for about 5-10 minutes.  Remove them from heat & set aside.

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Chipotle & Garlic Lime Fish

Remove from marinade & cook either on a grill or in a grill pan or frying pan sprayed with a nonstick spray – keeping the two flavors (Chipotle & the Garlic-Lime) separate.  Once cooked through – break up into smaller pieces.  Set aside.

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ASSEMBLY

Spray your cupcake pan with nonstick spray.  Line each cup with a square wonton or with a corn tortilla cut to the size of the cupcake hole – either with a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass.  I used a cookie cutter & used a smaller circle for the first two layers then the larger one for the top layer in both the tortilla version & cut only the top layer in the wonton version.

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I layered the wonton versions three ways:

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CHIPOTLE FISH & MANGO-PEACH SALSA

Wonton Papers

Chipotle fish

mango-peach salsa

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GARLIC-LIME FISH

Wonton Papers

grated pepper jack

Garlic lime fish

salsa verde

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SPICY SOYRIZO

Wonton Papers

blacks beans

soyrizo

poblano peppers

hot salsa

pepper jack

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RUSTIC CORN TORTILLA TACO CUPCAKES

corn tortillas

pepper jack

mango-peach AND hot red salsa

black beans

chipotle fish

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So – in each cupcake tin – layer a small amount of the ingredients you selected (or other variation).  Then add another square wonton or round corn tortilla.  Another layer of ingredients and then top with a large rounded wonton wrapper or a larger corn tortilla disc.   Top everything with a little more salsa & top all of them with pepper jack cheese.  In the case of the wonton versions – press the protruding wonton corners down into the topping so they look like little flat bundles.

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Cook in the oven for 18-25 minutes – checking frequently to be sure they do not burn.  Remove from the oven & let cool for at least 5 minutes before trying to remove them from the pan.  The corn tortilla ones will naturally be harder to get out of the pan.  Maybe use a large serving spoon to assist in the lifting.

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Top with either: sliced avocado or guacamole or more salsa or cilantro or more cheese or jalapeno peppers – whatever sounds good to you.

GUACAMOLE

1 large avocado

lime

Salt

Remove the skin & pit from the avocado.  Retain the pit.  In a bowl – chop the avocado very fine.  Squeeze a little lime juice in there & add a little salt.  Mix it up until it become creamy but some small chunks of avocado remain.  Taste. Add more salt or lime to taste.  Once it tastes good to you – put the pit back into the guacamole.  It will keep it from turning brown.

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VERY GARLICKY Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I have always wanted to try my hand at making pickles.  Sometimes I see pickling cucumbers, buy them & then watch them rot as I keep forgetting to buy mason jars.  Or – I Google recipes & get intimidated by the canning procedure.  Or both.  I recently saw these cutie little cocktail cucumbers at Costco & couldn’t resist the urge – again – to attempt making pickles.  I had no idea if they would lend themselves well to the process but the money investment was small so I went for it.  I then Googled a bunch of different recipes & by tweaking a few – I came up with this RIDICULOUSLY easy pickle recipe.  I had two old pickle jars in my cabinet & I used them – not mason jars.  These took 24 hours in the fridge – just sitting there – and they were pickles!  Really tasty, crunchy pickles!!!!!    I recommend this recipe VERY highly – both or its ease & for the novelty of making your own Goddamn pickles overnight.  I suspect any cucumbers would work.  These guys (cocktail cucumbers) were pretty small & quartered into very slim little spears.  If you use full-sized cucumbers – maybe slice them into discs rather than spears.  And any old seal-able jar will work.  And by seal-able – I really just mean with a screw top.  The fact – you could make these in ANY container – Tupperware – even a bowl.  So – go get some cucumbers and give this one a go!

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Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

INGREDIENTS

1.5 lbs cucumbers (I used cocktail cucumbers – but you can try any variety you find available) – cut into spears or 1/4″ chips.

8 garlic cloves – 4 quartered, 4 left whole

8-16 sprigs fresh dill

2 TBS coriander SEEDS (not ground)

2 TBS sea (or Kosher) salt

2 TBS sugar

1 1/3 cups white vinegar

water

Jars for containing the pickles

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DIRECTIONS

NOTE – these are very garlicky!!!  If you don’t LOVE garlic – cut the garlic back a lot.

In a sauce pan – heat the vinegar & add the salt, sugar & coriander seeds.  Heat, stirring, just until both the sugar & salt dissolve.  Try to get this done before the vinegar gets hot.  If it gets very hot – let it cool before pouring over your cucumbers.

Put your cucumbers in the pickling container (a mason jar, old pickle jar – or other container with a water-tight lid) – with the garlic & the fresh dill.  Pour the vinegar mix over the cucumbers.  Add water to fill the container to the top.  Seal the container & chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  Try one.  ENJOY!

These should last in your fridge (in a sealed container) for up to one month.

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Lasagna Cupcakes with Arrabiata & Homemade Ricotta

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

See that picture above?  Yeah – that’s micro cilantro on there – not basil.  I paid $5 for a container of micro cilantro & intend to get my money’s worth – even if I have to garnish dessert recipes with it!  I don’t care.   Anyway –

These lasagna cupcakes are super easy to make – once you have assembled the ingredients.  You can also modify this recipe endlessly to reflect your own favorite lasagna recipes.  The only real NEWS here is the concept of using a cupcake pan & using wonton skins instead of pasta.  I am certain this can be made using actual pasta or adding meat or with a white sauce – whatever.  Also – I tried this two ways – 1) leaving the wonton skins square & folding them down over the top creating little closed baskets and 2) cutting the wontons round with a cookie cutter so that they were layered more like a Neapolitan.  The result was two more different little lasagnas than I would have guessed.  The square wontons resulted in a cupcake far easier to remove from the tin (the round ones needed more cooling time to be removed & still retain their shape).  Also – the added wonton quantity in just keeping the squares in tact made those cupcakes more bready – for lack of a better word.  The round ones allowed the flavor of the sauce to come through more powerfully – primarily because there was less wonton flavor competing with it.

Also – if you use a jarred sauce & store-bought ricotta – you could assemble a tray of these in the time it takes your oven to heat up & then cook these cook in under twenty minutes.  They are elegant & different & EASY and pretty and delicious.  This recipe below made 24 cupcakes.  Each person I served had at least two.  Serve with a nice salad & some crusty bread & a box of wine & you are good to go!  This recipe is broken into three parts: sauce, ricotta & cupcakes.  If you are using store-bought sauce & ricotta – buy two jars for the 24 cupcakes & 1 lb of ricotta.  Also  – I used some canned tomatoes in this recipe because I already had them.  I will try to avoid using them in the future.  Read why HERE.

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Lasagna Cupcakes with Arrabiata & Homemade Ricotta

ARRABIATA (Spicy Tomato Sauce)

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup olive oil

1 TBS crushed red pepper (for a very spicy sauce.  Use LESS if you want less heat)

20 cloves of garlic – 1/2 minced, 1/2 left whole

3 oz tomato paste (1/2 small can)

26 oz chopped tomatoes (preferably NOT canned but – maybe – POMI)

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 TBS dry oregano

3 sprigs fresh oregano

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a deep sauce pan.  Saute all the garlic until the minced garlic begins to turn golden.  Add the tomato paste & stir over high heat for about a minute.  Lower the heat to medium & add the rest of the ingredients.  This sauce was very spicy with the full TBS of crushed red pepper – so ease into using the red pepper & add more according to your own palette & tolerance.  Bring this to a boil & then cover & lower heat to low & let simmer – the longer the better.  I made this a day in advance & refrigerated it overnight – letting the flavors blend – but this isn’t necessary.  Let it cool before assembling the cupcakes.

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HOMEMADE RICOTTA

INGREDIENTS

1 gallon whole milk

2 cups buttermilk

5 TBS white vinegar

2 tsp salt

Cheesecloth

DIRECTIONS

Make this in two batches.  Divide the ingredients in half & do it in two batches.   For some reason – doing it all at once produces less ricotta.  Sounds crazy – but my friend tried & agreed.  Plus – the half batches are more manageable to dry in the cheesecloth.

DIRECTIONS

Heat half the milk & half the buttermilk in a pan.  When it just begins to bubble in the corners – turn off the heat.  Add half the salt & half the vinegar & stir.  With a slotted spoon – scoop out the curds that form until all that is left is the yellowish whey.  Alternatively – CAREFULLY pour the curdling milk through a cheesecloth-lined colander.  In either case – let it cool a bit & then wrap it up in cheesecloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.  Repeat with the other half of the ingredients.  Unwrap the ricotta from the cheesecloth & put in a bowl & set aside (or chill).

LASAGNA CUPCAKES

24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

2 packages of small wonton wrappers (about 2.5 inches square)

Ricotta cheese – 1 lb store-bought or the quantity from the recipe above

4 cups grated Parmesan cheese

4 large balls fresh mozzarella (preferably the sort sold in water) or 4 cups of another variation of mozzarella

4 cups pasta sauce (the recipe above or two jars)

Fresh basil

1 chopped tomato as garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375

Spray your cupcake pans with a nonstick spray.  Place a wonton into each cup – letting the corners stick up & out.  OR – use a cookie cutter & cut the wontons into circles the correct size for your tray.  Layer with a little grated Parmesan, then ricotta then sauce.  Add another wonton – putting the corners in the opposite direction the first wonton was placed and press it down on the first layer.  Add another layer of Parmesan, ricotta and sauce & top with another wonton.  I used a round-cut wonton for this top layer even if I left the corners on for the first two layers.  Top with some sauce & then press the corners of the wontons down into the sauce so the cupcakes all stay “closed.”  Be sure a little sauce is covering the entire surface.  Top with a sliced disc of fresh mozzarella.

Put these in the oven & bake.  Check them at the 15 minute mark.  They should be done in between 15-18 minutes.  Remove from the oven & let sit & set & cool for five minutes.  Carefully run a knife around each cupcake & pop them out onto a serving dish.  Garnish with shredded fresh basil & some chopped fresh tomatoes (if you are using them).   If you used all rounded wontons in the Neapolitan style – let sit longer than 5 minutes as this version is more smooshy & fragile.  The squared wontons look prettier – as you get a nice golden “crust” around them but both version are delicious!

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Spicy Hoisin BBQ Salmon Tacos with Asian Slaw & Micro Cilantro

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Again – I found myself with ingredients & the desire to create something unique from them.  I had some old salmon in the freezer & two giant bags of small corn tortillas and a fat ass.  What could a girl do with those ingredients?  Hmmmm…fish tacos & a smaller ass?  Tacos are a surprisingly good choice if you are hoping to have a healthy meal.  Three of the little taco-sized corn tortillas have about 100 calories – combined.  As long as you eschew the cheese and any sour cream or that Mexican Creme stuff (which is delicious) – you kinda can’t go wrong.  And you can even use those – in moderation – and still come out ahead of a sandwich or a salad with things like avocado & heavy dressing.  Also – if you serve them, as I did, with a giant quantity of steamed broccoli or other steamed vegetable (I flavored the broccoli on my plate with a little tempura dipping sauce) – you end up full & satisfied and hopeful that soon, the shadow cast by your ass in the late afternoon sun will become less conspicuous.

So – here is my recipe for Spicy Hoisin BBQ Salmon Tacos with Asian Slaw.  I had two pieces of salmon each about the size of a giant Snickers & didn’t even eat one of them in my three tacos.   So – I guess this amount of salmon might feed three people a light dinner.  Typically, the ratio is 1/2 pound fish per person – so – if serving others – you might want to keep that in mind.

Also -I used micro cilantro – which cost me $5 basically because it looks really pretty, makes my post sound more foodie & because I am trying to impress people & establish my cooking bona fides through smoke & mirrors & exotic sounding ingredients.  But $5 for garnish when a .69 cent bunch of regular cilantro is probably better tasting – is really just silliness.

More silliness?  NEW AGE DRINKS?   Such a supermarket staple that they needed an aisle marker the way bread, cereals, canned vegetables & dairy do?  Who are these folks with a new age thirst?    Are they coming right from yoga or an ashram or a Deepak Chopra reading?  I Googled it & got some Time magazine article that seemed to equate new age drinks with smaller distributor iced teas.   But Gelson’s seems to think both iced tea AND new age drinks need their own labels so – I’m lost.

Anyway – on to tacos!

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Spicy Hoisin BBQ Salmon Tacos with Asian Slaw

INGREDIENTS

Salmon (1/2 lb per person) – try to get wild caughtnot farmed.

MARINADE

Hoisin sauce

Sambal Olek or Asian chili paste

honey

soy sauce

Asian Slaw

1/4 medium head cabbage – shredded fine

3 inches of daikon – cut into short matchsticks

4 scallions – sliced fine

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 TBS rice vinegar

1 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS black sesame seeds (optional – but they look pretty)

1 tsp black pepper

Chili Sauce

1/2 cup sambal olek

2 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS white sesame seeds (optional – but they look pretty)

Corn Tortillas (small taco size – if possible) – 3 or more per person

Micro cilantro or regular cilantro for garnish

lime wedges

DIRECTIONS

Put the salmon in a something to marinate it.  I used a freezer baggy.  I put the salmon in & then added a good amount (1/4 cup?) honey & the same amount of soy, sambal olek & hoisin sauce.  I sealed the bag, smooshed everything around in there & put in in the fridge all day.

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For the slaw – blend the mayo, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar & pepper.  Mix the cabbage, scallions & daikon & then add the sauce.  Finally – add in the black sesame seeds – if you are using them.  Set aside – or chill if you made this in advance.

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For the chili sauce – blend the sambal olek, sesame oil & white sesame seeds.  Set aside.

Remove the fish from the marinade but keep the marinade nearby in a bowl.  Grill your salmon a few minutes on each side over high heat.  I used a round grill pan.  I left the center of the salmon rare.  Feel free to poke into the salmon to check doneness – as you will break it up into small pieces later.  You may like your fish more cooked than I do.  Just eyeball it until you think it is ready. Return the cooked fish to the marinade.

Heat your tortillas on BOTH SIDES on a grill or in a frying pan or over your burners until they soften & just start to show browned patches.  Now it is time to assemble the tacos.  You can put a portion of fish (broken into small chunks) & slaw & tortillas on each plate & let folks assemble them themselves – or put everything out buffet style.  I was alone so I assembles the three tacos on my plate.  Easy.  Tortillas, slaw, fish, a drizzle of chili sauce, cilantro & a squeeze of lime.  Shove it in your face.  Enjoy!   PS – the slaw can be served as a side dish, too!

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Ranch Eggs at 54Twenty – A Hollywood Guestaurant

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

http://www.54twenty.com/

Attached to the Dixie Hollywood Motel – is a contemporary take on an old-school coffee shop – 54Twenty (the address is 5420 Hollywood Blvd).  I used to go to whatever this place was called back in the mid-eighties & get just-adequate Denver omelets.  It was cheap, I could walk to it and, well, that’s about it.  I don’t think it was called Angel’z back then – which is what it has been more recently.  Angel’z closed, it seems, and now in its place is 54Twenty.

I never went to Angel’z.  The exterior was far too depressing:

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Photo from Hunch

But – when the joynt got a recent face lift making its look conspicuously hipper – I decided I should give it a shot.  Look at that overhang & angled entry.  Very Googie.  Who would cover that with a shitty awning?

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Photo from Trippy Food

The inside is still straight-foward “diner.”  I put quote on diner because I like to reserve that term for actual dining cars – like the wonderful Phil’s.

Photo CREDIT

Photo Credit

Phil’s is in NoHo now – and closed.  Very sad.

Anyway – 54Twenty looks like this inside:

The opposite wall is a long upholstered banquet with table in the windows.

Photo credit

We sat in the corner & a friendly waitress brought us menus.  Coffee was served in paper cups

but the creamers were cute & came on a little tray with little spoons.

and I really liked the salt & pepper mill.

The menu was limited but way more creative than I expected.


I ordered the Ranch Eggs & Katie got a bacon & eggs special with what was described as “a six inch slab of bacon.”

My eggs were beautiful to look at & tasted even better!

I have decided that corn tortillas belong in the same class with parsley & celery – terribly underrated as a flavor worthy of comment.  I love warm corn tortillas!

These ranch eggs really had it all.  The hominy was crunchy, the onions delicate & sweet, the mayo – well – it’s fucking mayo.  You can’t talk shit about mayonnaise – especially if it has chipotle or garlic or some other flavor going on.  I once – sure drunkenly but whatever – stood with my friend Michael over an open jar of mayo & took rolled provolone cheese slices (purchased at 2am at the corner bodega in Brooklyn) & dipped them into the jar & scoffed that shit down.    Sounds gross?  It wasn’t.  Ill-advised?  Sure.  Gross?  No.  Alcohol is a dangerous gateway drug – a gateway to late night Thai, unnecessary & regrettable post midnight carbo-loading & to consuming 4000 fat calories of mayo & cheese in ten minutes.  But I digress.

Anyway – these ranch eggs were just ridiculous.  Katie seemed equally pleased with her fried eggs and pork slab.  Then the waitress informed us that their meat & eggs were hormone-free.  The website states:

While keeping some features that playfully hint at the restaurant’s diner past, 54TWENTY features approachable breakfast and lunch showcasing local, sustainable and humane ingredients with modern touches. Enjoy!

Not sure if humane & sustainable means PASTURED (info HERE) – which would be ideal – but any effort is to be commended.  The coffee comes from a local coffee roaster (http://www.handsomecoffee.com/) and they try to get their produce from local farmers.

Can you see the blackboard specials here?

Nah – I guess not.  It has a watermelon & jalapeno gazpacho soup special & a Brussels sprout salad with a dressing that sounded impressive when I read it back to Katie.  This picture is too blurred for me to read.  Damn!

I also like this little bit from their website:

Guestaurant:

A hybrid of a restaurant & dinner party. Guestaurants typically feature a set menu,limited seating and require a reservation much like a supper club in someone’s home.

Welcome to our home.
We are honored to have you as our guest.

In early November, they will begin doing a 6 course, $60 tasting menu.  Don’t be thrown by the Hollywood & Western location.  The neighborhood can be sketchy – but the Dixie Motel (attached to 54Twenty) has a big parking lot – so the locals shouldn’t interfere with your hipster foodie experience too much.  Only drawback?  No liquor license.  YET.  But unless you are my boyfriend – you probably don’t want a beer with your eggs, anyway, so RUN – don’t walk – and try the outrageously delicious Ranch Eggs!