Monday, August 20, 2012

Cheese Ravioli with Lemon Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo Sauce just can't be beat when it comes to cream sauces for fresh pasta.  And, when you add lemon it gets even better.  And I love it; even though some refer to it as a heart attack on a plate.  It's so rich with the butter, cream and cheese

When Alfredo di Lelio created this sauce for his wife it was made with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  It became popular in the US when two Hollywood stars brought the recipe back to the states in the 1920's (supposedly Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks).  The recipe had to be adapted in the US because the butter and cheese available in the States was not as rich as that available in Italy, so chefs in the US added heavy cream to compensate.  In Italy the name Fettuccine Alfredo is not used; they call it fettuccine al burro.  And, in our household for this meal it is Ravioli Alfredo since Lovey wanted ravioli with an Alfredo sauce; so that's just what he got.  I let him have his way quite often.

The best dishes are made with the simplest of ingredients. 

Stir the cream and lemon juice to blend then add the butter and cook just until the butter is melted.

Add the lemon zest and the freshly grated nutmeg.  Once these are combined, remove the pan from the heat.

Now, is that not simple?  In the meantime you are cooking your pasta.  I did not make my ravioli.  Central Market has some excellent fresh ravioli.   The author of the cookbook I lifted this Alfredo recipe from makes a very important point.  Because this sauce has such rich ingredients, a dried pasta will not hold up to them.  Fresh pasta, whatever the shape, is a must.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce.  Add the remaining cream, the Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and toss gently.  In the case of ravioli it was a little more difficult and delicate to turn them over several times to become coated.  Toss until the sauced thickens slightly.

Lemon Alfredo Sauce
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian

Serves 6 First-Course Servings

1-1/2 cups heavy cream - divided
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 to 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
12 Ravioli or 9 ounces of other pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, plus more to taste

Mise en place:
  • Measure out cream divided - 1 cup and 1/2 cup
  • wash lemon, dry well and zest
  • juice lemon
  • grate nutmeg
  • grate Parmesan
In a large, heavy skillet, stir 1 cup of the cream and the lemon juice to blend.  Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the butter melts, about 3 minutes.   Stir in the lemon zest and grated nutmeg.  Pull skillet off heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the ravioli or other pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes with ravioli but only about 4 minutes with other pasta.  Drain.  Add the ravioli, the remaining 1/2 cup of cream, the Parmesan, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly.  Transfer the ravioli to wide, shallow serving bowls and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fresh Cheese with Papaya-Chipotle Salsa

On the way home from running all our errands Saturday, it started raining; and raining hard.  We are so thankful for this liquid refreshment from heaven.  That was around 2:30 in the afternoon and it didn't let up much throughout the evening.  This is such a blessing for us since we have been so hot and dry in the DFW area.

Lovey and I enjoyed  the pitter patter of the rain and the soft rumbling of thunder all afternoon.   We threw open a couple of windows and kept the music and TV off while we read and relaxed.  Lovey read and for me, relaxation was puttering around in the kitchen.  Since we had a heavy burger lunch we decided to go light for this evening.

It's Beach Bum week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and although it was far from beach-y weather in Fort Worth yesterday, I threw together this cheese and fruit salsa snack for dinner since we had a heavy lunch.

I saw Rick Bayless create this dish beachside on his PBS show.  I made it last month when I hosted our neighborhood book club and decided then it was definitely one I'd make again.  So I did.

Here's what we're working with.  Whole milk panela cheese, Mexican papaya, avocado, red onion, cilantro, chipotle in adobe sauce and lime juice.

Slice the cheese and shingle the slices on a serving platter.

Dice up the papaya, avocado, onion, cilantro and chipotle.  If you are an observant individual you will have noticed that the chipotles are not in this mixing bowl.  If you are a really observant individual, you will recall from past recipes that Lovey does not like the heat of chiles.  So, I left them off today.  But let me tell you, it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S with the chipotle.  The heat of the chipotle just knocks the flavor of the avocado and papaya up to a whole other level.  So, please, use the heat!

Gently toss all of the ingredients and mix in the lime juice.  I would suggest doing this by hand as the ripe avocado and papaya can be bruised being tossed around by a spoon.  Taste and season with a little salt if you feel it needs it.

Spoon the salsa down the center of the cheese and serve with tortilla chips or pita chips.

Notes:  This serves more than 6 people when you serve it as hors d'oeuvres (you can also slice the cheese down the center after it's shingled on the platter. Because of the avocado, it doesn't do 'leftover' very well.

Fresh Cheese with Papaya-Chipotle Salsa
Serves 6
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Season 8 Mexico - One Plate at Time

12 ounces whole milk panela cheese
1/4 of a ripe Mexican papaya

1/2 small red onion
1 ripe avodado
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro
1 to 2 canned chipotle chile en adobo
Crisp-fried corn tortillas

Mise en place:

  • slice the cheese in 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices
  • peel and seed the papaya and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (you should have about 2 cups)
  • chop the onion into 1/4-inch dice
  • cut off the thick bottom stems of the cilantro and chop
  • seed and finely chop the chipotle (you might want to use food gloves)
  • pit the avocado and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Place the slices of cheese on a serving platter, shingling them on top of another. In a bowl, gently mix together the papaya, onion, avocaod, cilantro, chipotle and lime juice.  Taste and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon.  Spoon the salsa down the center of the cheese.  Serve with tostadas.

I'm sharing this at IHCC  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano

It's 'Feel the Heat' week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.  Well, we're sure feeling the heat in Texas this summer!  We hit 106° the other day so I thought I'd make a nice hot soup; you know, just to take the chill off.

The heat never deters me from making soup; even when the soup contains a little added heat with chilis.

Chicken broth, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, corn, poblano chile, yogurt, rosemary and cilantro all come together to produce a soup that's earthy with a hint of sweet from the corn and spiced up with roasted poblano.

At first taste, I wasn't a big fan, but my mind was completely changed after the garnish of fresh cilantro had a little time to do its magic.

Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano
Adapted from Rick Bayless' recipe as it appears on his website
Makes a generous 6 cups serving 4

4 medium (about 1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes (I used Yukons)
3 garlic cloves
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
1 large fresh poblano chile
8 ounces mushrooms ( I used a combination of shiitake and enokidake)
1 scant cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh off 2 cobs) (I used fresh)
1 large sprig fresh epazote (I substituted 1 sprig fresh thyme)
1/4 cup plain yogurt, heavy cream or sour cream (I used yogurt)
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

Mise en place:
  • roast poblano chile over open flame or 4 inches below a broiler then place in a plastic baggie while prepping the rest of the ingredients (I demonstrate how I roast mine in this post)
  • measure out broth
  • peel cloves and slice in half
  • remove kernels from ears of corn (here's my handy way of coralling those kernals)
  • measure out yogurt
  • roughly chop cilantro
  • peel potatoes and cut roughly into 1-inch pieces
  • rub the blackened skin off the chile and pull out the stem and seed pod.  Rinse the chile flesh to remove bits of skin and seeds.  Cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Scoop the potatoes and garlic into a medium (3 quart) saucepan, pour in half of the broth and set over high heat.  When the liquid boils, reduce the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, use an immersion blender to puree the soup base (or blend in batches in a food processor or loosely covered blender draped with a kitchen towel and return to the pan).

Add the remaining half of the broth, the mushrooms, poblano, corn and thyme.  Simmer 10 minutes over medium heat.

Just before serving, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot soup into a small bowl.  Mix in the yogurt.  Stir the mixture back into the pot, then taste and season with salt, usually about 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons.  Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.

I'm sharing this recipe at IHCC

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ribbon Party Loaves

If you are looking for a chilled, Summery sandwich to serve for your bridge club, book club  or afternoon tea, you might want to try your hand at these.  By 'these' I mean Ribbon Party Loaves.  They are like an iced layer cake except savory.

Bread instead of cake; savory fillings and a cream cheese icing instead of buttercream.

I first told you about these here.  I know, I know, I said I'd show these to you in the "near" future.  It took me several months, but here we are.

I became very nervous about making these.  It's been decades since I've made them.  We used to make around six a day.  And let me tell ya, Tyra and I could whip these babies out in a snap.

Prepare all of the fillings that you will be using.  You will have two fillings per loaf.  Some of the combinations we made in the tea room were chicken salad/egg salad, chicken salad/ham salad, and ham salad/pimiento cheese.

You can use your favorite recipes for your fillings.  I make mine very simple.  The egg salad is made with Hellman's and celery salt.  The chicken salad has diced celery in it and the ham salad has diced sweet pickle in it.  For the pimiento cheese, I purchase that.  Central Market has a great pimiento cheese in the bulk deli section.

The consistency of the fillings should not be runny; you don't want them glopping out the sides of your loaf.  Refrigerate them until it's time to assemble the loaf.

You can prepare your own white bread recipe or purchase an unsliced loaf at your local bakery.  This recipe makes a good loaf for this sandwhich.  Use a serrated knife to slice off the crust from all surfaces of the loaf. 

When you slice the loaf horizontally, make them between 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick.  You can use the domed top of the loaf as the top of one of your sandwiches.  I wanted my loaves to have a flat top so I saved the dome to make bread crumbs.  You'll need three slices per loaf.  Depending upon the height of your loaf you may get four.

These tips on slicing the bread will be helpful:
  • have two tea towels ready, one to place the slices on and one to keep them covered
  • as you make your horizontal slices, be sure to stack them on the tea towel in the same order as they came from the loaf (bottom on bottom, etc.)
  • if you are only making one loaf, freeze any extra slices you end up with; you need three slices out of the loaf
  • When you trim the crust from the loaf try to trim it as thin as possible.  You don't want a lot of crust left on the bread but you don't want to cut off too much of your bread either.
  • Some loaf pans will produce a loaf with sides that slant slightly.  When you trip off the crust, straighten those out as much as you can so the sides are more perpendicular than slanted.

I assembled both of my loaves on a large cutting board.  You can also use a jelly roll pan turned upside down.  If you are making more than one loaf and assembling them on the same board/pan,  make sure you have enough room between the loaves to ice them comfortably.  I could have given myself a little more room between two I made on this board.

 For this loaf I placed one slice of bread for the bottom and topped it with chicken salad.  In this case I put the chicken salad as the bottom layer because it was the heavier of the two fillings.  Make the thickness of the filling layers as close to the same thickness as the bread layers.

Place the middle layer of bread on top of the bottom filling and spread your second filling on top of it; in this case it is the egg salad.  Finally, top with the top layer of bread.   With a small rubber spatula, gently go around the sides of the loaf the "pat" the fillings in if they are oozing out a bit.  This will also tidy up your loaf.

Cover the loaf with a tea towel as you assemble another loaf and/or make your cream cheese icing.

Here is my second loaf of ham salad and pimiento cheese.

The "icing" is very simple.  To make sure I have enough, I use about 12 ounces of softened cream cheese per loaf.

Whip the cream cheese until smooth then add milk, one teaspoon at a time until you have a nice spreading consistency.

The only seasoning I use is this.  Use sparingly and taste so you don't get it too salty.

Sorry I don't have any photos of the loaves being iced.  But it's not rocket science.  Do it just as you would a layer cake; sides first then the top.  You want the bread and fillings completely covered.

Sprinkle the tops with a little dried or fresh parsley.  If using fresh, be sure to have it completely dry.  Place the loaves in the refrigerator for several hours to firm-up the cream cheese.  Once the cream cheese is firm you can lightly drape a tea towel over the loaves until serving.

When ready to serve, use a serrated knife and use a gentle sawing motion to slice.  Don't slice by pressing down.

You can transfer the loaves to a serving platter if you like once they are firmed up.  Be sure to use a heavy-duty long spatula that will hold up to the weight.

Place your slice on a plate and serve with a small tossed salad or a cup of soup.

Ribbon Party Loaf
(These instructions are for 1 loaf)
Serves 6 to 8, depending on the length of the loaf

1 loaf homemade or bakery-made white bread, unsliced (not commercial sandwich bread)
approximately 1 to 1-1/2 cup each of two different fillings (chicken salad, egg salad, ham salad, pimiento cheese, etc.)
12 ounces cream cheese
milk, a teaspoon at a time
Lawry’s garlic salt, to taste
Dried or fresh parsley
Mise en place:
  • set cream cheese out to soften
  • prepare your fillings, cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble
  • trim all the crust from the loaf of bread
  • slice the loaf of bread horizontally (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) and place on tea towel then keep covered with another tea towel
Assemble sandwich loaf:  (I'm going to give instructions for a chicken salad / egg salad loaf)

Place the bottom slice of bread on a chopping board or an overturned jellyroll pan.  Spread the chicken salad on the bread slice using a small rubber spatula to smooth the top and sides.  Try to make the layer of chicken salad as close to the thickness of the bread as possible.

Gently lay the middle slice of bread on top of the chicken salad.  Press just enough to make it firmly sit on the chicken salad, but not so much that the chicken salad starts spreading over the sides.  Spread the egg salad on the bread slice, smoothing as you did the chicken salad layer.

Gently lay the top layer of bread on the egg salad.  Press just enough to make it firmly sit on the egg salad, but not so much that the egg salad starts spreading over the sides.

With a small spatula, work around the loaf and press any fillings in so that the fillings and even with the edges of the bread.

Make Cream Cheese Icing:

In mixing bowl, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the cream cheese until it is nice and smooth.  Add 1 tsp of milk and whip.  Add more milk, a tsp at a time, until your cream cheese is a nice spreading consistency.  Sprinkle with garlic salt, to taste, and mix in well.

Icing the Loaf:

Apply about 1/4-inch thickness of the icing.  You want to create a stable "case" for the loaf.  Using a palette knife (frosting spatula), apply cream cheese icing to the sides of the loaf.  Work each side from bottom to top and keep the loaf steady by placing your left hand on the top of the loaf as you spread the icing.  Spread icing on the top of the loaf as you would a cake.  Sprinkle parsley on top.

Place the loaf in the refrigerator for several hours to firm up.  Once the cream cheese has firmed a bit, you can lightly drape a tea towel over the loaf.

To Serve:

Use a large, serrated knife and slice using a back and forth sawing motion.