Saturday, December 19, 2009

Waiting for the snow and baking cookies

Hi Everyone,

It will start snowing soon... I had a dinner party tonight and one tomorrow but because of the weather they were canceled. So what to do, what to do. Bake cookies for Christmas of course. One of my favorites are Cardamom Walnut Cookies - An epicurious recipe. The perfect cookie with tea.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kitchen tools for Christmas

Here are some of my favorite kitchen tools. If you have a special someone who loves to cook here are some great tools you can get for them. Some make the perfect stocking stuffer, others take center stage.

Silicon Spatulas

Spider - great for straining pasta and ravioli


Ricer - Makes the best mashed potatoes

Cutting Board - This can go in the dishwasher!

Fish Spatula

Silicon Rolling Mat

Le Creuset - Great for Braising and Stews

Grill Pan

My Favorite Saute Pan - I use this almost every day!

Happy Holidays!

Gifts for Christmas


I've been busy cooking, cooking, cooking. No holiday cards, haven't wrapped a single present and yes I still have more shopping to do. Okay, so why am I here writing my blog and not shopping or writing my Christmas cards? This is more fun. I also have a sink full of dishes and pile of laundry that could sink a ship. Ah, the joys of procrastination!

So gifts for Christmas... Some of my favorites include: Flavored salts, truffles, fresh pasta, spiced nuts, and homemade liqueurs. This year I spent a day with 2 friends making fresh ravioli. We had a blast. It was a double gift. A gift to myself creating special memories while making the pasta and a gift for those who get the pasta. This is a tradition that I have wanted to start for a couple of years now and I finally made it happen.

There is something very childlike about making fresh pasta. My fresh pasta classes are always some of the best classes. I don't know if it is the tactile nature of the process or the fact that you really have to work with someone else but it really is a tranformative process. I love doing team building events with fresh pasta because there is nothing like watching a very serious executive become playful and silly.

Here are a couple of recipes that you can try:

Fresh Pasta
Serving Size : 8
Source: Mario Batal

2 cups all-purpose flour -- (2 to 2 3/4)
3 large eggs

Sift together and then mound 2 cups of the flour and a pinch of salt in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin
to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

Add more flour, if needed. As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the
mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Knead for about 15 minutes, adding any of the remaining flour if necessary to create a cohesive mass. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly re-flour the board and continue kneading for six more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Roll or shape as desired.

Mushroom Raviloi
Based on a Martha Steward Recipe

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
2 shallots, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms, such as button, cremini, and shiitake,
brushed clean, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more for serving
1/2 cup flour, for dusting
Fresh Pasta

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until browned about 10 minutes. Be sure not to crowd the pan or the mushrooms will steam. Add shallots, and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in parsley, and cook 1 minute more. Add wine and cook over high heat until the wine has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl, and cool briefly before stirring in Parmesan and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread flour on a baking sheet; set aside. Cut fresh pasta dough into 8 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping remaining pieces covered with a glass bowl. Using a pasta machine, roll through the widest opening, brushing very lightly with flour. Fold dough in half crosswise; pass through machine again. Roll dough through remaining settings until it is about 1/16 inch thick (on the Kitchen Aid attachment, this is through setting number 6; this may vary depending on the type of machine used), using as little additional flour as possible.

Place sheet on a lightly floured surface with the long side parallel to the edge of work surface. Place 8 heaping measuring teaspoons of mushroom filling along the top third of the sheet about 2 inches apart. Moisten pasta around each mound of filling, using a pastry brush dipped in water. Fold the dough up and over the filling to enclose; press around filling to seal. Cut between mounds with a plain pastry wheel. Or use a 2 1/2-inch fluted round cutter to cut out ravioli, centering filling. Alternately, use a fluted pastry wheel to cut into rectangular ravioli. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill until ready to cook. The ravioli can be prepared ahead of time up to this point and frozen. Place baking sheet in freezer until ravioli are frozen. Transfer ravioli to a freezer bag, and keep frozen for up to 2 months.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 6 ravioli per serving, and cook until tender but al dente, about 2 minutes (slightly longer if frozen). In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of oil with 1 sprig of thyme for each serving. When ravioli are done, use a slotted spoon to remove from boiling water. Drain well, and transfer to skillet. Toss in butter, and divide among warm bowls. Top with shaved Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

Chocolate Truffles
Based on a recipe by Jacques Torres
About 180 truffles

2 cups heavy cream
21 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cognac

To garnish the truffles
Cocoa powder, coconut, confectioner's sugar, finely chopped nuts

Heat the heavy cream in a heavy-bottomed pan until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Make sure that you have chopped the chocolate finely. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and letting it sit for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Then slowly whisk until smooth. As it cools, it will thicken and set. Use a small scoop to portion out each truffle. Use gloved hands to roll into a nicely shaped ball. Use your gloved hands to heat/melt the outside of the truffles and roll in your choice of coatings; coconut, cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, pistachios or other nuts.

The truffles will keep for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, when stored in an airtight container.