mushroom pasta handkerchiefs

Jordan and I have some really wonderful friends. Our friend Ralph, who occasionally walks Miss Willow and knows how much we love to cook, gave us one of those nifty hand-crank pasta makers! A friend of his was moving, her nearly-new pasta maker was unable to make the trip and Ralph set it aside for us. Isn’t that grand!

Mushroom Pasta Handkerchiefs, adapted from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

I noticed this recipe in the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook a few weeks ago and I added it to my list. I thought it would be a long while before I could make it (sadly, I am not a hardcore Italian grandmother who rolls her pasta with a sawed-off broom handle), but when fate brought a pasta maker into our lives, I knew it was meant to be. The pasta turned out beautifully. While it is not the easiest dish since you make the pasta from scratch, it is well worth the effort. The dish is balanced, showcases the few ingredients that make it up and is supremely comforting – everything you expect from an Alice Waters recipe.

For the egg pasta dough (makes 1 pound of pasta) 
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 T olive oil
1 T water

Mix the flour and salt together.  In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, olive oil and water. On a work surface, pour out the flour mixture and make a well in the center. Pour the eggs into the well. With a fork, stir the eggs in a circular motion slowly bringing more flour into the eggs.

Once the flour has soaked up the eggs and it is not in danger of running all over or when you accidentally break through the well and egg is rushing towards the edge of your counter, use a bench scraper to mix the flour and eggs together. It will be crumbly. Knead the dough into a ball using a squeezing motion. Once it has combined, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Divide the dough into two balls. Dust one with flour and roll it out into a flat pancake. Open your pasta maker to the largest setting and pass the dough through. Double the dough on itself and pass it though again. Continue to pass the dough through at the largest setting, until it is smooth. Cut the kneaded dough into several smaller pieces. Wrap the pieces you aren’t currently stretching with plastic wrap.

Gradually stretch the dough, passing it though progressively thinner settings. You want pieces that are about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long- you’ll cut these into 4 inch by 4 inch squares. Don’t worry if your dough is not uniform in width or length – this is a rustic pasta dish! When it has reached your desired thickness, put it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Take care to put parchment paper in between the layers of the dough, it will stick to itself like crazy. Continue this method with the rest of dough. You’ll get a decent arm workout and feel quite accomplished. After you’ve rolled out all of the dough, cut the dough into 4 inch squares and put a pot of salted water on to boil.

For the pasta (serves 4, we doubled this recipe to serve 6 as a main course)
1/2 lb mixed mushrooms (we used creminis, shitakes and morels)
4 T butter
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced fine
1/2 t thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced fine
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb pasta dough
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
a few handfuls of arrugula
lemon juice
olive oil

Clean the mushrooms of their grit. Cut them into quarters. Dice the onion, thyme and garlic. In a saute pan, melt 1 T butter. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until lightly browned. The mushrooms will lose a lot of their liquid; you should wait for this to evaporate before setting them aside. Set the mushrooms aside. Melt another tablespoon of butter and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add the mushrooms, creme fraiche and chicken stock. Turn the heat to high and reduce until it is a thick saucy consistency.  Check for seasoning, turn of the heat, and set the filling aside.

Preheat an oven to 500 degrees. Butter a large baking dish. In the pot of boiling water, cook the pasta sheets several at a time for about 3 minutes each.  Put the pasta sheets side by side in the baking dish. Spoon a few tablespoons of the mushroom mixture into the center of each pasta sheet and fold the corners up around the filling. Alice makes this step seem really simple, but it is a bit trickier than she makes it out to be. The pasta will flop all over the place and doesn’t really stick to itself like you’d hope. Just try your best to seal the little pasta pouches – they will taste amazing regardless of how they look.

Cover the entire dish with the grated parmesan cheese. Put in the oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the parmesan is melted and browned. Meanwhile, toss the arrugula with lemon juice and olive oil.  Using a spatula, place several pasta pouches on each plate and tuck the dressed arrugula around the pasta. Enjoy and bask the fruits of your hard work!


Recipes San Francisco

our csa from eatwell farm

Jordan and I have been enjoying the bounty of spring through our CSA with Eatwell Farm. We’ve been obsessed with their strawberries and fava beans (maybe you’ve noticed), and we now count cherries and radishes among those obsessions as well.  The cherries were so good that they didn’t even make it into a recipe. We ate them straight from the bag the day we got them. The radishes were also wonderful – crunchy and spicy. We used them in a salad and also pickled a few. I’d never had them before, but pickled radishes are a good idea. Trust us.



Pickled Radishes
1/2 bunch radishes, quartered
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 t fennel seed

Heat the sugar, salt and vinegar in a small pot until dissolved. Pour over the radishes, garlic and fennel seeds. Seal the jar and place in the fridge to marinate overnight or up to 1 month. We ate these with some leftover cheese nubbins from a dinner party and they were awesome.

If you are interested in joining a CSA and getting in on this incredible produce, check out LocalHarvest to find on in your area.



fava beans, four ways

How do I love thee fava bean? Let me count the ways. Sauteed, over pasta with parmesan, on pizza with onions and cream, pureed into a soup and chilled.

Jordan first introduced me to fava beans last spring with one of his favorite pasta dishes. He raved about the buttery and fresh quality of these beans. After trying his pasta, I was also hooked. This spring we’ve received several bunches of fava beans in our CSA and we’ve experimented with new recipes from a chilled soup to pizza.

Fava beans are available only in spring. They come in a large, green, slightly fuzzy pod. You need to first remove the individual beans from the pod and then remove their tough exterior skin. It is a fair amount of work to shell fava beans, but they are worth the effort. When purchasing the beans keep in mind that you should buy more than you think you’ll need since the actual size of the bean is small compared to the size of its pod. Now for the recipes!

Sauteed Fava Beans with Parmesan 

1 lb fava beans
1 clove garlic, sliced
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flake
shaved parmesan cheese (we like to shave slivers with a vegetable peeler)

Shell the beans. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flake. Saute briefly. Add the fava beans. Saute until the beans are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes and add lemon zest. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice.

This dish is good as a side or as main course with some bread and salad.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Parmesan and Fresh Herbs
1/2 lb dried or fresh pasta
1 lb fava beans
1 clove garlic
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flake
grated parmesean
chopped fresh herbs (we like parsley)

Boil a pot of salted water. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. If using fresh pasta, saute the fava beans first. Saute the fava beans following the recipe above. Drain the pasta, reserving a little bit of the pasta water. Add the pasta and parmesan to the saute pan. Toss to melt the cheese and distribute the beans. Top with fresh herbs to serve.

Pizza with Fava Beans, Spring Onions and Creme Fraiche 
1 ball fresh pizza dough (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell fresh pizza dough that is pretty darn good and saves you an hour)
1/2 lb fava beans
1/2 spring onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup creme fraiche (you could also use marscapone or ricotta)
salt, pepper, olive oil

Heat an oven to 425 – 450 degrees. We have a pizza stone in the bottom of our oven that we cook our pizzas directly on top of, but if you don’t have a pizza stone use a baking sheet dusted with corn meal. Roll out your pizza dough. Spread the creme fraiche in a even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle evenly with onions, fava beans and salt. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Top with fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

We had our first pizza with cream at Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission. It was a life-changing experience. The creme fraiche offers subtle tanginess and richness without overpowering the flavors of the vegetables. If you’ve never had a pizza sans cheese, I recommend you give it a go. This pizza is amazing, and wouldn’t be half bad with a bit of prosciutto on top as well.

Chilled Fava Bean Soup
2 lbs fava beans
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
creme fraiche and lemon juice, for serving

Shell and peel the beans. Peel and dice the onion. Thinly slice the garlic. In a dutch oven or heavy stock pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until quite soft, 10 – 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for two more minutes. Season with salt. Add the fava beans and cook for two more minutes. Add just enough stock to cover the beans. Chill the remaining stock. Cook the beans until tender. Puree in a blender until smooth, adding the leftover chilled stock until the desired consistency is reached. You might not use all of the stock. Check for seasoning. Chill and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice.

This soup is really simple, healthy and easy to make. We served it at our cooking demonstration a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit. We got more compliments on this soup than any other dish we prepared. In my mind, it means a lot when a chilled soup is the star of the show. This soup is not the heartiest of dishes and so it would be the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat or fish.

Just in case it’s not totally obvious, we love fava beans in pretty much any incarnation. They are delicious and only around for a short time so go out and enjoy some while you can! I’m still brainstorming a fava bean dessert …



turtle cheesecake with homemade caramel

For his graduation, I offered to make my brother any dessert he desired. He asked for a turtle cheesecake. Being a Nonnie’s cheesecake purist, I’d never eaten a turtle cheesecake and so I turned to Google. After an exhaustive search (and by exhaustive I mean that I looked through a page of images), I learned that a turtle cheesecake consists of a cheesecake base topped with nuts, caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. Armed with this fine knowledge, I went to work!

The cheesecake turned out quite well and was a hit at the party. While I can’t say that it will become my go-to cheesecake – Nonnie’s cheesecake is heaven on earth – it could be come yours.

Turtle Cheesecake with Homemade Caramel
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate cookies (I used chocolate graham crackers)
6 T butter, melted
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, finely grind the cookies. Mix with the melted butter and press into the bottom of a springform pan. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. Pour into the springform pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the caramel
1 cup sugar
6 T butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cream

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the sugar stirring occasionally. After the sugar has melted completely, let it brown until caramel colored, swirling often. Add the butter and whisk vigorously. The sugar will bubble up quite a bit and it is crazy hot so be careful. Take the mixture off the heat. Let it cool for 10 seconds. Add the cream. Whisk again until you have a smooth sauce.

This recipe makes about 1 cup of caramel sauce. You’ll use about 1/8 – 1/4 cup in this recipe. Refrigerate the remainder and have an ice cream sunday party later.

For the other toppings
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup chocolate chips (We like Guittard)

Toast the nuts in a saute pan over medium heat or in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, until browned.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave.

Drizzle the toppings over the cooled cheesecake. I tried several methods for the drizzling and found that pouring the topping into a small ziplock bag, cutting off a corner and squeezing the bag was the most effective and the prettiest. Sprinkle on the nuts. Refrigerate again or let it set for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!