December 2011

fennel and rice soup

This is another recipe from David Tanis’ The Heart of the Artichoke. I decided to go for it because I’ve never had a fennel soup. It did not turn out as I expected, but was good nonetheless. I had anticipated a much more prominent fennel flavor, but the fennel was subtle and balanced by chicken broth, onion and rice. Jordan thought that the soup was super comforting and he was a big fan of the herb sauce on top. Not only is this soup inexpensive, it will also use up any herbs lingering in your fridge.

Fennel and Rice Soup with Herb Swirl, adapted from The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

For the soup
1/4 cup olive oil
2 – 3 fennel bulbs, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup long grain rice
6 cups chicken broth or water

For the swirl
1 cup fennel fronds, roughly chopped (from the tops of your bulbs)
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup basil (I didn’t have basil and instead used dill)
1/4 cup scallions (I didn’t have scallions and instead used shallot)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned.

Add the rice and broth. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Add more salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the herb sauce. In a food processor or blender, puree the herbs and scallions with the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Puree the soup in a blender until you have a smooth puree (or, in my case, with an immersion blender until you have a chunky puree). David recommends that you strain the soup after you’ve pureed it, but I skipped that step. I like rustic food and I was attached to the idea of little rice pearls in the soup.

To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl and then spoon some of the herb sauce on top. Jordan requested that I bring the herb sauce to the table, so I’ll recommend that to you as well. Some cheesy toast never hurt either.

-Emily

buckwheat crepes with ham, cheese and egg

This recipe is another gleaned from The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. He recommends it as a light lunch or as a first course, but Jordan and I had it for dinner without complaint. This crepe is actually sublime. It is simple, but hits on all the right notes. It is cheesy, smokey and slightly sweet from the ham, and earthy from the buckwheat—heavenly. We balanced out that goodness with this cauliflower soup and green beans.

Don’t be afraid of making these crepes if you’ve never made crepes before (or never made crepes with success before). This batter is quite robust and the crepes are really easy to flip. Just do yourself a favor and use a non-stick pan. The recipe below makes four to six 10-inch crepes, more than enough for 2 people.

Buckwheat Crepes with Ham, Cheese and Egg, adapted from The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 salt
2 T honey
2 slices of good ham per crepe
1/4 cup grated gruyère cheese per crepe
1 egg per crepe

Whisk together the flours, egg, milk, salt and honey. Put in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Quickly ladle in 1/3 cup batter. Swirl the pan to spread out the batter. Let the crepe brown on one side, about 3 minutes, and flip using a spatula or carefully with your fingers. Remove the crepe from the pan and set aside. Cook the remaining crepes.

To fill the crepes, lay each one top side down on a baking sheet. Make a ham and cheese barrier around the edges to contain the egg. Crack the egg into a small mug. Gently pour the egg into the center of the crepe and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake until the egg whites are white and the cheese is melted. A runny yolk is ideal. Serve immediately.

You can also prepare these crepes without the egg—a ham and cheese sandwich variation—which is just as good. To fill the crepes, sprinkle one side of the crepe with cheese and ham and then fold the crepe over to make a half-moon. Brush with a little melted butter.  Warm for a few minutes in the 400 degree oven, until the cheese is melted and the crepe is crispy.

-Emily

squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce

There is nothing like crisp fall weather to make making squash ravioli from scratch seem like a better idea, except maybe David Tanis’ book The Heart of the Artichoke. David Tanis was a chef at Chez Panisse and is a beautiful writer. His recipes are simple, but coax the best flavor out of every ingredient he adds. His writing is just as wonderful—simple and heartfelt. This storybook-style cookbook easily convinces you to try every recipe inside. And the photos are just gorgeous. I just read the book cover to cover so be prepared for a string of beautiful David Tanis recipes.

It was a Sunday and Sundays are for cooking adventures here at Chez Jojonoodle. We had a few beautiful squash from our CSA sitting on the table and I had some time to kill before Jordan got home from work. I put on an episode of This American Life and got down to business.

While making ravioli from scratch is time-consuming, you can make this dish from start to finish in about three hours. If you relax and accept that your ravioli are going to look very, very rustic, it will be even easier.

You begin by making the pasta dough. While the dough is resting, you’ll roast the squash. After the squash is roasted and dough rested, you’ll roll out the dough and fill your pasta. Cooking the pasta and making the sauce takes only 10 minutes, which you should do immediately before sitting down to eat.

Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce, adapted from The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

For the pasta dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 T olive oil

For the filling
2 lbs of squash (We used carnival and golden nugget. Butternut would be great)
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup pecorino, grated
zest of one lemon
1/2 t red pepper flakes
nutmeg, for grating

For the sauce
4 T butter
a small handful of sage leaves
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, mashed
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.

Place the flour in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs with the salt. Make a well in the flour and pour in the eggs. Mix well with a spoon. Pour the dough onto a floured counter and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least one hour.

Cut the squashes in half and scrape out the seeds. Put them skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until fork tender.

Scrape the flesh out of the squash skins and put in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, pecorino, lemon zest and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Grate in a bit of nutmeg and stir well. Set aside.

Using your pasta machine, roll out the dough into thin sheets.  To make the process manageable, I cut the dough into eighths and then rolled each of those pieces out and filled them one by one. I recommend that you coat the dough ball with flour to reduce stickiness and roll out the dough until you’ve reached the second to last setting.

Lay this piece of thin dough on a baking sheet and cut into squares—mine were about 4 by 4 inches. Put a dollop of filling in the center of each square. Wet the edges with a little water. Fold one side over the other and press firmly around the edges to make a seal. Set aside on a flour-coated baking sheet. Keep at it until you’ve finished with all of the dough and filling. I made about 40 ravioli.

When you are ready to eat, put two pots of water to boil. Salt them well. Add the ravioli gently and boil for 4 – 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage and garlic, stirring occasionally as the butter browns. Once the butter has browned, season with salt and pepper and turn of the heat. Add the lemon juice. Spoon the sauce over the raviolis, top with a little parmesan and then enjoy the fruits of your labor!

fresh mint chip ice cream

I am a lover of mint chocolate chip ice cream. My favorite was Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip followed closely by Breyers white chocolate mint, until I made this recipe. The flavor of the fresh mint in unlike anything made with peppermint extract. It is more subtle and less biting, while still being refreshing. I shaved the chocolate chips because it worked so well in the creme fraiche ice cream we made last month. We brought this ice cream to a dinner party and it was a huge hit.

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream, adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 cups packed mint leaves
5 egg yolks
1 bar good quality dark chocolate, shaved for the chips

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, sugar and 1 cup of cream. Once hot and steaming, remove the milk mixture from the heat and add the mint leaves. Let sit covered for one hour to infuse the milk with mint flavor.

Strain the mint leaves from the milk, squeezing them to coax out as much minty flavor as possible. Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl and set the strainer over it.

Rewarm the infused milk. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks and salt. Slowly pour some of the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking to combine. Pour this egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.

Over medium heat and stirring constantly, heat the custard until it has thickened enough to coat a spoon. Pour through the strainer into the bowl of cream and stir. Cool the mixture with an ice bath or refrigerate until cool.

Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker, adding the chocolate chips in during the last few minutes of churning. Enjoy immediately or freeze until firm.

-Emily