Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Mario Batali's Mint Love Letters (Ravioli)

Mario Batali's Babbo is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in New York.  Once when I was there about five years ago, we were seated a table away from U2 Frontman Bono and his entourage, which was pretty cool.  The food there is amazing.  One of my favorite dishes on the menu is a dish called mint love letters, which is a triangular shaped ravioli filled with a cheese, mint and sweet pea filling, served with a lamb ragu pasta sauce.  I've been wanting to make a regular ravioli version of this dish for awhile, since I make my own ravioli at home (such a rewarding process!).  I made the mint love letters square shaped, rather than triangular because it was easier to use my ravioli press.  This turned out to be one of my husband's favorite dinners and it's been requested again for next week since we already ate the two dozen raviolis I made in the original batch (yay for leftovers).  Making your own ravioli at home is fun and rewarding, although it does require a little bit of work.  This was one of my best ones yet.  Sorry the only pictures I have are of the final product and none of the lovely filling.

These were made last weekend, not last night, as yesterday my husband and I went out to a fondue restaurant in the East Village (The Bourgeois Pig) for my birthday!

Mario Batali's Mint Love Letter Ravioli (adapted from this recipe)
kosher salt
1 cup shelled sweet peas (I used frozen ones)
2 cups mint leaves
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh pepper

Ravioli dough (my perfected formula)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
5 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

1 spanish onion, diced
2 28 oz cans peeled whole tomatoes, or tomato puree
1/2 of a peeled carrot
1 lb spicy lamb sausage

First, prepare the ravioli dough.  Beat the eggs, and then add the flour and salt all at once and beat into a dough.  You may have to bring the dough together with your hands to form four balls.  Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and allow to rest for half an hour either in your refrigerator or at room temperature.

Prepare the filling by first bringing three quarts of water to boil and adding a teaspoon salt.  Submerge the peas and cook for 1-2 minutes until tender yet still bright green.  Remove using a slotted spoon or hand strainer, saving the boiling water.  Set the peas aside and blanch the mint in the hot water for 30 seconds, before removing. Once removed transfer the peas and mint to an ice bath.  Drain well.  Then puree the peas and mint in your blender (we just got a new one after ours broke, sadly).  Add the parmesan cheese and heavy cream and pulse to form a paste.

Roll out the pasta dough to the desired thickness using your pasta machine.  You can make squqare shapes using a ravioli press like I did, or you can cut out squares in a knife and fold into triangular dumplings, like the mint love letters recipe suggests. Allow to dry on a drying rack, and then freeze.

Prepare a basic pasta sauce, like mine above, or like Mario Baltali's basic pasta sauce, and bring to a simmer.  Cook the lamb sausage in small pieces using canola oil, and add to the sauce.  Serve the mint love letters with the lamb sausage pasta sauce.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Beef Dumplings with Napa Cabbage

In my last post, I wrote about my Chinese dumpling class.  The recipe below is a variation on the beef dumplings we made in the class to my specifications.  I was able to replicate the nicely pleated fold to make the dumplings and taught my husband Brad how to do it as well.  He had fun joining me making dumplings last weekend.  This was a great meal - the filling was absolutely delicious and packed with flavor in every bite.  We pan fried the dumplings and they came out perfectly.  I'm so glad I have this new cuisine to add to my repertoire.  I think I'll be making dumplings quite frequently.  Next up, I plan on making veal/kimchi dumplings next weekend.

Sasha's Beef Dumplings
1 package circular dumpling wrappers
1 lb lean ground beef
3 cups diced napa cabbage
4 T low sodium soy sauce
2 T black vinegar
1 T sesame oil
4 scallions, diced
1 T diced garlic
1 T diced ginger

Mix all of the ingredients below for the filling with your hands, until well combined.  Put a small amount in each dumpling wrapper and fold dumplings. I can't really explain how to fold a dumpling in writing, so I guess you just have to already know how do do that.

To pan fry the dumplings, the following website provides a great primer on how to pan fry.  Line the finished dumplings on parchment paper before cooking so they don't stick.  Coat the bottom of a non stick pan with a couple tablespoons of canola oil.  Line the dumplings in the pan, crowded, smooth side down and cook over heat for two to three minutes.  Add about a half inch of water, cover with a lid and allow to cook for four to five minutes until the water is gone.  Then, remove the lid and flip the dumplings and cook another three minutes until nicely browned.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Dumplings!

Recently I took a Chinese Dumpling making class one Sunday at the Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg.  The class was an excellent class taught by Connie Sun of Bite Size Kitchen where I learned tons of useful dumpling making tricks.  I learned some great recipes for Chinese style fillings, and most importantly, several techniques for folding dumplings.  Last night, Brad and I made Chinese style beef dumplings, which we pan fried, and were delicious, and next week I plan on making veal/kimchi dumplings as well.  So this is the first of a series of posts on dumplings that I plan on posting, as I'll be sharing the recipes for the dumplings I'm making these days soon. Here are some pictures of the dumpling making experience from my class.  Oh, and also check out my latest product review from ShopRite on their blog panel Potluck!

Delicious dumpling fillings for the beef dumplings with Napa cabbage and the kimchi dumplings

A nicely folded dumpling, complete with the pleats

two folding styles of dumplings, ready to be pan fried

dumplings being steamed

My first folded dumpling

Dumplings galore!

Filling for dessert eggrolls - ricotta, honey, pomegranate seeds and chocolate chips

Dessert eggrolls


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Big Lebowski White Russian Cupcakes

The Dude would have definitely been a fan one one of these cupcakes.  The Big Lebowski is one of my husband Brad's favorite movies.  Bowling and white russians (the Dude's favorite drink) play a central role in the movie, as well as the rug that "brings the room together."  So it made perfect sense to create a white russian flavored cupcake that was themed from the Big Lebowski.  I haven't made cupcakes in awhile, so it was fun to make a batch.  The cupcakes are flavored with Kahlua and instant coffee granules, while I made a Kahlua flavored frosting. For the Big Lebowski bowling feel, I decorated the cupcakes with purple glitz (sugar crystals) reminiscent of a bowling alley, and added some fondant bowling balls and pins.

White Russian Cupcakes
(adapted from Julie Hasson)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/3 cup Kahlua
2 tsp instant coffee granules
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter at room temperature
2 egg whites
1/3 cup milk

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter
3 T kahlua
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 drop gel food coloring

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.  In a second bowl, whisk together the kahlua and the coffee.  Beat the butter and sugar in the basin of your stand mixer until smooth, for a couple minutes.  Add the egg whites and combine one at a time.  Alternatively add the milk, flour and kahlua mixture and beat until combined.  Scoop batter into lined silicon cupcakes anbd fill 3/4 of the way to the top.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Beat together the ingredients for the frosting and pipe on the cupcakes using a frosting bag.
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