Sunday, November 23, 2014

Asparagus- Ricotta Ravioli (using pre-made wrappers)

Ravioli made with pre-made frozen ravioli dough 

Sometimes I'm looking for an interesting dinner but I don't want to work quite that hard. This dish was made during the week, on a work night. I used shortcuts including ravioli wrappers instead of home-made dough and a jar of good quality sauce (vodka sauce in this case). I did not use a ravioli maker - the equipment I used is quite basic. In a pinch you can use won-ton wrappers, although the resulting dumplings will have less "body" than typical ravioli. (See photo at the end of the recipe, which shows this recipe made with won-ton wrappers.)

Its difficult to find interesting filled pasta in the ready-made kosher freezer aisle, so give ravioli making a try. The sky is the limit with fillings you can create and you do not need a ravioli form or maker.

I crimped some of the ravioli with a fork, the others between my fingers.
They all held together equally well after using an egg-white wash

The baguette I served with the ravioli were made at a different time,  frozen and defrosted.  I usually need to triage cooking projects and wouldn't usually try both projects for one meal.  I'd suggest that it's just as good to purchase a good quality loaf of bread to serve with the pasta. However, if you feel you want to give the baguette a try, I adapted the recipe from Dan Leader's 4 Hour Baguette found on The baguette comes out of a home oven looking very much like a rustic artisan bread with a great crust.

There is a rhythm to making dumplings that repeats itself, no matter which dumplings you are creating. Ravioli is no different: make the dough (or use ready-made), mix the filling, assemble the dumplings, cook and serve. Home made pasta is wonderful, but it's often too demanding. If you choose to skip making the pasta from scratch, using the ready-made wrappers saves at least an hour of work.

If I'm planning this kind of dinner for midweek, I'll prep the vegetables before leaving for work. On this particular day I also sauteed the onion and asparagus, placed in a bowl, covered and placed it in the fridge. The filling took very little time once I got home and finished up.

Cutting board, knives
Measuring cups, spoons , small bowls
Frying pan, large stock pot
Small silicone pastry brush

Ingredients: (Makes 25-30 large ravioli)

1 package ravioli (square or round, 50- 60 pieces). Thicker wrappers are preferable, although in a pinch you can use a won-ton wrapper (which will yield a less-substantial dumpling).
If you want to make the wrappers, my kreplach wrapper will work well.

1 medium large onion (approximately 5 oz), diced
3-4 Tbsp olive (or vegetable) oil
1-2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 lb bunch asparagus, wash trim the tops and set aside. Trim the woody bottom, discard.  You should have 12-14 oz of cleaned asparagus stalks.  Dice the stalks and set aside.
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese , drain in a colander  if the cheese is watery
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese
2 large eggs (one whole plus one yolk for the filling, 1 white for the ravioli assembly)
1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg                                                                 
Cornstarch for sprinkling on a flat surface,                                        
to lay down finished stuffed ravioli

1 1/2 c of your favorite tomato sauce,  homemade sauce, or crushed garlic sauteed in a bit of olive oil, with fresh herbs that can be drizzled on the drained , hot pasta.

1. Defrost the wrappers if you are using pre-made wrappers. Sprinkle cornstarch on a flat surface (this is where you'll place the finished formed ravioli before cooking them).
2. Add the asparagus tips and saute for 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

3.Prepare the filling by sauteing the diced onion in 1-2 Tbsp oil until translucent (3-4 minutes) and add the diced asparagus stalks. Continue to saute for another 3-4 minutes, the asparagus should still be firm.

4. Add the vegetables into a large mixing bowl, add the cheeses, parsley and seasoning. (you can taste it for enough salt, add other seasoning as desired).

5. The mixture should be just warm to the touch before adding the egg and yolk (you do not want to "cook" the eggs when you mix them in. Mix well.
6. Fill a large stock pot (5-6 quarts) 3/4 of the way with cold water, add a heaping tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil while you are preparing the ravioli.
7. Add 1 tsp of cold water to the egg white and mix.
8. Using a silicone brush or small spreader, spread a film of egg white on ONE side of 2 wrappers.

9. Place a heaping tsp of filling in the center of one of the wrappers. Top the filling with the 2nd wrapper, egg washed side facing down. Press the edges with your fingers or a fork. The egg white will help "glue" the edges.

crimp the edges with a fork or

use your fingers to press the edges together

either system will work well

10. Place the completed ravioli on the cornstarch sprinkled surface.  The egg-white will dry and form a sealed filled pasta/dumpling.

11. By the time you have repeated the process and made a dozen or so ravioli, the water should be boiling.  Add a tablespoon of oil into the water and gently drop 10-12 ravioli into the boiling water. Don't crowd them.  Once the water returns to a slow boil, cook for 10 minutes.

12. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a flat surface (single layer).
13. Repeat the process, you'll have enough filling for 25-30 large ravioli

14. You can serve immediately, top each serving with a few of the reserved asparagus tips.
The ravioli can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a day or two.
15. To re-warm, spray oil in a frying pan and warm the ravioli in the pan.


Want to try to make another kind of dumpling? 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fig and Goat Cheese Tart

When people talk about produce, Summer comes to mind; however, the end of the Summer and beginning of Fall bring treats to the local Farmers' Markets.  Look for gorgeous broccoli, cabbage, apples, pears and figs.

I used 1.5 lb of fresh figs to make this tart, 2 lbs would have been better. It helps that we have a neighbor with a fig tree, and better yet a young fig tree of our own that will, hopefully, begin to fruit next year This recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook, Plenty More.  Extravagance aside, the tart is amazing: beautiful and impressive to look at and even more delicious.

The dough is a buttery yeast dough flavored with thyme, lime, lemon and a bit of sugar. The resulting taste is not quite cake, a bit savory with an earthy undertone. I used fresh thyme today, as my garden is still full of beautiful fresh thyme, but I'm sure dried thyme will work well. These figs I used were the last of the season and on the smallish side The fruit should be a  bit firm, but ripe.

Spring came in late and the tree has lots of under-ripe fruit that will probably not make it through the first freeze

Before you read the recipe and decide that this is way more involved than you have patience for, let me suggest that you try it on a rainy Sunday, when you have nowhere to go until later in the day. The dough should be made and chilled for 8- 10 hours for best results (although 3-4 hours will do). Ottolenghi writes that you can choose to use frozen puff pastry, which may also be delicious, but would be a different tasting tart.  Depending on how you want to divide up your time, some of the prep can be done the evening before as well, making the baking process move more quickly when you are ready to bake.

For this tart I strongly recommend weighing the ingredients and not using volume.

30-60 minutes before you are ready to assemble the tart, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. While the dough is warming a bit, prepare the cheese spread, slice the fruit in half and whisk the lemon icing ingredients.The cheese layer is applied like a thin film of spreadable filling. The icing is drizzled on the baked tart.

Electric mixer
Measuring cups, spoons, bowls, small whisk
Small prep bowls
Kitchen scale
Rolling pin, silicone mat
Parchment paper
Jelly roll pan

For the pastry dough:
10 oz  all purpose flour
1.8 oz granulated sugar
1 tsp instant yeast -I used SAF Gold, but any instant yeast will work, if you prefer active dry yeast,
     see my post on flour and  yeast
Zest of one lime or lemon
1/2 tsp lime or lemon oil (optional, add it if you like more pronounced citrus flavor)
2 oz (1/4c) warm water
1 extra large egg plus one extra large yolk, mix in a small prep bowl. Reserve the egg white to wash on the edges of the rolled out dough
pinch kosher or sea salt
2.5 oz (5 Tbsp) butter, margarine or solid shortening - cut into small pieces
approximately 1-2 Tbsp neutral oil (e.g. canola or corn) for greasing the bowl used for proofing the

For the cheese layer:
5 oz plain goat cheese
2 oz confectioner's sugar
1 Tsp grated orange zest
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 Tsp dried thyme)
1 extra large egg
3.6 oz ground almonds or hazelnuts

For the fig layer:
1 1/2 - 2 lbs barely ripe figs, halved
2 Tbsp sugar crystals- use organic sugar crystals, sanding or turbinado sugar - these types of sugar will remain sparkly on the baked tart. If unavailable, use granulated sugar

For the lemon icing drizzle:
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 oz confectioner's sugar

Make the pastry. You'll need to chill the dough a minimum of 2-4 hours, or preferably 8-10 hours
1. Pre-measure all of the ingredients and have at-the-ready.
2. Place the flour, yeast, granulated sugar and zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.
3. Using the dough hook, stir the ingredients.
4. Pour the water into the dry ingredients, continuing to mix at a slow speed. Add the egg mixture, salt and lemon oil. Continue to mix on low speed.
5. Add the butter, one or two small pieces at a time.  Increase the mixer speed and mix until the fat is blended into the dough.  You may need to scrape the dough down along the sides of the bowl.  If the dough continues to stick to the sides and does not pull together into a ball, add a tablespoon or two of flour. Continue to mix at medium for six or seven minutes.  The dough ball will look shiny, smooth and be stretchy.
6. Remove the dough hook, drizzle the reserved oil on top of the dough, turn the dough so that the entire surface is oily.
7. Cover with plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and chill.  The finished dough will become puffy, but will increase only about 20% in volume.

8. To make the cheese layer
 You can make the mixture after the dough (chilling while the dough is being chilled) or prepare after the dough has chilled and is warming a bit before you roll it out and assemble the tart.

9. Measure and assemble the cheese layer ingredients. Mash or whip together the cheese, 2 oz confectioner's sugar, thyme and zest. Beat in the whole egg and then add the ground nuts. The filling will have the consistency of a thick cream cheese spread.

10. Halve the figs               

11. Cover a flat surface with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Dust lightly with flour. Gently shape the ball of dough into a short log and begin rolling out the dough by stretching the length to about 16-17 inches. Flip the dough, dust it with a bit more flour and roll out to widen to approximately 12 or 13 inches, forming a rectangle this is approximately 16 x 12 inches. The dough should be approximately 1/4 inch thick. 

12. The dough will be fragile, there are two ways I know to move the dough onto the baking pan. You can loosely roll the dough over and around a rolling pin and unroll along the length of the jelly roll pan that has been lined with parchment paper OR you can cover the dough with parchment paper, lay the jelly roll pan on top of the covered dough and lifting from the bottom (under the silicone or parchment, flip the entire layered silicone-paper-dough-baking pan so that the pan is on the bottom and you can peel away the now-top layer of silicone or paper. 

13. Trim the edges to form a reasonably straight rectangle and roll each edge over once to form a border. 

14. Spread a thin layer of cheese along the entire surface.
15. Brush the edge with the reserved egg white.
16. Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar crystals along the pastry edge.
17. Place a layer of figs, placing the fruit as closely together as possible, making sure to cover the entire surface with fruit. Sprinkle the fruit with the remaining sugar crystals.

18. Cover loosely with a piece of parchment paper and let rest 15-20 minutes until you see the edge puff a bit. While allowing the assembled tart to rest/rise, place an oven rack in the top third of the oven and  preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

19. Remove the cover, slip the tart into the oven, lower the thermostat to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and sparkly and the figs have begun to caramelize a bit.

20. While the tart is baking, combine the lemon juice and reserved confectioners sugar. Whisk into a thick icing.

21. Drizzle the icing on the warm tart. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

The tart is unbelievably delicious! 
Not too sweet, a bit earthy from the flavor of the thyme and the figs become creamy. 

Looking for another fruit tart recipe?
or a VERY simple Rustic Fruit Crumble

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Challah Bread Pudding / Kugel

Re-purpose the left-over holiday challot and make a challah bread pudding (AKA:bread kugel)

Don't throw out the left over sweet, fruit stuffed holiday challah - it may not be suitable for breadcrumbs, but you have the base of a great bread pudding. The "recipe" is more of a guideline, improvise as you go.


  • Gather the left over challah. This year we had stuffed pumpkin, apple and strawberry/apple challah, use whatever challah you have on hand. Cube into bite-size pieces
  • Mix  milk (pareve or cows milk), eggs , sweeteners and spices 
  • Bake until firm, serve warm or at room temperature
  • breadboard , knife
  • mixing bowl
  • a large mixing cup or a mixing cup and bowl
  • mixing spoon, measuring spoon 
  • 9x9 or 8x8 baking pan (the size to make a batch of brownies)
Note: this is a guideline. Measurements are approximate - improvise and be creative!

8c bread cubes (you can use white bread, but challah, with or without fruit, jam or nuts make this 
     bread pudding out of the ordinary)
1/2 cup diced dry fruit (optional, use if you choose). Fruit could include dried cranberries, diced 
     apricot or dates, raisins, dried apples, etc. 
1 tsp (or a bit more) ground cinnamon 
1/4- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 
1/3- 1/2 c brown sugar (more if you like very sweet bread pudding) 
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar (optional) 
2 c liquid (I use soy, almond or coconut milk in order to keep the recipe non-dairy, if this is not
     a concern, you can use milk or a combination of milk and half and half)
4 extra large or 5 large eggs
1/4- 1/3 c vegetable oil 

1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees while you prepare the ingredients. Grease a baking pan. I like to use a glass pan for this recipe because it looks nice to serve from the pan
2. Cube the bread. You can use stale, fresh or frozen bread 
3. Mix dry ingredients including the bread, sugar, spices, fruit in a large mixing bowl 

4. Combine the liquids ("milk," eggs). Oil will be added separately

4. Pour the "milk"- egg mixture into the dry mixture and then mix in the oil. Mix well and pour into the prepared pan

5. Slip the unbaked mixture into the oven, lower the heat to 350 and bake until golden brown, approximately 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving idea; whip cold full-fat canned coconut milk as you would for whipped cream, whipping in approximately 3- 4 Tbsp confectioners sugar . Chill for several hours to help the cream firm-up.

Looking for another seasonal recipe idea? 
Check out what I was making about a year ago: 

As always,  your comments, questions, suggestions are welcome!