Smoked Paprika

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It’s auction dinner prep season in my kitchen, as I’m gearing up to cook for two upcoming auction dinners.  Stakes seem to be raised this year - at least in the dollars collected for area student-athletes and athletic programs - so I’m figuring that last year’s dinners went pretty well.

Dinner #1 is in mid-May with another coming a month later, and while the menus are very much in infancy, I am debating pulling out a fresh pasta course early in that first meal.  These spring pea and fontina stuffed raviolis weren’t a perfect fit for the spinach pesto, but I’m thinking I can work from here.  The pasta itself was great, but I think they’d be better suited for a brighter olive oil-herb drizzle - something lighter and brighter.

Spring Pea and Fontina Ravioli (serves 4 as a starter)

  • 4 egg yolks (2 for pasta, 2 for filling)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 package frozen peas, blanched and shocked
  • 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Combine 2 egg yolks, flour and water together to form the dough.  Knead into a ball and allow to rest on the counter, covered, for 30 minutes. 

In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining two egg yolks with the blanched peas.  Use a hand blender to puree about half the mixture until it’s a near-even blend of puree and chunky peas.  Fold in shredded cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. 

Roll out the pasta into thin sheets - you’re looking for a delicate pasta to match the gentle flavor of the filling.  Using a large circle mold gently score one sheet and place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle. Top with another pasta sheet and put out your ravioli, sealing the edges. 

Cook in boiling water 3-4 minutes until cooked through.  While I liked the pureed spinach, garlic and pine nut pesto shown here, it was a bit too aggressive and woodsy for the these ravioli - not bad mind you, but not perfect either.  A good green olive oil with some muddled herbs would be my choice going forward. 

Maybe you can give them a shot and let me know what you think!

Because it seemed like a pasta salad-kind-of-day.  Here’s how I make mine.

"It’s far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated…"

Sometimes my Sunday Night Dinners are a day-long affair, but when the sun comes out at the end of the wettest March in PNW history this Sunday wasn’t that day. 

There’s something so satisfying though about a perfectly cooked roast chicken and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. 

Lemon Rosemary Roast Potatoes

  • 1 lb baby potatoes, halved
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 large spring of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup onion, roughly diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Toss the potatoes, onion and whole garlic cloves in the olive oil, lemon zest, rosemary and salt and pepper.  Bake for 45-60 minutes in a 400 degree oven, tossing every 15 minutes.

Austin happened, and it happened on a crash-course of a guys weekend, consisting entirely of NCAA tournament viewing and Texas food favorites. BBQ, check. Tex Mex, check. Fried Chicken, why not? 

When in Texas…

Hello Mardi Gras.  Does this count? 

Whole wheat carrot cake muffins

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup diced pineapple, juice included
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together and bake for 20-25 minutes until done (test with a toothpick).  Allow to cool and then top with a cream cheese frosting.

So this happened, and it was good.  Nothing special, not rocket science, but not everything has to be.  Thanks to Rick Bayless for the sauce

Inside was just as quick.  Leftover rotisserie chicken, shredded monterrey jack cheese, cream cheese and green onions all rolled up in a corn tortilla and cooked in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. 

I find ricotta gnocchi a bit ironic.  You would expect it to be light and delicate, that much more so than a traditional potato gnocchi.  Instead though, it seems much better suited to hold up to a rich, heavy sauce than it’s cousin - the ricotta actually firming up nicely as it cooks making for a heavier chew instead of what you think it would be. 

It’s either that, or the hands of my 3-year-old helped to overwork the dough a little bit.  I’ll let you decide…

Sunday Night Dinners: Ricotta gnocchi with Italian sausage-balsamic ragu

  • 16 oz whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs

You’ll find it helps if you have time to drain the ricotta in a fine strainer or cheesecloth for 30-minutes or so, getting rid of any excess water you can.  This will help a your dough come together and be a little less gummy. 

Combine your cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the flour in a bowl, mixing it together.  Slowly add in more flour until your dough comes together and loses it’s “stick”.  I used a little more than a cup and a half. 

Divide your dough into 3-4 portions and roll each out into a 1/2” wide roll.  Cut each and use a gnocchi roller or a fork (which I used) to get the traditional ridges in your gnocchi. 

Put a couple dozen gnocchi at a time into some well-salted, boiling water, cooking them just until they float to the top.  Remove and toss with a little olive oil while the others finish cooking.  Mix with sauce and serve.

The ragu was just what happened to be around the house and in the freezer.  I started by browning about a 1/2 lb of sweet Italian sausage, then added 1/2 cup finely diced onion, a sprig of chopped rosemary and a little dried oregano.  After the onion turns translucent, add in about 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan.  Allow the vinegar flavor to cook for for 5-7 minutes before adding a large can of chopped tomatoes and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes, covered (longer if you have the time) and serve with your gnocchi or any other noodle.