Archive | March 2011

Tortellini in Brodo

I’ve been thinking lately–what is the homemade impulse? Where does it come from? Why do I feel so much more satisfied eating toast with a marmalade I’ve made myself or wearing a hat I’ve hand-knit? Is it a form of opting out of capitalism? Is that where the satisfaction comes from? Or is it a more basic human need to make?

It’s interesting how much more natural it is in modern life to purchase than to make, which I guess is why DIY has gained such steam in the last 10 or 15 years–the sheer novelty (and pleasure) of using your hands to produce the materials you live amongst. In daily life, you can easily move through the day making nothing. But there is a slowing effect in the hand-shaping, hand-carving, hand-kneading. The intake of information slows to just that of the senses. And maybe it has become a really useful thing–to step back, to be slow, to produce things with just the force of your body and a few ingredients.

Maggie and I have been on a homemade pasta spree lately, and the next logical step in our adventures is stuffed pasta. We’ve both lived in Emilia Romagna, so, though we may be novice tortellini-makers, we certainly can consider ourselves expert tortellini-eaters. Niente problema.

It takes a bit of time, but isn’t that the point? Taking time?

Tortellini Romagnoli

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs

1 tsp. butter
3/4 lb. prosciutto
2 oz. ricotta
2 oz. bel paese
1/4 c. grated parmesan
lemon zest
2 eggs
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Create a mound of flour and dig out a little well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and add the salt. With your hands, work the ingredients into a dough, which should be a bit sticky. If you need to, adjust consistency by adding a bit of water or flour. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for half an hour.

Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed.

Once the dough as rested, roll out until very thin with a rolling pin or run it through the lowest setting of a pasta maker until it is quite thin, but not falling apart.

With a glass or jar or cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough and set aside. Fill each circle with about half a teaspoon of filling (depending on the size of your circles). Fold circles in half, and then bring the ends to the front and pinch to a closure. Repeat until all the circles have been filled.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then add the tortellini. Let them cook until they rise to the top of the water, about 3 minutes. Drain, and serve in the broth below. Alternately, you could melt some butter, saute shallots, garlic, sage, salt and pepper, and then reduce a bit of stock in the pan until you create a nice, light sauce to serve over the tortellini.

Simple Garlic Broth

from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

8 c. vegetable stock
3 tbsp. garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
several sprigs parsley
salt and pepper

In a large pot, warm the olive oil and saute garlic until soft, a few minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Tie the herbs with a string at their stems and add the bouquet to the pot. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bouquet and season with salt and pepper.

Homemade Pasta with a Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Chicago, I’ve gotta tell you: you’re not looking good these days. Whatever this is, this post-winter, pre-spring thing, is not working for you. It’s brown on top of brown on top of brown. The snow has melted away and all that’s left is dead grass, dead bushes, dead leaves. The geese are back, but they’re brown. The el platforms, the particular color of Chicago brick, the dirty freeway cement, even the pond on campus–brown.

Exhibit A:

So, I’m waiting eagerly for spring. And I even miss winter a little. And I’m sick. I know, I know, I’m a big gripefest over here.

What’s better to soothe the inner griper than carbs? I had a carbfest on Saturday and made fresh pasta, an onion-apple tart, and homemade bread. All with the help of the lovely Maggie. She studies medieval Italian lit, so I knew, even though a novice, she’d have pasta-making in her bones.

My first attempt at fresh pasta a few weeks ago was a complete failure, but this time we pulled it off beautifully. We made reams and reams of the stuff and topped it off with a butternut squash cream sauce.

Took more time than just boiling a package of pastasciutta, but man was it worth it.

Pasta Fresca
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

2 c. flour
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
probably: water
definitely: a pasta machine

Add the flour to a large bowl and create a well in the middle. Add the eggs and yolks to the well. With a fork, scramble the eggs with the flour until you have an even consistency. We also added maybe 1/2 a c. of water to the mix because it started out much too dry. Use your discretion. What you want to achieve is a dough that holds itself together but is not too sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour.

Divide the dough in half and feed it through the lowest setting on your pasta maker. Once you feed it through, you will have a long, flat rectangle. Fold it in thirds and feed it through again on the low setting.

Set the maker to the next lowest setting and repeat these steps until you have reached the desired consistency (pretty thin, but not so much so that it falls apart). Switch attachments to the tagliatelle setting and send the dough through to cut it into pasta. Lay flat and let rest.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 3 to 6 minutes, until it floats to the top and is cooked through.

Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into chunks
salt and pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 c. cashews, finely chopped (unsalted)
3–4 sprigs of thyme
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange the butternut squash on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil until covered. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and toss to coat. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes.

Heat a large pan over medium and add oil. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the cashews and saute a few minutes more, being careful that they don’t burn. Add the roasted squash, the thyme, and the cream and bring it to a boil, then lower to simmer. Stir in the cheese and simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Beet Quesadillas

First of all, I’d like to let you know that Jen and I are starting a small baked goods etc. endeavor called Food for Thought. We bake delicious things for you (such as pictured below), you pay us modest sums of money (amount yet to be determined). Perhaps you teach at UofC and want to bring something delightful to your students on the last day of class (surefire way to get good evaluations)? Or maybe you have a meeting and want your participants to be well satiated for maximum paying-attention potential? That’s when you should call us.

Buy our baked goods.

We are especially good at delivering to UofC people on campus and in Hyde Park, but can do all of Chicago, pretty much. FREE delivery! By me! Email UofCfoodforthought – at – gmail – dot – com to enquire.


OK on to beets. If you know me, you probably know I am a beet fanatic. But put them in a quesadilla and we are talking a whole new level of happy taste buds. This was a collaborative invention by me and Johanna. Her additions were the goat cheese and the arugula. The combo: pure brilliance.

Beet Quesadillas
Makes 2

4 small beets or 2 large, peeled and diced
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
approx. 2 1/2 oz. goat cheese
approx. 1 oz. blue cheese
2 handfuls of arugula
2 tsp. aged balsamic vinegar
4 tortillas

Preheat oven to 425.

Place beets on a cookie sheet in a single layer and cover in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Place about 2-3 tbsp. of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, then add onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook them slowly, gently until caramelized. Set aside.

Assemble quesadillas in layers: tortillas, beets, onions, goat cheese, blue cheese, arugula, and a sprinkling of good, aged vinegar. Top with the other tortilla.

I used a panini press for this next part, but you could easily use a skillet: Heat oil over med-high until it is warm. Slide the quesadilla into the pan, and let it cook for a few minutes, maybe 3–5, until the bottom tortilla is beautifully golden brown. Carefully flip the quesadilla onto the other side and let it cook for a minute. Cover with a pot top or a plate so that the cheese melts. Remove the quesadilla and serve warm.

Mocha Custard

Hello chocolate. Hello creamy shot of seratonin to my brain. Custards, mousses (meese?), puddings–anything creamy and rich sends me into hog heaven. This recipe is no exception. Jen passed it along to me after raving about it, and she adapted from the good ol’ Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

I made it to go with my chipotle tacos. It was a lovely accompaniment, as well as a nod to the long history of cacao in Mexico (documented as far back as 1100 BC, with the word deriving from Nahuatl).

It made a whole lot of custard–or perhaps my ramekins are especially small for this recipe. Either way, equip yourself for a hearty dose of luscious milky mocha.

Mocha Custard

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, via Jen (the Soupista)
Makes 6

2 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp. instant coffee
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs, whisked
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping: Bailey’s + Heavy whipping cream, whole coffee beans

Preheat oven to 325.

Heat milk, sugar, cocoa, coffee and cinnamon, stirring until just dissolved. Pour into mixing bowl with eggs and vanilla (preferably bowl with pour spout). Beat for a few minutes.

Put 6 custard cups (or ramekins or coffee cups) into a deep baking dish. Divide mixture among cups. Pour boiling water around cups to depth of 1 inch. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack. Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving (will keep for about 24 hours). Garnish with cream whipped with baileys and whole coffee beans.