Make, Jane, make!: November 2011


Small Share

Friday, November 25, 2011

Beetroot and Beet Green Ravioli

Although our farmshare deliveries have been finished for a month now, we just recently enjoyed the last of the beets. The greens on our beets were already wilting a bit and I wanted to preserve what was left of them before they went to waste... but having a new baby in the house made it difficult to embark on a huge ravioli making project. So the beets and greens were prepared first and they waited patiently in our fridge until I recently had time to roll out pasta sheets and form the raviolis.

If you've never eaten beet greens, definitely give them a try the next time you're fortunate enough to get beets with the leaves still attached. This is the beauty of participating in a CSA - when you receive produce you get the whole plant, so nothing needs to go to waste and you may get to try something new. Beet greens remind me of spinach but with a slight beet-y sweetness. I usually cut off the bulk of the stalks and use only the leaves. The stalks tend to be a little fibrous and also contain a lot of that beet-red dye, which kinda takes away from the loveliness of eating green-coloured veggies.

Ravioli filling is pretty forgiving. You can, more or less, make it any way you like since the pasta holds it altogether. My ravioli contained some beet greens sautéed with some garlic...

... And since I didn't have a whole lot of greens, I also roasted and grated the beetroot for the filling as well. This was nice since it made for a slightly sweet ravioli, similar to butternut squash ravioli.

Of course, the filling also needed ricotta and some eggs to bind it together before getting scooped onto some fresh pasta sheets.

I usually leave a little over a finger's width between the ravioli. Usually, with freshly rolled pasta sheets I just use some water to stick them together, but because I wanted to freeze most of this batch, I brushed my sheet with some beaten egg before placing the second sheet on top to make sure everything remained stuck together through the freezing and later cooking.

It's okay if you get some wrinkles and folds in your ravioli... they get wrinkly when you cook them anyway! The important thing is to seal each pocket of filling with as little extra air space as possible. The air pockets are what cause the most wrinkles and folds after you've boiled them.

I use a pizza wheel to cut my ravioli. We have a laminate countertop and I have yet to cause any damage doing this (for those of you who are wary of cutting directly on your counter, you can always form your ravioli on a cutting board).

After boiling, I fried the ravioli briefly in some brown butter for the kids.

And topped them with some shaved parmesan. Simple and tasty.

Hubby and I ate them with parmesan but sans beurre noisette. The kids were less than impressed, which I was prepared for since they are not the biggest beet fans. Hubby enjoyed them though, which was gratifying since I know that beets are not high on his list of favourite foods. My dad and I thought they were great.

I think these ravioli would also be yummy tossed with some parmesan and cream. Especially if you saved the beet stalks and boiled them in the cream a bit to infuse the cream with that super lovely beet-red colour!


Beetroot and Beet Green Ravioli Yield: about 4 dozen medium-sized ravioli

For the pasta:
2 cups flour
3 eggs

For the filling:
1-1/2 lbs beets and their greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ricotta
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste

For the pasta:
  1. Mound the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well in the centre.
  2. Crack the eggs into the well and beat them well with a fork.
  3. Gradually incorporate the flour into the beaten egg by stirring in the inner walls of your well. Try not to cause any breaks in your walls, since this will result in egg running all over the place. 
  4. Once most of the flour is incorporated and the egg is no longer runny, use a bench scraper or your hands to work in the rest of the flour. Your dough may seem stiff or dry. Don't worry. Cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest at room temperature for a half hour to an hour. It'll be perfect.

For the filling:
  1. While the pasta is resting, prepare the beets. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  3. Cut off and reserve beet greens.
  4. Drizzle the beet roots with oil and wrap in foil. Roast until tender, depending on the size and age of your beets this could be anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. 
  5. While beets are roasting, trim beet greens and coarsely chop.
  6. Saute greens over medium heat with garlic, season with salt as desired.
  7. Once greens are wilted, transfer to a cutting board and give them a final mince. Let cool.
  8. Check on the beet roots and once they are done, let them cool slightly, then peel and grate into a bowl.

To assemble:
  1. Place beet greens into bowl with the grated beet root. Crumble the ricotta cheese into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Mix and bind together with beaten egg. Set aside.
  2. Separate the pasta dough into egg-sized portions and roll out to your desired thinness. I like the second thinnest setting on my Kitchenaid attachment. Sprinkle the pasta sheets with some flour to keep them from getting too sticky. Cover them with a slightly damp towel if you get interrupted and they start drying out.
  3. Lay one pasta sheet onto your work surface. Place scant tablespoons of filling onto the pasta sheet, leaving about a half inch between ravioli. (I had a quarter cup of leftover ravioli filling which I put into the middle of an omelet).
  4. Brush the edges with water or beaten egg and place a second sheet of pasta on top. Press down all the edges to seal, making sure to squeeze out as many air bubbles as possible. Practice makes perfect :)
  5. The fun part: cut the ravioli using a knife, pizza wheel, or fluted rotary cutter (fancy schmancy!).

Now you can freeze or cook them. To cook them, throw them into boiling salted water and cook until they float to the top.

To freeze them, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, then transfer them to a zip top bag. To cook from frozen, put them into boiling salted water until they float to the top, pour in about a cupful of cold water and wait until the water comes to a boil again. (Just to ensure that they are fully defrosted and cooked through).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scalloped Jerusalem Artichokes and Potatoes

Another first in our house - Jerusalem artichokes! I immediately asked my best girlfriend what I should do with them. She had never used them before either, but she was pretty sure that they could be used similarly to potatoes. So I did some searching on the internet and found that most recipes pretty much treated them as a potato substitute.

My Jerusalem artichokes (a.k.a. sunchokes) are a little worse for the wear here - they arrived all beautiful and off white (like ginger), but underwent a little oxidation while they waited in my fridge while I was busy having baby #3.

Since there weren't very many sunchokes in my share, I decided to mix them into scalloped potatoes. That way we would have enough to make a proper side dish, but still be able to sample the individual taste and texture of the sunchokes.

To prep, I simply peeled and cut some potatoes and sunchokes. I had a taste of the sunchoke in its raw form. It was crisp, juicy, and slightly sweet (like a water chestnut) but a bit earthier and starchier like an arrowhead (慈姑). Next time I'll definitely try them in a stir fry.

I cut enough potatoes and sunchokes to half fill an 11-cup capacity baking dish. Into this I poured a mixture of 2 cups of whole milk, grated pecorino romano, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Added some grated cheese (marble and old cheddar) over the top for good measure and popped the whole deal into a 375F oven for about an hour.

When the liquid is mostly absorbed, you'll end up with something like this...

The result was a soft cheesy, creamy concoction that had the softness of yukon gold potatoes married with the relative crispness of the Jerusalem artichokes. It was a nice departure from the usual scalloped potatoes since it gave you something to bite on. And the sunchokes imparted a freshness that contrasted really nicely with the starchiness of the potatoes.

I'll definitely look forward to my next CSA season and hope to receive these little gems again :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to like Spaghetti Squash... Gratin

I have nothing against squash. In fact, I really enjoy most other kinds of squash. But try as I might, I really just don't like spaghetti squash.

I guess I have expectations of my squash having a certain texture and taste and it kind of turns me off when I bite into those strands of squash and find them more like a raw pumpkin than a cooked squash.

That being said, we've received spaghetti squash two weeks in a row in our CSA box and it needs to be used. So for the first squash I thought I'd try it as a gratin.

Preparing spaghetti squash is the same as roasting any other squash - cut, remove seeds and roast until tender.

The magic part of this squash is that the flesh magically cooks up into long "spaghetti"-like strands.

I scooped out my squash and added some seasonings, ricotta and parmesan.

Scooped the mixture into ramekins and topped with cheddar for the kids...

... and an egg for the adults.

Everyone enjoyed the dish but I'm still not sold on this veggie. Still have one more squash to go, so maybe I can still find a unique place for this vegetable in my cooking books?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Small Pause

A very small pause has entered my world and she was born late on a beautiful Saturday night. Please excuse me while I take a break from my trivial creations to admire one of life's greatest miracles :)

I'm sure I'll be back in no time - there's no rest for the chef in our new family of five! And I can't imagine not being tempted by the myriad of sewing projects for little girls. Can't forget about the major crafting holiday on the horizon either... I, at the very least, have to get a Christmas stocking made for the baby.

I can't believe I just thought about C-day one day after Halloween... three years of working at a Walmart and listening to the in-store radio can really mess up your internal calendar :P