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A note on the title. I felt like this should be billed as some kind of crap Semi-Homemade post in order to be honest, but look, not only is it not realistic to make fresh pasta for ravioli on a regular basis (or ever, if you don’t want to get homicidally angry at a pasta machine), but this cheater version tastes really good. It seems bizarre to employ a prepared food from a completely different cuisine to make ravioli, but somehow it jus works. The secret (or totally non-secret) is wonton wrappers! Or as a friend accidentally texted, wanton wrappers. Just naughty enough.

We had a bit of a ravioli party, all inventing our own frankenstein ravioli shapes and devouring the results. I highly recommend this activity for a fun dinner party or for kids (not that I have them). It’s easy and really satisfying when you’re done!

This time around, beet filling was the choice, but then my mind started racing, thinking about all the delicious fillings one could use instead. Winter squash, pumpkin, a whole egg yolk (zomg), herbed ricotta, NUTELLA, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention sauces, which in this case consisted simply of brown butter with fried sage, but could again run the gamut from pesto to bolognese. What I’m saying is, get creative. You basically can’t fail.

In the photo, I served the ravioli over some purple kale, sauteed with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes.

Instructions after the jump!

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This is soooo not even funny anymore. My electricity bill is probably going to hit quadruple digits and going outside is actually like baking in an oven. Do people in hot climates drink to excess as much as people in very cold climates? I’m thinking it’s possible, because looking at a 10 day forecast with no relief from the insane heat is depressing indeed and I’m thinking several cold beers might do the trick.

Hopefully the second air conditioner on its way to the apartment now will provide some relief. Otherwise, I may just subsist on cold cubed fruit for the rest of the summer. It’s about the only thing I’m enjoying eating right now. So whatever possessed me to make anything involving actual cooking yesterday, I can’t say. I guess compared to turning on the oven this wasn’t so bad. If you have central air: go for this recipe right now. If you are suffering like I am, I may recommend waiting a couple of months.

Think of this recipe like the healthier version of mac & cheese — it’s got the nice, crunchy breadcrumbs (if that’s how you roll when you make mac & cheese) and some cheesiness, but in the healthy column it’s also got asparagus. I used anchovy paste in the breadcrumbs (sssh! don’t tell anyone you are doing this. they’ll never know and will love it) and if you wanted to forgo the asparagus or swap it for another vegetable, that would be totally doable. I mean it’s your life, who are you to let me tell you what vegetables to eat?!

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This is not a recipe for Pad Thai. I know that. But it kind of resembles it, sort of. It would have resembled it even more, but the produce deli I go to was out of bean sprouts and had no thai chilis, although they normally do. And I forgot to buy scallions. And tamarind paste. Actually, I didn’t “forget” to buy that — it implies I knew to buy it in the first place. I realized I should have known to buy it after I got home, and had I looked at the Pad Thai recipe on the side of the package of rice noodles, I would have known. Oh well. I actually think this turned out really, really well, considering how much of a completely made up dish it really is.

Of course if you follow Mark Bittman’s recipe for Pad Thai, it doesn’t mention tamarid paste anywhere, so I’m no more of a cultural ignoramus than he is, at least as it relates to Thai food. Or so I’m telling myself.

I’ve been trying to integrate as many vegetables as possible in everything I’ve made lately, so tomato sauces get extra mushrooms and zucchini, and this got some extra cabbage and green beans. Here’s my recipe — you can bastardize it as much as I have bastardized actual Pad Thai, and I bet it’ll still be good! It’d be vegetarian except for the fish sauce, so if you are vegetarian, sub out for extra soy sauce and you’ll be good to go.

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I love it when the refrigerator gods see fit to leave me with a host of ingredients that actually go together. The other night, the little fridge light shined from above and gave me half a red onion, frozen artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, a lemon, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese. I added to this bounty with cherry tomatoes and a zucchini, and from the pasta aisle, some shells (or I believe technically, cappelletti, which are shell-like). And voila! Greek-style pasta salad. Next time, I’ll have to make this on purpose.

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broccolipasta

I wrote about wanting to make this dish in April. It is now mid-July. What is happening? Summer is half over and I feel like we’ve had about 4 nice days so far. But then again, New York is not exactly known for its long, luxurious springtime. It’s muggy and stinky and filthy here in the summer. So I guess I’m grateful I’m even able to set foot in my un-airconditioned kitchen and cook anything. I may be making a lot of chilled soups come August.

I adapted this pasta sauce from this recipe on Epicurious. I try to be open-minded, but I have come to the conclusion that I just don’t like peas. I didn’t want that to stop me from trying this, so I paired the pasta and sauce with some nutty roasted broccoli instead, which is one of my favorite things in life. I know I have gone on about it before, but if you think you don’t love broccoli, try it this way. I promise it tastes nothing like the bad overcooked broccoli so many children must suffer through eating. (I was lucky. My parents understood the concept of “al dente”).

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I think posting about all the recipes I wanted to make lit a fire under my ass to actually make them. So! After the black bean soup post Friday, I made the rice pudding Saturday (post to come) and the Spaghetti with Creamy Pea Sauce Sunday. The recipe came from a feature on Serious Eats that’s called Eat for Eight Bucks. I love features like this, but I want to point out one thing: Spaghetti with Creamy Pea Sauce, while delicious, is not really a one dish meal, in my opinion. Not that you couldn’t eat it and nothing else and be full, but I always want something to go with my pasta, usually a salad. I don’t know if the pasta + salad formula was drilled into my head as a child or what, but it seems to work.

Instead of a traditional green salad, I made a beet and orange salad with red onions. Another inexpensive group of ingredients, and non-greens based salads keep better in the fridge if there are leftovers.

The pea sauce for the pasta was quite good — I have a notion I don’t like peas, and I think it’s just the texture. Even when they’re not cooked to death they’re kind of mushy, and I don’t like my vegetables mushy. I also usually avoid cream-based sauces. (You might be asking yourself why I chose to make this dish. Well, I just don’t know. Maybe it was the pretty color.) The freshness of the oranges and the sweetness of the beets in the salad helped to cut the richness of the pasta sauce. On to the recipes!

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Two words: brown butter. I think one of the first times I became aware of the beauty of brown butter was at a fabulous Brooklyn restaurant called al di la. Owned by a husband and wife team, it serves up incredible authentic Italian food. Their side of tangy grilled swiss chard stems will make you a believer. Their rabbit with black olives will make you melt. And they have ravioli with brown butter and poppy seeds. I think it’s beet filling, but could have been squash – this was years ago now that I had it last. But the brown butter is really the important part of this story.

My frozen leftover homemade gnocchi (I must do that again soon – how great to pull a bag out of your freezer and 5 minutes later have homemade gnocchi?) were so light and delicate that it seemed appropriate to pair them with something simple that would enhance their character instead of mask it. Sage is a favorite of mine, and the combination of pungent garlic, nutty brown butter, fried sage and parmiggiano is irresistable.

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On the side I served a simple spinach and rocket (otherwise known as arugula) salad with a lemon vinaigrette. It was the perfect combination of acid and richness.

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No recipe really required here. I put about 3 T. of unsalted butter in a saute pan along with some sliced garlic and let it melt over medium-low heat so the garlic wouldn’t burn. When it started to turn golden at the edges, I removed the garlic from the butter and added the whole sage leaves. Once the butter starts developing a toffee color you’re done. A sprinkle of salt, and then I tossed the just-cooked gnocchi in the sage butter and served it, topped with fresh parmiggiano. A perfect simple Friday night dinner.

lasagna1Lasagna is one of my favorite foods. I think, to anyone who has eaten lasagna, it’s pretty obvious why. Growing up vegetarian, my family used lasagna as our go-to dish to take to potlucks, Thanksgiving, or really any special occasion. Even though I do eat meat now, meat lasagna has never held any appeal for me. I want spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant – not just some bolognese with pasta and cheese. You could easily add meat to this sauce, but try it once without. I promise it’s just as good!

I always use homemade red sauce for my lasagna – somehow bechamel seems wrong, and bottled sauce just won’t cut it. Recipe after the jump (well, an approximation of it – I adjust it all the time depending on my mood, with different veggies and herbs) for the sauce, and then the layers, which you can feel free to get creative with. That’s what makes lasagna so much fun!

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