Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spinach and cheese ravioli with butternut squash, cranberries and pine nuts

I know this post is a little later than promised. Brad and I have been vacationing in the Maritimes and all the seafood noshing and sightseeing got ahead of me. 

Thanksgiving dinner is one of my absolute favourite meals. I'd eat it every week if I could. This dish brings together key holiday flavours - like cranberry, squash and sage - in glorious, glistening-with-butter harmony. Did I mention it's also a PASTA dish? This recipe serves six as a main dish, or eight as a side dish. 


Cut one small butternut squash in half lengthwise, then scrape out seeds. Brush cut side with melted sage brown butter (recipe here), then place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast at 350°for an hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut the flesh away from the skin and dice into 1" cubes.

While the squash is cooking, thinly slice 1/2 small red onion and dice two yellow zucchini. Sauté the onion and zucchini in a small pan in sage butter over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until softened but still al dente. Remove the vegetables from the pan. Add 1/4 cup pine nuts to the pan and toast until starting to brown, shaking the pan frequently.

In the meantime, cook 1 kg fresh of spinach-and-cheese ravioli according to package directions (I use the brand Costco sells). 

Gently toss the pasta with the squash, zucchini, onion, pine nuts, 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/3 cup of melted sage butter. Serve piping hot.

Variation: For extra nutrients, add broccoli.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sage browned butter

Butter is a miracle ingredient on its own. I love the delicate, creamy taste of it in a flaky croissant. I love the aroma of it sizzling in a pan with garlic. I want to marry butter. Beurre composé (compound butter) is a catch-all term for adding ingredients to take regular butter to a whole new level of awesome. Variations abound, with citrus juice, zest, herbs, wine, vinegar, stock, garlic and shallots all making great candidates for compound butters. This recipe is for sage browned butter, which imparts a nutty, earthy taste. It can be used to flavour vegetables, meat, gravies or pasta. Next week, I'll post a ravioli recipe that incorporates sage browned butter.


To make sage browned butter, start with 1 packed cup of sage leaves, stems trimmed. These are fresh from our garden!

Use a food processor or blender to pulse the sage into fine pieces.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 1 stick (454 g) of salted or unsalted butter over medium-high heat. (Note: don't use a pan as the butter will foam up quickly after you add the sage later on). Once the butter starts to bubble, reduce heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring occasionally so you can keep an eye on the colouration. Wait until the butter starts to brown and release a nutty smell, being careful not to let it burn. 

Add the minced sage all at once, stir quickly with a wooden spoon, then remove from heat. The sage pieces will settle at the bottom. That's ok. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 10-20 minutes.

Your butter will have started to harden and the sage pieces will still be separate, as in the photo below. 

Scrape the butter into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until well-combined. 

Place the butter back in the fridge to start to harden again. Once it will hold a shape, roll it into a log, wrap tightly in foil, and freeze. It will keep in the freezer for a couple of months. I simply slice off pieces as needed for cooking. 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Ramen noodle bowl with crunchy vegetables and creamy peanut sauce

A few months ago, I won an 'I Love Ramen' cookbook in a contest hosted by Double Trouble Kitchen Edition. The cookbook is full of ideas for dressing up that inexpensive staple found in many a student pantry. The recipes are beautifully illustrated, and mostly quite accessible, made with fresh, simple ingredients. 

I used some of the ideas in the cookbook as a jumping off point for creating my own dish, like using both boiled noodles (as a base) and baked noodles (as a crispy topping). By adding some leftovers from an earlier dinner of marinated chicken and pineapple skewersI wound up with a bowl filled with crunchy vegetables, healthy protein, topped off with a creamy peanut sauce. This recipe serves four.


To prepare chicken:

Note: This makes double the amount of chicken required for the recipe

In a blender or food processor, blend 1 small chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, rind of ½ lemon, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 small pieces of pineapple and 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander and turmeric until almost smooth. 

Dice four chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes and marinate in above mixture for several hours or overnight. Bake, sauté or BBQ chicken according to your preference. 

To prepare noodles and peanuts:

Remove noodles from four package of ramen and discard seasoning. Boil three of the bricks of ramen according to package directions. 

Crush the fourth package into small pieces. Heat 1T sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ramen noodle pieces and sauté until lightly browned. Remove noodles and set aside. Using the same pan, add 1/3 cup peanuts and toast until lightly browned. Set aside.

To prepare fillings: 

Remove the pods from about 2 cups cooked edamame beans (I use the ones that come in microwavable sachets from Costco). 

Peel and grate three carrots. 

Deseed and thinly slice three red peppers.

Thinly slice four green onions. 

To prepare sauce:

Note: This makes double the amount of sauce required for the recipe

In a small saucepan, stir together 1 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 crushed clove of garlic, 3 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the peanut butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.

To assemble bowl: 
Divide the noodles, chicken, edamame beans, carrots, peppers, onions, peanuts and sauce evenly amongst four bowls. 

Garnish with toasted noodle pieces, fresh basil and lime.