Sunday, January 27, 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli

I wanted something really good this weekend and since I had the time on Sunday, I decided to make one of my favorite recipes from Giada's Everyday Italian. I've made this dish a couple of times and everyone loves it. An easy dish that takes a bit time but definitely worth the effort. If you love mushrooms like I do, this is definitely one you'll have to try. It also uses store bought egg roll wraps so I don't have to make pasta dough. Of course if you prefer to make your own pasta dough for the ravioli wraps, you can certainly do that.


The first time I made it, I also made the Individual Strawberry Trifles and what a wonderful compliment this dessert was to the raviolis. I was a bit hestitant with the strawberries and aged balsamic vineger combo but put it all together and it was heavenly. I've got to make it again when strawberries are in season.


Note that you will need a food processor for the sauce and for the filling. You can also use a blender for the sauce. If you don't have a food processor, you might want to chop the mushrooms very finely and chop the spinach up a bit more too. You're trying to achieve a coarse filling rather than a chunky filling. You can also make the sauce the day before.

Here's the recipe with my modifications noted.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons for boiling water
  • 6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone (I use ricotta cheese)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
  • 6 egg roll wrappers (6 1/2 by 6 1/2-inch squares)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water (1 was enough for me)
  • 1/2 cup mushroom (cremini, shiitake, button), finely chopped (I used portebello, Italian Brown, and button mushrooms)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large saute pan heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. When almost
smoking, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt here since the Parmesan cheese has salt in it and you'll be checking for seasoning again).

Cook until all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms, about 6 minutes. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you get a coarse texture. Place in bowl and stir in mascarpone and Parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning and set aside.

Line up 3 wrappers on a cutting board. Brush with the egg and water mixture. Using a tablespoon, arrange 4 dollops of the filling on each wrapper – 2 on the first row and 2 on the second – 1-inch apart. Place another wrapper directly on top, pressing around the filling and sealing the edges. Using a fluted ravioli cutter, cut out squares of ravioli. Each filled wrapper will yield 4 raviolis, giving you a total of 12 ravioli. Place ravioli onto a floured baking sheet and keep covered with a linen towel.


In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts of salted and oiled water. (I didn't put any oil in the boiling water but make sure you stir often to keep the raviolis from sticking.) Carefully add small batches of ravioli, about 3 to 4 at a time. This will prevent them from crowding in the pot and sticking together. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a spider strainer, carefully remove the ravioli and place on the plate. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue cooking remaining ravioli. In a saute pan, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. When almost smoking, add chopped mushrooms and saute until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Carefully pour in tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.


Divide ravioli between 2 serving plates. Top with mushroom tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Simple Tomato Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors. (I usually use about 1 1/2 tablespoons to get my sauce where I like it. I do like my sauce slightly on the acidic side.)


Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.


Yield: 6 cups



Here is a picture of half the raviolis plated. I like to put a layer of the sauce on the bottom so that they don't stick to the bottom of the plate.





I then top the raviolis with some more dollop of the sauce and sprinkled with some grated Parmesan cheese. This night, I went
with pregrated.


And there you have it. I ended making 8 raviolis per person, which is plenty to get you full.


Hope everyone had a great weekend.




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Friday, January 25, 2008

Finally Another Sabres Win

Perhaps my theory of tough love does have its merits (the bench looks a little cold, go warm it up). A win over Dallas last night was something the Sabres (and fans) needed. Most of the players looked solid and there were some beautiful moves. And I mean beautiful. I especially liked the double pass (the give and go) between Vanek and Roy for the second and winning goal of the game. It was beautiful! Bada bing, bada bam, bada boom. I think Derek Roy has found his sweet spot.

Another beautiful move was Vanek's redirect in the second period. No, it didn't count due to highsticking but it was beautiful, nonetheless. To be able to deflect a shot, in mid-air, going about 80-90 mph, with your back to the goal, and to have the puck go in...amazing. Now that's the Vanek we know. The Roy-Vanek-Stafford line has been working really well.

Even Andrew Peters got some action too, puck and fists. You gotta love Petey for his tenacity and ability to take punches. I don't care if he doesn't get the majority of the take downs, he's a scapper and I like scappers.

Dallas is a very physical, hard hitting team, like most of the west coast teams. The Sabres rely on speed and skill. So, it was really good to see the players finishing their checks and pushing back. Sometimes a little push (or push back) makes a huge difference in winning and losing. Stealing away the puck as much as they did didn't hurt either.

Jochen Hecht made a game saving move by poking the puck from Mike Ribeiro’s possession during the last heart stopping minute of the game. Right in front of Miller. You can see the relief on Miller's face when the buzzer went off. I even thought I heard God say "you're welcome" when I thanked him.

I've not written off the play-offs just yet. But if the team doesn't continue to play the remaining of the games like they did last night or the game against Atlanta, I'm going to bench my jersey for the season.

Have a wonderful weekend. Eat well, stay dry, and remember the all-star game is on Sunday, Versus at 3 pm PST. There's no football so why not watch some hockey?


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Monday, January 21, 2008

Quinoa Raisin Muffins

I've been watching a lot of Martha Stewart Living lately. About a week or so ago, she did a segment on quinoa muffins and it looked really good. So off to the store we went over the weekend and I picked up some quinoa. I actually got 2 kinds, a white and a black quinoa. Supposedly, black quinoa is nuttier in flavor. I opted to use the white since that's the version Martha used.

Here's what the quinoa looked like after cooking.
Below is Martha's recipe with my modifications added.

Ingredients:

1 C quinoa, rinsed
1/4 C vegetable oil (I used canola oil), plus more for pan
2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
3/4 C packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 C raisin (I added about 3/4 C)
3/4 C whole milk
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 C water to boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11-13 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil (I used 24-mini cup muffin pans), dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt raisins, and 2 C cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use (we added this to some leftover pasta fazool).

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups. (I filled mine up just to the rim--had enough for 2 batches, total of 48 little muffins.)

Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. (It took about 17 minutes in the mini pans.) Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

A note on cooling muffins in the pan for 5 minutes. I only

cooled for about 3 minutes in the pan since I noticed that the bottom of muffins from the first pan was starting to get a little moist from condensation.

As far as taste, it was really good. Better than I had anticipated. Maybe it's because I wasn't sure what the quinoa would taste like baked but it gave the muffins a really nice nutty flavor. For me, this is good because I can get the nutty flavor without the nuts because I usually don't like nuts in my dishes. Why? I don't know, just one of those odd eating ticks, I guess. I think it's really because some nuts get soggy or chewy when cooked in dishes. And I prefer a crunchy bite when eating nuts. The subtle sweetness was just perfect for a breakfast muffin. Or even a little snack when you just want a little something.

There's a lot of recipes for quinoa. Martha has one for a quinoa and corn salad that I like to try, as well as Kirk's salad at mmm-yoso!! This is good because I have 1 1/2 bags of quinoa to make.

Have a wonderful week. Stay dry and eat well.


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Meatless Lunch

Having had the next 4 month's worth of meat servings all in one weekend, thought I'd give my system a break. I took my friend, Jazzy, to Sipz Fusion Cafe for lunch today. He's been wanting to try this place ever since he became a vegan last year. The restaurant is known for its Asian style vegetarian dishes, note that a not all dishes are vegetarian or vegan. You can check out the menu on the website, but it's not inclusive of all the dishes on the actual menu.

Once again, sorry no photos. I had planned on bringing my camera but completely forgot. Jazzy suggested using my cell phone camera but it doesn't take very good pictures at all. Not even worth trying. I tried that once before and it was just bad.

Back to Sipz. The restaurant is in the strip mall across the street from Buga Korean BBQ. We were surprised by the size of the restaurant. Much bigger than I had expected. By the time we sat down and ordered our food, the place was starting to get packed (about 11:30 am). I ordered the House Special Tofu in medium heat and Jazzy ordered the Garlic Tofu in hot heat. Shortly after our drinks was served, our meals came out. We each got a large Asian noodle-style bowl that contained our tofu dish and a decent scoop of rice. They smelled good.

Both dishes were in a thick brown sauce. Mine came with snow peas, carrots, baby corn, black and straw mushrooms, onion, celery, green peppers, bamboo shoots, and green onions. Jazzy's came with baby bok choy, straw mushrooms, onions, carrots and a few other things. There were lots of large pieces of firm tofu (what I would refer to as bean curd). In my family, tofu and bean curd meant 2 different things. Tofu is the white stuff, like those chunks you get in Miso soup. Bean curd is the more spongy-like soy items, often a brownish or tan color. Bean curd jerky is one of my favorite snack items.

My dish was very tasty but only mildly hot in heat. I would definitely have been able to handle the hot. The sauce gave it a very savory flavor, slightly sweet, and it matched the tofu very well. Jazzy's dish was even milder in heat than mine, but I think it's because my base sauce is suppose to be spicy where his isn't. But there was just enough hint of heat to compliment the garlic sauce. Jazzy liked it very much. I tried a bit of it and it was tasty. Overall, we both enjoyed our meals very much and would certainly go back (I'll remember to bring the camera next time). Apparently many people agree with us based on how many tables were occupied when we left and the amount of take-outs in just the 45 minutes we were there. Total cost for our meal including tip was just a little over $20.

Sipz
5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92117
858-279-3747


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Weekend Eating Fest

Okay, right off the bat, I don't have any food pictures. Why? Because I was waaaay too busy stuffing my face, all weekend. And in all honesty, seeing pictures of everything I ate in the past 2 days is just too much for me right now. hehe. Today is a special day for me and we began celebrating on Saturday. The Mister asked where I wanted to go. In the past, I've usually answered, "Anywhere for great lobster." That would usually mean The Oceanaire Seafood Room. I love that place. This year, I wanted (craved) Buga Korean BBQ. You can read a great review at mmm-yoso!!! (and there's pictures too! hehe).

I think I had Buga on the brain because a co-worker and I had a discussion about Korean BBQ earlier last week. She was telling me about her terrible experience at one restaurant and vowed never to go back again. She didn't remember the name but we kind of figured it out which place it was. I recommended Buga to her, and so started the wheel in my head. The squirrel must of been in overdrive on that wheel because not only did I want Buga, I also wanted Chinese roast duck from Jasmine's. Can you say grease overload? Nah!

So on Saturday, we headed over to Buga for lunch. To our surprise, it was already packed with people at 11:30 am. It was the first time we didn't get a booth. The Mister thought maybe it was some kind of Korean holiday perhaps. I didn't know. Chinese New Year celebration is not for another 4 weeks.

As usual, the meal was delicious! We got galbi for 2. The Mister mentioned later that he knew I was enjoying the meal because I barely said a word through lunch. That's a bit of an exaggeration because I've never been known to be wordless. But the point was made and he was right.

Shortly after our dishes came, the Mister leaned over to me and said, "what's that on their plate?" He was referring to the table next to us with a large plate of curled marbled meat. I thought it was lamb but wasn't sure. We looked around and noticed that a couple of the other tables had the same plate of meat. The Mister then said, "maybe next time we should try something different." I mentioned that maybe we should try the beef tongue. The Mister replied, "maybe we should try something different." Okay. We'll try the something "else," maybe bulgogi and something less organ-y.

So right after lunch, we popped over to First Korean Market for some essentials and then to Jasmine's take-out for duck. The Jasmine ladies behind the counter know me and always welcome me warmly. We got a whole roast duck and a pound of char siu pork (BBQ pork). You think I'd had enough of BBQ by now. Oh no. This is just the beginning. Oh yeah, on the way home, we noticed that Marukai Market has still not opened. According to Marukai's website, it's scheduled to be open this month. I think the original date was Dec. 2007.

We had the duck for dinner that night and it was awesome! Probably one of the best duck from Jasmine's in a long time. The skin was perfect and roasted to perfection. The meat was very tender and juicy and not overly oily. Usually when the duck is very fatty, one meal of it usually saturates me enough for a long time. But by next morning, I was craving it again and we split what was left for lunch.

About mid-day, we got hungry again and I threw together some char siu pork sandwiches for us on sliced King's Hawaiian Bread. If you've never tried this, it's a really good combination. I usually just have it plain, char siu and bread. Nothing else. The flavor combo kind of reminds me of a Chinese pork bun. The char siu pork was okay, not the best I've had. It was a little dry but the flavor was good. Still made a decent sandwich.

We had originally planned on going to Poway Sushi for lunch on Sunday but since the Mister was going to make his famous pork chops for dinner, we opted to save sushi for another weekend. After watching the San Diego Chargers chop the Indy Colts down to size (woohoo!), I was ready for some good eats, again. One of the eating machines (SIL) came over to help eat, I mean celebrate, so we made a double batch of chops. For the first time, I helped fry up the chops and I have to say, I did a pretty good job. The chops were thin sliced with bone, gotta have the bone in for me. And it was moist and delicious. Ah, good way to end the weekend of meat-eating fest.

Have a wonderful week! Now go and eat well.


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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mudslinging in Full Force

Nope, not talking about the rainy weather in San Diego, just the Democratic caucuses. Yeah, yeah, I don't do political blogs so this isn't going to be who is better or worse than whom. Nor is it about who someone should vote for. I've always believed that each person should vote for who he thinks will do the best as President in the next 4-8 years. But for the past I-can't-remember-how-many president elections, it's been more about who would be the lesser of 2 evils.

Anyway, I think the mudslinging from the Democratic and Republican caucuses will get worse. I think it's just getting started. And as potential candidates get more and more desperate, the more their "true" characters will come out. Actually, I already have well formed opinions about many of them (no, really??) and let's just say that I'm less than impressed, even de-pressed and op-pressed by these power-hungry "I deserve to be in the White House" buffoons.

On a side note, the rain is suppose to let up by tonight. The sun is actually starting to peep out inland. A "few" showers here and there through tomorrow morning. Hope everyone has a wonderful week (ick, I go back to work tomorrow). But hey, only 1 month until Chinese New Year! This will be the year of the rat. More about that later.


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Friday, January 4, 2008

It's Miller "Amp" Time!

That's Amp Energy Drink. Although the Sabres lost the Winter Classics during shoot-out, Ryan Miller certainly has been making the rounds in commercials (a good thing). This funny commercial ran during the game and it's especially funny to me since Miller is trying to "yo' momma" in Mandarin. Apparently they spelled out the phrase phonetically for Miller, and it took several takes before he got it (no, really?). Not bad for someone who's never spoken a single word of Mandarin. In all honesty, I still don't understand what he said in the last part, I think I hear onion and cry but couldn't tell you what the rest is. Anyone want to translate for me in pin yin??

Postscript: I listened to this a few more times and I think I finally know what Miller is saying. First part sounds like he's saying it in Mandarin, which would be in pin yin, "Ni mama hao chou, yang-cong ye ku le." But he's annunciation of the last part is "ye kei lei,", which sounds like Cantonese (which I don't speak).


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