Monday, July 25, 2011

Nettle & Garlic Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter

A number of people have expressed curiosity about how we plan to use our nettle garlic paste this winter.  Now, it wouldn't be so fun if we spoiled ALL the surprises, but I can definitely tell you that we'll be making this ravioli again.

My memories of homemade pasta go way back to my childhood.  I remember watching my mother and grandmother making egg noodles -- kneading the tender dough, rolling it thinly, and then slicing each piece of pasta by hand.  My mother would often hang the pasta on the backs of cleaned kitchen chairs until it dried slightly, and then she'd use them in soups or served alongside comfort food favorites like homemade Swedish meatballs or ragout.

I didn't try making my own pasta until about 5-6 years ago when we got a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment for Christmas.  But, once I made my first batch, I knew I was hooked.  These days I find myself wondering why I don't do it more often.  Sure, it takes a bit of time.  But, it's totally worth it.  For that reason, I often make a double or triple batch of pasta dough at one time.  Balls of dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a freezer bag, and kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Just thaw overnight in the fridge and let the dough come to room temperature before using.
 We adapted our recipe for nettle ravioli from a recipe posted by Langdon Cook over at Fat of The Land.  And it's absolutely lovely -- from its use of Marcella Hazen's deliciously tender pasta dough to the flavorful creamy, green and earthy filling.  And don't even get me started on the rosemary browned butter.  *Swoon*

Although ravioli (and other filled pastas) take a bit longer to make than other things, they're perfect company fare, and (even better) they freeze very well. So, you can make up a big batch when you have the time and enjoy them later. Just place the uncooked ravioli onto a large floured baking pan and pop it into the freezer until the ravioli are frozen (1-2 hours).  Then empty the ravioli into serving-sized freezer bags.  Frozen ravioli take a bit longer to cook than fresh, but they  make a perfect weeknight meal for when you don't really feel like cooking.

I really love the flavor in this dish when nettles are used; but you don't need to avoid making it if you don't have any of the delicious weeds on hand.  Simply substitute spinach for the nettles, and add a bit of garlic to the filling.

Nettle & Garlic Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter

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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at DEVOUR Milwaukee, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stinging Nettle & Garlic Puree: Putting Up a Bit of Spring

I'm not really a fan of the summer months. I know that's probably perplexing, and maybe a bit difficult to believe. But, the truth is, I'm not great with heat and humidity,  I'm a far bigger fan of the spring and autumn, when cooler winds blow and the sun flits her lashes at us a bit more demurely.

But I reallyreallyreally love the process of stuffing our coffers with all the delicious flavors that summertime offers. And I get a serious kick out of bringing a creative spin to all the delicious foodstuffs we decide to "put up."

Last year we started our preserving adventures somewhere in mid to late summer.  We froze Door County peaches and we made both pickled and candied jalapeno peppers. We perfected our tomatillo salsa and stockpiled both roasted red and poblano peppers. We managed to put up enough fruit to get us through the winter without buying very much at all, except a few errant bunches of bananas for our morning smoothies. And we enjoyed fresh-frozen pesto right up through the first weeks in June. But, this year, I wanted to begin the adventures sooner.  After all, there are a great many early summer delights that can be harvested and preserved.

I've been inspired for years by the foraging prowess of Langdon Cook, Pacific Northwest resident, foraging expert, published author and blogger at Fat of the Land.   Although Langdon presents a phenomenally wide repertoire of both adventures and recipes, I've been most inspired by some of this writings on stinging nettles.  His love for these humble weeds made me anxious to find some of my very own.  And I can report success this summer, thanks to Dave Swanson of Braise and the amazing farmers over at Keewaydin Organic Farm in Viola, Wisconsin.

This year I was the proud recipient of just over 2 pounds of fresh stinging nettles.I was almost giddy as I slipped on a pair of latex gloves in preparation to wash and trim my nettles.
 I had no idea what to expect from these ultra-green, nutrient packed weeds.  I knew that a handful of nettles provides more than 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, as well as a plethora of minerals  I also knew that they made a power-packed, if somewhat unappealing, tea.  But I wondered after their flavor. Was it earthy?  Woodsy?  Interminably chlorophyllic?

Since nettles must be blanched to rid them of their infamous stinging barbs, we brought a large pot of cold water to a rolling boil and began the process.

We blanced and chopped and pulsed and blended.  And we ended up with a delicious and pesto-like nettle and green garlic paste, which I could easily freeze in manageable portions for use all winter long.
I foresee mixing the nettle paste with pasta and whole toasted pine nuts for a delicious weeknight meal, spreading the past on pizza, and adding dollops of it to soups, risottos, and scrambled eggs on lazy February weekends.

It was a simple thing. But, it made me oh-so-very happy.
I can't wait to see what we'll put up next.

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©BURP! Where Food Happens
Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at DEVOUR Milwaukee, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars - the best & last of spring

It seems that summer took forever to arrive this year.  April and May were cool and rainy, and during the whole of June temperatures never really got much above 70 degrees.  So, that means we got to enjoy the bounty of spring produce for that much longer.  There has been scads of asparagus, plenty of deliciously snappy radishes and pea pods, and all sorts of delights (including stinging nettles, which I'll talk about in my next post).

But the rhubarb!  Ah, yes the rhubarb.  It's been fantastic this year. The intense heat over the 4th of July weekend has probably caused most peoples rhubarb plants to bolt.  But, before that, it seemed almost as if the bounty would never end.

That was a good thing, in my opinion, since I had a whole slew of rhubarb recipes that I was hoping to try -- including this one which I picked up from Jeannette Ordas over at Everybody Loves Sandwiches, a blog where you'll find a host of delicious things that don't get too silly and complicated.
 This recipe is probably a bit more fussy than average (after all, it requires the creation of a compote, and a bit of messing around with the browned butter), but if you asked me, I'd suggest it's entirely worth the effort.  The flavor is incomparable -- with the delicious perfume of fresh vanilla beans and the amazing nuttiness of plenty of irresistible browned butter...  really, I don't know how you can't be a sucker for browned butter, since it's (IMHO) among the most delightful things ever discovered in the world of culinary invention.

As you know, I usually can't help futzing with recipes, tweaking them here and there until they're just perfect.  But, somehow, this one just felt right as it was.  The tang of lemon and the zing of ginger create the perfect counterpoint for the nuttiness of the browned butter, while complementing the classic tartness of the rhubarb.  Best of all, these bars keep like a charm at room temperature, and they're perfect eaten slightly warmed with a bit of vanilla ice cream.

Maybe you've got a few stalks left from your garden.  Or maybe you have a nice little bag of it stowed away in the freezer.  Either way, you owe it to yourself to give this recipe a gander.

Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars

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©BURP! Where Food Happens
Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at DEVOUR Milwaukee, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.