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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Agnolotti and Ramps

It's amazing what encounters there may be hidden in the recesses of a refrigerator. I found about 9 oz. or so fresh agnolotti pasta stuffed with crimini and portobello mushrooms (I wish there could be a universal spelling for the latter fungi and that we could all just get along). Fresh ravioli of any sort would work too. They hadn't exceeded the expiration date so as I was feeling a bit peckish, I set to work. Baby was out of town, so I was eating for one. Remnants of ramps, the leafy, showier sister of scallions that sends everyone raving around May were also on hand. I thought to make a garlic and ramp olive oil to enrobe the agnolotti, instead of a red or cream sauce.

I started sauteeing the garlic over medium-low heat in a large pan and then added the devilish ramps...


which were unbridled once in the simmering oil, undulating and ballooning! I'd never seen such a reaction, short of my great-grandmother one year at the end of a most enduring Thanksgiving. 


Once the ramps settled down and were wilted, I removed them with a slotted spoon and set them along with the garlic on a plate lined with paper towels. The agnolotti were seared at lower heat (flat side down first before flipping over once browned, about 5 minutes per side) with a good heft of grated nutmeg and later, fresh cracked pepper. When they were sufficiently done, I took tongs and carefully placed them in a wooden bowl and grated cheese over them--a salty sheep's milk cheese works well for this. A fistful of fresh spring greens such as watercress, arugula, went into the still warm pan until they too wilted. After that, it was simply a matter of tossing it all together, plating it and topping the dish with a smattering of uncooked greens.

A dry, full-bodied, Californian Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blend was also taking up too much space in the refrigerator and it ended up very evenly balancing the garlicky ramps, pungent mushrooms, the bitter greens and the salty cheese, that had all just been sitting around awaiting their particular call of duty.  It's grand that someone came up with the phrase "Waste not, want not," don't you think?

Try any variation of what you have on hand--and instead of seasonal ramps, consider a mixture of chopped leeks, green onions and shallots and do enjoy!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Spanakopita with Pe-tah!

It was a busy weekend, what with our Derby party Saturday and Cinco de Mayo/Greek Easter on Sunday! David and I had tried Mrs. K's spanakopita a few months ago and we absolutely had to have the recipe. She did send it to us and we made it to celebrate Greek Easter. This huge platter was absolutely delicious even though we did not have parsley, as we had used it for our Derby party and didn't want the bother of going out for more. It was of little matter; we grabbed a bunch of ramp leaves that we had on hand instead. We also misjudged the amount of  melted butter and didn't want to take the time to melt more but Pam cooking spray actually worked just fine. Nothing was a terribly difficult effort, it just took a long time to strip the spinach of its stems. Although it might sound unforgivable to some, when we make spanakopita again we might use frozen spinach instead for ease.   

So take it away, Mrs. K!

Serves 10 to 15
3 pounds fresh spinach
2 bunches green scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dill
1 pound crumbled feta cheese
8 eggs, beaten
Olive oil
1/2 pound filo pastry leaves
1 cup melted butter

Wash spinach and cut off stems, dry completely with towels, then chop. Brown scallions in 1/2 cup olive oil until tender. Combine spinach, parsley, dill, beaten eggs and cheese; add cooked scallions, season with salt lightly and mix well. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan and line with 5 sheets of filo, brushing each sheet with melted butter combined with 1/2 cup olive oil. Spread the spinach mixture over the filo evenly and cover entire top. Top with remaining filo, brushing each sheet with butter and oil, including top sheet. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and cut into squares.   

Note:  For best results, cut through the top layer of filo with a razor blade or a very sharp knife BEFORE baking, this will ensure that the squares will not be crumbly and then you can finish cutting them when the pie is completely cooked.

May be served hot or cold in small squares or large squares. I usually cut them into 2" x 2" squares.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Derby 2013

Derby may have left the gates and galloped past this year, but I do believe the memories will linger, at least for me. We had a real humdinger of a party--and behold the beautiful lilacs in the waning afternoon light!

And no, my horses didn't win. Orb ran fleetingly by Falling Sky and Slim Shady. 

Of course, there were mint juleps! We actually froze them this year and served them right out of the blender and they were marvelous. Equal parts bourbon and simple syrup (2:1 water and sugar boiled with lemon wedges and cooled). A fistful of mint went into the blender filled with ice and we topped each individual icy pour with dark rum. Biscuits and tomatoes along with Benedictine cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches were sampled shortly thereafter, once our guests were duly situated. I took advantage of seasonal ramps and shallots this year, substituting both for yellow onions, to quite good effect. The more traditional recipe is here and the picture is below, our Pepperidge Farm thin white bread having been shorn of its crust, stuffed, sliced and stacked on a vintage cake stand.

The annual shrimp and peppers served over grits made their annual appearance, courtesy of Martha Stewart's Menus for Entertaining.

Grasshopper Mousse for dessert, laden with creme de menthe, was right out of a 70's dinner party. I wrested the recipe from the Leah Tinari, the owner of Fatta Cuckoo in Manhattan. Her mother was kind enough to pass on her secret. Our friend was kind enough to make it and bring it over. She said it's so easy and everybody loved it--and the recipe makes a ton! She also made Crack Pie, that is similar to Chess Pie, and served at Momofuku Milk Bar in our fair city. It was beyond. But that's a different post entirely.

Grasshopper Mousse
2 large boxes of vanilla pudding mix
6 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups creme de menthe
1/2 cup creme de cacao
Package of Oreo cookies

Whip pudding and heavy cream together and gradually add both liqueurs. Whip until mousse-like and desired consistency is reached. Give it a taste and add a tblsp or two more of liquor for a stronger flavor. Place in a container and chill. Crush Oreo cookies in food processor.

Place some cookies crumbs in bottom of martini glass. Add grasshopper mousse, top with whipped cream and sprinkle on more cookie crumbs.

Our rosy centerpiece for the table!

Soundtrack: XTC, Skylarking; Sippie Wallace, Sippie; Atlantic Blues: Piano; Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sun Sea and Sand Favourites