Tag Archives: basil

Homemade Butternut Squash-filled Ravioli with Creamy Basil Sauce

30 Aug

Today felt like a Monday. It just had the miserable undertones of the start of a week. I blame this on my staunch efforts at being on class on time at 8am…and after sitting on a crowded, hot light rail, I walk to the classroom and see the “class canceled” sign. GRRRRRRR. Ah well.

I’m quite fortunate to have a loving spouse (N) who is so supportive of my strange fascination with photographing food and gladly assists me with my cooking when he can! While I was at work, perusing foodgawker and answering the occasional reference question, I remembered we had a butternut squash sitting on the counter. N cut it up and threw it in the oven to roast while on my way home. I’ve been wanting to try making ravioli since I got the pasta roller and finally, I succeeded!

For the pasta, I followed the recipe I used for homemade spinach pasta, except of course, I didn’t use spinach. And didn’t have WW pastry flour. Or semolina. Or vegetable stock. Here’s what I DID use:

Flat Noodles for Ravioli (or lasagna, perhaps?)

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup liquid (water or stock)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • (optional) 1 tsp of your favorite sweetener, i.e. honey, agave, maple syrup, etc
  • Garlic powder, onion powder
  • Dash of salt/pepper
Mix all dry ingredients together. Slowly work the liquids in until dough begins pulling away from sides of bowl (you may have to add more water–I added a few tbsps more). Dough should be firm, just barely tacky and not overly sticky or soft. Divide into even amounts (I just grabbed two globs at a time and made them feel even in my hands). Roll through a pasta roller, but do not roll too thin, otherwise the ravioli won’t be able to handle your filling and might fall apart. And that would be devastating! Set the sheets on a well-floured surface. Spoon your desired filling by the teaspoonful onto a sheet. I was able to spoon about 6 blobs onto each pasta sheet. Take the second pasta sheet and gently lay on top of the blob-filled pasta sheet. GENTLY press the top sheet down around the blobs and seal. I didn’t use any water, but I hear this is a good way to make a solid seal. I have a handy pasta cutting tool that made the fun crinkles around the edges of the ravioli, but it isn’t necessary. Use a sharp knife to cut the ravioli and if you’re feeling fancy, use fork tines to make pretty edges. Let the ravioli sit for a few minutes and bring a pot of salted water to boil. The pasta only needs a couple of minutes to cook, so make sure your sauce is ready!


Now, the filling. My filling was not a huge hit. I wasn’t a fan. I think my butternut squash was a bit old and just tasted…funky. Everything else in this dish was great…except for the filling. So sad! But, live and learn. I will improve next time! So, the only advice I have for you: be creative! Fill the ravioli with whatever your heart desires! Be indulgent and controversial! Savory & sweet! Yum.

The creamy basil sauce was super easy and quick to whip up. I am truly in love with using raw cashewsfor cream sauces! So easy, way healthier than heavy cream and full of healthy fats! It went really well with the sharp flavor of fresh tomatoes. The cream sauce came together as such:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours
  • A few handfuls of fresh basil
  • Your favorite alternative milk (I used almond milk)
  • Olive oil
  • Heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the minced garlic. Toss in the basil, stir and wilt. In a blender, throw in the raw cashews, add salt+pepper and the ingredients that were in the saucepan. Blend on high, slowly adding milk until you get the desired consistency for the sauce. Pour everything back into the saucepan and heat. DONE! Easy. You can do this. It turns out to be a lovely puke green color that I enjoy incorporating into as many food dishes as possible.

This is definitely a meal that you start making when you’re not hungry. I, unfortunately, was hungry during this entire process, so I may have rushed some things and the ravioli turned out to look a little mutant and lopsided. BUT IT HAS GREAT PERSONALITY. WHICH IS ALL THAT MATTERS. RIGHT. RIGHT?! πŸ˜‰

Creamy Tomato Soup in a Homemade Bread Bowl!

26 Aug


I am definitely a Fall and Winter person. I love feeling all snuggly in a hoodie and throwing on lots of cozy layers. So even though it hit 95 here in Denver today, I couldn’t get my mind off of making some soup in a bread bowl! My garden has been overflowing with ripe Roma tomatoes, so a creamy tomato soup just seemed right.

For the bread bowl, I just used this recipe from my previous French Bread post, except this time around I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose. Still quite nice and fluffy. I let the dough rise twice–once right after it was mixed and then after I shaped them into boules. I recommend re-shaping them once again after they have risen because they tend to widen a bit as they rise. You want all the seams in the dough to be on the bottom (kind of like when you turn the ugly side of the Christmas tree toward the wall where no one will see it).

The tomato soup is a staple for me, especially when I’m looking for something quick that I can whip together in a few minutes. For a super fast and painless meal, use canned, diced tomatoes (though, of course, the flavor isn’t the same!) I soaked about 1/2 cup of raw cashews in water for about an hour to make the cream for the soup. In a large stock pot, I sauteed some olive oil, lots of minced garlic and chopped onion for a few minutes until the onion became translucent. I added chopped, fresh roma and beefsteak tomatoes and let simmer until the flavors mix and everything starts getting soupy. This soup has to be really thick otherwise when you pour it into the bread bowl, it will immediately just soak in and everything will get mushy. No good. To thicken the soup up, I added some cashew cream that was quickly made by processing the soaked raw cashews with a bit of water until you get a thick consistency. Since I like my soups thick and creamy, I threw everything back into the blender and whirred it all up until very smooth. I may have added a bit too much cashew cream, hence the reason why my soup is more orange than red! Still very savory. Fresh basil paired well with this.

When you make this, be sure to bring your appetite! Or just make your boules smaller πŸ™‚ Since my beloved is spending the week in Michigan, I have an abundance of food and no one to eat it. I might try freezing the leftover boule and then thawing/re-heating when I’m ready to use it as a bread bowl again. We shall see how that goes.

My Friday night was spent whipping this together, watching American Pickers and falling asleep with a book in hand. When did I get so old? My energy was completely absent today and I am blaming this on forgetting to make some coffee. Terrible how I’ve become so dependent on it and I’m only a week into Fall semester…! Tomorrow is this month’s garden work day at the community garden…got to get to sleep so I can be a weed-pulling fiend! Goodnight all! Happy weekend! πŸ™‚

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

16 Aug

I was in no mood for a laborious, time-consuming dinner tonight. I found the solution sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been making an effort to buy much of the produce we love locally. There’s a small farm stand across the street from the library that I frequent and they have amazing heirloom beefsteak tomatoes. We also go to the farmer’s market at City Park on Sundays ($.25 jalapenos? awesome.), where we also get to pick up our share of the ELA Family Farms fruit CSA that we are a part of. ELA Family Farms is located in Hotchkiss, CO (about 240 miles away from Denver) and grow a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. We picked up our first share this past Sunday consisting of a bag of heirloom tomatoes, a bag of peaches and applesauce made from their own apples! As the season progresses, we will be expecting different varieties of tomatoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples and CIDER! For the entire month of October, we will receive a half gallon of cider every week. I love fall and cider and pumpkins and apples and orchards! If there’s one thing I miss about Michigan, it’s the sunny, brisk Fall days spent apple picking and devouring freshly made donuts at a cider mill.

With little inspiration or motivation toward making a grand meal tonight, I whipped up an easy, flavorful vegetable pasta dish that took about 20 minutes. The dry sherry used really helped bring the dish together and mellow the balsamic vinegar. This can be thrown together using pretty much any vegetables you have on hand, though I highly recommend some fresh, juicy beefsteak tomatoes as the main ingredient.

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

  • 3 Fresh beefsteak tomatoes (also threw in a couple of romas we had on hand)
  • Half a zucchini squash, sliced and then cut in half
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • About 1/4 cup of dry sherry
  • a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 servings of whole wheat pasta

pretty pyrex πŸ™‚

Boil water! Cook pasta! Meanwhile…in a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and minced garlic (since I didn’t have any on hand, I just threw in some garlic powder later on). Wilt the spinach leaves by covering the pan for a few minutes. Add zucchini and beefsteak tomatoes, stir and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add spices to taste (basil would be a great addition). Add sherry and balsamic vinegar and simmer for about 5 more minutes until the sherry flavor has mellowed a bit. Taste and make sure it is savory and everything you hoped and dreamed for. Throw on top of the cooked pasta and, if you have any, garnish with fresh basil leaves.

 

I was super excited to see the tea towels I ordered from Etsy seller Zen Threads waiting for me in the mail today. I love functional, vintage-looking tea towels and these are super high quality. Look out for them in upcoming food pictures πŸ™‚

I’m loving these cool summer nights…Autumn is in the air! My favorite season. Can’t wait for the Aspens to start changing colors because you know what that means…WINTER IS COMING! I’m already itching to slap my skis on and tear down the mountains. But it’s still August. And it’s still in the 90s during the day. Reality check.

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Whole Wheat Spinach Pasta

3 Aug

So delightfully creamy on the inside and crunchy bready goodness on the outside! and fresh pasta is far superior to store-bought...

Eggplant has always intimidated me. It’s such a strange, elusive vegetable that I had never really tried until going vegetarian. It’s such a versatile veggie that can be prepared in so many ways. Today, I had so many different cravings that I decided to make an entire meal that was a little involved and time-consuming. SO WORTH IT. This baked version of eggplant parmesan had so much flavor and the homemade whole wheat spinach pasta complemented the eggplant well. I’ve made eggplant parmesan in the past and always had issues getting the breadcrumbs to stick well…so I improvised. with veggie gravy. Of course, if you’re not vegan, just go with a typical egg dunk because that’s usually pretty reliable. With vegetable stock, I made a super thick gravy (thanks to arrowroot powder) and used that to dunk the eggplant. I feel it added more flavor overall and created a lovely crunchy exterior.

Vegan Baked Eggplant Parmesan

  • One fresh aubergine (eggplant!), sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
  • Copious amounts of salt
  • 2 cups Vegetable stock
  • Cornstarch, arrowroot powder or flour to use as a thickener
  • Spices that make this dish sublime, such as onion powder, garlic powder, oregano…
  • Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (since I have no bread, used Progresso Panko breadcrumbs)
  • Your favorite marinara sauce
  • Daiya shredded mozzarella style “cheese” (or your favorite non-dairy cheese…or cheese.)
  • Fresh chopped basil as a topping
Slice the eggplant into rounds. Cover a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and make a single layer of eggplant on the sheet. Sprinkle with lots of salt and let SWEAT for 20 minutes. Sweaty eggplant! During this time, make your gravy to dunk the eggplant in (or just use a couple eggs if you don’t want to do this step…i know, a lot of work). In a small saucepan, start heating the vegetable stock. Mix cornstarch or arrowroot powder per directions with water and then add to the veggie stock. Bring to a boil, constantly stirring. I made mine super thick to ensure that it would stick to the eggplant, so if yours isn’t to your liking, add more starch. It won’t look pretty or taste too exciting, but that isn’t too important! It’s just for dunking purposes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry. Get your dunking stations ready! Also, have your baking sheet ready so that you can just put everything on and pop in the oven (I baked mine on a Silpat, you might want to lightly spray your baking sheet with oil). Take a round of eggplant and dunk into the gravy. Let excess gravy drip off and then dunk into breadcrumbs, thoroughly coating. Repeat! I ended up with like 12 rounds of eggplant…way too many for the two people in our household. SO. I grabbed another baking sheet, put all the extra prepared eggplant on it and threw it in the freezer. Once they’re completely frozen, I’ll transfer them to a freezer bag. Hooray for quick easy dinners! Back to the present.
Once all the eggplant are coated, place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Flip once midway. Towards the last 5-10 minutes, grab spoonfuls of marinara and spread it over the tops of the eggplant. Then top with mozzarella cheese and let cook a few more minutes. DONE!
Vegan Whole Wheat Spinach Pasta
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (olive oil infused with something, such as garlic, works GREAT here)
  • handful of fresh baby spinach
  • spices, such as onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, or pepper
Mix flours together.Β In a blender, add the vegetable stock, spinach and spices. Blend until VERY smooth (a Vitamix is awesome for this, FYI). Β Work oil and spinach/stock into the flour until dough starts forming. Dough should be smooth, not too sticky, but not cracking either. Β Add more stock if not pliable enough. Let dough rest for a few minutes.
If you’re brave and strong, you can roll this dough out by hand, as thin as you can and slice with a sharp knife. If you have a pasta maker, roll out the dough to your favorite settings. Let dry for 10-20 minutes (not completely necessary) and when ready, boil for a couple minutes or until they float. Mix with your favorite sauce (in this case, marinara).
Notes:
  • I really liked the way the gravy + breadcrumb mixture made a very crispy outside and kept the middle soft and flavorful.
  • Pinot Noir would pair great with this, but I made this at like, noon. Can’t go to work tipsy, unfortunately.
  • I’m hoping the freezer version of these keep their flavor and texture. I will report back!
  • EVERYONE NEEDS TO BUY A PASTA MAKER SO THEY CAN ALWAYS INDULGE IN THE WONDERS OF FRESH PASTA. seriously.
This was quite a success. So good. Can’t wait to eat more. Tonight. With that Pinot Noir that’s been staring at me for a couple days.

Grilled Bruschetta / Spinach Pesto Pizza with Fresh Basil!

27 Jul

This turned out. so. good. So many rich flavors coming together!

Inspiration hit me at 9:30 this morning and I just HAD to start making something! I quickly threw together a simple pizza crust recipe (adapted from the recipe book that came with my handy Zojirushi bread machine), pushed a couple buttons and had 45 minutes before it would be ready. In those 45 minutes, I walked to the grocery store down the street, picked up $30 worth of goodies and fresh produce and made it back with 6 minutes to go on the dough timer!

I stuffed the Vitamix full of the spinach pesto ingredients, but didn’t blend until I really was ready to use it (after the crust was cooked!)

Grillin'.

While the grill was preheating, I lobbed off a portion of the large amount of pizza dough (the rest ended up in the freezer for a future recipe) and created a rectangular shape (about 12″ x 8″) that wasn’t as thick as a normal pizza, but not thin-crust either. I had subbed Whole Wheat Pastry Flour for the majority of the all-purpose flour in the recipe and noticed it was a little harder to work with (see Notes). Once prepared, I grabbed a brush and a small bowl of canola oil and generously covered one side of the crust with it (so it doesn’t stick to the grill!) The crust doesn’t need to fully cook while it’s on the grill this first time–it will have some more time to finish after the topping are put on. Left it there for a few minutes, brushed more oil on the uncooked side and flipped. Take off the grill and bring it back inside!

I quickly chopped some Roma tomatoes up, removed most of the seeds and mixed them with some Olive Oil, minced garlic, salt/pepper and balsamic vinegar. Blended the pesto until paste-like and was ready to make the pizza! WAIT. Forgot a very tasty ingredient! I picked some fresh basil from my little indoor garden (6 basil plants really give you a lot) and using scissors, cut the leaves in strips. Assembling the pizza goes as follows: dump pesto paste onto pre-grilled crust. spread around the green gloriousness. spoon the bruschetta on top (don’t worry about the balsamic vinegar, it won’t make it mushy). dramatically drape the strips of fresh basil over the bruschetta. done! Now head all this back over to the grill to heat it up a little bit longer and then you’re ready to eat! Delicious! So many fresh flavors coming together with the tangy balsamic vinegar and creaminess of the pesto. Who needs cheese? πŸ™‚

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (Adapted from Zojirushi Bread Machine Recipe Book)

  • 1 1/4 cups Water (I add a couple tablespoons more just because I’m at higher altitude…and using whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (Used garlic-infused OO)
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour (Used 2 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry dough and 1 c. all-purpose. See Notes)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar (Used honey! Agave nectar would work well too)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or 2 tsp rapid rise yeast)
  • A few dashes of any spices you think would add lots of flavor (i.e. oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, etc)

I used a bread machine so I took the easy way out on this one. Pretty much just set it and didn’t have to worry about it. Any basic pizza dough recipe (like this one) will walk you through how to do it the harder traditional way πŸ™‚

Spinach Pesto

  • A couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves (or make a more traditional pesto with basil!)
  • Minced Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts or Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor. I recommend blending this into a thick paste, rather than leaving it chunkier. It spreads much nicer this way!

Bruschetta

  • 5-6 Roma tomatoes (depending on how large your pizza is!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Minced Garlic
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar

Roughly chop the tomatoes and toss in a bowl with olive oil (just enough to coat, not soak), minced garlic, salt&pepper. Add in balsamic vinegar slowly, to taste. I love the strong flavor of it, so I probably used 1/8+ cup. The longer this stuff sits, the more the flavors blend and start to taste amazing! If you actually use this as an appetizer, add the fresh basil directly to it and put it on some crusty bread! Yum.

Notes:

  • My whole wheat crust didn’t hold up quite as well as I’d hoped. Tasted great, but easily fell apart on the grill. I might lessen the ratio of whole wheat flour to all-purpose and see if that works better. Also might try adding a bit more oil or some gluten to it. Very tasty, little too fragile.
  • This meal was a little heavy for mid-day, since now all I want to do is nap. Might be better suited for dinner or make a lighter crust!
  • A balsamic reduction drizzled over the top of this would have been a superb addition, as it would have contrasted nicely with the fresh colors and added a bit of tangy sweetness.

This pizza was gobbled up quickly! None left! I’ll just have to make it again sometime soon…