Spring Has Sprung? & Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms

Well, this is all rather odd isn’t it? Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere and just one short week before the first day of spring, snowmageddon dropped in. For everyone out there who is so over winter, I’m sorry. Well no, I’m not really sorry at all. In fact, I’m absolutely thrilled.

Between work, bitter cold, rain, gale force winds and who knows what else, I have not spent nearly enough days on the slopes this year. Then, like a miracle, a good old-fashioned snowstorm roars through the northeast. Just like that, it’s winter again.

If you were really looking forward to an early spring, you might be feeling a bit glum with all this fluffy white stuff. Take heart, there may be snow on the ground but you can revel in twelve wonderful hours of daylight. The long days of summer will be here before you know it.

While I’m skiing, here are a few things you can do to cheer up:

Plant seedlings. With two feet of new snow on the ground, it’s still a tad early to be planting in the garden. However, there is nothing to stop you from creating your own seedlings. Get some peat pots and medium and sow as many flats of seedlings as you have sunny windows. There is something quite cheering about watching little plants sprout and grow.

Listen to Vivaldi. It may be clique but I can’t help myself. Every spring, I find myself rustling through the CDs looking for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It you prefer, you can always listen to Frank Sinatra crooning “It Might as Well Be Spring” or Carly Simon sing “Spring Is Here”. Why not put together a whole spring playlist and dance through the day.

Go snowshoeing. In warmer climates, people will be pulling on their rubber boots and happily splashing in spring puddles. Not here. However, there are lots of beautiful trails open to the public. With the sun high in the sky, the snow will begin to melt faster than you would think. Great Brook will begin to babble and the birds will begin to sing. See, living in New Hampshire isn’t half bad.

Dress like an Easter egg. They’re not for everyone but a few pastels might brighten up your day. Trade in that grey sweater for something lemon yellow or lavender. You might be surprised by what you might find in the bottom of the sweater chest. If nothing else, that chartreuse number will stir up fun memories of your trip to Bermuda. As for that lilac turtleneck, it will remind you of your dear old aunt. Might be because she gave it to you or more likely, she always wore lilac.

Make spring rolls or some other spring-y dish. No, of course the veggies won’t be, can’t be local. It’s New Hampshire; there’s two feet of new snow on the ground. However, you can find artichokes and asparagus, peas and pineapples, mangoes, mushrooms, rhubarb and chives in the market. Add the ultimate early sign of spring – a pinch of saffron. This luxurious spice comes from our favorite spring flower, the ever-bright and cheery crocus. It will bring a taste of spring to your table.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Pasta with a creamy saffron sauce and grilled veggies is a perfect dish for our not-really-spring season. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Quick Pickled Red Onion (do ahead – recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large pinches saffron
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces whole mushrooms, stemmed
Olive oil
Champagne or white wine vinegar
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 3/4-2 pounds homemade, fresh or frozen ravioli
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the saffron cream sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream, saffron, thyme and bay leaf and heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Grill the vegetables: preheat a grill pan or a gas or charcoal grill to medium high.

Toss the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Place the mushrooms on grill, cup-side up, and grill, turning once, until tender, 5–10 minutes. Remove from the grill, cut in quarters and keep warm.

Toss the asparagus with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, turn and grill 1 minute more. Remove from the grill, roughly chop and keep warm.

Prepare the ravioli and put it all together: cook the ravioli according to recipe or package directions less 2 minutes. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme twig from the saffron cream. Add the ravioli to the cream with some or all of the pasta water as necessary and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the ravioli to a large platter or individual shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and asparagus, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish with pickled onions and serve.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using.

Refrigerate the extra onion –it is delicious in salads and on burgers.

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One Year Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Two Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Three Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Five Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Six Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How do you cope when the calendar says spring but meteorologist says winter? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Spring Skiing & Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives

skiing_01Less than a month ago, a furry, little fellow popped out of a hole in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. According to legend, the shadow meant we were in for six more weeks of winter. However, get this! This little pageant has been going on for more than one hundred years. Over all those decades, an early spring has been predicted all of seventeen times. (Nine years of records are missing so it could be a few more.) Now, some curious weather geeks did a few calculations to see how accurate that furry, little fellow is. Their discovery? Well, the groundhog was correct only thirty-nine per cent of the time.

That’s less than a coin toss!

Anyone living in New Hampshire can predict winter’s end with or without a furry friend or coin to toss. Here in the Granite State, winter hangs around until it’s good and ready to quit. Last week’s glorious few days of spring skiing could be the start of warmer things to come … or not. It’s just as likely that the magnificent spring-like weather was nothing more than a blip in northern New England’s decidedly fickle weather patterns.

New Hampshire skiers live for those wonderfully warm, end-of-the season days. We want nothing more than to ski in a t-shirt, even shorts. However, we all know that there are two sides to an early spring. We love the sun and curse the rain. Although we would happily greet one last blizzard, just the threat of a shower sends skiers into a tizzy.

To make matters worse, I was admittedly spoiled during all those years I lived in Switzerland. Spoiled rotten! Even in a mediocre snow year, the season lasted through the first or second weekend of April. In a spectacular year, skiing went on and on until mid-May. Of course, the elevations are a heck of a lot higher in the Alps; way up above the tree line higher.

This extended ski season did lead to a few misadventures. Most were due to the stubborn determination of my friends and I to ski from top to bottom. Just because the ski season lasted until Easter and beyond, did not mean there was snow cover on the bottom third or half of the mountain. By early April, skiers were advised to take the lift down from the mid-station. After a glorious day in the sun and snow, riding a chairlift to the bottom was nothing short of anticlimactic. A gondola was even worse. (The cliché packed in like sardines would be an apt description.)

I’m not one to let a TRAIL CLOSED sign stand in my way. Neither were my ski pals. After a quick peek left and right, we ducked under the rope and headed down. We had the trail to ourselves and it was fabulous. Well, fabulous until we hit a south facing, mud covered slope. Jumping from one small patch of snow to another, we clamored through trees and over a few rocks. Finally and inevitably, we ran out of snow. Off came the skis; we were in for a long slog to the car in our ski boots.

As the weather warms, on the slopes or not, enjoy some time outside! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Olives
This recipe has its roots in sunny Spain and Sicily. It is a great dish when you are pining for a little sun and warm weather. Enjoy!cauliflower_05
Serves 4-6

1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8-12 ounces spaghetti
About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped green olives
3 tablespoons capers
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 40 minutes.

(If you roast the cauliflower in advance, a delicious dinner will be ready in minutes.)

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower, olives and capers, sprinkle with lemon zest and toss to combine. Cover and keep warm.

spaghetti_cauliflower_olives_03Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water and cook on low for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with grated pecorino Romano.

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One Year Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Two Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Three Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Four Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Six Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Seven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Eight Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

There’s Nothing Like a Snow Day & Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon

snowy_day_New_London_02Say what you will, nothing but nothing compares to a snow day. It’s like a gift from the snow gods. Instead of another crazy day, you get to relax, hang out in your PJs and watch the snow fall. If you’re particularly lucky, the snow will stop around 10:30 and you can go play in it. Find your snowshoes and bushwhack through the woods, tour the neighborhood on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. At least that was what it was like when we were kids. No school. No after-school activities. No homework. Of course, there was no internet, so there were no emails sending new assignments our way.

So what’s it like now. Now, that we’re no longer kids with a surprise holiday? Well, the internet came along so we can stay connected. Then, telecommuting was invented to make sure we are always connected and always working. That suggests that there’s no rest for the wicked even if it is a snow day. I suppose for me it doesn’t really matter. I do most of my work from home anyway. So, you’d think that a snow day was no big deal. You’d be wrong.

Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. Life just slows down when the snow flies and piles up high on the doorstep. There are fewer cars on the road. Sounds seem muffled. Except for the rumbling of the snowplow that periodically breaks the calm, there is this wonderful quiet. The phone doesn’t ring. Email doesn’t ping. People are too busy shoveling their walks or playing endless card games to bother with you.

Suddenly, you can work on that project, the one that requires at least a little quiet and concentration. The one you never seem to get to because … well, you probably know why. Anyway, all cozy in your jammies with a mug of really good coffee, today is the day. Your brain is prepped and ready to solve one of those big, gnarly problems. Of course, your solution will be nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re not careful, you might start to think you’re a genius. You’re not. You just have time to breathe and think things through – logically, creatively, thoughtfully. Your brain hums. You get another cup of really good coffee. You might even find a muffin in the freezer to warm up. Another piece falls into place. The snowplow passes again and then peace and calm. A few more pieces fall into place.

Eventually the snow stops and wonder of wonders the sun comes out. You grab a shovel and clear the walk. The air is fresh and clean and a few more ideas hit you. Back at the keyboard or drawing board or whatever board, still a few more pieces fit into the puzzle. You’re really humming along.

With the sun high in a blue sky, you better grab those snowshoes and go for a hike, ramble down to the beaver dam on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. If anyone asks, it’s important to clear your head periodically. You’ll be brilliant when you get back to that project.

All that work and play will build an appetite. Brilliance in the kitchen should not be problem. Even if you didn’t have a chance to get to the store, you can create a beautiful supper with whatever’s on hand. Pasta from the pantry always works. Add some sundried tomatoes, olives and capers or toss that spaghetti with a few veggies and sprinkle with cheese. Maybe you are a genius!

Have a happy snow day! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Baconspaghetti_mushrooms_bacon_06
I always have a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the refrigerator. The last time it snowed, I also found some bacon, a few mushrooms and cream. Dinner was ready in about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Serves 2

2-4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
About 1/2 teaspoon thyme
About 1/3 onion, cut in thin wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cognac
4-6 ounces spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon releases some fat and starts to brown. Add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and cognac. Place the mushrooms over very low heat to keep warm and stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to directions less 1-2 minutes.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti, add it to the mushrooms with a little pasta water and toss to combine. (If you have it, feel free to add a handful of baby spinach!) Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

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One Year Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Two Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Three Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Four Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Six Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Seven Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Eight Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

A Magical Turn on the Ice & Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci

pl_ice_17Looking back, we can all recall magical times. It could have been a day or a year when by some fantastic good fortune, everything came together. It could be as fleeting as a happy night on the beach, drinking beer with friends while the northern lights danced above. Perhaps a year in Spain or Montana still makes you smile. Maybe it was one unforgettable winter when your love life, job, haircut and the ski conditions were all spectacular.

About this time every year, I remember a few magical weeks on Pleasant Lake. It all started to come together in December. I was a senior in college. After taking my last final, I headed home to our little brown house in the woods near Pleasant Lake. Unlike past Christmas vacations, the week was not filled with glorious snow and fun on the ski slope. Snowmaking was still on the wish list at King Ridge and December reigned cold, calm and dry.

Like many schools, mine had what was called the January Plan. For about three weeks, at school or away, students worked on a special project. Some stayed on campus and watched movies; others went to Florida to count alligators or studied flora and fauna from a chairlift in France. Students loved it; their parents not so much. Dad still rants about the waste of time and money.

Anyway, it took three projects to graduate. Having done my three, I had a few extra weeks of vacation. I picked up a few bucks working the holiday rush and after-Christmas sale at a local clothing store. I slept late. Mom and I took a quick trip to Florida to check on my grandparents. All in all, it should have added up to a rather boring month.

Would have; except for the lake. While the snow drought put the kibosh on skiing, that combination of cold, calm and dry created something wonderful on Pleasant Lake. It was so cold that the lake quickly developed a thick layer of ice. It was so calm that the ice was as shiny and smooth as glass. It was so dry that there wasn’t a flake of snow or drop of rain to mottle the smooth surface. It was perfect.

A day or two after New Year’s, I found my skates and headed down to the beach. Mount Kearsarge loomed majestically over a massive expanse of ice. Almost two miles long and close to a mile wide, it was bigger than any rink and I had it all to myself.

Although cold, the sun was shining when I stepped onto the ice. After a few tentative glides, I found my skating legs and took off. It was exhilarating. Taking a turn around Blueberry Island, I skated from one end of the lake to the other. I explored nooks and crannies along the shore. The ice was so clear, I could almost see, or at least imagined I could see, trout swimming under my feet.

As beautiful as it was, the huge expanse of ice was also a bit terrifying. The ice warbled, creaked and groaned. Was something happening? Something I should know about? As I made my way down the lake, I came across long cracks in the ice. An art major, I knew nothing of the shifts that ice makes with changing temperatures. My active imagination wondered if one of those cracks might expand and swallow me. Active imagination or not, it was too glorious to stop so I continued skating.

The start of the new semester and the inevitable January thaw came much too soon. I headed back to school on a foggy, gray day. But somewhere packed among the clean clothes, Bean boots and ice skates, I brought along the lasting awe and wonder of a few magical weeks on the ice on Pleasant Lake.

Here’s to a magical New Year. Bon appétit!

Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Pasta in a hearty broth is the perfect supper after a day on the ice. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
About 12 cups chicken stock
1 rind from a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano* (optional)
2 pounds tortellini
12-16 ounces baby spinach
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, season with paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine has reduced by about half. Stir in the stock, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring the broth to a rapid boil, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

Carefully transfer the tortellini to shallow bowls. Stir the spinach into the broth and cook until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Ladle the broth and spinach over the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* While the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind is optional, it makes a world of difference!

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One Year Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Three Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Six Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Seven Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Eight Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Something to Talk about this Thanksgiving & Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter

thanksgiving_proclamation_1863_02Woooo-eee! When President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving, he missed two important consequences. The first is the five Thursday Novembers. Fast forward several decades and the big department stores were none too happy to delay the start of the holiday shopping season. It took a bit of lobbying but FDR eventually re-proclaimed Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November. The second consequence is that, every other year our harvest feast comes right on the heels of an election. Sometimes those elections are calm, even uneventful while other are anything but.

I think we’d all agree that this year’s election was nothing short of prickly. On top of that, the election was held on the last possible date and Thanksgiving is on the early side this year. If it feels like you just voted, you’re right. It was only two weeks ago. Given that nerves may be a little frayed, what will you talk about around the Thanksgiving table? Will you avoid politics or jump in feet first?

It all depends on your friends and family. Some people love nothing better than a raucous political argument. They live for the day when Uncle George arrives with his absurd, antiquated views. Or when that hippie cousin stops by with all her balderdash. With any luck, George and the hippie share that enthusiasm for a raging argument. It’s what some families do. However, if disagreements make you break out in hives, you’ll need some alternative topics of conversation.

Of course, many families are all in agreement. Their ballots match both up and down the ticket. If that’s you and yours and your candidate won, then you’re somewhere between satisfied and ecstatic. After a few high fives, you’ll want to get on to more important things. After all, nothing stops a conversation faster than cheerful agreement.

On the other hand, you might all be in agreement but also in despair. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to lay off the political talk. Save it for Black Friday or a dismal, rainy afternoon during the January Thaw. For now, it’s time to be thankful and take a break from the angst and sorrow.

So then, whether it is fear of fisticuffs, campaign fatigue or whatever, let’s lay off the politics for a day, maybe two. Are you good with that? Assuming your answer is yes; will your friends and family be able to keep up a conversation? It’s not an unreasonable question. If you’re worried that your Thanksgiving feast will be eaten in resounding silence, well then, let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about.

Thanksgiving is a good time to count our blessings, look to the future and focus on the issues that matter. You know, important stuff like whether the Patriots will make it to the Super Bowl. Once you agree they will, you can move on to debate the virtues of online dating and Coke versus Pepsi. Be sure to save some time to puzzle out if it is El Niño or La Niña that brings all the snow. From there you can discuss alien abduction – truth or fiction, consider if the 1969 moon landing was faked and figure out if there is a heaven for dogs. And what about cats? Artistic types will want to debate where creativity comes from and if shyness is a condition or a choice. And what about those boisterous extroverts?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
A delicious way to use up any Thanksgiving leftovers. If you don’t have any leftover squash, well, it’s worth making a new batch! Enjoy!nye_making_ravioli
Serves 4

Butternut Squash Filling
About 1 1/2 cups leftover Roasted & Mashed Butternut Squash, at room temperature
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Pasta Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Putting it all together
1 large egg
6 tablespoons butter
About 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Make the filling: Put the leftover squash, mascarpone and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl and stir to combine. (Any extra filling makes a great bruschetta topping.)

Make the pasta dough: Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and beat on medium speed to combine. Continue beating while adding the eggs, 1 at a time. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and continue to mix until the dough forms a ball.

Dust your work surface with flour. Knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes.

Put the remaining olive oil in a bowl. Roll the dough in the oil until evenly coated. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Dust your work surface and the dough with flour. Flatten the dough into rectangles and roll them through a pasta machine 3 or 4 times on the widest setting. Reduce the setting and continue to crank the dough through the machine, 3 or 4 times at each setting until each piece is about 1/8-inch thick.

Putting it all together: Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.

Dust your work surface and one side of each pasta sheet with flour. Using a large cookie cutter, make 2 1/2 – 3-inch circles.

Brush one side of half of the circles with egg wash and add a dollop of filling. Top with the remaining pasta circles and gently press together. Crimp the edges with a fork to tightly seal. Let them sit uncovered for 30 minutes to dry slightly. (The ravioli can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to cook.)

butternut_squash_ravioli_02Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the ravioli and cook for 3 minutes or until they float to the top. Don’t overcrowd the pot.

While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until golden brown.

Using a large strainer, transfer the ravioli to a platter or individual plates, drizzle with browned butter, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped nuts and serve.

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One Year Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
One Year Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Two Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Three Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Five Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Six Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Seven Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What will you talk about around the Thanksgiving table this year? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Pizza Party Weekend Special

If there are kids in the house, there is nothing better than a Spinach_Pizza_03pizza party. Make your own and you’ve got dinner and entertainment all rolled into one. BTW, it’s also fun for the young at heart. After all, who doesn’t love a good pizza?

Nibble while you work. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with White Bean Hummus or Roasted Red Pepper Dip.

Add a tasty salad. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with Asparagus & Radish Salad has a light and bright citrus vinaigrette which is sure to please. If you don’t mind firing up the grill, Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado is a wonderful combination. Fussy kids? How about mixed greens with a Classic Vinaigrette?

Sausage_Pizza_03Now, what about the pizzas? Buy or make up a batch of your favorite pizza dough and let everyone have a whirl and twirl with Make Your Own Personal Pizzas. For those that can’t be bothered (and what fun are they), whip up a Greek Pizza. Or, for a bit of a change, try pizza’s favorite cousin and my Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach.

For dessert, think ahead and spend part of the afternoon keeping the kids happy and busy baking cookies. Perhaps you’d like to try my Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies or my Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies. Both are terrific. For something a little more special, try my Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies.

Have a wonderful weekend and a great pizza party. Bon appétit!

What are you cooking this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Spring Vacation & Homemade Personal Pizzas

dreary_day_Elkins_DamApril vacation is upon us. As a kid, I never quite got the point of a week off in early spring. Yes, in New England mid to late April still qualifies as early spring. In northern New England, it often qualifies as late winter. Anyway, it always rained. Not just for a day or two, it seemed like it rained every day for the entire week.

Although, I didn’t complain about the extra hour or so of sleep in the morning, the week was filled with a fair amount of grumbling. The weekend-to-weekend, nine day stretch could best be described as boring. It’s a pretty sure bet that I complained about being cooped up inside. I would have much preferred two weeks in February for skiing. Alternatively, it would have been nice to leave our stuffy classrooms a week early in June.

Of course, lots of kids embraced April vacation. They’re the ones who hopped on a plane and spent the week in the pool at their grandparents’ condo in Boca or West Palm Beach. My grandparents were smart enough to live in a one-bedroom apartment and so avoided the onslaught of three boisterous children.

Mom countered any attempt at a pity party with a reminder of our wonderful February ski vacation in New Hampshire. No, we were not exactly deprived. And yes, at least deep down inside, we knew how lucky we were. Still and all, it was hard to feel your good fortune when each day dawned rainy and you’d already seen “It’s a Mad, Mad World” and “Sword in the Stone” … twice. By Wednesday, Mom was probably more than ready to throw the three of us into a packing crate and ship us to her mother in Florida but she refrained.

If you’re stuck at home with kids or grandkids on a rainy day or, heaven forbid, week, here are a few ideas to keep them happy and you sane:

Bake cookies. Sure, it’s the go-to standby for rainy day entertainment but baking never gets old. Everyone but everyone loves cookies, especially if they are loaded up with chocolate chips.

Host a tea party. You don’t want to eat all those delicious cookies by yourself – do you? Share them with family, friends and neighbors.

Organize a film festival. Forget going out in the cold and wet; cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite on-demand provider or a stack of DVDs. Don’t forget the popcorn.

Get moving. After all those cookies and popcorn, you’ll want to get some exercise. Turn on your favorite tunes and dance or crank up the karaoke machine to sing and dance. Next, play charades, Mother May I or Pictionary, extra points for exaggerated gestures and enthusiasm!

Tackle that craft project. Turn a color copy of a favorite photo into a jigsaw puzzle, make a video or build fairy houses. When in doubt, Google rainy day crafts with kids!

Make your own pizza. Get everyone involved. Cut the dough for individual sized pizzas, offer a variety of toppings and let everyone assemble their own delicious pie.

Stay dry, have fun and bon appétit!

Homemade Personal Pizzas
More than dinner, homemade pizza is a great project to share with kids. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

personal_pizza16-20 ounces pizza dough (your favorite recipe, store-bought or from your favorite pizzeria)
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Your favorite cheese(s)

Mozzarella
Fontina
Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano
Feta
Goat cheese
Gorgonzola

Your favorite toppings

Caramelized onions or onions and peppers
Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini and/or eggplant
Sliced artichokes, sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, olives or capers
Pesto (spoon over a freshly baked pizza)
Fresh spinach tossed with a dash of olive oil and hint of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled sausage, pepperoni and/or chopped and cooked bacon
Sliced or cubed cooked chicken
Shrimp (to avoid over cooking, add after 3-4 minutes)
Thinly sliced prosciutto (drape over a freshly baked pizza)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you’re using one, place your pizza stone in the oven before turning on the heat. A pizza stone will cook your pizza evenly and give you a nice crispy crust.

Cut the pizza dough into 4-6 pieces. Let everyone stretch a piece of dough, give it a spin or roll out into rounds. Place the rounds on parchment paper.

Invite everyone to spread a little sauce to their pizza and then sprinkle with their favorite cheese(s) and toppings. Transfer the pizzas, parchment and all, to the baking stone or to baking sheets and slide the pizzas into the oven.

Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes with a baking sheet and about 8 minutes with a pizza stone. The crust’s thickness and the toppings determine how long it takes.

Marinara Sauce
Makes about 4 cups of sauce – you’ll need 3-4 tablespoons for each individual-sized pizzaSausage_Pizza_01

Olive Oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the herbs, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Optional – cool the sauce for about 20 minutes and put it in the blender and process until smooth.

Freeze leftover sauce for the next rainy day pizza party.

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Three Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
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Five Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Six Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite combinations of cheese and toppings on a pizza? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016