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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Fried Pumpkin Ravioli

Sometimes I think that nature gives us warm, sweet flavors that keep in storage from fall to winter to balance the chilly days until spring.  Winter squash and pumpkin have those comforting flavors, and I can’t resist enjoying them in not only pie but also in soup, bread, and even pasta.  Today let’s try pumpkin raviolis two ways:  regular and fried. For once, we’re going to short-cut the process by using wonton wrappers instead of homemade pasta dough, meaning you can have these little gems ready in a matter of minutes.  Serve them for appetizers, or make a whole bunch for a full meal.  The fried raviolis are great to pass at your Super Bowl gathering, or call them pumpkin pasties and serve them up for your next Harry Potter party.  No matter how you use them, they’ll be a tasty addition to your table.

Ingredients: makes about two dozen raviolis

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or winter squash purée (home made or canned)
  • 1-2 cloves roasted garlic), smashed (For great roasted garlic, bake garlic cloves, covered, at about 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Store in olive oil.  If you’re feeling really lazy, substitute 1/2-1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic).
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan (about 1-inch cube before grating)
  • tablespoon or two of ricotta for extra creaminess
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste (I confess:  I used a seasoning mix called Beaverfork Blend that I get through my Locally Grown network.)
  • pinch of dried sage
  • package of wonton wrappers

Mix together all of the ingredients except the egg roll wrappers.  Place an egg roll wrapper on your prep surface.  Put about a tablespoon of pumpkin mix slightly off center in the wrapper.  Using your finger, wet two adjoining edges of the wrapper.  Fold over the dry side of the wrapper, encasing the pumpkin mixture. Use a fork to gently crimp the dry edges to the wet edges.  Set the wrapper aside and repeat steps with more wrappers until you have as many ravioli as you want.

For traditional boiled ravioli, slide raviolis one at a time into rapidly boiling water. You can cook a few at a time, as long as you’re careful not to crowd the pot.  They’ll cook really quickly (in about a minute and a half).  Use a perforated spatula to lift raviolis from water one at a time, drain well, and serve tossed with butter, garlic, and parmesan, or make a quick creamy garlic cheese sauce from minced garlic lightly cooked in butter then cooked with cream and finished with a little cheese.

For fried ravioli, follow the same procedure as above, but instead of cooking in boiling water, heat several inches of a neutral oil that can take high heat to about 350 degrees to 375 degrees in a deep fryer or heavy Dutch oven.  (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can determine when the oil is ready by pressing the tip of a wooden spoon handle or chop stick directly in the bottom of the pan.  When little bubbles emanate from the tip as it’s pressed in, you’re ready to fry.) Slide each ravioli in the hot oil and let it fry on each side until golden brown.  The time will be quick–no more than two minutes.  Drain each ravioli and set aside to keep warm until you’re ready to serve.  Garnish with fresh chopped herbs like basil or sage or just a dusting of good parmesan.

Would you like magically quick, sweet pumpkin pasties instead?

Ingredients: makes about two dozen pumpkin pasties

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or winter squash purée (home made or canned)
  • tablespoon or two of ricotta for extra creaminess
  • pinch of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • package of wonton wrappers

Follow directions for raviolis, using the fried version.  Dust finished pasties with powdered sugar.

Copyright, text and illustrations, 2011 by Ozarkhomesteader.


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When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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Regular readers know I’m all about using what we grow here, in season.  Fortunately, some foods stay seasonal months after you’d think possible, such as the butternut squash that I picked in early November and kept in a cool room for winter, preserving it for our use last night.  For dinner we ate roasted  butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks, and shittake mushrooms served with Italian sausage and a sprinkling of goat cheese over a bed of whole-wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente.  The roasted butternut squash and goat cheese almost melted in the pasta to create a creamy, chunky, buttery sauce.  The beets provided glorious color and a caramelized sweetness.  Fresh herbs and Italian sausage rounded out the dish.   As always, we went organic with everything we could–in this case, everything.

Here’s what we used; you could change quantities to fit what you have on hand.

  • 2-3 large freshly dug beets, rough parts peeled off and quartered
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 leek bottoms, cleaned (sliced lengthwise) and sliced across the grain
  • optional:  1  small, sweet onion, quartered and sliced (if you don’t have leeks)
  • 1 teaspoon or so finely chopped or dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano but probably not basil for this dish)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • optional:  splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup or more of shittake mushroom tops, halved and then sliced  (other mushrooms will work too, but you may want to alter the roasting time)
  • 1/3 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 sweet or hot Italian pepper (ours came from our garden by way of the freezer), sliced
  • optional:  red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 – 1 dry cup whole-wheat fusilli pasta (or other hearty curly pasta that will retain its character in the face of other flavors)

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.  (You could go to 400 degrees F, but only if you are using more, smaller beets, and then you’ll need to reduce total roast time to 20 minutes.)  Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil and butter.  (I used cast iron–big surprise, right?)  Spread on your beets, squash, leeks and onions, toss them with the herbs, a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and, if desired, the balsamic vinegar.  (You can also save this ingredient for later or leave it out altogether.)  Roast these vegetables for 20 minutes and then add the shittake mushrooms and roast for 10 more minutes.  Meanwhile, brown the Italian sausage and crumble or slice it and then keep it warm with the red pepper slices.  Pump up the heat with red pepper flakes if you want more spice.  As the sausage and peppers cook, prepare the pasta in boiling water.  Everything should be ready at about the same time–approximately 35 minutes after you started prepping the vegetables.  Put the drained fusilli in bowls and then add the sausage with peppers and the roasted vegetables, tossed with balsamic vinegar if you didn’t use it earlier.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.  As you eat, the goat cheese and butternut squash will start to meld with the pasta.

Vegetarian option:  substitute seasonal beans or seasoned garbanzo beans for the sausage!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Spring is spinach season, so today I offer you spinach lasagna.  Chances are if you grow or if you buy veggies through Community Supported Agriculture, you’ll have spinach soon, if you don’t already.  We’re going to just barely wilt the spinach before we bake the lasagna, so it will remain as green as Spring, with no bitterness!

Some people think they can’t get their kids to eat spinach, but with no bitterness in this recipe, you may find it’s easier than you think.  If they’re still not believers, tell them that you’re serving “Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts,” and teach them the song!  (Yes, there really is a song.  Just Google it.) Given kids’ desire to gross out other people, you’ve just made spinach lasagna a hit.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 whole-grain lasagna noodles  (you may need to trim them to fit the pan measurements)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • several leek leaves (green part):  about two loose cups–If you don’t have leek tops, use 1/2 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (or a little less or more) milk–start with about 1/4 cup and go up to 1/2 cup
  • about 8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1-2 ounces parmesan cheese (I use real Italian parmesan cheese.  Even though it’s not local, it’s so special that nothing else compares.)
  • optional:  select fresh oregano (about two teaspoons-1 teaspoon dried) or basil (2 tablespoons fresh, thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Remember:  try to buy organic and local if you can.

Prepare whole-wheat lasagna noodles according to package directions. (I used 5 noodles for this recipe, prepared in a 6-cup Pyrex dish, about 6 inches by 8 inches.)

Slice the leeks very thinly across the grain and saute in the olive oil.  Crush the garlic and add it too.  Let the leeks and garlic sweat but not caramelize for about 5 minutes.  Now add 1/4 cup milk and heat gently.  Add in about half of the spinach and start to wilt it.  Add the rest of the spinach.  Cut the parmesan into small pieces.  Using a food processor, process everything you’ve prepped up to this point, pulsing to chop the spinach.  Add a bit more milk if you need it.

Lightly grease a baking dish.  Spoon some of the most liquid of the spinach mixture into the bottom of the pan to cover it.  Now put down layer one of lasagna noodles.  Spoon on spinach mixture and spread out.  Dab on ricotta cheese.  Sprinkle on grated mozzarella.  Repeat twice more, so that you have three layers. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.  Let sit for a few minutes before you slice and serve.  Enjoy–and be sure to sing the song!

Do you want to make lasagna while camping?  You can do it!

Do you have a favorite variation on lasagna you’d like to share with readers?  How about a special way to prepare spinach?  Share in the comments section.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome, as long as you include the full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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A few weeks ago, a reader asked me to post my whole-wheat pizza recipe.  Truth is, I don’t have a single recipe.  I have several. You see, we live where no pizza place will deliver, so if we want pizza, we have to make it. Today I’m going to share with you a recipe for a crisper-crust pizza. This will make a round about 13 inches.  I also ordinarily use my home-canned marinara sauce on my pizzas, but you’ll have to wait for summer to get that recipe, so I’m going to give you an alternative sauce.  This pizza has really traditional toppings, so it should have familiar tastes for a family that is transitioning to healthier, homemade food.  You can get all of the ingredients for this pizza as organic products or at least those produced without chemicals.

makes 8 generous slices

The Dough

  • 1 tablespoon yeast (less, like a teaspoon, if you have all day for the dough to rise–if you want pizza in an hour or two, use the full amount)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 scant cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon wheat gluten
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of salt and/or Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

Put the water and yeast in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Add the flour and other dry ingredients.  Process just until the dough pulls into a ball.  You can easily make this dough without a food processor.  Just work in the flour with your hands and knead for about ten minutes. Put in a bowl coated with olive oil, turn dough over to coat with oil, and put in a warm place to rise.  When it’s doubled in size and an indentation you make with your finger  no longer refills quickly, it’s ready.

The Toppings

  • 1 small can tomato paste (you’ll have a few tablespoons left)
  • 1 tablespoon total dried oregano, rosemary, and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • about 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 spicy Italian sausages (we use chicken), cooked whole and then thinly sliced
  • 8 large portobellini mushrooms, sliced and lightly sauteed in olive oil to release their liquid
  • 8 good pitted black olives, sliced in half
  • 1 ounce (about 1-inch cube) real parmesan cheese, grated finely

Heat the oven to 450 degrees, and put your pizza pan in the oven. (Yes, a pizza stone works really well for this recipe.  Unfortunately, my largest, narrow-rimmed cast iron fry pan is only 12 inches, so the dough would be thick on it.)  Punch down the dough and then gently work it to the 13-inch size on a bread board sprinkled with corn meal.  Now take the hot pizza stone out of the oven, sprinkle it with corn meal, and transfer the shaped dough to it.

Spread all but a couple of tablespoons of the tomato paste on the dough (lightly, not too much!) and sprinkle on the herbs and fennel seed. Cut the mozzarella in slices and place around the pizza evenly.

Now lay down  the sausage, followed by the mushrooms and olive halves. Now use a fine grater to cover everything with the parmesan cheese.If you use a really fine grater, a  single ounce of cheese goes a long, long way. Pop the pizza stone in the hot oven (450 degrees F) and bake for 10-12 minutes, more or less depending on the consistency of your oven.  When the pizza is getting brown on top, take it out. Let it sit a couple of minutes and then slice it.   Eat.  Enjoy.

Does this pizza look good to you?  Are you interested in more pizza recipes?  Try one of my deep-dish, whole-grain pizzas baked in a cast-iron skillet!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use the photographs.

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We eat a lot of salad around here with various permutations and combinations, but two have come to have names.  One we call “favorite salad #1.”  No, I have not posted about it yet.  You’ll just have to come back to find out about it.  (Grin.) Tonight I’m talking “Favorite salad #2.”  Favorite salad #2 is Mediterranean in influence, incorporating some things we grow and some things we buy.  Actually, this salad has a larger percentage of non-local products than we usually eat; maybe that’s what makes it name worthy.    The ingredients are sweet, tangy, salty, and ever so slightly bitter, making for a wonderful blend.  For each individual salad, layer the ingredients from top to bottom in roughly this order:

  • 1-2 cups mixed baby greens, big pieces gently torn, or in summer chard and/or mustard greens
  • optional if in season:  cucumber, quartered lengthwise and then sliced thinly–put on outside edge of greens
  • course grated carrot (a couple of tablespoons per salad)
  • 1-2 thinly sliced radishes
  • 1-3 dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon of feta cheese (goat cheese feta makes it really special)
  • a few sliced pitted kalamata olives
  • optional if in season:  halves or quarters of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted (325 degree F for 5-7 minutes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried black currants
  • optional:  chives, thin slices to garnish (I cut these with kitchen scissors straight over the salad)

You can serve this salad with a homemade oil and vinegar dressing or get even more non-local and try it with a store-bought Mediterranean-inspired dressing like Drew’s Lemon Goddess Tahini or Annie’s Goddess Dressing. Both of these are tahini-based dressings, the sesame paste featured in  hummus (chickpea dip). We like the salad with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food.  In the winter it may be a part of a big meal.  In the summer, it may be the meal all on its own (or maybe with some watermelon, mmmmmm).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  Do you have a favorite salad combo?  We’d really like for you to share it with us.

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Posting of short excerpts 
with a full link is welcome.

I’m pledged on this blog to post recipes that are mostly created using local, seasonal ingredients. One of our new favorites among winter soups is Zuppa, an Italian soup from Tuscany that uses lots of kale, leeks, and Italian sausage.  I served it last night to my father, who thought kale was just a funny garnish.  He loved this soup!  Zuppa is a great way to introduce non-kale eaters to kale.

Here’s what you’ll need for 3 good servings:

  • 1-2  leek bottoms, cleaned and sliced across the grain (save the tops for a recipe where you’ll puree the soup)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely pressed or chopped
  • 2 large waxy potatoes, like Yukon gold or red potatoes  (I used one of each!)
  • optional:  1 carrot, finely diced
  • 3 spicy Italian sausages, cooked and sliced in half lengthwise and then in thin slices across the grain (I used organic chicken sausages)
  • optional:  red pepper, if you use sweet Italian sausage instead of spicy
  • rosemary sprig (or a few teaspoons of dried rosemary)–I removed the fresh rosemary spring after it flavored the soup
  • optional:  fresh or dried marjoram and/or oregano
  • about a quart of chicken or turkey stock
  • 1-2 quarts fresh kale leaves (measured before tough stems are removed–see below)
  • milk or cream to taste to fill out servings
  • salt and pepper to taste

I prepared this soup in a 2-quart, 8-inch wide cast iron Dutch oven.  The cast iron lets you cook the leeks and garlic at a very low setting without burning them, and then it lets you simmer for a while.  The 2-quart size is ideal for a family of 2-3 people.

Begin by cleaning the leek.  Slice off the root.  Slice off all about about an inch of the green part (the top). (Remember, they’ll go great in a pureed soup!) Slice the leeks lengthwise to clean, leafing through the layers to look for dirt.  Now slice the leek in thin slices across the grain.  Saute the leek slices in olive oil.  Now prep the garlic and add it too, being careful not to burn it.  Dice the potatoes and add them to the mix, stirring regularly.  Now start adding your stock.  Let the potatoes cook in the stock for about 20 minutes until they are soft.  Now add your sliced sausage.  Let the soup simmer while you prepare the kale. (If you wanted to start this soup well in advance, you could prepare it up to this point even the day before.)

Wash the kale thoroughly and remove any tough stems.  Now chop it fine.  When you do, you should notice the sweet aroma, like fresh-cut spring grass.  (My dad agrees that it smells like fresh-cut spring grass!) Kale is an absolutely amazing food, one of the healthiest ever.  One cup boiled, for example, contains 1327% of the USDA recommended daily value of Vitamin K, 192% of the RDV of Vitamin A, and 88% of the RDV of Vitamin C, all for just 36 calories!  Read more about kale’s health benefits here.

About 10-20 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the chopped kale.  Let the soup simmer for 10-20 minutes until it is soft but still bright green.  Add about a cup of milk or cream.  Stir well, heat through, and serve with good, crusty bread, roasted winter squash, and a nice salad of winter greens!

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