Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ricotta, spinach and prosciutto ravioli adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

In an unusual (in a good way) turn of events, R was inspired to cook dinner this weekend. He watched a Giada DeLaurentiis Everyday Italian episode on the Food Network and decide to try his hand at ricotta, spinach and prosciutto ravioli; not an easy choice for a first meal! It was a huge treat and turned out great (albeit not without much stress and angst emanating from the kitchen). He even adapted the original recipe to substitute an olive oil sauce for an unhealthy butter sauce and added toasted pine nuts for extra flavor.

Ricotta, spinach and prosciutto ravioli adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
2 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
48 wonton wrappers
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Freshly grated pecorino

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, prosciutto, egg yolks, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Place 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush the edge of the wrapper lightly with water. Fold the wrapper in half, enclosing the filling completely and forming a triangle. Pinch the edges to seal. Transfer the ravioli to baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers. (Can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the oregano and stir 1 minute. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, cook the ravioli in a large sauté pan of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer the ravioli to a large shallow bowl.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts until golden brown and fragrant.

Pour the oregano olive oil over the ravioli and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the pecorino and pine nuts over the ravioli and serve.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Double chocolate espresso cookies - thick and chewy

“A” had a cookie swap last weekend. She invited a bunch of people over for soup and a chat and asked everyone to bring a batch of cookies. At the end of the get-together, everyone packed up an assortment of the cookies. A very cute idea!

I'm not much of a cookie maker; I'm much more of a cake baker. I love a classic chocolate chip but I was sure someone else would cover that territory. Instead, I revisited a few recipes I've used lately and combined them to create thick and chewy double chocolate espresso cookies using both white and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

I love a good thick cookie and somehow my cookies often turn out fairly skinny. I've read various articles about the science of cookie making and how to create thicker vs. thinner cookies (and chewier vs. crispier cookies) with a dizzying array of conflicting advice (all this in and of itself worthy of investigation in a post!). The advice involves creaming the butter and sugar longer or using melted vs. room temperature butter, chilling the dough, using more vs. less dough, letting cookies cool on cookie sheets vs. transferring them to a rack, etc.,

I checked Cooks Illustrated's The New Best Recipe because I was sure they'd have a reliable basic chocolate chip cookie recipe for thick and chewy cookies and then I decided to pump up the flavor by decreasing the flour and adding cocoa powder to make a chocolaty cookie and adding some espresso powder. I used white chocolate chips in half of the dough and semi-sweet chips in the other half to create some variety. The most interesting part of the Cook's Illustrated version was the way they suggested creating the dough balls. The result was a very irregular, large, thick, artisanal looking cookie which was just what I was after!

S's double chocolate espresso cookies (adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Makes 15-18 cookies

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons espresso powder (finely ground espresso bean - not instant)
1/2 cup good unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet and / or white chocolate)

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat liner

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, espresso powder and salt together in medium bowl; set aside

Mix butter and sugars together until thoroughly blended. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in chips to taste.

Roll 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth dough's uneven surface. Placed formed dough balls onto cookie sheet, leaving 2 1/2 inches between each ball.

Bake, reversing positions of sheet halfway through (from top to bottom and front to back) until cookies start to harden at edges yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets. When cooled, peel cookies from parchment.