Category Archives: Italian

Caturday with friends

Regram from @nowrongturns #reunion dinner at #casapuerco
We spent the night rooted to the couch watching the SVU marathon but Ryan and I had been working all day prepping for dinner.

Ray is probably one of my oldest friends in NYC – we’ve known each other for over 8 years, I think. I don’t even remember how I met him it was that long ago. And also probably that drunk. The days of DJs, Irish Car Bombs, and drunk bar aerobics. The bars we used to go to don’t even exist anymore. I haven’t seen him in years and he and his wife Carmela have just moved to Brooklyn, to an apartment building in Gowanus near Four & Twenty Blackbirds, our favorite pie shop. They love to eat but don’t cook much at home, and we’ve been trying to hang. So yesterday I invited Ray and Carmela over after making ramp pesto in the morning. FYI Fresh Direct has them for $3 a bunch right now – HURRY! (Er…they did, “temporarily” out of stock right now.)

Ramp Pesto:
The top parts of the ramps. (Just cut off the white bottom parts. I saved them and pickled them.) I used about 3 bunches.
2 small cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, grated

Toss it all into a big bowl and puree with an immersion blender. I can’t really tell you how much of everything I put but I can tell you you’re going to need more salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar than you think you need. Just keep tasting til you get the flavors you want. You might also want to hold off on the 2nd clove of garlic, as my pesto was pretty strong. Just depends on what you want. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays in the freezer, which might be good for using as pesto in soups or on eggs later on.

For dinner we made ricotta gnocchi from the Union Square Cafe cookbook (Ryan worked for Danny Meyer for a long time) and a citrus beet salad.

Ricotta Gnocchi (from Second Helpings)
15 oz Ricotta, drained for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup Marscarpone cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup each grated Parmigiano-Regiano & Pecorino Romano cheeses
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup flour, plus extra for dusting

Mix the cheeses together and add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Lightly beat the eggs and add those, then add some of the flour. We didn’t add all the flour the recipe called for so they wouldn’t be too heavy and doughy. Also the point of adding the eggs and flour last is so that they don’t get overworked in the bowl.

The gnocchi dough should be sticky. Working in small batches and on a well-floured area, roll out the dough into 1-inch wide logs and cut them into 1 1/2-inch long pieces. Put these on a lined baking sheet or dish to freeze. ┬áIf you don’t freeze them, they’ll fall apart when you cook them.

We made a double batch so we can have some for later dinners.

To cook, boil in salted water for 4-5 minutes. When they start to float in the boiling water, let them cook for about 2 more minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. We drizzled the pesto over them, then added fresh tomatoes to add a little acidity.

Citrus beet salad
Citrus Beet Salad
Beets – roasted, peeled, cut into small wedges
Grapefruit, cut into supremes
Small sweet oranges (I used Valencia, too small for supremes) with peels & pith cut off, sliced into thin rounds
Red onion, sliced thinly and lightly pickled in white vinegar and sugar
Toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Dressing (mustard, orange oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, leftover citrus juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper)

Arrange the beats, grapefruit, oranges, and onions on top of the arugula. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the hazelnuts on top. Drizzle the dressing all over the salad.

PIE from @birdsblack @nowrongturns @carmresu
Ray and Carmela brought pie for dessert: Black Bottomed Oat, Salted Honey, and Rosemary Shoofly. My favorite was the Salted Honey. Now that I can bike again, I can make a super detour in the mornings to have pie for breakfast. Been dreaming of Buttermilk Custard and Blueberry Peach!

Let’s do this more often you guys.

P.S. Click here to read more about Ray and Carmela, including their THREE MONTH LONG HONEYMOON where they traveled all over the world.


Sunday Supper, Cinco de Mayo

Some kids get to lick the batter off the mixing spoon. I get to gnaw bits of meat and gelatinous, cartilage-y bits off oxtails.

Chestnut ravioli with oxtail ragu blogged #homecooking #CasaPuerco

After dim sum on Sunday we went to Fei Long for oxtail and snacks. I’d bought frozen chestnut ravioli from Paisano’s a few of weeks ago and have been wanting to cook them. The last time we had them we did a brown butter sauce but I wanted something a little heartier since it is basically still winter. Mario B. has a recipe that uses a wild rabbit ragu but oxtail is tastier, fattier, and way cheaper.

How to:

1 oxtail sliced into 1-inch rounds by your butcher
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
5 stalks celery, diced (if they’re extra fibrous, peel the outsides)
1 white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Tomato paste
Smallish can of diced tomatoes
Salt, pepper
Vegetable oil (whatever you prefer, just not olive oil)
Dry red wine (we used Chianti)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat some oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile season your flour with salt and pepper, then dredge the oxtails in it. In a single layer and spaced apart, brown them on each side in the Dutch oven. Let them drain on a paper towel.

In the same pot, add the garlic and onions. Sweat them out then add the rest of the vegetables. Add a squeeze of tomato paste, about a tablespoon, and cook it off. Then add the thyme. To take the thyme off the stems, hold the top and with your other hand, grip the stem and with a sliding motion, pull it along to the bottom of the stem. Big chunks of thyme leaves will fall off – do this to a few sprigs right into the sauce. You can add about a cup of red wine at this point, to cook off the alcohol. Then add the diced tomatoes and some water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil then add the oxtails back in. They should be fully covered by the sauce/water mixture. [Note: I just guessed this whole thing – all I did was prep the vegetables, Ryan did the sauce. But I’ve made my own and watched him enough times to give you a basic idea of what he did.]

Beginnings of oxtail ragu

Cover and put the whole thing into the oven to braise for 3 hours. This is common sense but make sure that your pot is oven safe – you don’t want the handles and whatnot melting off in the oven. I just thought to throw that in there because I’ve seen some fucked up stupid shit on Buzzfeed. Don’t do that.

When the meat is falling off the bone/soft, take the pot out of the oven to cool off for about 20 minutes, then start pulling the meat off the bones. You can use forks I guess but you have two great kitchen utensils called hands that are already attached to your body. Plus you can gnaw on the bones to get the last bits of meat and sauce off. Meanwhile, put water for your pasta on. Make sure to salt it well when it starts boiling.

The tails will have the meat and some gelatinous bits – you just want the meat for the sauce. And most people won’t like those weird bits but they are delicous – almost like tendons. So if you are into that sort of thing, by all means.

Put all the meat back into the sauce and put it over low heat. Finish it off with a knob of butter.

When your pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce with a bit of the pasta water. If your’e using ravioli, make sure you are gentle with it so they don’t break. You should know how to serve it – put it on a plate. Grate some parmesan/pecorino/etc. on top if you’d like. This is also really delicious on semolina gnocchi, which is how Bar Corvo serves it, but you can use whatever pasta you’d like. I liked the chestnut ravioli because it was slightly sweet and a nice, creamy contrast to the savory ragu.

If you make a nice big batch you can:
Freeze the rest for later.
Do what we’re doing and eat it the later with different pasta (we are doing the semolina gnocchi)
Add more diced tomatoes and make Eggs in Purgatory with some crusty country bread for brunch.
In the same vein, dice some potatoes and fry them with leftovers to make an oxtail hash. Just add salad.
Slap it on a bun (can you find Hawaiian/Jamaican coconut bread where you are?) for a fancy sloppy Joe.
Roll out some puff pastry to make hand pies with (freeze them, then just bake them in the oven to eat later). You can add more vegetables if you want – squash, more carrots, mushrooms. Something that will soak up potential moisture that’s created by reheating.
These are ideas I just pulled out of the air in about 5 minutes. What’s great about this sauce is that it’s even better the next day because the flavors have had more time to high-five in the fridge overnight.

We’re gonna need more oxtail…

Sunday Supper 4/28

After dim sum on Sunday we went to Fei Long to get some supplies for dinner. Normally we end up making something Asian (miso soup, char siu, steamed fish, etc) but Ryan wanted to make linguine with clam sauce, and I’d bought supplies earlier in the week to make my stuffed cherry pepper antipasto.

I’ve been making it since college IE: a very long time, so I’ve memorized the recipe. And cherry peppers are usually only available around now, so I snatched up as much as I could from Whole Foods’ meager offerings. Thank you, Jamie Oliver:

Stuffed cherry pepper antipasto. Blogged #homecooking #CasaPuerco

1 lb cherry peppers
1 jar anchovies (canned ones are okay I guess)
Handful of parsley
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Halve the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Place them in a baking dish in one layer and cover with olive oil – you want to get the oil inside the peppers as well.
2. Bake the cherry peppers for about 40 minutes, then turn the oven off and let them cool inside.
3. While the peppers are baking, chop all the other stuff together. Arugula, anchovies, capers. I also made a paste out of garlic and salt to add a little kick. I can’t give you specific measurements, so just taste as you go. Season with salt and pepper and mix the balsamic vinegar in.
4. When the peppers have cooled, remove them from the oil and spoon the chopped mix into them. Layer in an airtight container and store in the fridge. Strain and save the baking oil for cooking other stuff/salad dressings. I’d only keep this in the fridge for about a week so eat up!