Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tomato Ravioli with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Ricotta Filling

One of my favorite things to do when I come home is to make pasta. It seems difficult, but the truth is it's very easy, only few people think to do it. The flavor is fantastic, to boot.

We always have a carbohydrate, a protein, and a vegetable for dinner, and since I love to cook I usually insist on making everything from scratch, to my family's dismay- "couldn't we just do something easy tonight?" Cooking is soothing to me, though, and it's so satisfying to have a day with no time constraints whatsoever, so the possibilities are limitless. The problem is, though, that I can only make bread so often, and usually I don't think ahead enough to make a starter. One day, then, I decided to make pasta- without a pasta maker!

I rolled and rolled the dough, and spent forever slicing it with a knife, but in the end a rolling pin could only do so much. Finally I got a pasta machine, and (with a little practice) I was making linguine like it was my calling.

I've learned a few things. First, fake eggs (my poison of choice for any baking endeavor that doesn't require separation) are just fine, if you're not a purist. Honestly, you can't tell the difference, and you don't have to worry about salmonella or fat. Second, the food processor is great, and you just need to grind up the ingredients until they look like cornmeal. When I first tried this, I didn't believe it, so I added a lot more olive oil and then formed it into a ball. That's really not necessary, because the dough is supposed to be, well, rubbery and not-sticky. Once you roll it flat and chop it into ribbons, it's perfect. Third, you can catch it and hang it from a baking rack between two chairs to dry, but be careful that the cats don't reach it or else they will bat it onto the floor and it will break.

This time, I got to use my new ravioli mold. I found the pasta dough in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook and chose a filling from Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta. I used fat-free ricotta, which was fantastic. This is another reason I love homemade food: you can control exactly what you're eating. Ravioli are a family favorite, but you can't buy ravioli made with fat-free eggs and fat-free ricotta.

We made an olive oil with two minced garlic cloves that we crisped up in a pan to drizzle on top, and steamed some asparagus for the side. It was a great dinner on a beautiful summer night.

Today's good things of the day are local Humane Societies. We've been volunteering there a lot, which basically means that I get to go pet cats and play with dogs for hours on end. There are a lot of beautiful, kind animals there, and even if you can't adopt one it's so wonderful to just spend a little time loving them. I know a lot of people stop there after work for half an hour and walk a dog for a bit- there's no pressure, just a lot of furry friends. If you're so inclined, I encourage you to check them out!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Fourth of July!
This flag cake is off of a great baking blog called 17 and baking. I saw it on the most recent post, and knew right off the bat that I had to make it. It reminded me of another cake I made last year, a rainbow one (cool colors on the bottom, warm on top) with white icing. The "Big Reveal" invoked many oohs and aahs, and the theatrical, showy part of my soul rejoiced.

I usually don't focus as much on how baked goods look, because in my experience a beautiful cake is not necessarily the most delicious one. Given the choice between an absolutely circular cake with plastic-looking fondant and perfect sugar figurines and a sideways, gooey, rich chocolate concoction/mess, I know exactly what I'll choose. I'll take an Avalanche Cake over a sugar sculpture every time.

However, sometimes I adore a beautifully decorated cupcake or a colorful cake if it remains inviting to eat (AKA it still has lots of icing). I think that this cake is in a nice spot. It makes an impact, but it's neither so intricate nor so perfect that anybody would have second thoughts digging out a nice big forkful.

The good thing of the day is Harry Potter. This might make me (okay, definitely makes me) a geek. However, after years of resistance, my younger sister is finally motoring through the books, in order to be prepared for the midnight premiere of the last movie. I feel like a proud mother duck, watching all the movies and discussing all the books with her. All of my other friends have memorized them as I have, but initiating another person into the Ms. Rowling's magical world is, in a goofy way, inspiring. Let's hope she likes them!

(White layer of cake is Elegant White cake, red and blue layers are Classic Yellow Cake, and frosting is Easy Buttercream, all from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook)