Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters

On April 21, 2012, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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If you are ever in New York City, I highly recommend Babbo.  It’s an Italian restaurant from celebrity chef Mario Batali.  It’s amazing.  I say Mario is a “celebrity chef” but he is the real deal and is by far my favorite chef. His approach to Italian food that used to be featured in his Food TV Network show Molto Mario, back when Food TV had good shows instead of all of this competitive reality crap.

My favorite two dishes of Babbo’s are the oxtail gnocchi and mint love letters.  I’ve tried making both but have been more successful with my attempts at the latter than the former.  Nothing I’ve made is equal or better to what I’ve had a Babbo’s.  That said this is a very impressive dish and it is definitely worth your time and effort, especially considering how Babbo’s isn’t around the corner from my home.

This dish took about a hour and half to make, so do it on a weekend, not after work.

First thing you’ll want to do is make the Basic Red Sauce. I did this the day before.. The recipe is simple and uses these few ingredients.

First start with making your pasta dough, I use a basic recipe that requires 30 minutes after the dough is made making sure it is not sticky and wrap it in plastic. Let it sit and make your filling.

For the Mint Love Letters, ie the Ravioli, you’ll want to start with the filling.  Blend peas, mint, Parmigiano Reggiano, heavy cream and salt and pepper using a food processor. I’d advise adding the heavy cream separately until you develop a thick paste that will hold as the filling in the pasta sheets.

Now work with your pasta creating two sheets of similar size and shape that you’ll use to create about 3 to 4 raviolis.  I run the pasta through the rollers starting at thickness 1 working down to thickness 5. You can go as low as 6, but you will have some rip. I recommend thinning the sheets to size 5 thickness.

Prepare each ravioli using two thin sheets of pasta dough and small dollop of filing making sure it’s not too large as you don’t want it bursting later when boiling.

Continue making your raviolis and dust with flour so they will not stick to each other. Also start heating your water to bring to a boil, lightly salt.

Start your sauce by lightly browning your spicy ground lamb. If you do not like lamb, use ground beef and add a 1 teaspoon of each of basil and oregano and add a few flakes of dried red pepper.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, being careful not to overcook or undercook.

While the ravioli is boiling and the meat is lightly browned, add the red sauce and about 5 chiffon leaves of fresh mint before serving. Cook the red sauce and meat for about 3 minutes.

Add several raviolis to each plate and complete with the meat sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve.


Recipes:

Basic Red Sauce

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage 

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Last Christmas I asked for some new cookbooks to add to my bookshelf.  With the change to making vegetarian/vegan 4 times each week, I thought some updated cookbooks in my meat-focused cookbook collection would be welcome.

One book that kept coming up is Veganomicon many reviews felt it is the essential vegan cookbook on the mark and the subtitle even makes the not-so-subtle claim of being “The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.”

I made a couple recipes this past week. The first is vegan enchilada recipe that uses kale and potatoes.  The other is a leek and navy bean with biscuits recipe that reminds me of a meatless, no dairy version of a light chicken and biscuit recipe I also have on this blog.

Of the two, the biscuit vegetables and bean dish was excellent. One of the best vegan recipes I’ve ever had.

Veganomicon is definitely worth picking up.  I have a ton of recipes I still need to get too.  Fortunately the first two recipes turned out great.  I look forward to more ultimate vegan success!

Find out more about the book and buy it here!

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Vegetable Potpie

On January 16, 2012, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I now have to favorite must go places while in New York City. The first is Mario Batali’s Babbos. The second must stop is Candle Cafe, a vegan restaurant that is well-known in vegan and vegetarian circles.

My wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas and one of the top cookbooks was The Candle Cafe Cookbook (I already own Babbos’ cookbook.)

Tonight I made my first recipe, but made some modifications that took it from vegan to vegetarian, plus had to change out some vegetables. I also took a short cut that I’m sure led to a lesser potpie and went with a store bought Immaculate Baking Company pie crust.

I highly recommend you  buy The Candle Cafe Cookbook as it includes how to make this vegan and also includes a recipe for herbed pie crust that I’ll have to try when I have more time.

Vegetable Potpie

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red potato, peeled and diced
2 small celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1/4 cup frozen sweet peas
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig (or 1 tsp dried)
1 thyme sprig (or 1 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pie Crust, store bought or your favorite homemade recipe

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.  Lightly butter a pie plate.

Prepare the pie filling by heating the olive oil at medium heat and adding all of the vegetables and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring often so vegetables do not stick to pan.  Add the wine, milk, butter, spices, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low heat.  In a separate small cup put in 2 tablespoons of flour with just a little water and stir so there are no clumps of flour. Add flour water mixture to pan.  Let the filling cook for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf when done.

Roll out pie crust and put into pie plate. Add the filling and cover with sheet of pie crust making sure to add a few slits to top.

Heat pie in oven for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown.


 

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I will occasionally get an email from my wife requesting quote – You should make this – end quote. Well last week I received another email (in fact two) and finally got around to making a pasta dish from Martha Stewart’s website.

It’s a good thing I didn’t get this particular recipe sent to me a couple months back, because I still had yet to find a market with decent fresh ricotta cheese in Dallas. Fortunately, a few weeks ago while at Central Market I noticed they carry a couple fresh ricotta choices. This afternoon I made a stop over there and picked up fresh ricotta from the Mozzarella Company, a popular local homemade cheese shop located in Deep Ellum, a trendy artsy part of downtown Dallas.

The recipe also calls for some fresh tarragon, sugar snap peas, and peas. One of the best parts of the recipe is it’s all cooked in one pot; though, you really should test the pasta before adding the peas. The recipe asks to cook the pasta for 3 minutes before adding the sugar peas. I would check the pasta and maybe give it a good 3 more minutes before adding, unless you have just made fresh pasta. I was using fresh, but refrigerated pasta from Central Market and it need a few more minutes; though, not as long as dry pasta needs. So adjust accordingly.

Also, when I make this again I’m going to try two things. First add roasted pine nuts. It just needed something to intensify the flavor and pine nuts should bring out the flavors better. Second change is to still experiment with the ricotta cheese choice. The one from the Mozzarella Company was good, but I’ve had far better at good Italian Markets. Unfortunately, the only Italian Market I’ve found around Dallas is Jimmy’s Food Store and they don’t carry fresh ricotta.

Here is a link to the recipe: Two-Pea Pasta with Ricotta and Tarragon

Vegetable Korma

On February 15, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a vegetarian/vegan kick lately. My wife Stephanie decided to give it an extra boost for my birthday by getting me “Appetite for Reduction” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It’s a brilliant book.

Here is one of the recipes from the book. It’s called 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma and was an interpretation from one of the author’s favorite restaurants in New York City – Madras. Sounds like I have a new restaurant to checkout when I head back to New York in late March.

 
Full Recipe: 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma.

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Jamaican Chicken Curry

On July 19, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I can hardly believe it’s been two months since my last post. It must be a busy summer. Fortunately, this week I decided to catch-up on some cooking magazine reading and ventured into Martha’s Food magazine that has an excellent stew recipe in its May 2009 issue.

The following recipe has some “kick, but just enough to make it intense, yet not insane” as my wife said while we enjoyed a couple plates. Three tablespoons of Indian curry did the trick (the recipe calls for Jamaican curry but I only some hot curry powder from a local Indian market.) Also, I went with organic frozen peas that I think add a nice sweet flavor to the dish. We also spent the morning at the local Farmer’s Market and picked up some great onions, carrots and garlic – all perfect for this recipe. The carrots were like butter.

Jamaican Chicken Curry
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized chunks
coarse salt and pepper
1 medium onion, rough chop
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
4 carrots, bite-sized sliced at an angle
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 cup water
1 package (10 oz) frozen peas
Cooked rice for serving

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, cumin, curry, thyme and 1/2 cup water and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 3-5 minutes.

Add carrots, frozen peas, coconut milk, 1/2 cup water and chicken with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover partially, and cook until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve over rice.

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Truffled Gnocchi with Peas and Chanterelles

On April 20, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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“Truffled” is used loosely in this case. There are no truffles at all in this recipe, Chanterelles in fact, but I couldn’t find them and went with a mixed gourmet mushroom package from Papa Joes grocery. It turned out fantastic, even without the better mushroom choice; though, I’m still looking forward to trying it with Chanterelles.

The best part is it only took 10 minutes to make this meal.


Truffled Gnocchi with Peas and Chanterelles

Serves 4

1 lb. Potato gnocchi
2 tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. Chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 tsp. Finely chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. Finely chopped chives
Freshly grated Parmesan

Cook potato gnocchi according to package directions.

Bring a 12” skillet over medium-high heat to high; add cream, peas, mushrooms, and thyme and cook. Stirring occasionally, until cream reduces by half. Season mushroom sauce with salt and pepper and remove skillet from heat. Add drained, gnocchi pasta to sauce pan and turn to coat, turning down heat to low. Plate pasta and sauce. Sprinkle parmesan and chives on top to serve.

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