Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe Rehab - "New" Pasta Primavera with Dandelion Greens, Mushrooms & Tomatoes

In this week's Meatless Monday feature we're experimenting with a new take on a somewhat tired Vegetarian Pasta dish:
Photo: NK
Primavera means spring in Italian, and nothing reminds me of the season like fresh produce. But Pasta Primavera the dish has quite the checkered history. It's actually an American invention, having nothing to do with Italy at all. Rumor has it that it was first served at Le Cirque in NYC. I don't know about you, but my experiences with Primavera have included limp Broccoli and Carrots in a woefully slimy, colorless sauce. Now you understand why we just had to make new! But first, do check out this brilliant and funny post from Poor Man's Feast on The Myth Of Pasta Primavera.

Our Primavera remake has received quite the zhuzhing. What's in it, you ask? Well, since I was thrilled to finally see nicely ripened Tomatoes at the market, they made the cut. I also set out to incorporate Dandelion Greens, an Italian favorite that has yet to gain wide popularity, in my recipe. Their slightly bitter, lemony quality really wakes up this dish. Finally, tender Oyster Mushrooms serve as the perfect sponge for all our subtle flavors, and fun Campanelle Pasta provides a worthy vehicle for this delicate yet hearty spring dish. 

Campanelle with Dandelion Greens, Oyster Mushrooms, and Tomatoes
Serves 2 
Oyster Mushroom, Photo: NK 

1 Small Bunch Dandelion Greens, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Pound Campanelle Pasta or other curly pasta
1.5 Tablespoons Salted Butter
2 large Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Oyster Mushroom, about the size of a fist with its core cut off to release the petal-shaped mushrooms.
2-3 Large Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, chopped

1/3 Cup good quality Grated Parmigiana Cheese
1 teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest
1/2 teaspoon Salt plus more to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Blanch Dandelion Greens in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and rinse again with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. 

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the Pasta.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, melt the Butter. Add in the Garlic and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the Oyster Mushrooms and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until tender. 

Add the chopped Tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Tomatoes and Mushrooms should release a good deal of water which will become the basis of your sauce. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of Salt and the Lemon Zest. Stir and turn off the flame.

Once Pasta water is boiling cook Campanelle for about 10 minutes until almost cooked but still a bit firm. Drain, reserving at least 1/4 cup of the Pasta water.

Turn the heat back to a medium flame under the Vegetables. Pour Campanelle into the skillet and toss with the Vegetables. Add the Dandelion Greens to the skillet and stir. Add 2 or 3 Tablespoons of Pasta Water and allow liquids to bubble for about a minute, adding more liquid as desired until the Sauce thickens just a bit to the desired consistency. Turn off heat. 

Add the Parmigiana Cheese and toss through the Pasta. Finish with a generous sprinkling of Black Pepper. Taste for Salt and serve immediately. Enjoy! 

"New" Pasta Primavera with Dandelion Greens, Oyster Mushroom and Tomato, Photo: NK 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Out of Their Shells - Crab: Two Ways

This past week I was all about Shellfish. That's not so out of the ordinary for me - I'm wild about the stuff. Especially once the warm weather hits, my thoughts turn to Crab Boils and Clam Bakes.  For me, Shellfish is just feel-good food - light, simple, and perfect for laid back summer meals with family, friends, and plenty of laughs.  

My craving ended up being perfectly timed since we spontaneously decided to head out to Montauk this weekend. Montauk is a charming seaside town at the tip of Long Island's South Fork.
Photo: NK

It was a wonderful day. The air was clear, the sea was bright, and the fish we ate was so fresh it practically wiggled on the plate. Since I am partial to the crustaceans and bivalves of the world, I made sure to eat one of each of the following (not all in one day!): a Lobster Roll, Fried Clam Bellies from The Clam Bar in Napeague, and finally, a tasty dish of my all time fave, Linguine with White Clam Sauce at Edgewater Restaurant (check out NK's version HERE). While this was decidedly not a diet weekend, I regret none of my food choices. And even better, I was able to spend time with some very special people - my mom and my husband. We also linked up with two of our dear friends who happen to live in the area. Friends make me happy, family makes me happy, Shellfish makes me happy - and I want to share it all with you, so here goes -   

Baked Mini Crab Cakes with Homemade Mustard Sauce
Open-Faced Crab Sandwiches with Mango and Pickled Green Tomatoes

Prior to this weekend, my most recent seafood craving was for Crab, so me and my husband consequently whipped up the two dishes I'll be sharing today. The first is a super easy and impressive cocktail bite - Mini Crab Cakes with Homemade Mustard Sauce: 

Mini Baked Crab Cakes with Homemade Mustard Sauce, Photo: NK

The recipe is surprisingly quick and the result is both delicious and really hard to mess up. A mini muffin tin allows you to skip the messy process of forming and frying up Crab Cakes, and makes it easy to turn out a large amount of appetizers in a few easy steps.  Whip these up for a cocktail party or as a light appetizer and you'll be everyone's best friend. A dollop of homemade Mustard Sauce gives these little savory cakes a tangy bite, and fresh chives add both to the taste and presentation. We like to use Back Fin Crab Meat. It comes pasteurized in the can and is cheaper than Lump Crab yet is still extremely flavorful. 

Mini Crab Cakes with Mustard Sauce
Lightly Adapted from Bon Appetit
Photo: NK
Makes 20-24 Mini Crab Cakes 

1 Mini Muffin Tin - ideally enough for 24 muffins

8 Ounces  Fat Free Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 Cup finely grated Parmigiana Cheese
1 Egg
1/4 Cup Fat Free Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon finely grated Orange Peel
1/2 teaspoon finely grated Lemon Peel
4 Tablespoons finely chopped Fresh Chives
4 Whole Chives Cut into centimeter long lengths (for the garnish)

6 Ounces Back Fin Crab Meat (usually comes in 1 LB cans if Pasteurized Crab Meat)

1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 large pinch Cayenne Pepper
1 large pinch Hot Smoked Spanish Paprika
1.25 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs
3/4 Stick Salted Butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan

Generously grease muffin tin with with some Butter.
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix up the Homemade Mustard Sauce if using.* Recipe follows. 

Using an electric beater, beat Cream Cheese in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Add 1/4 Cup of the Parmigiana Cheese and the Egg. Beat until combined, Add the Sour Cream, Orange and Lemon Peels, and 2 Tablespoons Chopped Chives. Add the Kosher Salt, Cayenne Pepper and Smoked Paprika. Beat again. Fold in the Crabmeat. This step can be done up to a day ahead and refrigerated. 

In a bowl, toss Panko Breadcrumbs, remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiana Cheese, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons chopped Chives. Drizzle the Melted Butter over the mixture, tossing gradually until evenly moistened. 

Press 1 rounded Tablespoon of the Panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press a teaspoon into the cups to help form a crust. You can also do this with your fingers. Some Panko Mixture should be left over. 

Next, spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon Crab Mixture into each cup. To finish, sprinkle about a teaspoon of Panko Mixture over each muffin cup. 

Bake Crab Cakes until golden brown on the top and fully set. This should take 30 minutes. 

When cooked, cool pan for 5 minutes and run a knife around the edge of each muffin cup to loosen the Crab Cakes. Gently lift them out of the pan and transfer to the serving dish. 

As much as an hour before you are ready to serve Crab Cakes, dot each with a small amount of Easy Mustard Sauce* and garnish with centimeter long slices of Chives arranged in a crisscross shape as pictured above. Serve immediately.  

Easy Mustard Sauce*
Makes enough to dot 24 Crab Cake Hors D'oeuvres 

2 Heaping Tablespoons Low-Fat Mayonnaise
1 Heaping teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Dry Mustard Powder, optional
2 Drops Tabasco Sauce or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

~Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. 

What to do with any leftover Crab? 
Easy - our Open-Faced Crab Sandwich on thick toasty Bread is a quick, delicious and inspired dinner Sandwich the next day. Pickled Green Tomatoes and ripe Mango create an interesting sweet/salty dimension, and a few drops of Hot Sauce ties it all together with a kick. 

Open-Faced Crab Sandwiches with Mango and Pickled Green Tomato
Serves 2
Inspired by Beyond Sweet and Savory 

Photo: NK 
8-10 Ounces Back Fin Crab Meat
4 Slices Thick White Sandwich Bread or Brioche, toasted

1 Large Scallion, white and green parts chopped
1/2 Ripe Mango, cut into centimeter cubes
1/2 Small Cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 Pickled Green Tomato, cut into centimeter cubes
2 Tablespoons roughly chopped Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 teaspoon Lime Juice 
Pinch Salt 

1/2 a Lime, cut in quarter wedges 

For the Mayonnaise
1.5 Tablespoons Low Fat Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Lime Juice
1 large pinch Salt
Several turns freshly ground Black Pepper
3 Drops Tabasco Sauce

In a bowl, combine Scallion, Mango, Cucumber, Pickled Green Tomato, and Cilantro. Drizzle with Oil, 1/2 teaspoon Lime Juice, and add a Pinch of Salt. Mix to combine. 

In a small bowl, combine the Mayonnaise, Lime Juice, a pinch of Salt, a generous sprinkle of Black Pepper, and a few drops Tabasco. Mix. Gently fold the Mayonnaise mixture into the Crab Meat in a larger bowl. 

To serve, set two pieces of Toast on each plate. Spoon equal portions of the Crab mixture on each piece of Toast. Top with the Mango and Green Tomato Mixture. Sprinkle Generously with Pepper and optionally garnish with an extra slice of Mango. Serve with Lime Wedges for squeezing. Enjoy! 

Open Faced Crab Sandwiches with Mango and Pickled Green Tomato, Photo: NK

Monday, April 22, 2013

Extra-Curricular Cocktailing - Infused Alcohol & Simple Syrups

Homemade Bitters, Photo: NK
My best friend is mighty talented. By day, she's a Social Worker and Vocational Counselor who also has a specialty in Horticultural Therapy, not to mention a fierce green thumb.

In her spare time, she cooks healthy vegetarian meals, bakes some seriously tempting sweets, and dotes on her husband, dog, and cat, all in-between weekend camping trips and farming conventions. When I met up with her the other day, she matter-of-factly mentioned that she'd just decided to walk to meet me, you know, a hundred city blocks. She is the urban-frontierswoman I'll never be. 

Since her work results in her spending a good deal of time at the Horticultural Society of New York, she suggested I join her for one of their workshops. One that also happened to feature one of our favorite pastimes.

It was fun to be in a classroom with my besty again, since the last time was probably in fourth grade. Back then, we were ever teacher's nightmare what with our inappropriate outbursts and ill-timed giggles. We managed to keep it together for most of this engrossing class, but then again, some things really never change. 

Our Bitters, Infusions and Simple Syrups class was taught by Sarah Lohman whose very cool blog, Four Pounds Flour, focuses on Historic Gastronomy, or exploring historic recipes, food customs, and the stories behind centuries of food and drink across cultures. 

We learned a lot and Sarah was very entertaining as well. Among the highlights, I found out that it is super easy to infuse spirits with all manner of flavorings - herbs, fruits, even vegetables. Unsurprisingly, some hipster-ish looking dude even asked about infusing Bacon into Vodka. Apparently, this too is within reach. 

We even made our own homemade Bitters which are steeping as we speak. They should be ready in a few more weeks!

Mixing an Infused French 75,  Photo: NK
In today's post, we'll explore some fast recipes so that you too can create the  basic building blocks for mixing a great cocktail. Creating homemade Liquor Infusions and Syrups to enhance your mixed drinks is easier than you think. We'll even try our hand at an original cocktail with Basic Simple Syrup and my homemade Lemon/Lime Vodka. I like to call it a Grown Up 7 Up. Enjoy! 

*Basic Simple Syrup
1:1 Ratio of Water to Sugar 
(1 Cup Water to 1 Cup Sugar, etc)

~To create: heat water and Sugar over low heat until Sugar has fully dissolved, stirring from time to time. 

~To infuse: while Sugar and Water is heating add ingredients of your choice to impart flavor. This is best done with dry ingredients such as Citrus Zest, a Cinnamon Stick, and Herb, etc.

Check out this great Ginger Lemon Simple Syrup HERE

Homemade Sour Mix
By Sarah Lohman

2 Cups Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Cup Simple Syrup

~To create: Mix Lemon and Syrup and use in your favorite cocktail. The best way to use sour mix? Margaritas of course. I've also been know to enjoy a Whiskey Sour now and again. 

*NK's Own Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka
Makes 1 Cup (8 ounces)

1 Cup Smirnoff Vodka
Peel of 1/2 a Lime
Peel of 1/2 a Lemon
1 Wedge of Lime
1 Wedge of Lemon

~To create: Add Vodka to an airtight container. Squeeze and twist rinds over container to Let sit at room temperature for at least week, shaking from time to time. When ready to use, chill in the refrigerator and strain out solids. Enjoy with your favorite mixed drink.
Note -the higher the proof of your Vodka, the faster the flavors will infuse. 

Grown Up 7-UP
Yields 2 Drinks
Photo: Neurotic Kitchen

8 Ounces Seltzer
2 Ounces Simple Syrup* +1 teaspoon Simple Syrup, divided

3 Ounces Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka*above
2 Lime Rounds for Garnish 

2 Lemon Wedges, for squeezing
2 Slices Lemon Peel for the Lemon twists

Stir together Seltzer, 2 Ounces Simple Syrup, 3 Ounces of Lemon/Lime Infused Vodka and the Juice of 2 Lemon Wedges. 

Place Ice in two glasses and pour mixture over each. Take each Lemon Twist and squeeze/twist it over each glass. This action allows the essential oils from the Lemon Rind to be dispersed over the drink imparting an aromatic layer to the cocktail. When done, toss each Lemon Twist into the glasses and garnish with Lime Rounds. Finally, float a half teaspoon of additional Simple Syrup over each glass and serve. Cheers!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

No-Stress Nibbles - Semi-Homemade Finger Foods

Mini Muffaletta Sandwiches with Caciocavallo Cheese, Photo: NK
Especially since our Sixties-Inspired Party Bites Post the other day, I've been on a finger food kick. 

Actually, this is is pretty much my baseline. Little nibbles are my absolute favorite - and for me, the best type of party is a cocktail party with small plates and lots of variety. 

I have trouble making decisions ...especially food related decisions, so a little of everything is my kind of meal. 

Now that spring is really here (NYC hit 65 degrees  the other day!), party season will no doubt be getting into full swing. To get you ready, today's post will focus on easy to prepare party hits that are based off a special store bought/ready made ingredientWhenever I find a really smashing ingredient, I am always inclined to build several dishes around it, because when you start with amazing building blocks, it's hard not to turn out a great dish.      

I suppose today's post is the Neurotic Kitchen version of "semi-homemade,"      

and the winning ingredients are:

  Marconi Hot Muffaletta Mix                       AND                   D'Artagnan Black Truffle Butter 
Photo Courtesy of D'Artagnan
Available at

Photo Courtesy of Marconi Foods

Available at

What joy was mine when I discovered Marconi Muffaletta mix at my favorite ever Italian Gourmet Store, Jerry's in Englewood, NJ (Check Jerry's out HERE). This store is so great that it will get its own post one of these days. For the uninitiated, Muffaletta is a type of sandwich that's famous in New Orleans. Said to have been devised by a Sicilian Immigrant (my people!) who owned a grocery store there, and so named for the large round roll the sandwiches were built on, Muffaletta is a delicious sandwich that includes a mix of Deli  Meats, often Mortadella particularly, Cheese, and a Pepper and Olive Relish that provides an incredible piquant flavor with a hint of spice. For more about the Muffaletta, click HERE.

I have been meaning to make Muffaletta relish for some time and doing my usual poking around the internet to research the sandwich itself. Time and again, however, I was deterred by the volume ingredients that the olive spread requires. That's why when I spied this ready-made Muffaletta Mix from Marconi, I knew my ship had come in. 

My mom had joined me on my Jerry's field trip that day and was a bit peckish by the time we returned home. Excited to sample my find, I tossed the Muffaletta mix on the only bread we had on hand, Challah, with some thinly sliced Mortadella. Holy moly did we swoon. Delicious, delicious stuff. Needless to say, when I was invited to a party the following week, I knew exactly what I'd be bringing. Now, all I'd need to do was adapt the Muffaletta to cocktail size. Step one was to add on a cube of tangy, salty Caciocavallo cheese both to anchor the toothpick and sandwich, and for extra flavor. Caciocavallo is similar to Provolone, the latter being more widely available. Step two -class it up all party-like with a parsley garnish. Step three? There's no step three except- presto! Instant cocktail nibble! So without further delay, here's the How To:

Mini Muffaletta Cocktail Sandwiches
Makes 12 Sandwiches - 1 or 2 per person is a good serving size
12 Mini Slider Buns - Brioche is preferable if you can find them
1/4 Pound Caciocavallo or Provolone Cheese cut into centimeter-sized cubes
1/2 Pound thinly sliced good quality Mortadella
12 small pieces of Italian Parsley 
12 toothpicks


Lay Mortadella slices in one layer and slice them in half down the middle.

Using on the bottom half of the Mini Brioche Buns, trim them to about one inch thickness and reserve remainder of bread for another use.

Spread each of the 12 pieces of bread with about 1 heaping teaspoon of Muffaletta Mix.

Take two halves of the Mortadella Slices and roll them up. Place on top of the Muffaletta Mix, crisscrossing one over the other. Next, place the sprig of Parsley in the middle of the two Meat slices and place a cube of Caciocavallo Cheese on top of the sprig. Secure the Sandwich by driving a toothpick through the Cheese and towards the bottom of the Sandwich. Enjoy!
Delicious Mini Muffaletta Sandwiches, Photo: NK

Herb and Truffle Butter Mixture, Photo: NK

Next up, an easy to assemble handheld cocktail bite that uses everyone's favorite cold cut - Prosciutto. What makes these Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks better than usual? Truffle Butter.  We prefer D'Artagnan brand. When mixed with fresh, bright Herbs and slathered over Breadsticks, this high-quality Black Truffle Butter provides an extra flavor dimension that makes for an hors d'oeuvre greater than the sum of its parts. 

Whenever I find D'Artagnan Truffle Butter, an ingredient I first heard about from Ina Garten, I like to store it in the freezer so it's ready to go whenever I get the urge. Another great way to use this delicious product is in this amazing dish that practically makes itself - Ina Garten's Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter
Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks with Herbed Truffle Butter
Adapted from Robert Irvine
Makes 16 Sticks, Serving Size 2 per guest 

3 teaspoons Fresh Italian Parsley, minced
3 teaspoons Fresh Chives, minced
3 Ounces Truffle Butter fully softened, preferably D'Artagnan Brand
Pinch of White Pepper (or Black is just fine too)
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
16 Plain Italian Breadsticks, (buy extra in case some are broken)
About 20 Slices thinly sliced Prosciutto (between 1/3- 1/2 LB)

Combine softened Truffle Butter with Fresh Herbs, Pepper and Oil. 

Using a butter knife, carefully spread the Butter Mixture about halfway down each Breadstick. 

Use a light touch or Breadsticks could snap.

Wrap one slice of Prosciutto around each Breadstick, covering all of the Butter. You can press small pieces of Prosciutto in as well to fill any gaps. 

Serve and Enjoy! 
Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks with Herbed Truffle Butter, Photo: NK

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meatless Monday - Grilled Cheese and Ramp Pesto Sandwiches

I recently learned that April 12 was National Grilled Cheese Day "here in the land of fake holidays," as Gothamist so cleverly noted. Well, then! Far be it from me to let such a momentous occasion pass unnoticed. 

As luck would have it, I'd already been looking for more ways to utilize my leftover Ramp Pesto, and incorporating it into one of the more sinful yet comforting sandwiches known to man seemed like a smashing idea. 
Grilled Gruyere and Asiago Sandwiches with Ramp Pesto, Photo: NK

Turns out, our bright green Ramp Pesto with its bold, garlicky flavor and hints of Walnut and Parmigiana was the perfect foil to a gooey melange of mild Gruyere and tangy Asiago Cheeses. Diet this sandwich is not, but it is indeed a worthy way to interpret Grilled Cheese - or as I like to call it, the best thing since Sliced Bread. 

Grilled Gruyere and Asiago Sandwiches with Ramp Pesto
Makes 2 Sandwiches
Photo: NK

4  Slices Texas Toast of thick Brioche
1/4 Cup Ramp Pesto (Click HERE for Recipe)
1/4 Pound room temp Gruyere, grated
1/4 Pound room temp Asiago, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter

Heat a large skillet over medium-low flame.

Place 4 slices of Bread on skillet and dot each with a 1/2 Tablespoon Butter. Wait until the Butter begins to melt and spread it with a knife around the Bread. Check bottoms of the Bread. Flip once it has become light golden brown.

Allow the other side of Bread to toast for a few minutes. Add an even mix of Gruyere and Asiago to two of the four Bread slices. 

Pull the remaining two Bread slices off the skillet and set aside. Continue to cook until Cheeses begin to melt. To help the Cheese melt faster, it's a good idea to lay the top of a pot over them to trap in the heat. I like to use a glass pot cover so I can see the progress.  

Meanwhile, spread the plain Bread Slices with an ample amount of Ramp Pesto. 
Ramp Pesto Spread, Photo: NK

Once the cheese has melted about 3/4 of the way through, place the Pesto slathered Bread slices on top of each of the two Cheese slices. 

Flip the Sandwiches again and press down on them lightly to fuse Sandwiches together. 

Continue to cook until Cheese is melted to your liking. Slice Sandwiches down the middle, serve, and enjoy! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ramps Revisited - Lemony Ramp Ravioli with Brown Butter + Basic Ramp Pesto

Ramps! Photo: NK
They're back....
That's right, Ramps! 

The culinary all-star of the veggie world has made its brief yet triumphant annual appearance at farm stands everywhere. 

To learn more about the illustrious Ramp, check out last year's post and some bonus Ramp Recipes HERE

This week, we are doing lots with these babies, and the best news is that all our recipes will be super easy yet impressive. Would you expect anything less? 

Let's start simple with Ramp Pesto, a super way to use Ramps but also, a way to extend their short seasonal window. Our Pesto is versatile, delicious, and freezes well. Use it as a sandwich spread (just you wait until we show you what we have planned for our next post) or as a traditional Pasta topping. No matter what you do, you'll love the fresh and garlicky character of these hard to resist greens.

Easy Ramp Pesto, Photo: NK
Simple Ramp Pesto
Makes about 1 Cup
1 Small Bunch Ramps, roughly chopped (about 15-20 ramps)
1/4 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/4 Cup Grated Parmigiana Reggiano
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Salt

In a food processor, process Ramps until finely minced. 
Add Walnuts and process. 
Add Oil and process. 
Add Lemon Juice, Salt, and to finish, add Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese. Process well. 


Next up, Lemony Ramp Ravioli with a Savory Brown Butter Sauce and Crispy Ramp topping. But how can Ravioli be easy and quick? Well, we're using a great shortcut that I first learned from Giada De Laurentiis -  Wonton Wrappers. That's right, while not authentically Italian of course, Wonton Wrappers are a great way to make Ravioli that is fast, easy, and delicate. Find them at Asian Groceries in the freezer section. Our Ravioli recipe highlights the garlicky Ramp while marrying it with the standard savory Ricotta filling. We took it one step further by mixing in a healthy dose of Lemon Zest (a nod to Amalfitana Ravioli from the Lemon-obsessed Amalfi coast). Finally, an easy two-ingredient Brown butter tops our little Ravioli with savory goodness. Crispy fried Ramp greens are the final flourish.  These Ravioli can be frozen in their uncooked state, just be sure to separate layers with wax paper or they will stick together. When ready to eat, you may boil them frozen, but they will take a few extra minutes to cook beyond the regular 4 minutes.

Lemony Ramp Ravioli with Brown Butter and Crispy Ramps
Inspired by Giada de Laurentiis, Mario Batali, and Adapted from Andrew Feinberg
Serves 6 as an Appetizer, 4 as a Main Course

For Ravioli
36 Wonton Wrappers (preferably square)
1 Egg, beaten

For Filling
1 bunch Ramps, About 12 of them roughly chopped & ground into a fine mince using a food processor, another 10 Ramps -greens leaves only- reserved (for Sauce/Crispy Ramp Topping)

15 Ounces Fat Free or Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1/3 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
2 Egg Yolks
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 Tablespoon Half and Half or Cream (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

For Sauce
1 Stick Salted Butter
10 Ramp Greens (see above) stacked and cut lengthwise into very thin strips

Create the Ravioli Filling by combining all filling ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix up the Egg Wash for sealing the Ravioli by beating one egg and adding some water (about a Tablespoon). 
Filling the Ravioli, Photo: NK

Lay out Wonton Wrappers on a clean surface. Place 1/2 teaspoon Ravioli Filling in the middle of each Wrapper. Dip a pastry brush in Egg Wash and paint around the edges of the Wrapper. 

Carefully fold the square Wrapper in half, creating a triangle. Use your fingertips to firmly press down on the dough to seal. Place on a baking sheet or other surface. Repeat until you've filled the desired amount of Ravioli. 

In a large Pasta Pot, boil salted water. Working in small batches (these Ravioli are particularly delicate), boil the Ravioli until done. Try to keep the boil at a gentle pace so Ravioli don't break. They should take only 4 minutes to cook. Carefully remove them to plates using a slotted spoon. Once plated, prepare the Brown Butter and Crispy Ramp Sauce.

In a medium sauce pan, melt 1 stick Salted Butter. Let it sit over medium heat until it starts to bubble and becomes a brown/golden color. Once browning, add the thinly sliced Ramp Greens and allow to crisp a bit. Lower heat if butter seems to be burning. Pour Butter Sauce over each plate of Ravioli and garnish with crispy Ramps. Enjoy!

Lemony Ramp Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Crispy Ramps, Photo: NK

Stay tuned for more Ramp Recipe madness later this week, and we recommend you get 'em while you can. Peak Ramp season is only about 4 weeks! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 - Sixties-Inspired Party Bites

Season 5 Spoiler Alert! 
We left Don Draper in a familiar place at the close of season 5 of Mad Men - sidled up to the bar, deep in thought, with beautiful strangers buzzing around nearby. When one of the women propositions him on behalf of her friend, Nancy Sinatra's ominous rendition of "You Only Live Twice," swells even louder.
Then the screen goes black. 

Photo Courtesy of

So we begin the penultimate season of our most favorite show with great anticipation. Will he or won't he? The suspense has been killing us for a year. 

Whether or not Don will return to his skirt-chasing ways, we are surely back to our old tricks with yet another Mad Men Premiere Party Menu. The success of last year's (check it out HERE) made us even more excited to create the spread that we'll feature today. 

Yet again, we set out to remake some mid-century classics, but this time, we are focusing on retro-inspired finger foods that are party-ready and easily adaptable to feed a crowd. Naturally, cocktails will also be involved. If you're waiting to watch Season 6 on tivo and looking for some easy to make nibbles, you're in luck: 

Coconut Shrimp, Photo: NK

Mad Men Menu for 4

Cocktail Moscow Mule 

Baked Coconut Shrimp Served in a Pineapple

Steak Satay "Diane"

Dessert - New Ambrosia Fruit Dip 
The Moscow Mule originated several decades before the Mad Men days, but it does make our list of cocktails that our favorite ad execs would have enjoyed. A party-ready drink that can be assembled right in the glass, the Mule is, as classic cocktails go, somewhat under appreciated. We chose it for its refreshing character. A healthy squeeze of Lime pairs with a clean Vodka base while slightly sweet and refreshing Ginger Beer (we prefer Gosling's brand) rounds out the drink. Toss in a sprig of Mint for color. 
Want other ideas? Check out AMC's Official Mad Men Cocktail Guide: HERE.

Moscow Mule
Recipe from AMC's Mad Men Cocktail Guide
Makes 1 Drink

1 1/4 Oz Vodka
3 Oz Ginger Beer
1 teaspoon Simple Syrup
1/4 Oz Lime Juice
1 Sprig of Mint
1 Slice of Lime

Pour Vodka over Ice in a short glass or copper mug. 
Add Lime Juice and Simple Syrup
Top with Ginger Beer and stir.
Garnish with a Mint Sprig and a slice of Lime. 
Moscow Mule, Photo: NK


Our first shareable dish is Baked Coconut Shrimp served in a Pineapple. A nod to the fact that all things Polynesian often dominated Sixties cocktail parties, the presentation and some of the ingredients of this dish are also inspired of my grandma, Dolly. One of her standard party classics, she would coat the Shrimp in a little Bisquick and Egg batter before rolling them in Sweetened Coconut Flakes and deep frying them. Grandma was always focused on smashing presentation,  so she'd serve these crowd-pleasers in a hollowed out Pineapple. While we won't be deep frying our Shrimp, we will use her serving method and will also adapt her standard Duck Sauce accompaniment to add a bit of spice and a bit more tanginess. She liked to use Saucy Susan brand Duck Sauce. I hope you enjoy! 

Lighter Baked Coconut Shrimp Served in a Pineapple with Lime Jalapeno Duck Sauce
Adapted From The Girl Who Ate Everything and My Grandma, Dolly
Approx 24 Shrimp - Serves 8 as a Cocktail Nibble, 4 as an Appetizer 

1 Lb Large Shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail on 
1/2 a whole Pineapple, hollowed out (flesh reserved for other use - like our dessert!)
2 Egg Whites
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 Cups Sweetened Coconut Flakes
1/2 Cup Duck Sauce
1.5 Tablespoon Lime Juice
1.5 Tablespoon Jalapeno, chopped finely 
1/8 teaspoon Salt

For the dipping sauce - combine Lime Juice, Jalapeño, Duck Sauce and Salt. Stir and set Aside.

Preheat oven to 400 and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
Spread Coconut Flakes and Cornstarch on two different plates.
Place Egg Whites in a bowl and whisk vigorously until frothy.

Holding Shrimp by the tail, dredge in Cornstarch, dip in Egg Whites, and finally, roll in the Coconut Flakes. When finished, sprinkle all the Shrimp very lightly with a pinch of Salt. 

Place Shrimp on cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes until they become golden. Make sure to turn in the middle of the cooking process, at around 8 minutes in.
Place Shrimp in the hollowed out Pineapple with the dipping sauce on the side. 
Serve and enjoy!  

Baked Coconut Shrimp in a Pineapple with Lime and Jalapeño Duck Sauce Dip, Photo: NK


Our second shareable party bite is derived from an uber popular Sixties dinner party dish - Steak Diane. The earliest mention of Sauce Diane comes from French culinary master, Escoffier, around the turn of the century, but in the Sixties, Steak Diane was de rigueur for any elegant soiree. How do you translate this sit down dish for a crowd?  I decided to make it handheld by putting it on a stick just like you would Beef Satay. Steak Diane's typical cream sauce laced with flambeed Cognac and Beef Broth can be drizzled over the Satay or served in a small bowl. Either way, the dish that was once the hallmark of haute cuisine (and fittingly for Mad Men, is said to have originated in New York) deserves a remix. 

Steak Satay "Diane"
Adapted from Saveur and Epicurious 
*Cooks note - start marinating the steak at least 2 hours ahead 
Serves 8 as a Cocktail Nibble, 4 as a Light Entree

Marinade Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Cup of Vegetable Oil 
Tablespoon of Chopped Chives
Tablespoon of Chopped Parsley
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard

Ingredients for the Skewers:
1 Lb Flank Steak 
At least 25 Long Wooden Skewers 

Sauce Diane Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups Beef Stock
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
3 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Large Shallot, minced 
Black Pepper
4 Oz Cremini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 Cup Cognac
1/4 Cup Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard 
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tablespoons minced Chives plus extra for garnish
1 Tablespoon chopped Parsley

Several hours before, whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Put Steak in a large ziploc and pour Marinade over Steak.  Let it sit refrigerated for at least two hours or overnight.

Soak wood skewers in a bowl for at least a half hour. 

When ready to cook or an hour before, slice Steak against the grain into centimeter wide strips. Thread a strip of Steak onto each wooden skewer and when done, sprinkle them all with a pinch of Salt. 

Put Beef Broth in a medium sauce pan. Over medium high heat, cook for 15 minutes until reduced to about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup. Remove broth to a bowl and set aside.

Reheat the Saucepan and melt 2 Tablespoons of Butter in it. Next add Garlic and minced Shallot and cook for another 2 minutes until softened. Add the Mushrooms and cook, stirring, another 4 minutes until tender. Add Cognac to the sauce pan.

Carefully light the Cognac aflame using a long match. Allow to flambée until the flame dies down naturally. Next, stir in your Beef Stock, Cream, Mustard, Worcestershire and Hot Sauce. Cook another 4-5 minutes until sauce thickens a bit. Finish with a sprinkle of Black Pepper. Turn flame to the lowest heat to keep warm. 

Heat up a grill or grill pan over high flame. Cook each skewer about 2 minutes per side until medium rare or done to your liking. Stir Parsley and Chives into the Sauce Diane and remove it to a small bowl. Serve with Skewers around the sauce and garnish with extra Chives and Parsley.

Steak Satay "Diane," Photo: NK

Since everything old is new again, I figured why not revamp another Sixties' holdover: Ambrosia Salad. Ambrosia is said the be the nectar of the gods, but this questionable creamy Fruit Salad with Coconut and Mini Marshmallows appears to be anything but. Still very popular in the southern states, there's no doubt that Ambrosia can indeed be incredibly delicious, but I think we can agree that the standard presentation leaves much to be desired. If you fancy traditional Ambrosia, I really love the following recipe and post from a blog called The Country Cook HERE. To modernize this dish and make it more visually appealing, we took all the creamy, marshmallowy goodness of it and turned it into a more palatable fruit dip. This recipe is easily adaptable to any fruit that suit your tastes, and bonus - our version is deliberately lighter in calories and fat. A sprinkle of toasted Coconut enhances both the taste and visual appeal. We hope you take a dip!

New Ambrosia Fruit Dip 
Adapted from Taste of Home
Serves 4 to 6 

2 Cups Strawberries
1/2 a Pineapple, cut into bit size wedges
3 Fresh Mandarin Oranges, peeled and sectioned

Fruit Dip and Topping
1/4 Cup Sweetened Coconut flakes, lightly toasted for 2 min in the toaster oven* 
4 Oz Fat Free Cream Cheese, softened
3 Oz Fat Free Greek Yogurt (we like Fage brand)
4 Oz Cool Whip Free
4 Oz Marshmallow Fluff
1 Heaping Tablespoon Confectioners Sugar

*When toasting Coconut, keep an eye on it as it burns and smokes easily. Once golden brown flakes begin to appear, it is done enough. 

In a large bowl, combine yogurt and cream cheese until well incorporated. Gently stir in Marshmallow Fluff, sprinkle on Powdered Sugar, and add Cool Whip. Stir to combine.
Add half of the Toasted Coconut to the mixture and stir again to incorporate. Serve Dip in a bowl surrounded by assorted fruits. Top the Dip with the remainder of the Toasted Coconut and sprinkle additional Coconut over Fruit as well. Refrigerate dip until ready to use. Enjoy!  
New Ambrosia Fruit Dip, Photo: NK
We hope you enjoyed our Mad Men Party Bites Menu. Until next season! And enjoy the show!