tortelloni with sage butter

With the arrival of July, I set Batmanglij’s Food of Life aside (just for a time) and returned my attention to the recipes in Batali’s Molto Italiano. After tasting these tortelloni, made with the helping hand of my mother, I knew that my decision was well justified. I am taken completely with the nutmeg Batali adds to many of his stuffed pastas. This spice introduces a warmth, which nicely balances the vibrant astringency of the sage.

I must admit, however, that my technique still needs honing. The pasta dough turned out to be just slightly tough. I have experienced this toughness before as well. If anyone knows about making stuffed pasta, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this. I might have added too much flour, and too little egg. It might also have had something to do with the kneading. I think I have seen dozens of varying kneading methods. And mine is probably a strange combination of a few.

As a final note, since we have started harvesting our garlic bulbs, we have been putting garlic in just about everything. I really have grown to appreciate dishes that include whole cloves. We added about twelve cloves, just slightly sauteed, to the sage butter. Eating garlic this way might not be for everyone; but, well, if you love garlic, trying it whole like this really should not be an option.

I have completed 48 of Batali’s 327 recipes. Percentage complete: 14.68%

yogurt, cucumber, and rose petal dip

topped with walnuts and dried rose petals

This lovely, chilled dip (possibly, my new favorite side dish) is made with plain Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, raisins, fresh herbs, and chopped walnuts. It is the perfect accompaniment to grilled fish. It is also pretty amazing over toasted bread, topped with plenty of fresh dill. Of course, you might as well just eat it by itself.

thyme, mint, oregano, and dill

Further, I am happy to report that our oregano has survived. We transplanted some perennial herbs about a month ago. I decided that it would be a good idea to divide the oregano into three small sections to promote a linear, even growing pattern. (Just to note: I still back this decision.) The sections were looking pretty sickly for a while, but have made an impressive comeback in the past few weeks. Check out the photos. Not bad, actually.

oregano, section #2
June 3, 2012

oregano, section #2
June 30, 2012

Our dill in the other herb garden is also coming along. It might not be as tall as we had hoped by now, but it’s growing pretty decently. Perhaps we might be using too much?

June 30, 2012

June 3, 2012

I have completed 27 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 10.07%

cucumber and pomegranate salad

You often can find me lamenting over how few serving dishes we own.

And yet, we actually own quite a few. The problem is that 90% of them are made of glass. What am I supposed to do with a glass dish—besides, of course, look at it? With the arrival of summer, however, many hot suppers have been replaced with room temperature, even sometimes chilled meals. For some reason, it has never occurred to me until now that glass dishes serve as the perfect backdrop for summer creations, such as this beautiful cucumber and pomegranate salad.

pomegranate arils

Pomegranate is not something that I work with often. I remember the first few times I attempted to free the arils from the flesh—an unbelievably tedious process, or so I thought. Last summer (or was it last winter?), a cousin of mine suggested that I peel the pomegranate while holding it under a bowl of water. This technique works amazingly well. The arils sink to the bottom of the bowl. Everything unwanted floats, and can be skimmed away. The juicy boldness of the arils in this salad is awesome. And the pomegranate marries really well with the mint and shallot.

prepared pomegranate arils, cucumbers, shallots, and mint, waiting to be added to the lime vinaigrette

I have completed 26 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 9.70%

stuffed grape leaves

I had stuffed grape leaves for the first time about a year ago near the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. It was late evening, and we ate them while sitting on a few rocks near the water, watching the rippling waves in front of us. Those pictured here aren’t quite as good as last summer’s stuffed leaves, which were from a local Lebanese restaurant. But, they’re definitely not bad either. Mine are a bit briny, a tad oily (both in a good way). And the slight sweetness balances the heat nicely. I altered Batmanglij’s recipe just slightly, stuffing the leaves with brown basmati rice, yellow split peas, pine nuts, raisins, and a bunch of fresh herbs.

grape leaves, rinsed and dried

I used grape leaves that had been soaked in brine. It took me about thirty minutes (no joke) to pull them from the jar. My parents grow a few grape vines behind their garage. And there is another vine growing around the swing set that my brothers and I used to play on as kids. I wonder if I might be able to use a few of these leaves in the future. To note, there is no wine-making in the works just yet; I am still attempting to persuade my parents to make some.

Just to update, our herbs are looking well. And we pulled our first head of garlic last night. Not bad. Not bad at all.

the first head of garlic

from left to right, chopped scallions, chives, mint, dill, and curly parsley

the swing set grape vine — a bit odd, but it seems to work

I have completed 24 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 8.96%

fresh pasta with green onions and roasted red peppers

To make fresh pasta, all you need is flour and eggs. And a pasta roller. There are some eggless varieties as well, although I haven’t attempted those yet. The pasta here is about 60% whole wheat.

the eggs in their well of flour

the pasta roller

Some of our sage plants have been getting strangely woody, so I cut some back and threw the leaves with the basil. While chopping the herbs, I was pretty sure I was committing a form of culinary blasphemy. But surprisingly, sage and basil actually works.

basil, flat-leaf parsley, and sage

In other news, I have come to the decision that everyone should roast red peppers. Daily. Place a bell pepper under the broiler for about twenty minutes, turning every once in a while. The skin will blacken and blister. After you take it out, seal it tightly in a brown paper bag. Once cooled to room temperature, its skin will slip right off. Heaven.

roasted red bell pepper, just out of the oven

the summer’s first sweet onion

green onions in cool water