Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé

I like to reserve the final posting of the calendar year for a favorite recipe of mine, whether or not it is historical.  This one has been a favorite for over ten years and a great way to serve up sweet potatoes any time but particularly during the holidays.

It is from The Mount Vernon Cookbook, published by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, which I purchased in 1999 while visiting Mount Vernon.  At the time I thought it was a collection of historical recipes all from George Washington's era but now I see it more as a ladies' club collection with Virginia vibes.  This is not a complaint!  The few I have tried have been excellent.
ISBN 0-931917-13-1
On page 128 is the Sweet Potato - Apple Soufflé.  It serves 6 to 8 and is tasty without being sweet.

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups applesauce
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
4 eggs, separated

Two more eggs joined the party later
Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Add to applesauce with orange rind.  Mix well.  Combine sweet potatoes, salt, applesauce mixture and butter.  Add beaten egg yolks.

All but the whites
Beat egg whites stiff and fold into applesauce-sweet potato mixture.

Whites gently folded in
Pile lightly into greased 3-quart casserole.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve immediately
My Notes

Turn on the oven to preheat before you get started.  Get the eggs separated, too, so the whites can warm up a bit before you beat them.  I put the whites right into the bowl in which they will be beaten.

I either bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or cook them in the microwave.  This is done in advance so you can peel and mash them easily.

Start with a big bowl for the sugar and cinnamon and add everything to it in order.  That way you have enough room through to the end!

It is important to mix in stages as described.  This gives the sweet potatoes a chance to get very mashed and blended with the other ingredients.

The recipe calls for a 3-quart casserole but I have used a 2-quart without any problems.

I keep the oven door closed while it is cooking although I check it at about 40 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too brown.  The center might jiggle when it is still hot but the dish is cooked thoroughly when a knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The Verdict

Success!  This is a very light and tasty way to serve sweet potatoes.  The applesauce adds a bit of sweet and the orange peel is an excellent flavor complement.  The cinnamon is just enough to hint without competing for attention.

The texture is fluffy and delicate when hot. An excellent accompaniment to ham, turkey, or chicken and is even better with a side serving of cranberry sauce.

The leftovers are also very good cold.

I've made this with freshly grated orange zest, dried orange zest, and no orange at all.  They were all excellent!

Here's how I served the soufflé at my dinner, with a slice of spiral cut ham and a sauce of brown mustard mixed with bitter orange marmalade, mixed well and heated:

Along with a tossed green salad, delicious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Sauerkraut as Made in Kolozsvár -- Transylvania

My last post was on a dessert recipe from Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine:

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
After I made it I thought, "Only dessert?  I need a main course to go along with it!"  Strolling through the rest of the book brought me to a layered sauerkraut dish listed as "... one of the old, popular Transylvanian dishes.  It is mentioned in the very first gastronomic writings, such as Miklós Misztófalusy-Kis' book written in 1695."

Wow!  Historical, which means it is possible my grandfather could have tasted this dish.  Of course I had to give it a try.  I made a half of this recipe because that is what fit the amount of sauerkraut I already had in the house.

Kolozsvári Rakott Káposzta (page 150)

4 pounds sauerkraut, drained (some juice reserved)
3/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons rendered lard
1 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
10 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream, mixed together
4 ounces sliced smoked bacon

More than enough for a half recipe
Heat the sauerkraut with some of its juice; when done, press out all the juice.

In a skillet, saute' the rice in 1 tablespoon lard until glossy.  Add broth, and cook until nearly done but still firm.

I called this "glossy."  The grains were white, not translucent
In another skillet, saute' the chopped onion for 5 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon lard.  Add the minced pork and brown it for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork.  Then remove from the heat and add paprika.

In a greased ovenproof casserole, place one third of the hot sauerkraut, half the rice, half the pork mixture, and one third of the sausage.  Sprinkle with half the sour cream mixtures.

The first layer before the sour cream sauce went on
Make another layer the same as above, then cover with the remaining sauerkraut.  Decorate the top with remaining sausage and the bacon.

Top with the remaining sour cream mixture.

Cover and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

My Notes

I was aiming for a half recipe; it turns out I needed the full cup of broth (I used dissolved bullion) to get the rice cooked enough.  I also used a bit more than 5 ounces of sausage because I covered each layer with it, enough to make it look good and not stingy, so I used more than a third each time.

My healthy choice was vegetable shortening over lard.  *Sigh*  Sorry, Grandfather.

I noticed that when I mixed the sour cream and heavy cream until no more lumps appeared, the mixture got very thick, so "sprinkling" it was out of the question.  I spread it around with a spoon.

I had to guess what a "moderately hot oven" was; I chose 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I didn't feel the dish was hot enough after 20 minutes, so I kept it in another 15 or so and that worked out well.

The Verdict

This was unexpectedly tasty.  I thought I would like it but the flavor combination was just ... something that danced on my taste buds and tingled, making me want to eat more and more.  My guest taster felt the same way.  I would describe it as slightly sour and salty from the 'kraut, chewy and meaty from all the pork, subtly spicy from the paprika, and creamy delicious from the sauce.

The only thing that bothered us was the bacon was not specified to be cooked before putting into the oven and it wasn't really cooked much even after 35 minutes.  We both felt a bit squeamish finding it that way in our portions.  Maybe it would have cooked better if my oven had been hotter or the sour cream sauce had been runnier.  Or perhaps the recipe was missing the instructions to cook the bacon in advance like all the other ingredients.

I want more!
Still, it was a resounding success.  I had the leftovers over the next few days and loved it all over again.  After I reheated it, I added a spoonful of sour cream just to gild the lily.  Another guest taster tried the leftovers and thought it was delightful.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hideg Citrom Koch -- Cold Lemon Koch (Transylvania)

A decade or so ago I found out that one of my grandfathers grew up in the part of Romania known as Transylvania.  His heritage was German but his home town was pretty close to the Bran Castle, also called "Dracula's Castle" because of the story of the vampire Count Dracula, a fictitious character created by Bram Stoker.  The castle described in the book is very similar to the Bran Castle and it is believed that Stoker used a picture of it found in a book to create his castle of horrors.  (See reference here.)

It just tickled me to think of my grandfather as a boy growing up on the stories of vampires and possibly being able to see the castle.  So one day, when I was walking through a library bookstore, I spotted Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine.  Published in 1985, it is a compilation of some of the 20,000 recipes Mr. Kovi collected on his research in the area.  I bought it without hesitation, hoping to find something of the culture in which my grandfather grew up.

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
In all honesty, I don't know if any of these recipes were something he experienced.  From what I have heard the Germans in the area were a tight-knit group, keeping to themselves, and preserving their language and culture.  But I like to imagine that he tasted some of these dishes and so I gave one a try.  Mr. Kovi notes that this "was a favorite of fine Saxon households."

Hideg Citrom Koch (page 338)

6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
1 envelope gelatin, dissolved in warm water
Butter for greasing mold
Fruit preserves (any flavor) for garnish

That is one big lemon
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and powdered sugar together.  Add the lemon juice and the grated peel.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, fold into the egg yolks, then stir in the dissolved gelatin.

Folded, not spindled
Butter a mold (such as a ring mold) lightly and pour in the mixture.

I measured it to be about 6 cups in volume
Chill until well set.  Turn the koch out of the mold and onto a platter.  Garnish with fruit preserves.

My Notes

You should notice that there are raw eggs in this dish as it is served.  The mixture is only chilled, not cooked!  I had confidence that the acid from the lemon juice would take care of any contamination problems.

Before I started mixing up the ingredients I grated the peel, juiced the lemon, and dissolved the gelatin in about two tablespoons very warm water.  It needed stirring a few times to get it completely dissolved.

I found it interesting that the gelatin was stirred in after you carefully fold in the stiff egg whites.  The purpose of folding is to incorporate the whites without deflating them, keeping your mixture light and fluffy.  Stirring in the gelatin afterwards seemed to be defeating that idea, but it really only reduced the volume a little bit.

I was pleased that the mixture filled my turban mold to a ring line.  I thought that would make the dish looked "finished" or at least planned.  I chilled it for about 3 hours but I think it was ready before that.

Once I ran some warm water over the outside and ran a dull knife around the edges, the koch slipped out of the mold onto a plate.  I thought it was pretty!

Not quite centered on the plate
The darker yellow part was where the eggs whites had separated from the yolk mixture.  I loved the contrast more than if the whole thing had been uniform in color.  The whole thing was very delicate so trying to center it would have broken it apart.

The fruit preserves I chose to garnish with were apricot.  This picture was taken right after I spooned some all around the top; honestly it looked better about 10 minutes later when the preserves had a chance to slide down the sides more.

The Verdict

Each piece was as light as a feather and fluffy soft.  It was very lemony in flavor and not too sweet, which is good.  My guest taster thought it was just right for the amount of tartness; for me, it was on the edge of too tart, especially with the tart apricot preserves with it.

I suspect my very large lemon had something to do with that.  Of course, that didn't stop me from eating it!  I just took my bites slowly to give my taste buds a chance to adjust.

It was so delicate and light that it did not feel filling.  It was cool and refreshing and the lemon zest gave it an interesting texture to contrast with the egg white fluffy feel.

We ate more than half after a hearty dinner of pork and sauerkraut -- that recipe will follow this one on December 1.

I declare it a success!  If I did it over again, I would use a smaller lemon and choose blackberry preserves as the garnish.

By the way, no one got ill from the raw eggs.  We just enjoyed the flavor!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Sweet Onions -- Tapping into the experiences of others

One category of cookbooks is the fundraiser book, where the members of a group contribute their favorite recipes.  This compilation is bound and sold to raise money for the group.  Quite often the group is a women's club or church organization.

I have several of these in my collection and I prize them for three reasons:  some have the names of people I know, some have recipes I've loved and lost in the past, and every one of them contains tried-and-true recipes.  Consider that these people know each other and tend to buy the books for themselves, too.  No one is going to submit a recipe that isn't proven wonderful!

The style of recipes depends on the age of the book.  You can see the shift in ingredient preferences over the decades, from canned soup casseroles to gelatin desserts to gluten-free anything.  You'll often find "throwbacks"; these are recipes that have been handed down over several generations of cooks and cherished despite current taste or health trends.

I also like the variations on recipes with which I am familiar, like three-bean salad and seven layer dip.  It is fun to see what others have done to substitute ingredients they were missing or just to enjoy a twist in the usual flavor.

I was attending a neighborhood potluck barbecue and felt like bringing something different, so I turned to my ladies' group collection.  I chose the Washington Stars Quilt Guild 10th Anniversary Cookbook, published in 2009 out of Olympia, Washington.  Are these recipes historical?  Probably not but I think this qualifies as General Foodie Fun (salute!).

The hosts were providing the burgers and hot dogs with condiments.  I knew many people would bring desserts and potato chips, so I focused on a side dish.  My choice was submitted by Pat Umino with an end note, "It was very popular at our potlucks."  How could I go wrong?

Creamy Sweet Onions (page 67)

5 large onions, white (sweet)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon celery salt *
salt and pepper to taste

*The body of the recipe calls for celery seed, which is what I used.

I switched to celery seed after I took this picture.
Thinly slice the onions and place in a large bowl.  In a saucepan combine the sugar, cider vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then pour over the sliced onions.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain onions, discarding the liquid.  In a bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, celery seed, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add the drained onions and toss to coat.

My Notes

My onions must have been very large because three of them sliced filled my large bowl.  I stopped there.  Mine were designated as white onions but not labeled as "sweet".  That did not turn out to be a problem.

Boiling the vinegar mix made an onion-scented kitchen smell very strong indeed.  I let the bowl of onions with liquid cool a bit before I covered it and placed it in the refrigerator.  Basically you are pickling the onions!

The next day, a few hours before the party, I drained the onions, mixed the sauce, and loved the contrast of the celery seeds against the white onions and white sauce.

Just before stirring
The Verdict

Yes, it was a hit!  I noticed that the people who like peppers, chilies, and other strong-flavored foods liked it the most.  One woman said she put it on top of her hamburger patty as a condiment.  I didn't label what it was so people were guessing a noodle salad at first, then they thought coleslaw, and then they realized it was onions.

I would put this in the category of "onion coleslaw".  The creamy sauce mixes with the little bit of vinegar pickling liquid that clings to the drained onions.  Adding the celery seed just pushes that creamy-sweet-sour mixture right into the coleslaw range.  The onion flavor became milder with the pickling process yet still retained some crunchiness that made it exciting to eat.

I liked it!  It isn't my favorite because it was a stronger onion taste than I usually seek out but I would eat it again.  If I were to make it more for me, I would use half onions and half cabbage.  Of course I like sauerkraut and pickled red cabbage, too, so that would be a bonus for me.

Success!  Tasty!  Give it a try!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The fourth filling (somewhat English)

See the previous post from September 1 for the dough recipe and first filling recipe, the September 15 one for the second filling, and also the October 1 one for the third filling.

My daughter and I decided to experiment with 14th and 15th century recipes for raviolis.  We had to redact the recipes ourselves, working from the lists given but having to figure out quantities by taste and goal.

We were working from a website that looked like a good class handout for a Society for Creative Anachronism workshop, called "Pasta Class" and found at this link:

After successfully redacting three fillings for boiled raviolis, we decided to try a fried version.  The Pasta Class document lists some fried raviolis and some other books we perused mentioned them, too.  We wanted something sweet, so we adapted the recipe for Emeles, a medieval almond cake, as the filling.

England + Italy = Middle East

2.5 ounces ground almonds
1/2 ounce graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons honey

Mix the ingredients well.  Like in the previous filling recipe, we chose not to use an egg to bind the mixture for two reasons:  one was that we made a small amount of filling and one egg might have been too much and the other was that the honey seemed to be doing a good job of binding by itself.  It went into the refrigerator while we worked on the dough.

We used graham cracker crumbs because I already had them handy.  Dried bread crumbs would work well, too.

The mixture turned out to look like what we expected for the Emeles:

Nutty, sweet, and spiced
We made a second batch of dough only this time I added a tablespoon of sugar to the flour.  By the way, I had to add a lot more flour to the recipe to get the right texture for rolling.  I am convinced the original recipe contains a typo.

We rolled the entire batch out into a rectangle, cut it in half, and covered one half with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.  

We scored the bottom dough and portioned out the filling.  Oops!  There was not enough filling for what we planned, so we used some of the leftover cheddar/bacon/chicken filling for the rest.

I should have doubled the filling amounts as I had first planned
Then we wet the scored edges and placed the top dough, pushing out the air and making neat little packets, then cut them apart.

This time I fried them a few at a time in about 1/4 inch of hot vegetable oil until they were a delightful brown on both sides and crispy.

Too many at once and the oil has a hard time staying at the right temperature
After that I drained them on paper towels and dusted them with a cinnamon and cardamom sugar mix.

The Verdict

This was incredibly tasty.  In fact, they tasted like mini-baklavas!  We were not expecting that and it was quite a treat.  They were crispy, spicy-sweet, and nutty with a depth of flavor from the honey.  They were not greasy -- I credit frying only a few at a time.


The only thing I would change is that we didn't roll the dough out to be as thin as we had for the boiled raviolis.  It wasn't translucent.  I think the raviolis would have been crispier if we had.  I'm not complaining, mind you!  They were delicious.  I would do it again to surprise people with the flavor.

One thought:  If I were feeling lazy or in a hurry, I might use purchased won-ton skins instead.  They are thin and pre-cut and I know they fry up well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The third filling (Italy)

See the previous post from September 1 for the dough recipe and first filling recipe and also the September 15 one for the second filling.

My daughter and I decided to experiment with 14th and 15th century recipes for raviolis.  We had to redact the recipes ourselves, working from the lists given but having to figure out quantities by taste and goal.

We were working from a website that looked like a good class handout for a Society for Creative Anachronism workshop, called "Pasta Class" and found at this link:

This third filling was chosen partially because of the fun name and the rest because it was set up to accept most any kind of herb.  We chose basil.

Ravioli ready to serve of herbs fantastic, Libro di cucina, 15th Century

If you want to make ravioli of herbs or of other things, take herbs and peel (take leaves only) and wash well; then boil it a little and pull them out and squeeze away all the water.  Chop with a knife and put in a mortar and take cheese fresh and strained, egg and spices sweet and strong and mix well together and make a paste.  Then take  thin pasta in the way of lasagne and take a large amount and make the ravioli.  When they are made put to cook and when they are well cooked powder above enough spices with good cheese and they are good.

Our Redaction
2 cups of basil leaves, lightly packed
1 ounce Provel cheese, softened*
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded
1/8 tsp Poudre Fines**
*Provel is a St. Louis, Missouri specialty cheese that can be read about here.  You can use mozzarella or provolone in its place.  My daughter finds these wonders and brings them for me to try.   : )
** Poudre Fines is a medieval spice mix that came home with me from the Culinary Symposium I attended in March.  It is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, grains of paradise, pepper, and saffron, all ground.  
We used more basil than what is shown here.
To cook the basil, we treated it like spinach and cooked it with just the water that stuck from washing it.  The 2 cups reduced quickly to a little lump in the pan.  

After squeezing out the water, we chopped the basil to bits.  Then we mixed in the cheeses and spices.  We decided that our quantity was so small that an egg was unnecessary -- the Provel bound everything together well.  We chilled the filling and that made it easier to handle.
Well mixed after well chopped
We used one quarter of the pasta dough, rolled thinly and then scored as we did for the previous two recipes.  

Then they were covered and cut.  Using the same hot broth water from the other raviolis, we boiled them for just a few minutes.  

The Verdict
Success!  This was excellent, too.  Three great flavors in a row!  I love the taste of basil (it is one of my favorite herbs/spices and makes me happy just to sniff it) so this was fun to eat.  Of the three tasters, one said it was her favorite flavor, one said it was her second favorite, and the third thought the basil was too strong.  
I thought the cheese moderated the basil flavor well and gave a creamy texture to the otherwise herbaceous mouth feel.  I liked it plain but also with a light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.
We did these three fillings as boiled raviolis.  The fourth, in the next post, was fried.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The second filling (Italy)

See the previous post from September 1 for the dough recipe and first filling recipe.

My daughter and I decided to experiment with 14th and 15th century recipes for raviolis.  We had to redact the recipes ourselves, working from the lists given but having to figure out quantities by taste and goal.

We were working from a website that looked like a good class handout for a Society for Creative Anachronism workshop, called "Pasta Class" and found at this link:

We learned from the first filling, Ravieles, #8, that what we needed was enough of something soft and mixable to make the mixture cohesive.  In that recipe we used butter.  In this one, we used softened cream cheese.

Ravioli, #10, from The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, 15th Century Italian

Get a pound and a half of old cheese and a little fresh creamy cheese, and a pound of bacon or of loin of veal that should be well boiled, then chopped; get ground fragrant herbs, pepper, cloves, ginger and saffron, adding in a well ground breast of chicken; mix all of this well together; make a thin dough and wrap the mixture in it the size of a nut; set these ravioli to cook in the fat broth of a capon or of some other good meat, adding a little saffron, and let them boil for half an hour; then set them out in dishes, garnished with a mixture of grated cheese and good spices.

Our Redaction of the Filling

2 1/4 (or so) ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 ounce cream cheese at room temperature
2 slices thick bacon, cooked to slightly crispy and well-drained
1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Poudre Fines*
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh, about 4 ounces raw 
   (what we like; breast would work too, I think)
2 pinches of salt

*Poudre Fines is a medieval spice mix of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise, and saffron, all ground.  Have some fun mixing your own version or use the spices they list in the recipe.  You don't need much unless you want to store it for other uses.

And salt, if needed
Mix the cheddar and cream cheeses well.  Chop the bacon into small pieces and mix with the cheeses.  Add the shallot, parsley, oregano, and spices; mix well.  

Cut the chicken into chunks and saute' in the bacon grease until no longer pink.  

Put in food processor or mortar and process until a paste.  Mix with the cheeses.  

Taste for salt and add a pinch or two as needed.  The bacon and cheese might be salty enough.

After everything is mixed well, put into covered container and refrigerate.   Makes about 3/4 of a cup.

Tasty as is
Filling the Dough

We used half of the pasta dough recipe listed in the previous post.  It was rolled until it was translucent and did not want to stretch any more.  Half was set aside for the top: be sure to cover it with a damp cloth so it doesn't dry out while you are working with the filling.

We scored the bottom layer to show where the filling should go.  

After each lump of filling was placed and seams dampened with a bit of water, the top dough was tugged to fit and tucked in around the filling, pressing out the trapped air.

The flat parts were pressed to seal them and then the raviolis were cut apart.

Cooking the Raviolis

We dropped in each ravioli one at a time into the same broth-flavored, strongly simmering water as used for the first filling.  After two minutes (not thirty!), they were removed, drained, and tasted.

The Verdict

This was really good, too.  Success!  I was surprised the flavors weren't stronger but I liked the cheddar and bacon combination.  The other flavors were in the background, making the overall taste richer in a subtle way.  The shallots, though uncooked like in the first filling, were not too strong.  The chicken didn't add much flavor although I think it added body and texture.

Our modern palates expected a familiar taste from the cheddar-bacon-chicken combination but that is not what we got.  We believe the Poudre Fines shifted it to a more medieval flavor, a subtle spicy depth.

All three of us liked it and one of us thought it was her favorite.

If I were to change anything, I would add more spices so they stood out more.  I would add more bacon, too, just to punch up its flavor contribution.  Overall though, it tasted good; just more subdued than the first filling.

LATER:  The flavors were much improved after reheating.  The bacon-cheddar combination were pleasantly strong.  The raviolis were excellent heated with a little Parmesan cheese and no other sauce.

My daughter's conclusion (and I heartily agree) was that this filling just needed some more cooking to have the flavors really work.  Perhaps having the filling at room temperature before stuffing the dough?  That way the pasta doesn't get over-cooked.  Failing that, reheating is an excellent solution.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The pasta dough and first filling

My daughter and I wanted to make some raviolis because she has never made pasta before.  We decided to utilize this website:  Medieval Pasta: History, Preparation, and Recipes by Dame Katja Davidova Orlova Khazarina of Robakovna, which looks to me like a Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) name.  

Pasta making, Scappi, 1570
Dame Katja offers a variety of historical pasta recipes from authentic books:  lasagna, raviolis, gnocchi, dumplings, pasta pastries, macaroni, and more.  We chose 

Ravieles, #8, from the Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections, 14th Century

Ravioli, #10, from The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, 15th Century Italian

Ravioli ready to serve of herbs fantastic, from the Libro di cucina, 15th Century

and also used the ideas of the sweet, fried pastas to concoct our own, historically-inspired filling.

The next several posts will cover those individually.  We redacted the recipes ourselves using cheeses we had on hand.  We made a double batch of pasta dough and a small amount of each type of filling so we had enough dough to try all four.  

This post contains the pasta recipe and the Ravieles, #8.

First, The Pasta

The recipes just call for a paste of flour and water, sometimes suggesting saffron or sugar to be added too.  We wanted more guidance on it, so we turned to our trusty friend, The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1984 edition). 

On page 213 there is a recipe recommended for raviolis as long as you cut and fill the dough before it dries.  They state that if you are a beginner, do not try to make noodles in damp weather.  The humidity was up for my area (70%) but there was no rain or clouds so we hoped that would work for us.

White or Green Noodle Dough or Fettuccine

On a large pastry board or marble tabletop make a well of:

2/3 cup all purpose flour

Drop into it:

1 egg

barely combined with :

1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oil

The salt made it into the picture this time
Work the mixture with your hands, folding the flour over the egg until the dough can be rolled into a ball and comes clean from the hands.  ...  Knead the dough as for bread, about 10 minutes.  Then let it stand, covered, about 1 hour. 

Our Notes

We made a double batch and mixed it on the counter top by hand.

The egg mixture overfilled the well but it was not a problem
When the dough started forming a ball and sticking more to itself than to our hands, we started kneading it.  *We did have to add a few more tablespoons of flour to get rid of the very sticky aspect of the dough.*  

Almost there
When the dough felt damp but firm and was barely sticking to anything, we put it aside to stand.  Did we knead for ten minutes?  We forgot to check the time!  But we were aiming for a dough that would hold together well when stretched and that is what we got.

Due to a variety of reasons, the dough stood on the counter for about three hours.  It was covered so we didn't worry about it drying out.  The benefit was that the dough was easy to stretch to thin and translucent, just like the "foile" some of the recipes mention.

After that, we wrapped it in plastic tightly and put it into the refrigerator.

Next:  The First Filling, Ravieles, #8

Take fine flour and sugar and make pasta dough; take good cheese and butter and cream them together; then take parsley, sage, and shallots, chop them finely, and put them in the filling. Put the boiled ravieles on a bed of grated cheese and cover them with more grated cheese, then reheat them.

Our redaction

3 ounces of provolone

7/8 ounce by weight of salted butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

Double or triple quantities at will
Chop the provolone into very small pieces.  Cream with the butter until the cheese bits stick together in a clump.  Add the shallot, parsley, and sage, mixing it well together.

A close up:  everything is chopped fine 
Taste the mix!  We got the tang of the provolone balanced with the shallot's oniony zing and some of the parsley flavor.  A few seconds later the sage washed across our taste buds.  The butter is very subtle as it really just acts like a binder.

Pack into a covered container (makes about 1/2 cup) and refrigerate.

Assembling the Ravieles

This is half of the dough
We used about 1/4 of the dough, rolled out thin enough to read through it.  We had to mix in some more flour as it was still too sticky.  Now we have a better idea of how dry the dough should feel in order to make good pasta.  

After splitting the dough into two parts (top and bottom), we lightly scored the bottom dough to mark where each raviele would be and then spooned the chilled filling to fit inside.  

Yes, nine from one fourth of the dough
We felt it was important to leave a wide margin of dough around the filling since we were new to getting the little pillows sealed properly.  There was no need to be conservative here!

Next we rubbed water between the filling piles and placed the other thin sheet of dough on top.  After stretching the top sheet a bit to better fit the bottom sheet, we pushed the dough down onto the filling with the idea to press out the air.  Each pile was sealed all around and then we trimmed them into individual pieces.

Sealed, ready to be cut apart
Cooking the Ravieles

A large pan filled with water flavored with beef broth and a bit of saffron was brought to a strong simmer.  The ravieles were dropped in individually, stirred gently, and cooked for two minutes.  

Afterwards they were fished out with strainer, drained, and placed in a bowl.  Even though the recipe says to cover it with more cheese, we were interested in tasting them just as they were.

The Verdict

Oh wow.  This was really tasty!  Three of us tasted and it was my favorite and the second favorite of the other two.  I liked that the flavor was not distinctly any one of the ingredients but a blend that made it intriguing on the tongue.  It was stronger than I expected and that was a pleasant surprise.  When I thought about it, I could distinguish the sage flavor from the rest and could taste the butter in the creamy, cheesy texture.  But in all honesty, it was just an exciting flavor blend.

Definitely a success.

If I were to change anything, I would have microwaved or otherwise cooked the shallot a bit to reduce its impact.  The few minutes in the hot broth did not cook it enough to remove its bite.  But that was when I was actively trying to find something to change about the filling.  Not bad for a 700 year old idea!