December 27, 2013 Crab Ravioli with Browned Butter and Sage Sauce

DSC_4335aA pasta course featuring ravioli is a part of both our Christmas eve and Christmas day dinners. The white wine pasta recipe from Bon Appetit is one that we have been using for almost 25 years now. Sometimes the filling is spinach and pine nuts, occasionally double mushroom and for this meal, a delicate crab meat.

Buy a good quality crab to let it’s natural sweetness shine through.Lump crab meat is not as expensive as jumbo lump and is fine to use since you will be combining it with creamy ricotta cheese. Be certain to pick over the crab, even the best brands that claim to be picked through will have small bits of shell in it. Better you find that piece of shell before your guest bites into it. I like to spread it out on a baking sheet and put it under a broiler for just a few seconds  Any pieces of shell will turn red and will be easy to pick out.

The pasta comes together quickly in the food processor and only needs a twenty minute rest. We used a ravioli mold to ensure even cuts and cut the pasta with a crimp pastry wheel.  As I mentioned in a previous post, pasta making takes a definite time committment, some patience and a nice long counter top to roll out the pasta. The pasta could be rolled out by hand and a biscuit cutter can take the place of the ravioli mold. Easier still, substitute spring roll wrappers which are thinner than won ton wrappers for the pasta.

The browned butter sage sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the pasta. Cooking the leaves in the butter gives them a little crunch.  We still have sage in the garden so I didn’t have to pay a fortune in a supermarket (like they would have fresh sage) for a few sad leaves.

Leftover ravioli can be frozen on baking sheets and transferred to freezer bags. Cook the ravioli right from the freezer for a delicious impromptu meal.

Crab Ravioli with Browned Butter and Sage Sauce

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup lump crabmeat, (8 ounces)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes


  1.  Mix together ricotta, crabmeat,  1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the red-pepper flakes.

White Wine Pasta


  • 2 chilled large eggs
  • 1/4 c or more dry white wine
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2c or more unbleached all purpose flour


White Wine Pasta

  1. Combine eggs, 1/4c wine and salt in processor. With machine running add 2 cups flour through feed tube. Process until slightly sticky dough ball forms. If dough is very sticky, add more flour through feed tube 1 tablespoon at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. If dough is dry, add more wine through the feed tube 1 teaspoon at a time, incorporating each addition before adding next. Process dough for 20 seconds more.
  2. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Rolling Dough and Forming Ravioli

  • All purpose flour
  • 1 egg,  beaten to blend


  1. Cover baking sheets with waxed paper. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Flatten 1 piece (keep remainder wrapped) and dust with flour. Turn pasta machine to widest setting and run dough through twice. Sprinkle with flour, fold in half and run dough through machine twice.
  2. Adjust machine to next narrower setting. Run dough through machine 5 times, folding in half and flouring before each run. Repeat narrowing rollers and running dough through machine 5 times at each setting until the dough is thin enough to see color of the skin on your hand through it; use less flour each time as dough loses stickiness (narrowest setting on machine with 6 settings, second to narrowest setting on machine with 8 settings).
  3. Arrange dough on floured work surface. Cut in half crosswise. Cover 1 piece with plastic. Brush remaining piece with egg. Top with 2 rows of 1/2 tablespoon mounds of filling, spacing 1 inch from the edges and 1 inch apart. Top with second dough sheet. Press with side of hand between mounds of filling down center, then crosswise, forcing out any trapped air. Cut between mounds to form large squares, using pasta cutting wheel or knife. Transfer ravioli to prepared baking sheets. Press edges of ravioli together to seal. Repeat rolling, filling and cutting with remaining dough pieces and filling. (Can be prepared ahead. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerated 1 day or freeze until solid. Transfer to freezer containers and freeze up to 1 month. Cook ravioli directly from refrigerator or freezer.)
Running the dough through the pasta machine.





Cooking Ravioli

  • Preheat oven to lowest setting. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil ravioli until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to platter using a slotted spoon. Toss with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and keep warm in oven while preparing sauce.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce


  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 1/4c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese



  1. Set aside 8 sage leaves for garnish and julienne the remaining leaves.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it foams. Add the olive oil and the julienned sage leaves. cook, stirring, over medium heat until the butter is golden brown-do not burn it! Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Pour the butter mixture over the pasta, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and toss gently. Garnish with whole sage leaves and serve at once.

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December 17, 2013 Pork Chili Verde

We left the warmth and sunshine of a much needed vacation visiting dear friends in south Florida to return to the frigid temperatures and snow of Bucks County. It’s hard to believe that we are experiencing our third snowfall and winter is still about a week away. Cold temperatures call for warming dishes so chili is always a good choice. I wanted to try something a little different and watching television with mom gave me my inspiration. Guy Fieri, of Food Network and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was preparing a pork chili with tomatillos. I froze quite a few bags of tomatillos from our fall harvest and wanted to see what they would add to the flavor of a warm bowl of chili.
Pork shoulder is the meat of choice in this recipe. It is a well marbled cut that benefits from slow cooking and because of it’s higher fat content is less likely to dry out.  Be sure to cook the pork in a single layer and don’t crowd the pan which will yield nicely browned cubes of meat. A crowded pan will result in steamed, not browned pork. Don’t be tempted to turn the pieces too quickly, if they stick, they are not ready to turn yet.A combination of fresh and dried chiles adds to the depth of flavor in the finished dish.
I used both fresh and dried poblano peppers . Fresh poblano peppers are very dark green in color and bring flavor more than overwhelming heat to the dish. Ancho chile is the dried version of the poblano. The heat of the ancho is mild to medium with a sweet smoky flavor reminiscent of raisins or figs. Fresh jalapeno peppers brings just enough heat to the dish. Since every pepper can be a little different, It’s wise to taste just a little bit of your fresh chili peppers before adding them to the dish. It’s always easier to add heat than try to tone it down.
Roasting tomatillos gives the chili a little smokiness along with citrusy kick.  The chili is thickened with masa harina, a dry powder made from corn and used to make corn tortillas. I made this a day before serving it, giving time for the flavors to blend. Leftovers? It would be a delicious filling for a pork taco.
Pork Chili Verde
  • 2 dried ancho peppers, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 fresh poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • scant 1/4 cup masa harina
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Freshly chopped cilantro,
  • For garnish: crispy tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped scallions, sour cream
  1. Begin by rehydrating the ancho chilis. Place them in a bowl with ¾ cup warm water and let sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Place the tomatillos on a sheet tray and place under broiler for 7-8 minutes until lightly charred all over. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop them up.
  3. Tear up the hydrated Ancho peppers into small pieces and reserve the water they were rehydrated in.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil, add the onion, ancho, poblano and jalapeno peppers, and garlic. Sauté until translucent but not brown. Remove from pan and set mixture aside.
  5. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Add to Dutch oven and cook over high heat until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the onion-pepper mixture back to the pan with the pork. Mix thoroughly, then deglaze with the wine and vinegar. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes to reduce, then add the chicken stock, 2 cups water, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, tomatillos, torn ancho, 2 cups water and soaking water.  Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  6. Place a lid on the Dutch oven and simmer for 30 minutes. Whisk in the masa harina, which will thicken the chile. Simmer for 30 minutes more, or until sauce is thickened and pork is tender.
  7.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro, crispy tortilla strips, shredded cheese, and chopped scallions.


December 15, 2013 Green Beans with Parsley Pesto










Thanksgiving evening, the turkeys and the side dishes were out and we were ready to serve dinner buffet style from the kitchen. Then I noticed it, the double steamer basket and a small container next to it. I forgot, also read, “got too busy” to make the green bean dish I had prepped ahead. Not that we would miss it. After slurping down Chesapeake Bay oysters, butternut squash soup with cider cream, homemade breads, a salad of baby greens and spinach from Joe’s greenhouse, we were ready for the main event. Turkeys, roasted, grilled and smoked, roasted vegetables, yam casserole, stuffing, zucchini, no one would starve for certain. The green beans could wait for another day.

We grow both pole and bush style beans. Green beans, yellow or wax beans and purple beans are in abundance courtesy of the garden from July to early September. Green beans are not in season now so I bought the skinny “haricot verts” that would cook quickly in the steamer basket. Always looking for a new twist on the beans, a recipe from Food and Wine magazine would fit the bill. Green beans with parsley lemon pesto sounded like a great way to feature the beautiful flat leafed parsley still thriving in the greenhouse. Like most people, when you say pesto I immediately think basil. This is a recipe for winter months without basil and combines toasted pine nuts with parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil. The dish comes together fairly easy, the pesto can be made a day ahead and then tossed with the steamed beans.

Pine nuts are the edible seed of a pine cone. Every pine tree produces seeds but less than a third of the varieties produce seeds that are large and flavorful enough to eat. To say pine nuts are expensive would be an understatement. I read that Italian pine nuts have been going for as much as 60 to 120 dollars a pound due to bug infestations and weather conditions. The small container of Italian pine nuts I purchased was weighed by the quarter pound, by the pound I estimated them to cost about thirty eight dollars. Even Chinese pine nuts have gone up in price. If you decide to purchase Italian pine nuts for any dish  just be sure they are out of harm’s way so they don’t become someone’s late night snack. Walnuts or almonds would be a more reasonably priced alternative and just as flavorful. The amount of pesto is enough for four pounds of green beans, I only cooked a pound of beans because we had quite a few side dishes. Leftover pesto could be tossed with pasta or used as a spread on a turkey sandwich.













Green Beans with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6-8 as part of a buffet


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb. green beans (I prefer using the thinner haricot verts)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to a food processor and let cool completely.
  2. Add the parsley, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor and pulse until the parsley is very finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil and process until the pesto is nearly smooth. Season with salt and pepper and scrape into a large bowl.
  3. Put a steamer basket in the bottom of a pot. Fill the pot with 1 inch of water, add salt and bring to a boil. Add the green beans, cover and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer to the large bowl. Toss with enough pesto to coat and season with salt and pepper; serve with lemon wedges.
Make Ahead The pesto can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the beans.