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Playing With Your Food

I think every child has a memory of a parent saying “Stop playing with your food!” Usually this admonition was stated because we were sitting at the table creating a smiley face out of corn kernels. Or perhaps you felt compelled to create a replica of Devil’s Tower out of your mashed potatoes after watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Regardless of why it was said, many of us got the idea in our head that “playing with our food” was a bad thing. Sometimes I think that people have this so ingrained in their brains that they fear cooking outside the proverbial “recipe box.”

When I started seriously cooking for myself a few years ago (my years of salads and frozen chicken patties don’t count) I was terrified of improvising. I subscribed to a cooking magazine and tried to make at least one new recipe a week. (Cooking Light is a great magazine for beginner cooks looking for a variety of cuisines and simple instructions). The only time I veered from ingredients was when they called for fat free this or low fat that. Skim milk and margarine have no appeal to me whatsoever. Sure, cooking like this is pretty regimented, but it taught me flavor combinations and gave me the confidence that has since helped me come up with recipes of my own.

Each culture has its own version of a bit of dough with a filling. The Italians have ravioli, the Chinese have potstickers, Eastern Europe has the pierogi, and the Nepalese have momos. Why do so many different cultures and cuisines utilize this method of cooking? Because we all love to play with our food! The filling possibilities are endless!

Here I present you with two different ravioli ideas. Each recipe is for a single serving of 6 ravioli. To simplify things, I made these ravioli with prepared square won ton wrappers found at the grocery store. A package of won tons contains 48 wrappers. You can multiply the recipe by 8 and make enough to feed a large family or freeze the leftovers for a quick meal. You can also stick to the recipe, wrap the remaining wrappers in plastic wrapped groups of 6, place in a labeled freezer bag and thaw them out when you are ready to try a new flavor combination.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil Salsa

  • 2 ½ tsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbs minced shallots (about 1 large shallot)
  • 1 c chopped baby spinach
  • ¼ tsp lemon zest
  • 2 oz goat cheese (about 2 Tbs)
  • 2 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 6 square won ton wrappers
  • 1 egg white

Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add 1 ½ tsp olive oil and shallots. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, just long enough for shallots to look glassy and start to brown. Add spinach and lemon zest and continue cooking for another 2-4 minutes. When spinach is cooked down and bright green remove from heat and cool in a bowl. Put sauté pan aside to use later.

Once mixture is cool add goat and parmesan cheeses along with salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

On a cutting board, lay out won ton wrappers and brush with egg white. Place 1 ½ – 2 tsp filling in middle of each wrapper. Fold wrapper over diagonally and press edges to seal around the filling.

Heat a pot of salted water and return the sauté pan to medium heat. Add 1 tsp olive oil, tomato and basil to sauté pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cook ravioli in salted boiling water for 4 minutes if fresh and 5 minutes if frozen. Remove ravioli from pot with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Top with tomato basil salsa.

Mushroom Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce

  • 1 ½ tsp + 1 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbs minced shallots (about 1 large shallot)
  • ¾ c finely diced mushroom (I used about 2 medium-large button mushrooms)
  • 2 oz goat cheese (about 2 Tbs)
  • 3 Tbs grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 square won ton wrappers
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs heavy whipping cream

Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add 1 ½ tsp olive oil and shallots. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, just long enough for shallots to look glassy and start to brown. Place shallots in a bowl, return pan to heat and add 1 Tbs olive oil to pan. Add mushrooms and sauté about 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms to shallots and cool. Set sauté pan aside to use later

Once mixture is cool add goat cheese and 2 Tbs parmesan cheese along with salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

On a cutting board, lay out won ton wrappers and brush with egg white. Place 1 ½ – 2 tsp filling in middle of each wrapper. Fold wrapper over diagonally and press edges to seal around the filling.

Heat a pot of salted water. Add ravioli to boiling water and cook for 4 minutes (5 minutes if frozen). Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on plate.

Melt butter in small sauté pan. Add heavy whipping cream, 1 Tbs water from the pasta pot and 1 Tbs parmesan cheese. Simmer while stirring for 1-2 minutes. Pour sauce over ravioli.

Playing with Your Food Options: The beauty of working with small amounts of food is you can look inside your fridge, put whatever you have into your ravioli and you don’t have to worry about lots of waste if it doesn’t taste good. These are some good ones that I have made in the past.

  • Caramelized Onion and Sun Dried Tomato
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Feta
  • Arugula and Goat Cheese
  • Parmesan and Roasted Butternut Squash

    Another great use for parchment paper

    Another great use for parchment paper

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