Nobody has ever accused me of holding back when it comes to eating. Obviously, I love food. What I don’t like is when things become too complicated, in life or food. Complex is good, unique is interesting, complicated in usually unnecessary. As it is, life throws stuff at us when we least expect it so as a rule, I keep things as simple as possible.
When it comes to food, I’m often miffed by the culinary experiences that others may swoon over. What really bugs me? Foam, air, eggs inappropriately on/in everything, charcoal in my ice cream (you heard me right), ramps and pretentious cuisine in general.
Chefs have run amok with pricy dishes plated in complex artistic arrangements with nary a forkful of food . I look at food as a source of sustenance, pleasure and natural beauty and while cooking can be artistic and creative, a slice of beet, a slash of pesto and a spinach micro green does not a salad make.
My husband and I once went to a very upscale restaurant in Frederick, Maryland owned by a celebrity chef where I was served large bowl with about a four teaspoons of creamy butternut squash soup topped with “sage air”. We actually giggled when the bowl of air with a side of soup was placed in front of me. What did that teensy dollop of light green bubbles taste like? Air. How much did that bit of nothing cost? I can’t remember, but really, can it get much more pretentious or silly? Probably. There will always be something new on the horizon in the name of innovation, but cutting-edge doesn’t always equal excellence.
Foam is best on a head of beer…
…in my bubble bath…
Truly, this is the most unappetizing trend in a long while.
When my brother told me I had to try the smoked vanilla ice cream at a local restaurant that serves fantastic farm to table fare, I was suspicious. When I tasted it, I was convinced, it was awful. Why adulterate the beauty of the creamy delight that is vanilla ice-cream with the ash and charcoal bits that were scooped up from the bottom of a brick pizza oven? I was told by our server that this was the most popular desserts on their menu. Maybe it’s just me…
What I do appreciate are unusual pairings that taste amazing and are not there for the shock value. I love going to a restaurant and trying something unique, maybe a combination of ingredients that I would never dream of, and having my taste buds pleasantly surprised.
So in the name of simple deliciousness, I made these grande four cheese tortelloni. The homemade pasta is made with flour, olive oil and egg and a touch of water. The pasta is filled with a creamy rich blend of cheese.
The veggies are no more than a blanched and roasted mix of organic goodness topped with a fruity olive oil seasoned with just the essence of fresh garlic, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of herbs just snipped from the garden.
- 4 beets, roasted with skin removed
- 1 cup shelled English peas
- 1 bunch baby broccoli
- ½ cup assorted fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and oregano leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
- For the Tortelloni:
- 1 batch of pasta dough
- 1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
- ¾ cup grated mozzarella
- ¼ cup mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon to season boiling water
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- Roll the pasta dough out until it is very thin (I roll mine to the #4 gauge on a pasta roller). Cut the dough into 4½ inch squares.
- Place the olive oil into a small bowl or cup. Crush the clove of garlic under a large knife so to bruise it and release the flavor. Place the garlic into the olive oil and set aside.
- Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone, ½ cup Parmesan, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, salt and the pepper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the egg and 1 tablespoon water.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of the pasta squares with the egg mixture and then place a 1- 1½ tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the center of the square.
- Fold the opposite corners of each pasta square over to form triangle shapes. Seal the edges firmly, pressing out any air around the filling,
- Take the two points of the triangle that are connected along the fold, brush one side with the egg mixture and then pinch the points together (dust the pasta with flour, cover with foil and refrigerate if you aren't going to cook it right away).
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt to the water. Carefully add the tortelloni to the water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm, about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove the tortelloni and keep warm in a large bowl or platter.
- Cut each of the beets into 4 to six wedges, depending on the size of the beet.
- Place the broccoli and peas into the still hot water used for cooking the pasta. Allow them to cook for a minute or two until bright green. Pour out into a colander and drain.
- Place the tortelloni in shallow bowls or on plates. Distribute the vegetables amongst the dishes and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the garlic from the olive oil and drizzle the oil over the pasta.
- Garnish with the fresh herbs and grated Parmesan.