THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.

Archive for Gourmet Foods

RECIPE: Ravioli Lasagna For National Ravioli Day

Ravioli Lasagna

Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna

[1] Beef and sausage ravioli lasagna. [2] Pumpkin ravioli lasagna (both photos courtesy Taste Of Home). [3] An even ravioli top (photo courtesy Oxmoor House). [4] Adding the layer of frozen ravioli (photo courtesy Design Mom).

 

March 20th is National Ravioli Day.

We like ravioli in any form, but have been especially delighted with ravioli lasagna.

Bless the person who first thought of the trick of using cooked ravioli instead of lasagna noodles. (Alternatively, you can use penne or other tube pasta, but ravioli supplies added filling.)

What looks like a complicated recipe couldn’t be easier when you use frozen ravioli (no cooking required) and store-bought pasta sauce.

Prep time is 25 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes.
 
RECIPE: RAVIOLI LASAGNA

We adapted this recipe from one by Patricia Smith for Taste Of Home.

The recipe uses sausage or cheese ravioli and adds ground beef. But you can make vegetable ravioli, chicken ravioli, or anything you prefer. Here’s another Taste Of Home recipe for (here’s the Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna (scroll down).

You can vary the recipe any way you like. For example:

  • Substitute ground chicken, turkey or textured vegetable protein (TVP) for the beef.
  • Add veggies via two layers of frozen, thawed spinach or kale (pressed dry), frozen peas or medley.
  • Substitute Alfredo sauce (cream sauce) for the tomato-based sauce.
  • Substitute vegetable ravioli for the meat or cheese versions.
  • We’ve even use ratatouille as the sauce, when we’ve made a large batch (pulse it into a chunky vegetable sauce.
  •  
    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Dried herbs/spices: (chili flakes, garlic chips, oregano)
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cook the beef over medium heat in a large skillet, until it is no longer pink. Drain.

    2. LAYER in a greased 2-1/2-quart baking dish: 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, 1/2 of the ravioli, 1/2 of the cooked beef, and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

    3. COVER and bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, chow fun noodles like Italian linguine, chow fun noodles like Italian pappardelle, and stuffed wontons like Italian ravioli.

     
    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta (another name for the category is pillow pasta) was served with Italian-style pasta sauces.

    Some food historians believe the name “ravioli” derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap.

    Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef named Ravioli, who lived in the Republica di Genova (a.k.a. Genoa, today the Italian region of Liguria).

    The record on him is scant, but according to DeLallo Authentic Italian Foods, Chef Ravioli is credited with the invention of the stuffed pasta composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Interestingly, the Venetian Marco Polo, who brought the concept of stuffed pasta back from China, had subsequently become a soldier in Venice’s war with Genova. He was taken prisoner by Genova in 1296 and released in 1299, to return to Venice [source].

    We don’t have dates for Chef Ravioli, but might he have heard about the stuffed wontons via someone who heard it from Polo? Given how scant the record is on the chef, we can say with almost-certainty that we’ll never know!

    Here’s much more on the history of ravioli.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Artichokes, Steamed Whole

    March 16th is National Artichoke Hearts Day, but today, the first day of spring, we take on the whole fresh vegetable, a spring arrival.

    The artichoke is actually a large flower bud. If left in the field, the fuzzy choke in the center becomes the blossom (photo #3), which is supported by the thick, spiny leaves.

    The familiar globes are harvested prior to flowering (photo #4).

    The outer leaves, heart and stem of the artichoke are equally (and similarly) tasty. The toughest outer leaves and the choke (the light, fibrous section on top of the heart) are discarded.

    RECIPE: STEAMED ARTICHOKES

    Artichokes can be braised, fried, grilled, roasted or stewed; but to cook a whole artichoke, the technique is to steam.

    The process is actually very easy. All you need is a large pot and a steaming tray. Serve them as a first course, hot or cold, with your choice of dipping sauce.

    Our pasta pot fits six large artichokes. We like them large, as you get more to eat with the same amount of effort.

    While many retailers chop the stems off, we look for those with the longest stems. Surprise: The heart grows from the stem, and the stem tastes like the heart. Don’t throw them out: Enjoy them!

    Some people peel the stems first, as they do with asparagus. We find that most do just fine with some extra steaming. As a hedge, you can cut the stems and steam them separately, in case they need some extra time in the pot.

    Finally, artichokes have traditionally been served with the melted butter (with hot artichokes) and aïoli or vinaigrette (hot or cold artichokes), we find that most steamed vegetables are delicious without anything else.

    A large artichoke (162g, 5.7 ounces) has just 76 calories.

    Ingredients

  • Whole artichokes
  • Fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving as desired
  • Optional garnish: snipped parsley or other herb to scatter on plate
  • For dipping: aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), melted butter or vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL off some of the tougher outer leaves. While some people undertake a severe removal, we recommend steaming more rather than less. Steam the artichokes until you can easily pull off one of the outer leaves, and taste it. If it’s soft enough to scrape off with your teeth, you get more artichoke!

    2. With a scissors, snip off the thorny ends of the leaves. This is the most time-consuming part of the preparation. (Our colleague Ruth, the consummate crafter, uses pinking shears.) With a sharp knife, cut the off top center of the globe—the small, thorny leaves that are inside the large ones.

    3. CLEAN by placing the globes upside-down in a large bowl of water with the lemon juice (to prevent browning until you’re ready to cook them). Parsley stems also prevent artichokes from browning (another reason to save those stems in the freezer). You do this part in advance. When ready to steam…

    4. FILL the pot with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket, and add a tablespoon of salt. Place the artichokes in stem side up. This enables the steam to get into the interior leaves, and allows you to test for doneness.

    5. COVER the pot and bring to a boil. Steam until until the heart (the bottom of the artichoke where it connects to the stem) is tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, and inner leaves pull out easily, 25 to 35 minutes. Check in the latter half of steaming and add more water to pot as necessary.

    6. SERVE hot or cold with a ramekin of melted butter or vinaigrette and a lemon wedge. Garnish with fresh herbs as desired.

    If the bottoms of the globe are level (i.e., no protruding stem), you can stand them up on a plate for presentation. Otherwise, present them on their side.

    A BRIEF ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Artichokes are members of the thistle family native to the Mediterranean region, that are cultivated as food.

    They were bred from their lesser-known cousin, the cardoon (photo #5). The familiar globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, is a variation of Cynara cardunculus, the cardoon.

    Cynara is a genus of thistle-like perennial plants in the sunflower family. Cardoons are long, edible stalks that are similar in flavor to the artichoke stalks. The tops and flowers are also very similar. The difference is that the artichoke has an edible heart within the leaves on top.

    Artichokes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in Maghreb, the region of North Africa west of Egypt, where they still grow wild. They spread throughout the Mediterranean.

     

    Fresh Artichokes

    Steamed Artichoke

    Artichoke Flower

    Sangria Artichoke

    Cardoons

    [1] Fresh artichokes from California, cut up for a recipe (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Steamed whole and served with aïoli (here’s the recipe from Fine Cooking). [3] In the field, artichokes grow on long, thick stems (photo courtesy Frieda’s Produce). [4] A flowering artichoke (photo courtesy Sierra Flower Finder). [5] Cardoons, which look like celery (but are no relation), are the predecessor of the globe artichoke. There is no heart; the stem is what’s eaten (photo courtesy Fine Cooking).

     

  • The earliest references to artichokes appear in the 8th century B.C.E. Both Homer and Hesiod, a Greek philosopher and naturalist, wrote of them as cultivated plants.
  • Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.E.), the successor to Aristotle, wrote of artichokes being grown in Italy and Sicily.
  • The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 C.E.), a surgeon with the Roman army of Emperor Nero, wrote about artichokes at the time of Christ.
  •  
    Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In the ensuing centuries, they were grown in Italy, France and other areas of Europe.

    They were among the fruits, vegetables and animals brought to the New World by colonists. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe entitled “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” In the early 1800s, French immigrants settling in the Louisiana Territory planted artichokes.

    In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, leased land to Italian immigrant farmers and encouraged them to grow the “new” vegetable, as artichokes were fetching high prices. [Source]

    Artichoke lovers: Give thanks to Mr. Molera for the popularity of artichokes in the U.S.

    MORE ARTICHOKE RECIPES

    Spinach and artichoke dip is one of the most popular dips in the U.S., so it’s surprising that we can’t find information on its origin. If you know it, please let us know.

    Our mom recalls that in the 1950s or 1960s, a recipe appeared on packages of dry soup mix or a sour cream.

  • Ways To Use Artichokes
  • Warm Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola
  • Artichoke Dip With Sundried Tomatoes
  • Creamy Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola & Fontina
  • Hot Crab & Artichoke Dip
  • Roast Leg Of Lamb With Stewed Artichokes
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Decorating With Sauce

    Octopus With Swirled Sauce

    Lava Cake With Sauce

    Squeeze Bottles

    Dessert Sauce Squeeze Bottles

    [1] These “flowers” are simply polka dots pulled together with a toothpick (see the video below; photo courtesy Gardenia | NYC). [2] Any food that isn’t made in a sauce can be decorated (photo courtesy Shalit Foods). [3] Keep your favorite sauces in the fridge, ready to squeeze (photo courtesy Pure Joy Concepts). [4] You can buy sauces or make them (photo courtesy Melissa’s).

     

    When you get your food at a good restaurant and the chef has made beautiful chevrons, flowers or hearts from the sauce, are you impressed?

    If so, know that some of these are so easy, that all you need are a couple of squeeze bottles and a toothpick or skewer to make them at home.

    In fact, the hardest thing to do is to decide which sauces to use with your dish.

    So watch the video below, or plenty more on YouTube under “sauce decoration.”

  • Start with polka dots of sauce before moving into more complex designs.
  • Look for the color impact as well as the flavors when you select sauces.
  • The lists below are just guidelines. You can use whatever goes through a squeeze bottle (but steer clear of sauces with inclusions—bits of dill, mustard seeds, etc.).
  •  
    SAVORY SAUCES

  • Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) or other flavored mayonnaise 
  • Alfredo (parmesan) or other cheese sauce
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Cream sauce (plain, basil, curry, ginger, tomato, wasabi, etc.)
  • Hoisin or plum sauce
  • Horseradish sauce
  • Lemon sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Ranch sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Vegetable coulis*
  • Yogurt-based (e.g. garlic-yogurt sauce)
  •  
    SWEET SAUCES

  • Berry coulis*
  • Butterscotch/caramel sauce
  • Chocolate/white chocolate/mint chocolate sauce
  • Cinnamon sauce sauce
  • Coffee/mocha
  • Custard/crème anglaise
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Kiwi coulis
  • Lemon or other citrus sauce
  • Mango coulis
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Yogurt-based (e.g. honey-yogurt sauce)
  •  
    ________________

    *Coulis (COO-lee) is a sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits (i.e., no seeds remain).

     
    This video shows three easy techniques for both sweet and savory sauces.


     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Customize Your St. Patrick’s Day Bagel

    Green bagels are a novelty on St. Patrick’s Day. But here’s a more elegant way to enjoy your bagel, with green fruits and vegetables.

    The concept can be applied to any holiday or occasion with theme colors (see the lists below), and can be part of a bagel buffet for brunch. Bonus: It’s a way to add an extra helping of produce to your daily intake.

    On top of the cream cheese, arrange fruits and/or vegetables in your color theme, as demonstrated by Arla Foods, maker of the cream cheese spreads used on the bagel (photo #1 and photo #6 at the bottom).

    Fruit on bagels beyond a raisin bagel? See photo #5, below—and try it on English muffins, too.

    Pick some fruits and/or vegetables from your color list, and get started. The green group has the most options.

    (Note: Specialty colors, such as yellow watermelon or purple bell peppers, aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Head to a specialty produce store or a farmers market.)

    GREEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Capers
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apples, figs, grapes, plums
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green olives
  • Green onion (scallion) tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Jalapeño
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sprouts
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
  •  
    ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chiles (aji amarillo, habanero, Thai yellow chile)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kumquats
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Orange or mandarin segments
  • Orange watermelon
  • Papaya
  •  
    PURPLE/BLUE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Eggplant (grilled)
  • Purple figs, grapes, plums
  • Purple olives
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans
  •  
    RED FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Jalapeño or other red chile
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apples, grapes, plums
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red grapes
  • Red onion
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  
    YELLOW FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Apples (golden delicious and others)
  • Chiles (aji, banana, golden cayenne, lemon, Hungarian yellow wax, pepperoncini, etc.)
  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon
  •  

    Green Bagel Toppings

    Green Bagels

    Green Bagels

    Shamrock Bagels

    Bagel With Fruit Topping

    [1] and [6] The alternative solution from Arla Foods. [2] Conventional green bagels from Einstein Bros Bagels. [3] Fancy (and $6 each!) at the Wynn Las Vegas. [4] The creativity award goes to the shamrock bagels at Sunrise Bagels and Cafe in Wyckoff, New Jersey. [5] Fruit-topped bagel from Number 2 Pencil.

     
    Green Bagel Toppings

    [6] Bagels with a buffet of green fruits and vegetables (photo courtesy Arla Foods).
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Birthday Cheesecake Recipe

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake

    [1] A birthday cheesecake with sprinkles inside (photo from Wine & Glue). [2] Instead of the standard cheesecake graham cracker crust (like this one from Sally’s Baking Addiction), we used a birthday-like sponge cake layer. [3] We love a chocolate ganache topping on cheesecake (photo courtesy Baked By Nature).

     

    Some birthday boys and girls prefer cheesecake to a birthday cake. Even those who like cake may have tired of the conventional cake with buttercream filling and frosting.

    If the celebrant is a cheesecake lover, make it a special birthday cheesecake with sprinkles or confetti, and an optional chocolate ganache top.

    Plan ahead: the cream cheese needs several hours to soften to room temperature.

    We adapted the recipe below from one by Lisa of Wine & Glue.

    Lisa calls her recipe Cake Batter Cheesecake, but we changed the name to Birthday Cheesecake because there’s no cake batter.

    (On the other hand, if you want to make cake batter ice cream, which does use cake mix for that cake batter taste, head here or here.)

    We also added a cake crust adapted from one by King Arthur Flour, and the chocolate ganache frosting for chocoholics.

    For more dressed-up cheesecake ideas, check out Pimp Your Cheesecake.

    RECIPE: BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

  • 3 eight-ounce bricks quality cream cheese (full fat), softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles/confetti, plus extra for top if desired
  •  
    For The Sponge Cake Crust

  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  
    Plus

  • 9-inch springform pan
  • Foil
  • Birthday candles
  •  
    For A Ganache Top

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: sprinkles/confetti or chocolate shavings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side (this prevents leakage).

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.

    3. SIFT the flour mixture over the batter and mix it with a spoon, until there are no remaining white flecks (do not over-mix). Blend in the melted butter. In a clean bowl using clean, dry beaters…

    4. BEAT the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high, until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).

    5. FOLD about one-third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. If there are still a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.

    6. GENTLY SPREAD the batter over the bottom of the pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool.

    7. INCREASE the oven heat to 375°F and prepare the filling. With the mixer on low, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Finally, beat in the eggs.

    8. CONTINUE mixing until you can no longer see any yolk (it’s O.K. if the batter has a few lumps). Slowly mix in the sprinkles with a spoon.

    9. POUR the batter into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit for an additional half hour. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool, and chill at least four hours or overnight in the fridge.

    10. MAKE the optional ganache. Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.

    11. WHISK the mixture until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache forms; about 2 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cheesecake. Leave plain or garnish as desired. If you don’t use sprinkles to garnish, the birthday cake underneath will be a surprise. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

     
    MORE BIRTHDAY RECIPES FROM LISA

  • Cheesecake Batter Cookie Dip
  • Birthday Cake Bark
  •  
      

    Comments



    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.