Tag Archives: Sage

Cheater Sweet Potato Ravioli in a Sage & Brown Butter Sauce

This recipe is for cheaters. Not interested in rolling out your own ravioli dough? Take a page out of NYC restauranteurs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo new cookbook, The Frankie’s Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. The Franks’ popular Frankie’s 17 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood and Frankie’s 457 in Brooklyn serve honest, homemade Italian food in an unpretentious setting. Spuntino, meaning “An informal meal or a snack” and “a casual Italian eatery” embodies the essence of the Frank’s sensible approach to Italian food.

This recipe is interesting in that it uses wonton wrappers to encase the ravioli filling. I know. I was unconvinced, but figured these were some trust-worthy Italian dudes. Surely names such as “Falcinenlli” and “Castronovo” are some sort of Italian credibility currency? I gave it a shot, and the reaction from my guests involved initial looks of skepticism, closely followed by rave reviews and topped off with profusions of thanks and hugs.

The book’s recipe uses a Chinese five-spice powder to season the potatoes. I used it the first time I made it, but swapped it out the second in favor of a 50/50 blend of freshly grated nutmeg and cinammon. The original recipe also serves the ravioli in a cheese broth studded with sage, but I elected to fall back on my perennial favorite, a brown butter and sage sauce.

Sweet Potato Ravioli in a Sage & Brown Butter Sauce
Serves 6-8

3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground white pepper (substitute black if you don’t have any)
48 wonton wrappers
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
one stick of salted butter
8 large sage leaves, roughly chopped
parmesan cheese, for serving

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap each potato tightly with foil. Roast in the oven until a knife slides easily through the foil and into the potato; 1 hour to 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven, open the foil, and cut each potato open lengthwise to allow for the steam to escape. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh out of the skins and into a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg, honey, a large pinch of salt, and some pepper. Mash with a potato masher or a fork.

2.) Grab your largest cutting board to use as your work surface for assembling the ravioli. Also, have a towel on hand for mopping up excess water and wiping your fingers. Place a small bowl of water next to your stack of wonton wrappers and the bowl of sweet potatoes. To make ravioli, wet your fingers and draw them along the edges of the wonton wrapper. Place a rounded teaspoon of potato at the center of the wrapper. Fold wrapper diagonally over the filling and use your fingers to pinch it closed. You don’t have to drive yourself mad here – you’ll be surprised by how well these little pillows of goodness hold up when they hit the boiling water. If you find you have potatoes spilling over the edges, use less filling. Repeat… 47 more times! Hint: Enlist a hungry housemate to expedite the process.

3.) Heat a very large pot of water to cook the ravioli in. Approximately 3 minutes before your brown butter sauce is ready, salt the water, gently pour in the ravioli, and cook for 2-3 minutes; until skins are transparent and all of the ravioli has floated to the surface. Drain.

4.) Make the brown butter sauce. Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Preferably, use a silver pan, as it is difficult to keep an eye on the butter’s stage in the browning process in a black pan. Add butter and melt, swirling the pan frequently, until it’s beginning to look nicely browned and some “debris” is falling to the bottom of the pan. You’ll know it when you see it. Your kitchen will smell nutty and intoxicatingly warm and delicious. Add sage and fry for 20-30 seconds; until crisp and fragrant. Remove butter from heat and season with salt and pepper.

5.) Using a large mixing bowl, or the pot you cooked the ravioli in, pour the butter sauce over the ravioli and stir to coat well. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This recipe was adapted from The Frankie’s Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo, and Peter Meehan. Published by Artisan, A Division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc.; 2010.

Spinach & Barley Soup with Fried Sage

A warm, invigorating soup for increasingly crisp fall evenings. The lemon juice is essential to the success of this recipe as it lightens the heaviness of the barley and the chickpeas. The final addition of fried sage leaves pleases both the palate and the eye.

Spinach & Barley Soup with Fried Sage
Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 large sage leaves, chopped
1 cup pearl barley
14 oz can organic garbanzo beans
14 oz can organic diced tomatoes
8 cups spinach, washed and chopped
6 1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock
fine-grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
juice from 1-2 lemons, to taste

parmesan cheese
3-4 whole fresh sage leaves per person
olive oil, for frying

1.) Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Once very hot, add onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sage and cook for 8 minutes more. Add barley and cook for 1-2 mintues.

2.) Add beans and tomatoes and give everything a good stir. Add spinach, in batches if the volume is too great, and cook until wilted. Add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Check to make sure barley is cooked through (it should still retain some bit), taste for salt and pepper and season to taste.

3.) While soup is simmering, heat a glug of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add sage leaves and fry until crisp. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

4.) To serve, stir in red wine vinegar. Season to taste with lemon juice. Ladle soup into bowls, coat generously with shaved parmesan, adorn with sage leaves, and serve.

Deborah Madison’s White Bean & Black Kale Minestra with Farro

Ask me my favorite chef, and I will abruptly and gleefully shout, “DEB MADISON!” The woman, simply put, is a genius. Though her cookbooks are vegetarian, she has been known to indulge in meat, and thus fully comprehends the full spectrum of flavor that a dish needs. You have never tasted a soup as flavorful as one of Deb’s – they are simply unmatched by anything I’ve ever ordered/made/tasted/dreamt about. The basis of her deep levels of flavor come from her fondness of stocks, or in this recipe’s case, the bean stock composed of the bean’s cooking water as well as dried herbs and “aromatics” as she calls them. That’s another thing I love about her – the way she writes about food is poetic without veering into pretentious territory. Her cookbooks are brimming with her musings – musings that both inform and delight – and that clearly come from a lifelong passion. Her cooking is infectious – and begs you to push yourself in your own cooking.

Oh, and the next time someone rips on Italian food and groans about how unhealthy it is, whip out this recipe, ok? Cannellini beans, farro, and kale – all staples of the Italian kitchen – convene in this wondrous pot of nutritional, not to mention culinary, delight. Literally, one of the most flavorful, satisfying soups you’ll ever make.

Cannellini Bean & Kale Soup with Farro

1 1/4 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
3 large parsley branches
1 1/4 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup farro, thoroughly rinsed and soaked for at least 1 hour
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups yellow onion, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
A few tablespoons of red wine
6 cups kale leaves, torn into bite size pieces
14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper (about 1 teaspoon should suffice)

1.) Drain beans and place them in a large pot with 11 cups of water, garlic, sage, bay leaves, and parsley branches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until beans are tender; about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how old your beans are. When beans are done, remove from heat, pick out garlic and parsley branches, and leave beans sitting in their liquid.

2.) Drain beans by placing colander atop a large bowl to catch their liquid. Remove parsley branches.

3.) Grab your trusty dutch oven and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes; until soft and beginning to get all brown, fragrant, and delicious. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently and reducing the heat slightly, if necessary, to ensure that nothing burns.

4.) Work the tomato paste into the the vegetable mixture and continue stirring until the bottom of the pan becomes glossy and brown. Add wine to deglaze the pan and use your wooden spoon to scrape up all the yummy browned bits.

5.) Drain the farro and add it to the pot along with the kale, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pot of the beans and their liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until farro is tender; about 30 minutes.

6.) Season with more salt, if necessary, and pepper. Serve with a chunk of rustic, peasanty bread.

This recipe was adapted from Vegetable Soups by the grand dame of soups, Deborah Madison. Published by Broadway Books; February 2006.