Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pantry Raid: Butternut Squash "Ravioli"

by Erin

First, a note about the title of this post. You may have seen the show "Pantry Raid" on the Style Network (or maybe not-- its probably been cancelled by now because it sucked) which brings a bitter tear to my eye since Xani and I, and our cousins Ann and Karen, had thought of this exact same idea (only better)! But, we were beaten to the punch. Our version would have been fabulous! Okay, moving on...

The other night, I did a little pantry raiding of my own and came up with a sort of deconstructed butternut squash ravioli. As you may have noticed in past posts, butternut squash is a top-rated ingredient for the BCD girls. Xani has raved about it's durability and shelf-life, so the last time I was at the store, I picked one up.

As I was rummaging through my fridge, I placed the squash on the counter top, thinking "maybe I will use this, maybe not." As I turned back to the fridge to continue rummaging, I heard a roll and a thump. The squash had fallen off the counter and cracked in half. "Well, gotta use it now!," I thought. I also had some ricotta cheese leftover since I made the Ricotta-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates (that we made for a Thanksgiving nosh) for a holiday party earlier in the week. So, I googled "ricotta cheese and butternut squash" and mostly what came up were recipes for butternut squash ravioli or butternut squash lasagna. I, of course, did not have any of the appropriate shapes of pasta, so I just improvised.

I started by peeling and cutting up the squash into about 1-inch cubes. I tossed the cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them for quite a while (probably 45 minutes) until they were very soft and caramelized.

Before...

After - all caramelized and yummy

I boiled up some pasta (penne - I prefer short pasta, maybe because I'm short?) while the squash was roasting, and got out the other ingredients I wanted to use, namely the ricotta, parsley, and lemons.

Then I just put everything together: pasta, roasted squash, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

I think it came out pretty good, if I do say so myself! The ricotta sort of brought the whole thing together, and the parsley and the lemon juice cut through the heavier ingredients like the squash and the olive oil. (When I told the BCD parents about this, they said it sounded like the old-school comfort food of bow-ties and cottage cheese, which by the way is SO GOOD.)

I don't really cook that much at home (since cooking for one is LAME) but this was a fun little experiment, and I feel inspired to do it again soon!

Happy eating (and experimenting),

EP

Monday, January 7, 2008

Celebrations at Pazza Luna

by Erin

The day I finished my exams (now seeming oh-so-long ago since school is almost starting again!!), Xani and I went to Pazza Luna to celebrate! (By the way, their website is beautiful and awesome!) Xani had been to Pazza Luna during Restaurant Week over the summer, but I had never been so we decided to go.

Pazza Luna is located in Locust Point, a neighborhood not far from Federal Hill. The space is warm and cozy, and we ended up sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartender. Apparently there is an upstairs to the restaurant but it was completely filled with a private party – ah well, hopefully I'll get to see it next time.

First we ordered some Prosecco to celebrate the end of my third semester – half-way done! Then we ordered a few appetizers, which were all awesome. First, we ordered the Prosciutto and Pears, which was great, and a nice twist on the traditional Proscuitto e Melone (this was a happy switch for Xani - she loves pears, hates melon). The dish consisted of a pear, poached in wine and some other wonderful things, with arugula, parmesan cheese, lots of proscuitto, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Next, we ordered grilled polenta with sausages, which was served with a red pepper sauce. This was also really good and a combination of flavors not often seen.

Last, we ordered the Calamari alla Griglia (grilled calamari), which was DELICIOUS. It was so simple too – grilled, large pieces of squid, with a little lemon, some tomato, and some arugula. This is what is great about authentic Italian food – great ingredients, simply prepared = AMAZING!

For our mains, we switched to red wine. I ordered the Risotto del Giorno, which was risotto with gorgonzola, tomatoes, and rosemary, and roasted duck breast on top.

Xani got the Casoncelli alla Bergamasca, which was a pasta (shaped sort of like large bow-ties), filled with pork, beef and lamb. It was served with proscuitto and asparagus and drizzled with truffle oil. Yum!

Both of our dishes were amazing. Xani's pasta was perfectly cooked and the filling of the pasta was delicious, as was the proscuitto. My dish was also awesome - it was pretty intense because (a) risotto is just, well, like that, (b) the gorgonzola cheese was a strong flavor throughout the dish, and (c) there was an entire duck breast on top! But, I'm not complaining. Have you ever known either of us to turn down anything with "duck" in the name?

We didn't have any dessert, since this was an obscene amount of food. But, it was still a great celebration and we had a great time. I would definitely go back and try other dishes - they seem to really know what they are doing over at Pazza Luna!

Happy eating,

EP

UPDATE: Pazza Luna has their own blog where they graciously linked to our review! Check it out!

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