Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Fourth of July Feast - Part I

I spent this past weekend in New York City with my brother and his partner. We had the most wonderful weekend. We saw “Much Ado About Nothing” in Central Park (fantastic!), had dinner at Lupa (yum!), celebrated my birthday a little early, “swam” in an inflatable pool set up on their terrace, and prepared a feast for just the three of us on the fourth.

Our menu:

Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad with Prosciutto
Red White and Blue Ravioli
Zucchini and Summer Squash with Pecorino Cheese
Flank Steak marinated in Bourbon and Soy Sauce
Vanilla Ice Cream with Sour Cherry Jam

My brother started talking about making red white and blue pasta for the Fourth of July weeks ago and it was definitely the major focus of our efforts this weekend. Early on we discussed how we might color the pasta. We considered using blueberries, but decided they would produce purple pasta rather than blue. Since we couldn’t think of any other possibilities for blue, we resorted to using blue food coloring. We decided to use beets for the red, having ruled out red peppers because one of us doesn’t like them.

We turned the kitchen upside down trying to produce the beet paste that we would use to tint the pasta red. First we wrapped a beet in foil and baked it. Then we peeled the beet, chopped it roughly and put it in the food processor. We were unable to get the consistency we wanted and thought it might have been because the food processor bowl was too big, so we pulled out the smaller bowl and tried it. We still had minced beets rather than a paste, so next we tried the blender. The mixture was too thick to circulate in the blender and it looked like we might have to give up on using beet, but Chuck came to the rescue and with careful prodding and pulsing succeeded in producing a perfectly smooth beet paste.

Our finished beet paste (finally!!)

Normally, you should incorporate your coloring agent into the eggs and then combine the egg mixture with the flour. Because we were dividing the recipe into three portions, each with a different color, we decided to add the coloring after the eggs were combined with the flour. Adding a few drops of blue food coloring in this way was not a problem, but adding more than a tablespoon of beet paste was. Chuck was persistent in working the dough and it finally came together. We added some more flour to compensate for the liquid in the beet paste and ended up with “red” dough that handled equally as well as the blue and the uncolored “white” doughs.

White, red and blue dough

We used a spinach and ricotta filling that we prepared from a recipe in Pam Anderson’s “How to Cook Without a Book”. We chose a triangular shape for the ravioli because it seemed simplest and, I rationalized, it was sort of like a folded flag. We started with the white dough and were a little slow at first. But by the second batch we were adept at kneading and thinning the dough in the pasta maker, and had set up a production line for cutting, filling, sealing, and trimming the ravioli. It was amazing that the three of us could fit in that tiny kitchen (but what a beautiful kitchen!) and get anything done, let alone produce over 100 ravioli!

This gives you a good idea how small the kitchen is - the stove and fridge are on the left and the sink and dishwasher are on the right

A good view of the kitchen

Thinning the dough

Red ravioli not yet cooked

In the end our red pasta was more salmon-colored than red and our blue pasta bore a marked resemblance to play dough, but my brother’s vision was realized – we had red white and blue pasta for the Fourth of July!


...and plated

And this is Bill, whose only job was to be a sweetie


Reid said...

Hi Cathy,

Welcome back! I'm glad you had such a nice time...by the way, what a creative way to present the food! I'm sure it was very tasty! =)

Cathy said...

Thanks Reid - all credit for creativity must go to my brother, who dreamed up the entire meal. And yes - it was delicious!

Cathy said...

Oops! I neglected to say anything about what we used as a sauce on the raviolli. It was a browned butter and sage sauce which my brother prepared. It was very good, and it tied in with the salad which also had sage in it.