Lentils with Burrata and Basil Oil

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During the four years our daughter lived in London, we visited often, using London as a springboard to explore nearby countries, like Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. We also visited areas in England as well, such as the Cotswolds, the Lake District, the Isle of Wight, and Cornwall.

On a couple of these trips, we brought along not only our travel-loving daughter, but also a good friend of hers – another American living in London. This young lady was such a delight – always happy and appreciative. Plus she had really good taste in food, so she fit in with us all!

As a thank you for these vacations, she gifted me the book Polpo – a Venetian Cookbook, by Russell Norman, published in 2012.

The book is fabulous – great stories, and great recipes from a lover of Venice, who owns and runs the restaurant Polpo, in London.

I learned something about burrata from the book. By the author: “Burrata is often confused with mozzarella but they are not the same. Burrata is made in Puglia with milk from Razza Podolica cows (not buffalo), and with added cream, so it is softer and more moist than mozzarella. Burrata’s creamy sweet consistency is the perfect foil to an array of ingredients. This recipe combines it with lentils – a heavenly marriage. Make sure your burrata is of the finest quality and at room temperature.”

And speaking of that, for the first time ever, my cheese shipment from IGourmet was a melted disaster. No, it didn’t help that the temperatures were in the 90’s in early September, but what was supposed to be overnight shipping, became 3 days. The burrata was packaged two to a plastic tub, and two out of three tubs I’d ordered leaked completely. They all had basically “cooked” in the hot box and were hard as rocks.

Of course IGourmet’s customer service was apologetic and I was credited, but it was all around a sad day. I proceeded with this recipe, because it’s not the author’s fault that I received cooked, separated, and curdled burrata in the mail. The recipe will be fabulous with good burrata.

Lentils  with  Burrata  and  Basil  Oil

Leaves from a bunch of basil
Flaky sea salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
400 g Puy lentils
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
4 tablespoons mustard dressing
6 burrata balls

First make the basil oil by placing most of the basil leaves in a food processor, reserving a few of the smaller prettier ones for decorating at the end. Add a little salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to make a thin sauce. Whizz for a few seconds and then set aside.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by about 7 cm. (I used chicken broth.) Don’t add salt at this state as this will toughen the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes. Keep checking them – they need to still hold a small bite. when they are done, drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Now, in a large heavy-based pan sweat the vegetables in a few good glugs of olive oil with the thyme leaves, a large pinch of salt, and a twist of ground black pepper. When the vegetables are softened and translucent, add the cooked lentils and a splash of water or broth to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Mustard Dressing
Any basic French vinaigrette will substitute

To finish the dish, add 4 tablespoons of the mustard dressing to the lentils, check the seasoning, and spoon onto a large warm plate. (Because my husband hates vinegar, I used a good garlic-infused oil in the lentils.)

Then tear open your burrata and place on top of the warm lentils.

The heat from the lentils will melt the burrata making it even more creamy and soft.

Drizzle some basil oil over the top and scatter with the reserved basil leaves.

How I Met Yotam Ottolenghi

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Okay, before you get too excited and jealous, I really didn’t meet Yotam. But I thought I did. For about 30 seconds.

My husband and I were visiting my London-living daughter last month, and because her time there is coming to an end, I knew we had to go to an Ottolenghi restaurant. So I made lunch reservations at Nopi, in Soho.

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As we’re being led to our table, I see him. A handsome, Israeli-looking man. With glasses. He’s tall, and handsome. Did I mention that?

Since I’m such a geeky, chef stalker fan, I immediately shake his hand and tell him it’s nice to meet him. So dumb.

By the time this picture is taken, we all know the truth, and he’s cracking jokes about selling us his signature. Thankfully, this restaurant manager had a great sense of humor.

But there is a similarity, isn’t there? (not really) Of course, Mr. Ottolenghi is somewhat older, with some greying, but I was just too quick, because I have coincidentally met chefs at their restaurants before, so it could happen again, right?

Throughout lunch, the real Mr. Ottolenghi was staring at me from his book cover behind my husband’s head. Taunting me.

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If you’re wondering about the layout, we sat in the basement at one of the two communal dining tables. Thankfully, it was very cool in the room; London was a piercing 85 degrees outside that day in July.

Here’s the other table:

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In any case, I wanted to write about Nopi, because it was a vibrant foodie experience. I’m probably the only food blogger who doesn’t own Jerusalem, but I’ll have to buy it after this experience. The only way our lunch could have been better is if the real Yotam had been there… chatting with me.

The menu was very exciting. I don’t know if you can read it, but you can check out Ottolenghi.co/UK for more information on his restaurants and updated menus.

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There were four of us for lunch. My daughter, left, brought her lovely Yorkshire-bred friend and co-worker along. It was like lunching with Julie Andrews. (Obviously, my linguistic skills equal my face recognition skills.)

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We each began with a starter. Mine involved scallops and pork belly, a polenta chip, with an apple-yuzu sauce. Fabulous, needless to say.

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The young ladies got passion fruit juice, although they later switched to wine. I love lunches in London.

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We were served some complimentary veggies, in a delicious carrot sauce. I could have simply eaten these vegetables for lunch, they were so perfectly prepared and vibrant. Except for the beets, which were rock hard.

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For our main meal, we all picked lovely plates, including the popular courgettes and manouri fritters. Incredible. I opted for a couple of Aperol spritzers, to cool myself down, of course. But not at the same time.

A lovely lunch indeed, in spite of the absence of Mr. Ottonlenghi. The look-alike manager said that this has happened before, but I still think that the kitchen staff had gotten quite a big kick out of the mis-identification on my part. They were quite accommodating to let me take their photo!

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Nopi was everything I hoped it would be. If you’re in London, stop by for lunch or dinner. You won’t regret it.

Mulled Wine

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When I think of mulled wine, I think of my daughter and I visiting my other daughter in December of 2010 in London. Everything was Christmassy, and it was cold, as expected. The first thing she did when we met up at her flat was to prepare mulled wine. It was so charming and thoughtful.

But I had no idea that mulled wine is so popular in London, at least during the cold months I presume. In fact, every single pub we visited, which was daily, served mulled wine.

Here is a special photo of us three gals at The Marylebone, after warming our spirits with mulled wine.

Those memories, of the beautiful quaint pubs, the Christmas markets, the mulled wine, fabulous meals, but mostly of being with my two daughters at a special time of year, were so important to me, that once home, I haven’t wanted to make mulled wine. I needed to preserve those memories some how. Until now.

Out of curiosity, I sought out recipes for mulled wine online, and they’re basically all straight forward. In fact, you can simply mull wine with purchased mulling spices! If you don’t know, the act of mulling is simmering or steeping the wine or cider.

I found a recipe on Epicurious along with a blurb written by Katherine Sachs that offered a bit more information when proceeding with mulled wine, with more options.

Katherine writes that “In Germany it’s called Glühwein and it’s occasionally made with with fruit wine; it’s Glögg in Scandinavia, and usually served with a spiced cookie or cake; in Quebec they mix in maple syrup and hard liquor and call it Caribou.”

I need to look into a Caribou. But on to mulled wine…

For a stronger pot, add some liquor, such as brandy or spiced rum. Mulled wine can also be made with white wine, such as a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, if you prefer that style.

Mulled Wine
Serves 2, 3, 4…

1 bottle of good red wine, like a pinot noir
2 cups apple cider
1 cup ruby port
A couple slices of orange rind
4 cinnamon sticks
20 whole cloves
2 crushed allspice
Star anise and cinnamon sticks and orange slices for serving

Pour the wine, cider, and port into an enamel pot. Add the orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice.

Start heating slowly on a low-to-medium setting. You want to steep the wine, not boil or reduce it.

After about 30-40 minutes it will be done. Sieve the mixture if you don’t want the little spice bits.

Serve in cups with a cinnamon stick, star anise, and slices of orange.

I purposely didn’t shake the bottle of apple cider. I didn’t want the mulled wine to look murky.

This is especially important if you chose to serve the mulled wine in a glass cup. You want it pretty and burgundy, not brown and murky.

The mulled wine would work well in a carafe, so you don’t have to keep it on the stove. Just serve!

Hope you enjoy this recipe.

I have prepared mulled port before and that is slightly sweeter than mulled wine, but definitely still warming and flavorful. It was mulled with clementines.

Spiced Beef Salad

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Recently I was perusing my Casa Moro cookbook, written by Sam and Samuel Clark, bookmarking recipes for future use. This one photograph just jumped out at me.


It was a photo of Spiced Beef Salad with Fenugreek and Hummus. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a salad recipe that wasn’t based on grains, vegetables, greens, legumes or even bread.

It’s basically grilled spiced beef served over hummus.

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I knew it was something I’d make for a casual lunch, served with flatbread.

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And it was wonderful.

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Spiced Beef Salad with Fenugreek and Hummus

1 400 g sirloin steak, approximately 2.5 cm thick
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
3/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon Turkish chili flakes
1 quantity hummus
1 large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
8-12 pickled chilies, optional
Flatbread

Season the piece of beef with salt and pepper. I used flank steak and put it in the sous vide for 48 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together and grind.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and a little black pepper to the marinade, which I would refer to as a dry rub.

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After removing the beef from the bag and patting it dry with paper towels, cover the beef with the dry rub.

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Leave to marinate for a good hour or two.

Set a griddle pan over high heat, with a little oil, until it begins to smoke. Grill the beef to medium-rare. Because I had sous vided’d the flank steak, I only needed to brown the meat on both sides; this was accomplished within one minute.

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Set on a cutting board to rest.

To assemble, spread the hummus on a plate or pasta bowl. Slice the steak, and place the slices over the hummus.

Then scatter the parsley leaves all over. (I had to use curly parsley – my local store didn’t have Italian.)

Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of nigella seeds.

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I used a spicy hot olive oil instead, just for some heat, and omitted the pickled chile peppers.

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Serve with warmed flatbread.

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I decided to also add some goat cheese and fresh cherry tomatoes.

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This salad was a feast! And one I will definitely make again.

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Moro’s Yogurt Cake

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It’s not often when I go to the same restaurant more than once. I’m usually done, and ready to move on to the next! Like my motto – so many restaurants, so little time!

One exception was Moro, in London. I’ve been three times – once was a special celebration for my daughter’s second master’s degree, this one from Sotheby’s (please allow me a little bit of boasting).

Moro is a busy, bustling restaurant in Clerkenwell. The cuisine is North African, so you can just imagine the offerings of courses representing Morocco, Spain, Egypt, and on through the Middle East, but generally referred to as Moorish in origin.

The Moro concept was started by the husband and wife team of Samantha and Samuel Clark, who were inspired by their travels to those regions.

I have so many different food photos from my dining experiences at Moro; I will share a few. The food is vibrant, flavorful, spectacular.

A few of us on that celebratory night ordered A signature dessert to share – Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate, photographed below.

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I can’t recreate that dining experience at Moro with my daughter, but I can make the cake!

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Here it is:
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Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate
Adapted from recipe found online*

3 eggs, separated
70 g or 2 1/2 ounces white sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350 g or 12 ounces yogurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
20 g or approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
30 g or 1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees Centigrade.

I used a deep-dish pie pan for this dessert, and brushed it with butter lightly.

Find a deep-sided baking tray that will fit the cake tin and you can use as a bain marie.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 50 g of the sugar (I removed about 1 tablespoon for the egg whites) until thickened and pale.

Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and flour; mix well.

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In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar and continue to whisk for a moment until the whitesbecome glossy.

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Gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt mix, then pour into the pie pan and place it inside the baking tray.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour the water around the pie pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.

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Sprinkle over the pistachios, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the water immediately.

Eat warm or at room temperature. The consistency should be a light sponge with custard underneath.

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Sprinkle the cake with pomegranate seeds and serve with a drizzle of yogurt.

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Alternatively, I used a small dollop of marscapone.

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It was May when we shared this yoghurt cake at Moro. But what a perfect holiday dessert this is! All that red and green!

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The cake isn’t the prettiest desert; it looks like a pile of pudding on the plate. But you won’t care once you taste it!

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If you’ve had trouble in the past opening pomegranates, I learned my favorite technique from the blog Chica Andaluza. Her technique worked perfectly!

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* This recipe is in the original Moro cookbook.
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Mushy Peas

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The first time I had mushy peas was, not surprisingly, in London when I was visiting my daughter. And, not surprisingly, I had them because they came with my fish and chips. I was a little skeptical, not being a huge pea lover, but they were good! Really good!

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The peas are often also served along the other quintessential British pub dish meat pie.

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The peas traditionally used for mushy peas are called marrowfat peas, and they’re dry peas, cooked from scratch. But I have never seen them, and decided that a bag of frozen peas will have to work.

What gives mushy peas their unique flavor is mint. It turns out it’s really a lovely combination!

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I found a recipe on the Jamie Oliver website. Mushy peas are insanely easy to make.

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Mushy Peas
Recipe by Jamie Oliver

1 knob butter
4 handfuls podded peas
1 small handful fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
1 squeeze lemon juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

So since I have no podded peas, here’s my version of this recipe.

1 – 1 pound bag frozen peas, thawed
1 ounce unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
1 squirt lemon juice
Salt
Black pepper

Drain the peas in a colander to remove any excess water from the peas.

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Place the peas in a food processor and pulse. I made mine a cross between whole peas and completely mushed up peas. I noticed that in my top photo with the fish and chips, the mushy peas look like a mixture of pea purée and whole peas, and the peas with the meat pie look softer, and more mushy. So you can probably make them just about any way.

To quote Jamie Oliver: “You can either mush the peas up in a food processor, or you can mash them by hand until they are stodgy, thick and perfect for dipping your fish into.”

I think mine might not be stodgy enough, but then, I’m not sure what stodgy means.

Place the butter in a medium-sized pot that has a lid, and add the stodgy peas.

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Add the mint leaves, cover the pot, and simmer the peas on low for about 10 minutes.

Give the peas a good stir, then add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

And that’s it!

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have fish and chips, but I did pan-fry a Swai filet and the combination was fabulous!

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I’m wondering if children who hate peas might actually enjoy mushy peas!

Beet Ravioli

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I’ll probably never dine in London again. Not that I wouldn’t want to, but because our younger daughter lived there for the last four years, we have been lucky enough to visit multiples times, taking advantage of London’s fabulous gastropubs and restaurants.

We visited her this past July, to get our last opportunity to see her in situ before she moved back to the states. So then there was the matter of picking the final restaurant destination for our last meal in London.

The restaurant-choosing burden is always on me, which is probably because I’m controlling when it comes to planning the restaurant itinerary when we travel. Also, no one else in my family understands the concept of making reservations. But in any case, this was a difficult decision.

My daughters had given me a little book called “Where Chefs Eat” for Christmas a while back, and I turned to this book for inspiration.

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And that’s how I came about to choose Bistrot Bruno Loubet for our final London meal.

I had never heard of Bruno Loubet, but his bio is impressive. He opened the restaurant, in the Clerkenwell district, in 2010. After only four years, the restaurant needs some spiffing up and somewhat of an upgrade, but the space itself is really nice, with a beautiful bar and various seating areas, including one outside.

This is a shot from the website of the bar area in its heyday. Now the chairs are pretty scuffed up and fabric is worn.

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Knowing me, it’s probably the shot of those purple bar stools that made me want to go to this restaurant, other than it was recommended by other chefs and the menu looked fabulous.

So Bistrot Bruno Loubet is where I enjoyed Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli, which turns out is one of his most popular dishes. I discovered this tidbit because after getting home to the states, I ordered his cookbook “Mange Tout,” which translates to eat everything! And there was the beet ravioli recipe in the cookbook. Yay!

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This is the photo of my ravioli at the restaurant that evening. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I started with grilled octopus, and ended with these. Seriously a fabulous menu.

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Now, I know that food bloggers aren’t sitting around wondering why I haven’t had a fresh pasta post on my blog, but I haven’t. And it’s not because I don’t know how to make fresh pasta. Honestly, It’s because I got tired of making it.

When I was a personal cook for a family for 8 years, I made tons of pasta. And I think I burned myself out. Plus, I also lent my pasta maker to a neighbor and never got it back. That didn’t help. Or perhaps I said, “Keep it. I never want to see it again!”

But to prove to you that I actually used to make pasta, I want to show you this photo that my daughter will hopefully not see because she will be mad at me. But she’s 8 years old and making her own pasta. She looks like a cross-eyed nut, but she was a great pasta maker. She loved to choose flavors, like thyme and cayenne.

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I’m so happy that Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli inspired me to buy another pasta maker, because these ravioli are exquisite. This could be my last meal, if I had a choice in the matter, and hopefully not because I’m on death row.

The recipe is quite involved. Not difficult, just involved. But because I remember how good these ravioli were, I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible, and this is what I did.

Beet-Filled Ravioli
based strongly on Bruno Loubet’s recipe in Mange Tout
makes about 40 ravioli

3 beets, washed, dried, trimmed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 ounces cream cheese (the original recipe called for ricotta)
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan (the original recipe called for 2)
Salt
Pepper

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake them in the foil package for 2 hours. Let them cool.

Peel the beets, then chop them up.

Place the chopped beets in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times. You want finely diced beet, not mush.

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Place the beets in cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl. Tie up the beets, then weigh down and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day you will have about 1/4 cup of beet juice.

Pour the beet juice into a small pot, and add the balsamic vinegar. I also squeezed out the cheesecloth to get a bit more juice into the pot.

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Over very low heat, reduce the beet-balsamic mixture until it’s almost like a syrup; set aside. It will eventually look like this:

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Empty the cheesecloth and place the beets in a medium bowl.

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Meanwhile, add the cream cheese and grated cheese to the beets and stir well. When the beet-balsamic syrup has cooled, add about 1/3 of the amount, or about 1 tablespoon, to the filling and stir well; set aside.

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The next thing to do is make the pasta dough. I don’t want to have a pasta-making tutorial because it would make this post too long, plus there are plenty out there. Go to Stefan’s blog Stefan Gourmet for his tutorials. He’s got a really light hand when it comes to making pasta – especially filled pasta. Plus it’s really challenging to take photos with dough and flour on your hands.

The pasta dough recipe I made was about 2 cups flour, 2 eggs plus 2 yolks, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use a little water, if necessary, to make the dough the proper consistency. You can always add flour to dough, but you can’t add water to it.

Stir the egg and olive oil mixture gradually into the flour until the liquid is completely incorporated. Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead a minute, then wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes to rest.

Hook up your pasta maker and make sure it’s stabilized. You don’t want it moving around while you’re rolling out sheets of pasta.

If you’re new to using a pasta maker, it’s important to start with the widest opening, which is typically the #1 position. As you knead the dough and work on it to make it thinner, move the position narrower and narrower by adjusting the number. You don’t have to make the pasta sheets the thinnest possible, but I did because I’m making ravioli.

Have a small bowl of water handy, and a cookie sheet or platter sprinkled with a little bit of flour for your ravioli. Then cut your pasta dough into 4 even pieces; you’ll be using one at a time.

Begin putting your dough through the pasta maker, folding it over, which essentially kneads it and smooths it out. Work the sheet thinner until you’re happy with it. Use a sprinkling of flour if you feel it’s necessary.

Once you’ve made a couple of sheets, and they’re not sticking to your workspace, place evenly-sized blobs of beet filling, evenly spaced, on one length of the pasta sheet.

Dip your 5 fingers into the water bowl, and then tap the water around each beet filling. You can also give the lengths of the pasta edges a little water. This just helps make the pasta stick together. Fold over the sheets lengthwise, and press the dough together, trying to avoid air pockets. You can make square ravioli, but I chose to make round.

I placed the just-cut ravioli on the platter, then continued with the remaining pasta sheet. Half of the dough made about 20 ravioli.

Have a large pot of water on the stove already warming, and now is the time to turn the heat to high. Have a cloth-lined platter nearby for the cooked ravioli, and a spider sieve for catching them.

When the water is at full boil, slip about half of the ravioli into the boiling water. Within 3 minutes they will rise to the surface, at which point you can remove them with the sieve and place them to drain on the platter. Repeat with the remaining ravioli.

I only prepared 20 ravioli, because I’m the only one who eats beets. In fact I shared them with my neighbor. With the other half of the dough I made fettucine for my husband. Isn’t it pretty? I think I have a renewed outlook on making pasta!
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To finish the recipe, here’s what I did (double the amount for all 40 ravioli):

2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
Finely grated Parmesan
Coarsely grated black pepper
Finely grated Parmesan
Leafy greens
Red wine vinegar
Truffle oil, or olive oil

Melt the butter and brown it in a large skillet. Add the bread crumbs and stir well.

Quickly but gently add some ravioli to the butter mixture and toss them. Place them on a serving plate, and continue with the remaining ravioli.

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Sprinkle them with coarsely grated pepper and some Parmesan.

Because Mr. Loubet’s presentation was so beautiful, I did something similar. I used spinach leaves and chiffonaded them, to produce little ribbons, and put them in a small bowl. I added a few drops of red wine vinegar, and a few drops of truffle oil. Using my fingers, I tossed the ribbons in the vinaigrette, then placed some of them in the middle of the circle of ravioli. And I added salt.

There was something about the beet flavors, the browned butter, and the truffle oil that just went fabulously together.

The filling is very beety and creamy. And it’s pretty.

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Oh – and something else. After you’ve made up your plates with the ravioli, salad, and toppings, drizzle on the remaining beet-balsamic syrup over the ravioli. That’s the piece de resistance!

note: The recipe calls for wild rocket instead of spinach, but I would have no idea how to get my hands on some. Plus, He also sautés sage leaves to top these ravioli. Since I use sage in a lot of pasta recipes, I decided to see what all this would taste like without the sage. And to me, it’s not necessary.

Summer Cup

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Last month when we were in London, we stayed at a lovely hotel called The Orange. There are only four rooms, and they are above the public house and restaurant of the same name, located on Pimlico road.

It’s a very old building, but being one of the many Thomas Cubitt businesses, it has a different look to it from typical, dark pubs in England and the UK. I personally have never met a pub I didn’t like – especially the ones with stuff like swords and giant keys and old paintings on the walls. But The Orange has its own updated beauty to it.

Right after our daughter moved to London, she taught me to mind my own business in pubs. She knows me well. I love to talk to strangers, and she taught me that in neighborhood pubs, people typically stop by for a pint or two after work. Unless they’re chatting with co-workers, they want to be left alone.

But on this one day at The Orange, I just couldn’t help myself. I had been staring at this lovely pitcher of something that looked similar to Pimm’s, but was too pale to be Pimm’s. It was a pretty pretty drink, enjoyed by about 5 young men in business suits.

I told my husband, “I don’t care what Emma says, I’m talking to these guys.” (She hadn’t arrived yet.)

There were four young men at the table next to us, enjoying their mystery drinks, and I politely asked them what it was. The answer? Summer Cup! And then they poured both my husband and myself a drink to sample. I just love British people!!! And they certainly didn’t seem bothered by my inquiry. Take that, Em !

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My husband didn’t like it as much as I did because there was a definite cucumber taste to the drink, but it was really good to me. And refreshing. Since it was 30 degrees Centigrade in London on that day, it’s probably why those young men chose Summer Cup to imbibe.

I’d never heard of Summer Cup, even though I’ve learned that it’s a popular drink in England. Not so much as Pimm’s, which we did enjoy while in St. Ives, enjoying a gorgeous summer day.

After a little research, I learned that Summer Cup, like Pimm’s, is a gin-based drink. And just like you can buy Pimm’s, you can buy Summer Cup. Except that I can’t where I live. Here is a link to Sipsmith Summer Cup. Beautiful bottle, isn’t it?

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So I searched for recipes that would mimic, possibly the actual punch.

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So this is what I found, from House and Garden, the UK version. Was it just like the Summer Cup I had in London? Nah, but it was also really good. I altered the recipe slightly, so the following recipe is what I made.

Jubilee  Summer  Cup

16 ounces gin
8 ounces Dubonnet
4 ounces sloe gin
4 ounces peach liqueur (instead of apricot, because I couldn’t find any)
Fresca (instead of ginger ale, lemonade* or champagne/prosecco)

I simply added all of the liquor to a pitcher to make it easy, poured the mixture about 1/4 way in each glass, and topped things off with fresca.

Don’t be shy with the fresca – unless you prefer a sweeter cocktail over a punch-like drink, you really need the fizz.

I served the “Summer Cup” with a slice of white peach and lime. What I didn’t do was cut up a bunch of fruit and cucumber and place it in the pitcher. That might have actually made the drink taste more similar. Now I have to make it again. darn.

* In England, at least, lemonade means Sprite or something similar. So watch out if you think you’re ordering something with real lemon lemonade.

Pasta and Zucchini

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A few years ago, I visited my London-living daughter in May. Because my birthday had just occurred, and of course she couldn’t just fly home to help me celebrate, she surprised me with two gifts.

One was a cookbook, and the second was a dinner at a restaurant. The cookbook was The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook, and the restaurant she took me to was The River Cafe in London.

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The restaurant itself is in a lovely location right on the north bank of the River Thames. The inside of the restaurant is surprisingly modern. It’s a very open space, and the chefs can be observed in action, which is always fun.

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If I’d known I’d have a blog one day I would have tried to get a better photo, but you get the idea. It’s got a lot of chrome and aqua glass, which is very striking, although I personally wouldn’t have designed a traditional Italian restaurant in the same matter. But maybe that’s the point. Notice the pizza oven in the middle of the spacious dining room. There’s a bar and more space for dining room looking the other way, and the river side of the restaurant is solid windows, so the view is beautiful. There’s outside seating as well.

I remember my daughter and I had a lovely wine and wonderful antipasti. I had squid and my daughter, grilled asparagus with fonduta. So far so good. Then we both ordered a main course. Because of the restaurant’s reputation, we had grand expectations.

The River cafe opened in 1987 Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. Neither were chefs; they were simply two women who had deep passions for all things culinarily Italian. They eventually earned a Michelin star ten years later. This restaurant was also the training ground for future famous chefs Jamie Oliver, Sam and Sam Clark, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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For the sake of this post, I just looked up The River Cafe on Zagat, and the food was rated 27, which is extremely good. On vacations, I take these ratings very seriously. 27, out of 30, is high, and although service is also important to me, the food rating is certainly more important to me, than say, decor. Think Indian restaurants, for example.

My daughter ordered some kind of fish, and I ordered a lamb chop. I try to get my lamb fix when I’m not at home, since my husband won’t eat it.

Unexpectedly, both of our proteins were overcooked. It was nothing we needed to complain about, as everything else was cooked to perfection, but it was indeed a little disappointing. Perhaps we had the understudy chef that night. But overall it was a lovely experience, made even more special by my daughter.

The two ladies of The River Cafe, Ruth Rogers on the left above, Rose Gray on the right, now deceased, wrote 6 cookbooks together. I’m very happy with the cookbook that was gifted to me, published in 2009. This pasta recipe is from my cookbook. It shows how simple cooking can be, especially Italian cooking, with delicious results.

In the amount of time it took to cook the pappardelle, this pasta dish was complete. Following is my take on their recipe, although I didn’t alter the ingredients at all. See below for the changes I made.

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Pasta with Zucchini

8.8 package of your choice of pasta
2 large zucchini, or 4 small zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, slivered
Butter, softened, about 3 ounces
Grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini into equal thicknesses. The recipe called for 1 cm thickness, but I’m sure that’s a misprint. Mine were more like 3 mm. No cooking time for the zucchini is mentioned, so perhaps they did really recommend thick slices, but they took much longer to cook. I used a mandoline, with my heavy duty glove, to get the uniform slices.

Add oil to a large skillet; I used my wok. Heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, give it a stir, and then immediately add the zucchini slices. The recipe says to only have the slices in one layer, but that would have to be done in many multiple batches. I opted to add all of the zucchini.

Gently toss the zucchini and garlic in the wok, without using a spoon. It will gradually brown.

At this point, add the softened butter and lower the heat. Continue cooking, and gently tossing, until the zucchini has all softened.

Then add the pasta to the zucchini and gently mix together.

To serve, add some grated Parmesan. I also added coarsely ground pepper, which is the only ingredient not in the original recipe. Crushed red pepper would also be good.

I ate this pasta as my dinner, but I served it to my husband alongside a pork chop, as a side dish.

It could certainly be meatified with the addition of Italian sausage, grilled chicken, or flaked salmon. But on its own, it a lovely, subtle-flavored pasta dish.

note: If you want to make the original recipe, here is the ratio of zucchini, butter, and pasta:
8 ounces zucchini (I used twice that amount)
5.2 ounces butter (I used 3 ounces)
11 ounces pasta (I used 8.8 ounces)
I love butter and I’m certainly not afraid of using it, but over 5 ounces seemed like way too much, although granted I used a slightly less amount of pasta. The butter browns as you’re browning the zucchini, and it’s all utterly fabulous in flavors at the end.