Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sausage Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Bacon

I often buy Rana tortellini and ravioli because they are the closest thing to what we would normally buy at the store in Italy. Plus they are something easy and quick to cook, especially for the nights in which it is my husband's turn to cook.
Today I was out of pasta though so I decided to toss them with the swiss chard we got from our CSA yesterday, some bacon and some of the delicious Parmesan my sister brought me from Italy. I also used some chicken broth I made a few days ago out of the carcass of a roast chicken.
Everything cooks in one pan, which is something I always like (less washing afterwards!) and it's fairly quick to make.

Sausage Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Bacon

12 oz of Rana Sausage Ravioli
1 bunch of swiss chard
2 slices of bacon
1 garlic clove
2 cups of broth
1 cup of grated parmesan 

Thoroughly wash and dry the Swiss chard. Separate stems from leaves by cutting along the stems. Chop the stems and chop the leaves but keep them separate.

Warm up a large frying pan with tall sides and add the bacon slices at medium heat. Try to render as much of the fat as possible. Remove the slices when close to being done. Here there is a bit of a divergence of opinion between me and my husband: I like chewy bacon, and I use it like I would pancetta. So I just chop the bacon up and keep cooking with it. My husband likes crispy bacon, so if you are like him I suggest at this point you stick the bacon in the microwave to finish cooking and making it crisp. Then you can make it into crumbs and add on top of the ravioli at the end. Up to you.

Add the chopped stems and a couple tablespoons of the broth and cook until the stems are getting softer.
Now add the garlic (minced or sliced), the chard leaves, the ravioli and the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the ravioli are tender (it should take about 5 minutes). If the ravioli are done and you still have too much broth in the pan, take the ravioli out with a spoon and set them aside and keep cooking the sauce until most liquid have evaporated. Then add the ravioli back and most of the parmesan cheese and toss (gently or you will break the ravioli) . Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Our CSA experience 2015: Green Earth Farm - Season Preview.

This is not our first CSA experience. We had two experiences with two different farms. The first one was a very good experience but it was a few years ago and they were not offering a pickup near enough to us anymore. The second experience was not so good because the owners were young and inexperienced but also because that year that was a drought in Illinois that definitely did not help the crops. This year we decided to join Green Earth Farm after glowing reviews by some friends and because we liked the idea of picking up the produce directly on the farm thus giving us the chance to show our kids where their food is coming from.

From our previous experience we know that joining a CSA requires a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to food tastes. You have to adapt to eating what comes in the box that week instead of what strikes your fancy. It is part of living with the seasons, and we appreciate the chance we have to do that in summer. We live in an area where eating seasonal food in the winter would mean not eating fresh vegetables for months. As much as we enjoy canned or pickled vegetables we are not ready to do the switch just yet. But summer gives us the opportunity to enjoy fresh, seasonal and local crops so why not take it? Moreover we are supporting a local farmer and thus our own local community. It's a win-win.

The season hasn't started yet, but 6/13 the farm had a "Season Preview" and we were able to meet the farmers, the kids got to feed the animals and pick some strawberries and we got a nice bag of veggies to bring home.
As you can see we got:
  •  a lettuce head
  •  a small box of strawberries
  •  a bunch of swiss chard
  • a bunch of kale
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh chive (with flowers!)
  • three parsnips (or parsley root. I forgot to ask!)
We are definitely looking forward for the season to officially begin. I will detail what we get in every box in this blog and post about recipes I make with each item.
Yesterday I made a potato salad with the fresh chives and I have used the flowers as well. It was nothing special, just potatoes, vegan mayo, olive oil, vinegar and lots of chives. The flowers have a delicate chive flavor and add color and prettiness to the salad, so give it a try!
The strawberries are already all gone as a snack, they rarely last more than one day in our house!

Our Food Summer Plans: trying to eat fresh, local, sustainable and healthy.

This summer we are trying to do things differently as far as food goes. We want our food to be fresher. We want our food to be local and sustainable when possible. We want to skip the supermarket. We want to make as much food from scratch as we can.
We are taking several steps in this direction:
  1. We joined a CSA called Green Earth Farm for the summer; 
  2. We joined a CSF (Community Supported Fishery) called Sitka Salmon Shares for 7 months starting in May;
  3. We are trying the local meat from a farm called Riemer Family Farm;
  4. We are getting milk and eggs delivered from Oberweis;
  5. We are getting organic fruit delivered from Door to Door Organics;
  6. We are getting cheese, honey and other miscellaneous things from our wonderful local farmers' market, the Woodstock Farmers Market;
  7. We are making our own yogurt, vilii and bread;
As you can see we had to compromise on some fronts.

The fish we are getting is definitely not local, but it is sustainable. Fresh fish is an unparalleled source of healthy, lean protein as well as Omega 3s and we simply love eating fish. So we decided to at least try to find a sustainable source for it and one that would have the fish come as directly as possible to us. We live in the Midwest, very far from any ocean, so there was no way for us to limit our fish consumption to local fish.

The fruit from Door to Door Organics is not local either. In the Midwest fruit is available for a very short time, and with very limited varieties. We will get local fruit from the local farmers' market when available, but fruit is such a great snack for our kids that we cannot just rely on local sources to feed two growing boys on it. 

The milk and the eggs from Oberweis are not organic but they are local and their bottles are all made of glass and reusable ( you return them to Oberweis and they refund you a bottle deposit) thus reducing waste immensely. Their milk is also gently pasteurized, unlike most organic milk available at the store that is Ultra-pasteurized. This means that more beneficial nutrients are available in it and we found it also means better yogurt (we make our own, remember?).

The meat is not organic either but it is local. Reimer Family Farm offers a CSA as well as some sampler boxes. We are not sure we consume enough meat for a monthly box, so we decided to give the sampler a try and then go from there.

I will be posting about our experiences in this blog as well as recipes that I develop with the ingredients that we are given. Let the summer of freshness begin!
I am looking for a way to get other stuff locally as well, particularly flour and grains. I will update you if I find any.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shrimp, lettuce, mango and avocado salad

This is a delicious summery fresh salad. I love the creaminess of the avocado combined with the mango-shrimp mix which is always a winner. Tortilla chips add that little extra crunch that my husband loves .

6 oz of small raw shrimp peeled deveined and tail off
1 small head of butter lettuce 
1 avocado
1 mango 
1 cup of tortilla chips hand crushed in small pieces
2 tablespoons of olive oil
The grated peel and the juice of half a lemon 
2 garlic cloves

In a  closed jar mix oil, lemon peel, lemon juice and minced garlic and shake vigorously to emulsify.
Toss the shrimp in the oil mixture.
Heat a medium skillet on medium heat and cook the shrimp for about 4 minutes stirring at least once to allow both sides to color. Make sure not to overcook the shrimp as it would turn chewy and rubbery.
In a large bowl mix the salad, the peeled and cubed avocado, the peeled and cubed mango. Add the shrimp making sir to add all the pan drippings too. Toss well. Add the tortilla chips just before serving so they won't lose their crunch.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Frittata with onion and cheddar

This is a very simple recipe, one of those you can make almost anytime and with infinite variations : frittata!

4 small onions or two large ones
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar or other cheese
6 eggs
1/2 cup of half an half
1 tablespoon of chives
1 tablespoon olive oil

Turn the oven to 425 degrees.
Slice the onion very thin.
In a large pan cook the onion on the olive oil until translucent and soft . Turn the stove off to let the onions cool off a little .
In a large bowl stir the eggs, the half and half, the chives and the cheese. Add the onions and stir.
Pour the onion-egg mixture back in the pan then put the frittata back in the oven for about 15 mins or until golden brown. 
Serve it warm but not hot accompanied by a fresh salad and a nice crusty bread .
Onion and cheddar frittata

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brown Rice with Kale, Chicken Sausage and White Beans

I made this recipe today and it not only is very filling it is also full of good things: lean meat, fibers, veggies and whole grains. I just made it up as I was going so sorry if the measurements aren't very precise.


1 cup of brown rice ( I used texmati not the instant one, if you use the instant one you will have to adjust your cooking time on your own!)
1 box of low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch of lacinato kale ( but you can use whatever kale you like or even swiss chard or mustard greens)
4 chicken sausages with sundried tomatoes ( I used the Aidell's brand, I found them at Jewel)
1/2 can of diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
olive oil
1 can of white beans (navy or cannellini)
1 cup of white wine (optional)
Sweet Paprika


The most boring part: cut the stems off the kale and then chop the leaves into approx one inch squares. To remove the stems run your knife along both sides of it and then remove. Feel free to keep the stem and use it but remember that it is a little more fibrous and if you have a picky eater in your midst ( like I do) he/she might not like the texture.

Cut the onion and peel the garlic.

Slice the sausages into 1/4 inch thick slices or cube them, as you prefer.

Open the white beans and rinse them.


In a large deep pan put the onion, the garlic and enough olive oil to cook them without burning them.
Once the onion is translucent add the rice and the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.
Add the broth and the kale and cover until the kale is wilted, then cook uncovered until the rice is ready. If necessary add warm water to cook the rice more.
Once the rice is almost ready, add the sausage, the beans and the tomatoes. Cook another few minutes and stir to let the flavors come together. I like to add some sweet paprika to add color and flavor. I avoid cooking spicy foods, but I think some red pepper flakes or some cayenne pepper would go great in this dish too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pasta alla Carbonara

I have decided to post this recipe, which is a very basic one, as part of my efforts to clarify what is "authentic" Italian and what is not. This is how it is done in Italy. No peas. No large amounts of cream. And no, the eggs are not properly "cooked". I love Carbonara, it's a go to when you are starving and want a rich dish but don't have much left in the fridge. The only problem is the pancetta. I have tried to find one here in the states that was exactly as the one in Italy. The closest I have come is some diced pancetta I found at the Fresh Market, I think the brand was Fiorucci, but it still didn't taste the same. Anyway, if you want you can also substitute pancetta for some thick cut bacon, which actually might taste even better in the end, or some German Prosciutto but be careful with that because sometimes it can be a little too salty.

Ingredients for 4 people

4 eggs (3 egg yolks + 1 whole egg)
1/2 lb of diced pancetta
1/2 pound of grated parmesan
1 lb of thick spaghetti


- In a pan cook the diced pancetta over medium heat without adding any oil. Cook until the fat is transparent and the pancetta is slightly crispy and remove from the heat.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup of salt to it.
- In a large bowl toss the eggs and the parmesan cheese, make sure the cheese is enough so that the mixture becomes very thick. Add the pancetta.
- Cook the pasta as directed.
- Drain the pasta and IMMEDIATELY add to the egg mixture, the heat from the pasta will help "cook" the egg. Toss vigorously and serve with black pepper on top.