Friday, August 12, 2005


The (First) Really Big Cook-Off

Whoo-eee its time kids! Time for The Really Big Cook-Off. (Yes, that name was offered up by Charlie, and frankly, since I think I owe him one, the dubious honor of having named this event is his to cherish. On the other hand, I want my 10 quart stock pot back buddy. I don’t care where you claim it’s gone.)

So here is how it is going down my friends. Each month, check back here for a new and exciting recipe which we will all, in a sort of global-oneness kinda way, (Can I get an OM?) make at the same time. It may be something as basic as “Your best spaghetti sauce,” “The cover recipe from Gourmet,” a recipe to try a new ingredient, or even something fab from one of your sites! Who knows. I’m 100% flexible, and suggestions are always welcome.

The rules are as follows: The recipe will be announced on the second to last Friday morning of the month (Pacific time) and you will have one week (seven days) to make it, then email your entry to Blog or no blog, all entries will be accepted (if you don’t have a blog, please consider starting one, because we would love to hear from you, but if you really don’t have the time, I will post your entry here.)and a round up will be posted by the next Wednesday. Then, you will have the chance to comment, complain, boast or just commune with other people on a common meal. What worked, what didn’t, what you liked about it, what you didn’t. Sounds like fun, right? There are no winners or losers either, just a good time to be had by all.

In the interest of having as many people as possible enter, I will strive to have all of the recipes use easy to find ingredients, (or offer suggestions for substitutes) with nothing overly seasonal, for people in other hemispheres (Moment to pause. How cool is it that someone in Australia is reading this! Rockin! For that matter, it’s cool someone in Akron is reading this. Of course, if I keep babbling off subject, no one will be reading this, so let me get back to it.) The recipes will always be (what I judge to be) easy to medium difficulty, and will never (if it can be helped) require any specialized equipment (which is why I am avoiding including grilling and baked goods. Fluted tart pans and hibachis are specialized.)just things most cooks have at home. I will also avoid (to the best of my ability) dishes that may not photograph well. So please consider oatmeal and grits off the list.

The fun part is seeing how the dish is interpreted. Did you follow the recipe exactly? (I hope someone will!) How did you fancy it up? What did you add, substitute or take away, and why? Did you add a regional flair? We want to hear (and see) it all. I am a chef instructor (for those of you who don’t read my blog regularly) and am always super excited when people challenge themselves to try a new dish. I am also constantly amazed at how people build on something to make it their own, and I look forward to seeing what you all do.

And now, with no further ado, I present our first recipe, Ravioli with Potato, Watercress and Cheese. This recipe, by Jamie Oliver was printed with no permission whatsoever. It was chosen for (incredibly cheeky) reasons I will discuss after everyone makes the dish. (Heh, heh.) I know making ravioli will be a challenge for some of you, but that is sort of the idea. Try something new! Please have your recipe in by August 19th!

As for the ingredients, watercress should be easy to find, but any bitter green can be substituted.

Thanks SO much (in advance) to everyone for participating, I can’t wait to see the results!

Ravioli with Potato, Watercress and Cheese
Serves 4-6
(My thoughts are italicized)

Make a point of using 2 delicious, contrasting cheeses, for example a strong cheese like Gorgonzola or a creamy taleggio and a hard cheese such as pecorino or Parmesan.

6 sheets fresh pasta (cut out into 36 circles or squares, or use 36 wonton wrappers)
2 pounds all-purpose potatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
4 or 5 good handfuls watercress, large stalks removed, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup butter
10 - 12 oz. cheese, extra for garnish
Grated nutmeg, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash and peel the potatoes, put them into well-salted, boiling water with the garlic and cook until the potatoes are just tender (it is very important not to under- or overcook them). Drain them and let them sit for about 5 minutes to enable the excess water to evaporate (if you overcook them or don't drain them correctly they'll be too moist and your filling will be too wet).

When the potatoes have cooled slightly add your butter and your chosen cheeses. Stir and mash with a fork to mix and break the potatoes up (I like to leave the mixture slightly chunky). Add the nutmeg and seasoning to taste. Stir in the watercress, half finely chopped and the rest coarsely chopped.

Place a good heaped teaspoon of this mixture onto the lower half of each of the pasta squares (or circles). To seal, wet the inside edge with a little water or egg wash, fold over and presssing down to seal completely. Cook in boiling salted water, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes, until tender. The ravioli will float when done.

Serve with some extra olive oil or butter, some more of your chosen cheese grated over the top and some torn watercress.Season to taste and serve.


Technorati Tags:

Jamie Oliver’s television program Jamie’s Kitchen airs in 30 countries. Oliver’s Twist airs in 41. They are both produced by Fresh One Productions (owned by Oliver)

Link to a
great article on Jamie Oliver, chef, and man with “a notorious love of swearing”

“He’s so much the flavour of the month that one in every 100 books being sold in the UK is a Jamie Oliver cookbook.” –Manchester Online (2001)

Here, Clarissa Dickson Wright (one of the Two Fat Ladies) accuses Jamie Oliver of 'selling his soul' over his endorsement of controversial salmon farm.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been forced to put his North London home on the market, saying he was fed up with people stumbling from the local boozer, ringing the door bell and shouting; “hey Jamie cook us a bacon sarnie.” Daily Star 25/10/2004



okay, but we will see if i can get good asparagus right now.

they've been looking pretty weak at the farmers' markets lately.

can't wait!
this so so hard for us in N Cal
asparagus is totally not in season
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I gave it some thought and changed the recipe to watercress. That should be easier to find.
To find or substitute something for I should say. OK, back on track.
thank you rachael
I am so excited --- I have invited a group of girls over to share in the fun (we are all huge food geeks)
I can't wait to see the varying interpretations. this is going to be fun.
I'm excited about this. But it's going to be a challenge for me, because I can't eat gluten. Oh well, maybe it's time to finally buy that pasta machine and figure out how to make ravioli with brown rice flour....
Homemade pasta -- geesh, starting simple, huh? ;)
Nice! I'll try to participate - but I have *never* seen watercress here. What should I substitute - rocket? Could that work?
You could use parsley, spinach, bok choy (Im sure thats at every green grocer in Sweden! Ha ha.) arugula, (wait, is that what you call Rocket? I think it is) or even peas if you like. I think its pretty open to variations for sure.

As for making fresh pasta, I am not going to be doing that. I will be using wontons, its so easy and tastes the same. :-)

Thanks for all the comments everyone!
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Ooh Rachael, I was thinking "ravioli, that's too hard right now" and then I saw "6 sheets fresh pasta". Now that I think I can manage!
Hey rachael - because of the picnic last weekend and other commitments, I just haven't had the time to do this challenge this week. Sorry - I have to strumpet around town like Rachael Ray instead.
please forgive me...
sam x
btw rocket is arugula which would be a perfect sub for anne
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