Herbed Ricotta and Olive Tapenade Ravioli with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil

Finishedravioli

As mentioned in my last post, my husband and I took a little jaunt to the Highlands, North Carolina area for a weekend early this Spring. We had the good fortune to make reservations at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Highlands, Wild Thyme Gourmet. Last time I shared my version of the dish I ordered that night, the Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta…truly an out of this world dish.

But that wasn’t the only amazing and inspiring dish on the table that night!

Now I’d like to share a re-creation of the dish my husband ordered, a ricotta and tapenade stuffed ravioli with tomato sauce and fresh basil. My version features the same very easy to make tapenade recipe by Jacques Pépin that I used in the last post, and you can find that recipe here. This tapenade makes an outstanding appetizer on its own served with crostini, as well as an excellent and savory ingredient for use in other dishes.

This fun-to-make ravioli comes together by simply placing a bit of the tapenade and an equal amount of a creamy ricotta mixture onto some pre-made wonton wrappers, then fold, seal, boil, drain and serve with fresh basil and tomato sauce. And when it’s done, get ready for an unbelievable pop of lively flavors that will tingle your taste buds. Va, va voom! I think my version is even better than the dish from the restaurant. Click on the first picture below to scroll through the slideshow with basic instructions for the process, then try out the recipes for the tapenade, ravioli and sauce, and judge how good this is for yourself.

Keeping in mind how versatile the tomato sauce is for other dishes, it is well worth the effort to make your own and spin your leftovers into more delicious dinners. Here are a few ideas for doing just that: Italian Sliders, Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula, Herbed Turkey and Veggie Meatloaf, Shakshuka (recipe coming soon) and of course, the Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta. You can also use the sauce as a base for your favorite spaghetti recipe, in a pasta casserole, on a meatball sub and in any recipe that calls for a marinara or red pasta sauce.

Herbed Ricotta and Olive Tapenade Ravioli with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil
Serves 2, can be doubled

16 Won Ton Wrappers (such as Nasoya)
16 teaspoons prepared olive tapenade (seriously, try Jacques Pépin’s link above)
16 teaspoons part-skim ricotta cheese
teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely chopped
1 egg lightly beaten to use as an egg wash
1 1/2 cups homemade or your favorite tomato sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Mix together the ricotta, thyme and lemon zest in a small bowl. Working one at a time, lay one wonton wrapper on a flat surface and brush just the edges with beaten egg. Fill one half of the wonton wrapper with 1 teaspoon of tapenade and 1 teaspoon of ricotta mixture. Fold over the wonton carefully, opposite corner to corner, to make a triangle and then gently press on the edges to seal. Use the tines of a fork to gently press and completely seal and crimp the edges. Lay each ravioli on a lightly floured surface such as a baking sheet, while preparing the remaining ravioli. Repeat the filling and sealing process 15 more times. When all of the ravioli are prepared, cook in a large pot of boiling and slightly salted water for 3-5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain gently, preferably removing the ravioli from the water with a large slotted spoon. To serve, ladle a small amount of the warmed tomato sauce into each of two large bowls or plates, top with 8 ravioli, then ladle more warmed tomato sauce on top and finish with a sprinkling of chopped and whole fresh basil leaves.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
(Slightly modified from Mario Batali’s Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe)
Makes about 8 cups of sauce

Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
medium red onion, diced
cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Tablespoons of fresh thyme, minced
1cup shredded carrot
2- 28 ounce cans of whole, peeled tomatoes in juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion, garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 min. Add thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often and breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Will keep tightly sealed in fridge for one week or frozen for 3 months.

Swimming with Fishes: An Easy Pan Sauteed Salmon and a Mediterranean Salad

I don't know why I hadn't made salmon this way before, but it's my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn't too shabby either.

I don’t know why I hadn’t made salmon this way before, but it’s my go-to now! And the Greek salad isn’t too shabby either.

Where does the week go? Our lives are so busy and full these days, no matter what endeavors and challenges are part of your day to day world. Some days we just need to be able to make something quick and delicious for dinner. This fits that bill.

All of the recent fish posts and recommendations to add more of it to your diet (the Mediterranean diet most recently), have caused me to develop a relentless craving for fish. We don’t have the sources for fresh and reasonably priced fish that we should in our city, but we do seem to always have fresh salmon available, and sometimes at an excellent price. This was the case this week and I wanted to try a simple preparation.

Enter Jacques Pépin and Julia Child’s fantastic cookbook, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, perhaps my most beloved and referred to cookbook of all time. Jacques’ singularly simple and quick preparation for salmon caught my eye, and it features just a few ingredients, some that I always have on hand. Of course best of all, it produces a truly spectacular and tasty end result…a crispy skinned fish, lightly seasoned, perfectly cooked and lovingly flavored with a little butter, lemon, onion and capers. I paired this with a Greek salad tossed with my homemade Mediterranean dressing/marinade and some rosemary roasted potatoes. Then I made it again with just the salad for a side because the fish is so rich. Either way, it’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal, for company, or for any night at all.

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Perfectly cooked with a very crispy skin and rich, fresh flavor!

Pan Cooked Salmon (or try this with another fish of your choice)
As slightly adapted from Jacques Pépin’s original recipe
Makes 2 servings

2 – 6 oz. fillets of sustainable fresh salmon, skin on and scaled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3/4 cup red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Optional fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish, if desired

Sprinkle both sides of the fish with a small amount of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. (Note: At this point, I would suggest turning on the fan over your stove unless you wish your house to smell of salmon for the next day…not that that’s a terrible thing.) Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat until it is quite hot. Put the salmon into the very hot, dry pan, skin side down. The heat will immediately crisp and shrink the salmon skin, and release it from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium high and cover, allowing the salmon to cook until it is just done and a knife inserted into the top will flake off the meat, but the fish is just barely cooked through inside, about 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove the fish from the pan with a long spatula and place it on the serving plates skin side up.

Wipe the pan out with a paper towel and return it to the stove top with medium low heat. Add the butter and the onions, and cook the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the capers and sauté for about 30 seconds, then swirl the lemon juice in and heat it through for just a few seconds. Pour the sizzling sauce over the top of the salmon fillets, dividing equally. Sprinkle with a little parsley for more color, if desired, and serve immediately with your favorite salad or side.

Betsy’s Easy Mediterranean Salad Dressing/Marinade
Makes a generous 1/2 cup, can be doubled

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a 1 cup mason jar. Screw on lid and shake vigorously. Use this to lightly dress a Greek salad (red onion, kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber and feta) or a green salad, or use for a marinade for pork, fish or chicken.

Confessions of a Cookbook Addict

I am a cookbook-a-holic.

There, I’ve said it out loud…well, sort of. I know many of us have lots of cookbooks and/or love to read them, but I’ve kind of taken it to the extreme. In fact, they are running me out of the house.

My unorganized reading table of cookbooks, food mags and Ree Drummond's new book.

Sure, I have my favorites, and they rotate sometimes. I have some very old ones, hand me down ones and some found at yard sales. I have some by famous chefs, some by famous cooks, some from other countries and some from little churches, schools and Junior Leagues. And In addition to the ones I own, I’ve read a bunch that I checked out from the library. It’s like some kind of a jones or something, every now and then…mostly now…I have cravings to read a new cookbook, essay or magazine about food like others have cravings to eat some chocolate. What can I say? I’m kinda weird that way. Continue reading