I’ve been back from vacation in Panama for several days and have just resigned myself to admitting that I will be backdating my blog posts for a while because I like having a chronological record of what I’ve been up to, but I can’t resist posting the new things that I’ve been cooking or experiencing. So, it’s cheating a little bit, but I’m admitting it outright…and I’m being fully transparent.
It’s my blog and I’ll backdate if I want to!
Ok, needless apology over, let’s move on.
One of my favorite foodbloggers is Sarah over at FoodBridge. When I joined FoodBuzz a few months ago, she was one of the first “friends” I made and we have developed a consistent dialogue over our blogs and Twitter despite the physical distance that separates us. I’m always inspired by the food she makes, the history she collects about dishes and ingredients and her friends and neighbors, and her daily adventures in the markets, beaches, and nature in one of my favorite countries and its surroundings (and the recipes she discovers from friends made along the way). And her judo-attired son bakes cookies and cleans up!
I have been thinking about the Moroccan Carrot Ravioli with Lemon Zest and Harissa that Sarah made a few weeks ago, and last night was the night to finally make this dish. The main food I had in my kitchen was a bunch of CSA greenery (parsley, cukes, scallions) that would lend themselves nicely to a big Israeli-style salad when added to a few tomatoes and olives, garlic scapes (ooh, I can’t wait to make Dorie Greenspan’s scape pesto), and a pound of carrots (but no onions which I would have needed if I wanted to make a soup).
I also dug around and found some schug in the fridge (which I often substitute for harissa in a pinch because the commercially available schug in the US is very similar and made with red chili peppers though the authentic Yemenite version is made from hot green peppers and cilantro) and a package of wonton wrappers in the freezer. Given that my pasta maker is at my parents’ house and is too heavy to reasonably ship (yes, when I was in 6th grade and we had to prepare a meal for our families and write it up to learn how to give clear directions, I, the annoying over-achiever, managed to prepare steak, homemade pasta, and chocolate chip pound cake in comparison to classmates’ PB&J sandwiches…), the wonton wrappers would have to do. As a lazy and hungry foodie, I use wrappers all the time.
Now, Sarah incorporated her spicy harissa into her pasta dough, but I couldn’t since I was using wontons, so I decided to make a spicier filling, pilfered from Ana Sortun’s Oleana restaurant. If you live in Cambridge, Boston, or within a 100 mile radius, a visit to Sortun’s restaurant or cafe is de rigueur — check out what my friend and fellow blogger, Jess wrote about Oleana and Sofra over at Sweet Amandine.
Spicy Carrot Tortellini with Lemon Cumin Sauce
The overall recipe and sauce are inspired by Sarah Melamed’s Moroccan Carrot Ravioli with Lemon Zest and Harissa. The filling is just barely modified from Ana Sortun’s Spicy Carrot Puree in “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean,” as quoted in Julia Moskin’s NYT article entitled, THE CHEF: ANA SORTUN; Spices by the Handful, Not by the Pinch” (June 14, 2006). The filling is easy to make and most of the time is spent away from the kitchen as the carrots cook or letting the flavors co-mingle. Plus everything is made in one pot! Wonton wrappers when boiled allow the bright orange filling to shine through and the sweet-spicy mix picks up the acidity in the fresh squeeze of lemon in the sauce/dressing. This sauce was inspired by the lemon zest that Sarah put in her filling.
For the filling: (Note: I halved Chef Sortun’s recipe because I only had 1 pound of carrots)
This filling can also serve as a spread and makes 4 to 6 servings, or~1.5 C
– 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
– 3 T extra virgin olive oil, more to taste
– 1 T white wine vinegar
– 2 t schug or harissa (hot pepper sauce available at Middle Eastern and specialty markets; original recipe calls for harissa but I only had schug in my fridge; the brand I used is Sabra)
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
– Salt and pepper to taste
(NOTE: These directions were pretty perfect, so I kept them pretty much as is…)
Boil carrots until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return to pan, tossing over medium heat until dry. Coarsely mash with potato masher or fork.
Stir in remaining ingredients and set aside for 30 minutes to let flavors blend. Season, transfer to bowl, drizzle with more olive oil and serve with crusty bread, if desired. Or, use as tortellini or other pasta filling.
For the tortellini:
Wonton wrappers (the brand I used is Nasoya)
Bowl of water
Once you get the hang of it, making the tortellini by hand is pretty quick and easy.You want to keep the wrappers from drying out so that they won’t crack, so only peel them from the stack one at a time and keep the rest in the packaging or under a barely moist paper towel.
Hold a wrapper in your hand and spoon ~ 1 heaping t of filling into center. Dip your index finger of the other hand into the bowl of water and moisten two edges of the wrapper.
Fold wrapper in half diagonally, sealing the wet edges into a triange…
… and then bring the two long corners together opposite of the other corner, sealing with another dab of water to form a tortellini.
Repeat with the remaining wrappers (I made 10 for myself).
Carefully drop tortellinis into salted boiling water, lower heat, and simmer for ~ 5 minutes.
This is enough sauce for 1 serving – modify as appropriate. I’m not sure if it’s technically called a sauce if it’s not cooked … perhaps this is just a dressing.
Juice of 1/2 lemon (~1-2 T)
1-2 T excellent extra virgin olive oil
a few pinches cumin (~1/4 t?)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and pour over warm pasta.
I served the pasta with a simple salad of red leaf topped with hummus, za’atar, extra virgin, salt and pepper, and whatever lemon juice was left over from the lemon half that didn’t go into the sauce.