My friends found a trivia board game in which you place bets (with poker chips) on whether or not your opponents will answer the question correctly. It is ridiculously fun if you enjoy trivia and not having any faith in your friends.
We played for the first time last night, after dinner and a dramatic reading of the first few chapters of "My Immortal" courtesy of E. I don't care if it's for real or not, it is the most amazing piece of literature ever written. (Yes I know it's four years old, no I had never heard of it before.)
Dinner was a series of "And And And Food", as my old boss used to call it. Lemon and Herb Roast Pork Shoulder with Spinach, Shiitake, and Goat Cheese Ravioli and Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Garlic Scapes in Balsamic Brown Butter. Julia supplied a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with vanilla Haagen Daz for dessert. We tried Lost Angel Mischief, which I picked up based on how I usually choose wine - the pretty label. I'm (mostly) kidding. It was really nice, very lush and berry. I could happily drink it all summer, it's an "easy" red and would go down well even in hot weather. Plus, it's a steal for $10.
For the pork, I dug out my terra cotta roaster that I usually forget that I have. I had used it a couple times in the past to make oven stews, but this was the first time I used it to roast meat. I'm a convert! The pork was so juicy, but still had a nice crust to it. The onions perfectly caramelized and nothing stuck to the pan. I'll definitely be experimenting with the roaster again soon. I picked mine up at TJ Maxx, years ago for about $20, a quick Google search shows that they're generally affordable and come in all different sizes. Mine has a glazed interior, which I would recommend as the clay will absorb flavors and the glaze will hinder that from happening.
Here is a thing that I like to do for pork, and sometimes for chicken; make a salt & garlic paste, rub the pork down with it, then roll it in chopped fresh herbs and a little bit of olive oil. Garlic paste is made by mincing fresh garlic cloves with a pinch of salt added in. The salt works to break down the garlic. (You can also add a little bit of lemon or lime zest in there for extra flavor) This is a helpful video, though I don't see why she's so fussy with slicing the garlic in the beginning. I just smash the clove with the side of my big knife, pull off the paper and root end, and chop from there. So much faster, and you're just grinding it down anyway.
I soaked my roaster in cold water for about a half hour, then added the pork, a sliced red onion, and poured a little less than a cup of white wine and the juice of half a lemon over the roast. Start in a cold oven, set the temp to 475, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the internal temperature of the pork is about 160.
Home-made ravioli is not as daunting as you might think! My secret? Won Ton wrappers.* For real. You can get them at the Asian market for a couple of bucks, and you can keep them in your freezer until you're ready to use them. Then you can stuff them with anything! A little bit of cheese, your favorite vegetables minced or mashed, some ground meat, some chopped seafood, the list is endless. It can be a little time consuming while you're getting the hang of stuffing and folding, but I threw these together in about a half hour - 45 minutes if you count the cooking time.
Shiitake Spinach Goat Cheese Ravioli
1 package won ton wrappers (I use round)
12 oz goat cheese
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c minced shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch spinach, stemmed and chopped fine
1/4 c vermouth or sherry (or white wine, whatever)
Heat a skillet on high. Sautee' mushrooms and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until mushrooms have released all of their liquid and begin to stick to the pan. Deglaze the pan with vermouth, add spinach. Sautee' until spinach has wilted. remove from heat and let cool. (You can cheat by popping the mix in to the freezer for a few minutes while you prep your work area.) When cool, mix with goat cheese and salt/pepper to taste.
Here's how to set up your stuffing station; take two cutting boards or cookie sheets and sprinkle a layer of cornstarch over each. (One is going to be your work area, and the other is where you will set the finished ravioli.) Two bowls: water in one, in the other a beat an egg with a teaspoon of water. A pastry brush would be helpful here, but I have used my fingers more than once.
Ok! Lay out won ton wrappers over board #1. Using the pastry brush (or your fingers), paint the outer rim of each wrapper with egg. Set about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Keep your left hand dry, pick up the ravioli with your left hand and fold it in half. (If you dip your right fingers into the water bowl, you can use that hand to tuck the filling into place without it sticking to your fingers.) Pinch along the seam, sealing the ravioli closed. Repeat until you're out of filling.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the ravioli one at a time - I do it in batches of 6 -8. When the ravioli floats, it's done. Since your filling is already cooked, you're just cooking the pasta. Fish each ravioli out using a slotted spoon, and transfer to a plate where it can sit and wait for saucification. (Real word, I say so.)
This makes quite a few, but you can freeze them before they're boiled.
This is one of the easiest sauces out there, and incredibly versatile. Also fantastic on chicken, fish, or roasted vegetables.
Balsamic Brown Butter
6T unsalted butter
2T balsamic vinegar
s/p to taste
Melt butter in a skillet on med/high heat until golden brown, stirring or swirling occasionally. Remove from heat, whisk in balsamic vinegar. Season to taste.
That's the base recipe but it's simplicity leaves a lot of room for creativity. When I made this last night, for the ravioli and roasted summer veg, I minced a shallot and about a teaspoon of fresh sage and fried them in the butter before removing from the heat and adding the vinegar.
*photo courtesy of Burning Pasta - I forgot to take a picture, and this is the brand I use.