Fridays with Frankie D: Volume 9
God, I’m lame.
I had a few things weighing heavy on my heart this week and, on Monday, I e-mailed Frank asking him if we could “Real Talk” after work. (“Real Talk” is the term we use for our heart-to-hearts. There are no British accents allowed during “Real Talk.” That’s how you KNOW it’s serious.) Frank responded within 60 seconds:
“Let’s talk about things over a nice little cook sesh this evening, if that’s cool with you.”
And, just like that, “Real Talk Ravioli” was born.
Volume Niner and still going strong.
Happy Friday, and happy May! I’m not entirely sure what happened to April, but it came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. Name that book/movie.
Nothing too crazy happened this week. We celebrated Tom and Connor’s day of birth on Saturday, went LIVE with NYCFoodandTravel.com on Sunday (shameless plug), and made “Real Talk Ravioli” on Monday — after getting stuck on the PATH for 45 minutes at Christopher Street. Alyssa and I were apparently both on the same train, but I didn’t want to explore other cars for fear of losing my prime location smooshed in the back of the train up against the door next to an oversized stroller and an aggressive knitter. Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with knitting — or people that knit — but this lady’s hands were moving at a speed that just, quite frankly, frightened me. I really hope she met her knitting deadline this week.
This week’s cooking experience was exceptionally special because I got to share it with my two favorite little ladies in the whole wide world (besides Natalie Portman). Alyssa was home again to have some “Real Talk” while we cooked, and KP came alllll the way from the isle of Manhattan to grace us with her presence. I know I’ve said it before, but cooking wouldn’t be half as fun without great people to share it with. The majority of the meals I make for FWFD are first-time creations that just come to me piece-by-piece throughout the week, and it’s always nice to have a little feedback. Last week, I wrote about how the smallest things in this life can bring the biggest smiles to some people. Whether it’s an unexpected compliment, spontaneous dance parties, or random acts of kindness, sometimes the world isn’t as bad as it may seem.
For me, I am never happier than when I am surrounded by the people I love while eating the food I love to make. As I’ve said before, I know my closest friends will always give me an honest opinion about what’s on the table. It’s always nice to hear “How did you make this?” or “This is by far the best meal you’ve ever cooked!” or “How did you know to pear this together? No PUN intended.” But it’s even better to see my favorite people literally stick their hands into a blender to get the very last bit of leftover sauce. There’s no bigger compliment to an aspiring Chef than to see clean plates come back into the kitchen, but the act of putting face-to-blender could not have made me happier. Thank you, Lyss Face Killa.
Random thought. Did anyone else have assigned seats at the family dinner table growing up? I always sat across from my sister, Mama Dukes and Pops always sat across from each other, and my two little brothers (Mikey and Greg) always sat at the heads of the table. They thought they were special because they were at the head of the table, but we actually made them sit there because Mikey was closest to the water cooler and Greg was closest to the counter, so they could get up and get us things we forgot to put on the table. Love you, bros.
Did anyone else stare at friends awkwardly when they sat in someone else’s seat and then go “Oh no, that’s Mikey’s seat…” This is always a fun game when you eat at a new girlfriend’s house for the first time. Inevitably, the girl’s father is the last one to sit down and, if you’re in his seat, you feel like you just made the last out in your little league baseball championship game and now the entire team is going out for end-of-season consolation ice cream without you. Now when I eat at someone else’s house, I usually just keep bringing random things to the table in order to avoid any awkward “that’s my seat” conversation. When all else fails, keep folding napkins and put way too many spoons on the table until the big guy sits down.
Let’s talk food. I typically don’t cook on Mondays, but I was feeling super inspired after a nice trip to the Hoboken Homeless Shelter on Sunday. Greg and I went to the Shelter to donate a bunch of old shoes and clothes that have been taking over our hallway for months. The Shelter is right next to Sobsey’s Produce so, naturally, I had to go take a look around. When most people go “shopping for fun” they go to a mall or a designer store in the city. I go to a produce market in Hoboken.
While at Sobsey’s, I came across some Roasted Red Pepper Mozzarella and Basil Ravioli. I know what you’re thinking… JACKPOT!
I typically don’t make pasta during the week, but I had to make an exception for these tiny edible Italian dough pillows from heaven. I consulted the boys at work to see what kind of sauce I should pair with the ravioli and the consensus was some type of sweet eggplant purée . The final product was a combo of savory ingredients tossed into a blender and topped with some fresh mozzarella, basil, and buttery roasted pine nuts. Although we definitely didn’t need it, I made a super sweet dessert to put all of us into an instant food coma. This was quickly escalated when we decided to run — and at one point skip? — to get KP back down to the PATH in order to catch her train on time.
I have to give a nice big shout out to my girl, Kay, who actually went out and planted something this week. I gave her some basil and sunflower seeds this week and I have faith that she will have herself a mini garden in no time.
What have you guys planted so far this year? My plants have officially been moved to our balcony, and the rooftop garden will be established post Mother’s Day.
I truly hope you enjoy the meal below as much as the girls and I did.
Here’s to green thumbs, new beginnings, being young at heart, and the summer wind. Keep that belly full and just SMILE.
“And so, with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Real Talk Ravioli
Roasted Red Pepper Mozzarella Ravioli
2 Black Beauty Eggplant
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 bulb garlic
1 large vidalia onion
Cracked black pepper
Red pepper flakes
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set up a pot of salty boiling water for ravioli.
2. Peel eggplant and cut into chunks.
3. Place cherry tomatoes and eggplant chunks in two separate bowls and toss both with EVOO, cracked pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add sea salt to the cherry tomatoes but NOT to the eggplant. (The salt will dry the eggplant out.) Place the mixtures on parchment paper or tin-foil lined baking sheets and toss in the oven.
4. Cut the top off one bulb of garlic. On top, add a drizzle of EVOO, 1 tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Wrap in tin-foil like a little garlic steam house of joy and toss in the oven as well.
5. Drink red wine with your roommate/girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/friend/child/dog.
6. Cut half the Vidalia onion into large slices and sauté in a little butter, EVOO, and sugar on low-medium heat until caramelized. Be sure not to burn the onions but, if you do, use the other half of the onion. If you proceed to burn that half, then just cry and drink more wine.
9. Remove the garlic tin-foil teepee and eggplant after about 25 minutes.
10. Into a blender, toss all but 8 of the nicest looking tomatoes, eggplant, caramelized onions, the juice of half a lemon, 6-8 fresh basil leaves, 2 tablespoons of butter, a drizzle of EVOO, and half a cup of salty water. Also add as many of the roasted garlic cloves as you’d like. (Obviously I added them all.)
11. Blend the Hell out of it! Add salt/pepper/more EVOO to get the taste and consistency you want.
12. In a small baking dish, combine a handful of pine nuts with butter and roast for 10 minutes (or until slightly browned).
13. Plate ravioli with the sauce/purée. Add fresh basil, a few roasted tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, shaved pecorino romano, a drizzle of EVOO, and stir in fresh mozzarella.
1. Slice pears in half (lengthwise) and top with lemon juice, sugar, and fresh vanilla bean. You can use vanilla extract too, but only use a drop or two.
2. Roast in the oven on 400 degrees until the top of the pears start to brown.
3. Cut dried figs into thin slices and sauté in 1 tablespoon of butter with a little sugar until caramelized.
4. Combine goat cheese, heavy cream, and powdered sugar in a COLD metal or glass bowl.