Monday, February 12, 2007

A homey, tasty dinner

Orangette is one of my favorite food blogs. I have to stop myself from making every sweet thing she offers up recipes for (she can't eat much of them, given how thin she is!), but I love the way she writes about food. Her description of a hearty winter soup had me hankering to try it. My husband loooooooves soup, so I decided to give it a go.

But first . . . first I had to find the annatto (or achiote) seeds. We went to a local food co-op. No luck. Whole Foods. No luck. Publix. No luck. Finally we gave in and drove out to an international farmer's market outside Atlanta. At last! 20 round-trip miles and 57 cents later, we were set.

Locro de papas
Adapted from a recipe from Gourmet , February 2007

2 rounded tsp. annatto (achiote) seeds
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 ½ lb. russet (baking) potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
Rounded ½ tsp. ground cumin
2 ¼ tsp. salt
A few grinds black pepper
7 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 ¼ cups coarsely grated queso fresco or queso blanco
2 firm-ripe avocados

Chop the onion. Set aside.

In a small, light-colored saucepan or skillet (not one with a black bottom), heat the annatto seeds and oil over low heat, swirling the pan often, until the oil is bright red-orange and barely simmering, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the annatto oil is resting, fill a large bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch chunks, dropping them into the bowl of water as you go. The water will help to prevent discoloration.

Pour the annatto oil through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a large (7-8 quart) pot, discarding the seeds. Warm the oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions and half of the potatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the water, stir to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 25-30 minutes; then mash the potatoes into the broth. (I used an immersion blender.) Remove the remaining potatoes from their bowl of water, drain them well, and add them to the pot. Simmer, partially covered, until they are tender, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the milk and the cheese, and increase the heat to bring the pot to a simmer again, stirring. Remove from the heat.

Cut the avocados into small cubes or slices. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with avocado, and serve.

Yield: About 6 servings

The soup had a fairly subtle but wonderful flavor. It's not a fancy soup; it's a comforting, bone-warming one. I highly recommend you try it when you notice that cold weather is headed your way . . . or when you're not feeling so great.

(Oh, and as a side note, if you live in the US and want to try this soup recipe, but you live somewhere very rural where you think you could not find annatto/achiote seeds, send me an email with your snail mail address at I'll send the first three people who write me there the two rounded teaspoons you need to make a pot of this stuff! By the way, I wish I could send it overseas, but I'm too po' for that. Sorry!)

I decided to make a dessert as well. I am helping prepare food for a chocolate-food-themed lingerie wedding shower that is coming up soon. My boss had told me about a simple but fantastic-sounding recipe that involved Nutella, wonton wrappers, and powdered sugar. YUM! I googled it and found the recipe, and I was ready to go.

I found the directions a little unclear, so I've altered my recipe to try to be clearer. Also, I think you might want to make this for you and your sweetie for Valentine's Day, so I wrote the directions for two people.

Note: This is a rich and entirely unhealthy dessert. If you are going to eat it, you should eat it with no shame or guilt. Eat healthy the day before; eat healthy the day after, but while you are consuming this dessert, let yourself be overcome with pleasure. Pleasure in life is not about abstinence but moderation, and when you are indulging, you ruin your indulgence if you fret over it the whole time.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Fried Ravioli
serves 2

6 wonton wrappers
1 egg, beaten

1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: the Whole Foods version of Nutella, which does not have partially hydrogenated oil in it but tastes just as good as Nutella)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
(Note: My husband and I think you could do well to add a bit of bananas, nuts, raspberry jam, or a variety of other substances to the Nutella part when you are making this recipe.)

Spread a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper on two plates. Place 1 wonton wrapper on one of the plates. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with egg. Spoon 1 tablespoon of chocolate-hazelnut spread (or half spread and half other filling) into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally in half over the filling and press the edges of the wrapper firmly to seal. Place the ravioli on the other covered plate. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers, egg, and chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F.

Remove the plastic wrap or waxed paper from the first plate, and replace it with two paper towels. Carefully add the ravioli to the hot oil and cook until they are golden brown, about 30 seconds per side. Be careful not to overcook! (When I flipped my ravioli, the side that had been facing up puffed up like a bullfrog's throat. I don't know if it was because of the lower (1"?) depth of my oil or what--but it still tasted great.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Then, if you will not be eating the dessert right away, transfer the cooked ravioli to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven for a few minutes. (The fried ravioli can also be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool them completely; then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, place them on a baking sheet and rewarm in a preheated 375 degrees F oven just until they are heated through, about 7 minutes. I doubt they would be as tasty this way, though.)

Arrange 3 fried ravioli on each plate. Dust the ravioli with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

My husband and I had so much fun with this recipe that we've decided to eat in on Valentine's Day and try out various fillings for fried and steamed wontons.


PearShapedGirl said...

Drooooooooool! That chocolate-hazelnut ravioli sounds absolutely heavenly! Too bad my Hubby is out of town for work on Valentine's Day (sob!), or I'd make it for us. Because it totally fits into a healthy meal, right? ;) I'll definitely have to make it a some point. It would probably be good with some toasted almonds or pecans added to the filling and maybe served over vanilla bean ice cream so that it gets all melty... okay, my mouth is watering, I have to stop. Thanks for the post!

Take care,

Tigerlilly said...

Yeah... I'm emailing your right now!!! That soup sounds soooo yummy, and since I am so sick right now it sounds like the perfect thing! Thanks for the recipe!!!

Cory said...

Those sound so good........

metamorphose said...

drooling in my corner as well! Me oh my -orgasmic!

the veggie paparazzo said...

Pear, it's an indulgence worth making. But make sure you get the Nutella out of the house once you've made it if you're like me. I could eat Nutella minute-by-minute for days and love every second. But my body wouldn't thank me.

Tiger, it'll be on your way shortly.

Cory and Meta, you've gotta try them . . . sometime when it's okay to eat something completely decadent.