Sunday, November 4, 2007

Locked Up

Okay, so I've had a few days off from serious cooking since my overcooked liver fiasco. But I've come back strong this weekend with some really tasty and super easy dishes. I can't say that this is necessarily because of my diligence in the kitchen, because in the interest of full disclosure, my elevator has been broken for days and won't be fixed until next week, so I've had to lock myself in my 7th floor apartment for fear that I might keel over in the midst of an asthma attack following my ascension into hell.

So, knowing this, Friday afternoon after work I decided to stop by Kalustyan's, one of my favorite food shops in the city, and stocked up on some excellent ingredients that you'll be seeing more of as the week goes on. It's a great shop on Lexington Ave near 28th street, and my go-to place for any exotic and foreign ingredients. One of my purchases was a sheet of spring roll skins, a wonderful and versatile ingredient good for a lot more than making rolls. They are also the secret time-saver in chef Jacques Pepin's 15 minute cannelloni.

As usual, I twisted this recipe up in a knot like I do to most, but the result was a really lovely quartet of cheese and mushroom cannelloni. Pepin's original recipe is for ricotta and chive cannelloni, which I've made before and are really delicious, but this time I wanted something with more substance, so I sautéed some crimini mushrooms and added them to the ricotta mixture instead of the chive. They turned out great, and it only added a few minutes to the cooking time. Now, be warned, they are HUGE cannelloni, and one is more than enough for one person. The recipe makes for four to five of them, so I'd invite some friends over if you plan on making it. Here's how to do it:

Ricotta and Mushroom Cannelloni

1 package spring roll skins
1 lb ricotta cheese (15 or 16 oz container will do)
2 eggs
2 cups mushrooms, chopped (any kind but button mushrooms)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce (I make my own quick sauce)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1. Sauté mushrooms, garlic, red pepper flake and thyme in olive oil and butter. Salt and pepper to taste. While that cooks, mix the ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add mushrooms to the mixture once they're done cooking.

2. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce and set aside. Carefully separate a spring roll skin and lay it flat on a cutting board. Spoon 1/3 cup of the filling mixture onto the middle of the skin. Roll it up tightly and place onto the baking dish. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. Keep at least 1/4 inch of space between each cannelloni on the dish.

3. Top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake 15 minutes or until warmed through and cheese is completely melted.

**TIP: Be careful when you plate them, they are very fragile.I always use 2 utensils, one for each end. Enjoy!


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