Monthly Archives: December 2015

Agnolotti dal Plin

In April of 2003, Los Angeles Times featured an article in their Food section about Il Ristorante di Guido da Costigliole, a restaurant in the Piedmont region of Italy. The article focused on a regional, filled pasta called agnolotti dal plin. Lidia Alciati, the owner and chef of the restaurant, cranked out thousands of agnolotti every week for 40 years. I was was intrigued and I saved the article for my honeymoon trip to Italy that June.

When my husband and I arrived in Asti, we learned that Lidia had retired and that her sons had taken over the family business and found their restaurant a new home. We were directed to a beautiful 5-star hotel in a restored 1619 monastery, atop a hill overlooking a picturesque valley of vineyards. The restaurant was located under the hotel in a converted wine cellar. Once we were seated at our table, I was overcome with excitement. When the agnolotti arrived, the little, yellow pillows of pasta were glistening in light butter sauce. When I took a bite, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The delicious pasta packets were filled with rabbit, pork, veal, spinach, Parmesan cheese and hint of nutmeg.

Today I bring you my version of Guido’s agnolotti. Instead of adding rabbit and veal, I used all pork for my recipe, and I also replaced the spinach with Swiss chard. Make sure you roast the pork a day in advance. For the pasta, I really like Thomas Keller’s pasta recipe for the agnolotti. It’s easy to work with and the perfect texture for this dish. You can also make the pasta a day ahead if you prefer. Making this dish requires a lot time, but it’s worth the effort. This recipe makes enough to feed an army so it’s perfect for the holidays or any other special occasion. Enjoy!

Agnolotti dal Plin

Serving size: 12

Olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary
2 pounds of roasted pork shoulder (recipe below)
3 cups of Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Freshly grated pepper
2 large eggs
28 ounces of fresh pasta dough – Thomas Keller’s Pasta Recipe
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of reduced pork or veal stock
6 sage leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

1. Take the pasta out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2. While waiting for the pasta to come to room temperature, take the roasted pork out of the refrigerator and remove most of the fat using a knife. Cut into large chunks and then pulse a few times in the food processor until it resembles ground beef. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Remove the reserved pork drippings from the refrigerator. Scrape off the fat cap and you should be left with a gelatinous pork stock. Set aside.

4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the Swiss chard for about five minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid until most of the water is absorbed. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. You may need to add a little water. Set aside.

5. Heat the same sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and rosemary. Sauté for one minute. Add the ground pork meat and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer back to the large bowl and cool at room temperature.


6. Once the meat has cooled, stir in the Parmigiano, 2 eggs (slightly beaten), Swiss chard, reserved pork stock, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. This is the agnolotti filling. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you roll out the pasta.


7. Roll out the pasta dough a few sheets at a time and keep any unused portion of pasta tightly wrapped in plastic. On your pasta roller, roll the pasta sheet to the second thinnest setting.


8. Remove the filling from the refrigerator. Using a small teaspoon, place a portion of filling about 1 inch from the bottom of the sheet. Continue placing portions of filling across the bottom of the sheet, leaving 1 inch space in between each.

9. Fold the bottom of the pasta sheet to partially cover the filling.

10. Fold from the bottom again, rolling the pasta while pinching between each pocket of filling. It is important to leave this “pinched” area between the agnolotti, or when the agnolotti are separated, they may come unsealed.

11. Run a crimped pastry wheel away from you and between the center of each pinched area to create the individual agnolotti. Place the filled agnolotti on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the agnolotti inside the freezer until frozen.

12. Repeat the process until all the agnolotti is filled.


13. Fill a large pot of water halfway and add a generous amount of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil.
14. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add half the butter until melted. Add three sage leaves, sauté for one minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reduced pork or veal stock. Lower the heat to warm.
15. Once the water is boiling, add about 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once the pasta rises to the top cook for about one more minute. With a large slotted spoon, transfer to the sauté pan with butter sauce.

16. Bring the water back to a boil and add another 1/4 of the agnolotti. Once cooked, transfer to the same pan. Toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter.  Repeat the process with the remaining agnolotti or you can also freeze the rest in a plastic bag for up to 1 month.

17. To serve, place about 8 to 10 pieces of agnolotti on a plate. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, a couple turns of a pepper mill, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Served with a nice glass an Italian red wine.



Roasted Pork Shoulder

1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 1/2 lbs. of pork shoulder
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

1. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Then rub the pork with the smashed garlic and rosemary leaves. Let the pork rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.


2. Heat oven to 450°.

3. In a small roasting pan, add the pork. Scatter the onions, carrots, celery, and the bay leaves in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.


4. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 325°. Remove the pork out of the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Put the pork back in the oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Cool to room temperature. Transfer the meat drippings into a container with a lid. Cover the pork with foil. Place both the pork and the drippings in the refrigerator until ready to use


Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

The confections known as chocolate truffles are a delicious treat which you can find at most candy shops. The reason these confections are called truffles is, once the small round balls are coated with traditional cocoa powder, they resemble the fungus. Although they seem really fancy, they’re relatively easy to make at home. All you need is some good quality chocolate and heavy cream to make a ganache center. You can add different ingredients, like spices, liquors or extracts to vary the flavor.

Many years ago, I used to frequent a confection shop in Los Angeles where the pastry chef made amazing truffles. One of my favorites was the malted milk chocolate truffle. They were creamy and smooth with just enough malt to perfectly complement the cocoa flavor. Here is my version of the truffles using dark chocolate and Fleur de Sel, which make great gifts for the holidays. Enjoy!

Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

Yield: about 3 dozen

1 lb. of dark chocolate (52-54% cacao)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2/3 cup of barley malt syrup*
1/2 scant teaspoon of sea salt (Fleur de Sel)
1/2 cup of finely chopped roasted hazelnuts or almonds
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)

1. Chop the chocolate into 1/4″ pieces and place in a large glass bowl. Set aside.


2. Add the cream, milk, and malt syrup in a small sauce pan. Place the pan on the burner over medium-high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, immediately remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.


3. After five minutes, take a rubber spatula and slowly stir the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache). Once the ganache just comes together, add the Fleur de Sel. Stir just until the salt is incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour.



4. To prepare your truffle station, place the chopped hazelnuts in a small bowl. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and stir. Set aside.

5. Add the cocoa powder in a bowl. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.


6. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Using a truffle scoop (.5 ounce scoop), scoop the ganache and roll into a smooth ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process until you have enough to star the coating process. (If the balls soften, place the baking sheet in the freezer for five minutes once done.)



7. Roll 1/2 of the ganache balls in the cocoa powder and the other 1/2 in the chopped hazelnuts. Make sure you coat one ball at a time.


8. Place each truffle in a mini baking cup. Arrange them then in a confection box. Refrigerate until ready to gift.

*Sold at most gourmet health food stores.

Korean Dumplings

My mom may not have been the best cook in our neighborhood when I was growing up, but she had a few good recipes up her sleeve. One of those recipes is for her mandu, which are Korean dumplings. Every Korean mom on our block had her own special mandu recipe – one mom added sweet potato noodles to her dumplings, while another added bean sprouts – but I always liked my mom’s dumplings the best because they were simple but delicious. It was good home cooking.

Over time, my mom ended up making dumplings for special occasions like our birthdays and major holidays. Every Christmas morning, I remember waking up early and sitting in the kitchen with my brothers, folding dumplings, as we would race to see who can fold the most. Once everything was assembled, my mom would make fried dumplings, steamed dumplings and dumpling and rice cake soup. We were in dumpling heaven! Those are some happy food memories for me, so whenever Christmas comes around, I reminisce about those dumplings, and so I’ve put together my version of her recipe. Enjoy!

Korean Dumplings (Mandu)

Yield: About 3 dozen


7 ounces of organic soft tofu
1 cup of grated cabbage
1/3 cup of finely grated carrot
1/4 lb. of beef brisket, finely chopped (or extra-lean ground beef)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 cup of finely grated onion
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon organic sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated pepper
1 packet of round wonton skins (36 wrappers)
Vegetable oil for frying
Dipping sauce (recipe below)
1. Place the tofu in a cloth napkin or cheese cloth. Wrap tightly to create a beggar’s purse. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Remove the tofu from the napkin and place in a bowl and set aside.


2. Placed the grated cabbage in a sieve and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place over a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the cabbage as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.


3. Place the grated carrot in a small sieve and sprinkle with a smidgen of salt. Place over a bowl and let set for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.


4. In another bowl, combine the beef, sesame oil, and baking soda. Stir to combine and let it sit for 5 minutes.

5. In a large bowl, add the tofu, cabbage, carrots, beef, onion, green onion, sugar, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine. You can also use a clean hand to mix all the ingredients.



6. Get your wonton skins and a small bowl of water. Take one of the wonton skins and place a heaping teaspoon of the dumpling mixture onto the skin. Dab some water around the edges and fold over to make a half-moon. Press tightly to seal (if you want to get fancy, you can create pleats). Place the dumpling on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Keep the rest of the wonton skins covered with a towel to prevent them from drying.


7. Repeat the process until all the filling is gone.


8. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium. Once the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Place about 1/3 of the dumplings in the pan. Cook on one side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.


9. Flip the dumplings over and cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to low, add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Cook for about 5-10 until all the water has evaporated. (You are essentially steaming the dumplings to cook the filling.)


10. Remove the dumplings and transfer them to a plate. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce

1/8 cup organic soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of coarse Korean red pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, minced

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with the dumplings.

Ground Chicken with Thai Basil

I am a huge fan of anything spicy, but one of my favorite spicy cuisines is Thai food. I love the beautiful colors, layers of textures, and fragrant ingredients. Aromatic ingredients like curry, lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce all lead to a wonderful balance of flavors in their dishes. Every bite of Thai food is an explosion of salty, sweet, spicy, sour and umami flavors. It’s the kind of food I crave I want something bold and spicy!

I first learned how to cook Thai food from a Thai chef when I was in college. She was staying in Los Angeles on a temporary worker visa. I met her on a Mammoth ski trip, but instead of bringing ski clothes, she brought a large cooler full of Thai ingredients! There were sauces, spices, herbs, produce, protein, and homemade stock. She taught me how to make five different dishes that weekend, and everything she made was absolutely delicious. I was so excited during my cooking lessons, I didn’t even take notes! But amazingly all her instructions sank right into my brain and got stored in my long term memory (though I eventually transferred the recipes to paper).

Here is one of the five recipes she shared with me, which is known as Pad Kra Pao Kai in Thai restaurants. It is made with ground chicken and Thai basil and is easy to prepare, but it does require a few ingredients from the Asian market. Her recipe calls for 3-5 chilies, but only I added one in this recipe so my kids won’t burn their tongue. You if like it extra spicy you can add a couple more. Enjoy!

Ground Chicken with Thai Basil

Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 heaping tablespoons of chopped garlic (about 5 cloves)
12 ounces of organic ground chicken
1 Thai Bird’s Eye Chili, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/2 cup of bamboo shoots, sliced in strips (fresh or canned)*
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (Three Crabs or Red Boat brand)
2-3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of organic sugar
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1/2 cup of chicken stock, cold
1 teaspoon of organic corn starch (Rapunzel brand)
1 1/2 cups of Thai basil leaves

image1. Heat a wok on high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, sauté for 10 seconds. Then add the ground chicken all at once. Cook for about three minutes.


2. Add the Thai chili (if using) and red bell peppers and cook for 1 more minute.


3. Add the bamboo shoots and stir fry for 1 more minute.


4. Add the fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and the sweet paprika. Stir to combine. Taste to see if you need the additional tablespoon of oyster sauce.


5. Add the cornstarch to the chicken stock and stir to create a slurry. Add the mixture to the chicken and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.

6. Stir in the Thai basil.


7. Remove from heat. Serve with rice and one egg, sunny side up.

*Sometimes you can find the fresh bamboo shoots in the produce section. The canned version comes sliced in strips. If you’re using the one from the can, make sure you blanch the bamboo shoots. Boil in water for one minute then shock in ice water. Drain and set aside until ready to use.