The theme for our most recent “cooking with friends” get-together was Italian food and our hosts were the owners of La Petite Pepiniere in Caunes Minervois.
For our menu the following had been decided:
- Pimientos stuffed with anchovies and capers
- Fennel, cucumber and radish salad
- Mushroom ravioli with a white wine, spinach and tarragon cream sauce
- Veal osso buco
- Italian almond cheesecake
The recipe for the pimientos came from Italian Food by Elizabeth David. As with many of her recipes the instructions leave some room for interpretation. 🙂 The peppers are grilled and peeled, and left to marinate in olive oil with a very little lemon juice. After they have marinated for about half an hour they are cut into strips lengthwise. On each strip is put a chopped anchovy fillet and some chopped capers. Each pepper strip is then rolled up to form a sausage shape.
When the peppers were all done that way, they were arranged on a platter and garnished with some chopped parsley.
The next course was a very refreshing salad made with fennel, cucumber and radishes, all thinly sliced and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
No self-respecting Italian meal would be complete without its pasta course. Our pasta course consisted of mushroom ravioli, with a white wine and tarragon cream sauce. Below are the ingredients we used (note, we didn’t use the chicken breast specified in the recipe):
First the pasta dough was made, as that needed to rest for a good half hour before being rolled out. While the dough was resting, the filling was cooked: the onions were finely chopped (in the food processor) and slowly cooked with some olive oil, garlic and thyme. The finely chopped mushrooms (again done in the food processor) were added, and the whole cooked until the mushrooms were tender and had “dried out” somewhat.
Next came the fun part – rolling out the pasta dough!! With he help of a pasta machine it was easy and great fun! We ended up with three long strips.
We deviated from the recipe in that we put the filling all down one side of each sheet and then folded it over to make our ravioli – doing it that way worked very well for us!
Here are the finished ravioli, before being cooked:
The spinach was supposed to be cooked separately and the ravioli served arranged on top of it, but we decided to give the spinach a miss. The sauce was simple to prepare: onions and shallots were cooked over gentle heat until golden, white wine was added and cooked a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then the cream and tarragon were added and heated through. Very delicious!!
For our main course our hosts had choosen Osso Bucco Milanese – stewed shin of veal. Since this is a dish which requires long and slow simmering, it was already cooking when we arrived. The recipe again came from Elizabeth David’s Italian Food.
To round off this meal, we baked an Italian almond cheesecake:
It was one of the first dishes we prepared that afternoon, as it required a fair amount of cooking and cooling time. Here’s what it looked like fresh from the oven:
Once all our dishes were pretty much finished we had a little break. I took the opportunity to wander about the beautiful show garden at La Petite Pepiniere, and took a few pictures for you. The flowers are all different varieties of cistus, a native plant to the Languedoc region.
Soon it was time to sit down to our feast:
And what a feast it was!! A big thank you to our hosts for choosing such wonderful dishes!