Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweet Pea and Ricotta Tortellini Won-ton Style

It's spring here in Northern Virginia and we enjoy that our Meatless Monday dinners reflect the changing of the seasons. Later this summer we'll start using freshly picked vegetables from our garden and local farm stands more and more. One of the rites of passage each spring is the arrival of fresh peas and when we saw them in the store, Cyn decided to feature them in our dinner. That lead to her making Sweet Pea Tortellini -- Wonton Style.

But before we go there, I need to give you the background on our first course -- parsley root soup. Yes, there is background, bear with me a bit.

Six or seven years ago we had the pleasure of eating an amazing meal in Philadelphia at Studio Kitchen. At the time, Chef Shola Olunloyo was offering a private dining experience for 10 people 4 nights per week in a converted townhouse in the Powelton Village section of Philly, not far from the historic Philadelphia Zoo. The first course that evening was a parsley root soup and, after talking about it on and off since then, Cyn decided to try to recreate it. Here is her version....

Ingredients (the soup) - enough for 2 first course portions
  • 2 tbsp shallots
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 bunch parsley root - about a pound or so, tops removed and root peeled and cut into rounds (you could alternately scrub the roots well and forgo the peeling -- adds more flavor)

Preparation (the soup)
  • Melt butter in 2 qt saucepan and saute shallots until translucent.  (You could, as I inadvertently did, allow them to brown while you clean up the mess that was made when the cornstarch tried to commit suicide by diving from the third shelf in the pantry.)
  • Add parsley root and enough water to cover.  Bring to simmer and cook until a fork inserted into root comes out easily - very tender.
  • Add cooked root to VitaMix/blender/food processor/tamis-- your choice of pulverizer --- and blitz until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish (the soup)
Shola's garnish and presentation was pretty awe inspiring to a cook -- the underbowl had a touch of lemon oil in it and hot water was poured in to release the lemon 'air' as you enjoyed the soup.  I don't have that kind of time or patience, or dishwashing staff, so I settled on a 'home' presentation.  I also didn't want to get too lemony and pull a Pledge moment.  Shola got it just right.  I could go right to a cleaning moment.
  • Melted scallions (pan on low heat, scallions, little water, some butter, cook low and slow), a lemon oil (Shola used Sicilian Lemon Oil, I used lemon zest steeped in EVOO with a little Boyajian backup), and chopped roasted and salted pistachios, the last a deviation from the pecans in the original.
  • Soup first, scallions, lemon oil drizzle and then pistachios.  Truly wonderful.  Eat more parsley root.

Onto to the tortellini.

  • 1 tbsp butter, unsalted, preferably the best you can afford, je t'aime Plugra
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped (couple tbsp)
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 1/2 cup baby peas
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ricotta
  • 1/4 c each romano and parmigiano
  • 2 tsp chopped tarragon
  • couple of grates of nutmeg
  • s/p to taste
  • package of pre-made Wonton Wrappers
  • egg wash (yolk with a couple tsps water)


  • Melt butter in small saute pan, cook shallots until translucent.  Add wine and reduce to about 2 tbsp.  Add peas and cook for 2 minutes, tops.  Peas should be bright green and just warmed through.  If you're going to cheat and use frozen peas (not that there's anything wrong with that), defrost first.  Remove from heat, dump on plate and allow to cool completely.
  • While you wait, in mixing bowl combine ricotta, romano, parm, tarragon, nutmeg and s/p.  Taste it.  Adjust seasoning.  Gently mix in peas.  Taste again.  Adjust seasoning.
  • Put a big pot of water on to boil.  Salt as you would for pasta.
  • Now for the fun, making tortellinis from wonton wrappers.  On a clean dish towel, layout four wrappers, leaving the rest in the package (they dry out easily).  
  • Brush entire wonton lightly with egg wash, making sure edges are covered well (I'm too busy to play with just the edges, it goes faster when you just brush the entire wrapper). 
  • Place a teaspoon of the pea filling in the center of each.  Fold over into a triangle, pressing out air from the center out as you close it up.  Be sure edges meet well and seal tight.  An extra pinch won't hurt here.
  • Place a little dab of egg wash on the two 'wings' of your triangle, one on the top side, the other on the opposite bottom side.
  • On the long side of your triangle, push it in a little. Then take your wings and press them together.  We realized this would be difficult to describe, no Pulitzer in the family,  So we made a little video of this which you can find here:

    • Once the first four are done, transfer to a clean dish towel on a sheet tray and continue until all filling is gone or you've reached your fussy work limit.  (You'll note I served a soup first so the number of tortellini I had to painstakingly fold was limited.  Although it does go fast once you've got the hang of it.)  
    • Keep completed tortellini covered with another dish towel until you're ready to cook.  (You could freeze them at this point as well)  Couple of minutes in boiling water does the trick -- be sure to stir these as they do have a tendency to stick.

    Preparation (the sauce)

    You could go for a straight dip in the butter pool, a beurre blanc would be lovely, or pump up the pea and use a puree of that as a sauce.  Carrot puree would be divine as well and the parsley root soup would be an ab-fab sauce.  I wanted to boost the tarragon flavor so I created a Pernod Cream Sauce.
    • One medium shallot, finely minced and sauteed in a tbsp or so of butter (are you getting the shallot love yet?). 
    •  Add 1/4 cup Pernod and reduce by half. 
    • Add 1 cup vegetable stock or water, reduce by half again.  
    • Over low heat, whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream and a fat tbsp of chopped chives.  
    • Season to taste.  Easy peasy!

    On a warm plate, place a small amount of sauce.  Typically I would finish the tortellini in the sauce, allowing the pasta to soak up a little more flavor.  These are delicate and must go right to the plate.  Top with a little more of the sauce, a quick saute of snow peas cut on the bias, a sprinkle of parm or romano, and a little chive or green onion is a nice touch.  Chive blossoms top this dish.  Bon appetit ya'll!


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