My Little Victory Garden: Entry Seven…Miles from Downtown Tryon

Sunday night I’m standing over the sink washing my “first fruits” of the Black Seeded Simpson heirloom lettuce from my garden.  I’m probably drooling because there is just nothing quite as tender and mild as a first bite of the first cut from garden greens.  I rinse the leaves, put them in a big bowl, cover them with cold water, and began dreaming about my first salad.  I already have my Cordero Farms Sweet Italian sausage browning on the stove and my mission tonight is a beautiful ravioli dinner.

Here’s the story of how I made the dinner, how I visited Cordero Farms and loved on some lambs, and how I enjoyed a few moments with new friends of the RDC:

Two course dinner

When I make something like “first fruits” salad and homemade ravioli, I don’t mess with extras.  Sometimes, food is just too good to get distracted from by having extra vegetables or dessert.  Such was the case tonight.  First up – prepping the simple salad…

I cut enough lettuce to fill a gallon sized bag, grabbed a green onion, and clipped about 1 c. of spinach leaves. New lettuce is soft and delicate, and the flavors are extremely gentle. By the third or fourth cuts, a bitterness sets in and it's time to plant new seeds.


Once cleaned, I always take my greens through a salad spinner ride. The less moisture, the more shelf life.


Ah, nicely bagged with a paper towel tucked inside to wick the moisture, my refrigerator is now happier because it's chilling fresh lettuce and not something shipped from a far away land.

Next?  It’s all about the ravioli now!  I love making homemade pasta.  I have a regifted pasta maker, and use it several times each year.  My brother bought it for my parents, but they didn’t use it much, so then they gave it to me…I cheered…and I use it.  I attended a cooking class once in Dallas and they taught me how to make pasta.  “How easy!” I kept thinking once I actually walked through the process.  And also, it’s fun.  Making pasta is kind of like playing a grown-up play-dough game.  Here’s the recipe I used tonight, and here’s the process:

A good pasta recipe (in my opinion) will always include olive oil. The dough is easier to handle. Flour, oil, salt and eggs...that's it. Mix, then knead for several minutes until your ball of dough resembles bread dough without all the tiny bubbles, and about 1/2 the amount of elasticity.
While the dough is chilling in the refrigerator, it's time to mix the filling. Here's where things get personal. Ravioli filling can get as creative as the person's brain who is making it. TONIGHT we're having Italian sausage ravioli, procurred - literally - straight from the farm. I'll tell you about that trip in just a bit.
By the way, I love this sack. I didn't notice it until I was taking out my two little lamb sausage packages. OK-Grown!


I spread the sausage out in a pan like one big hamburger patty, then browned it until it was cooked through.
Next I mixed my filling. I mentioned filling is "personal" so you can pretty much customize however you'd like your flavorful center to present. Tonight, I'm in the mood for something hearty, so I'm including protein. I've already diced 1/2 the cooked sausage and tasted it. The producers mentioned that "sausage is the gateway drug to getting hooked on lamb." Very prophetic, they were! Lamb is less greasy, and I didn't notice any 'gamey' flavors at all. For my filling tonight I mixed 1 c. ricotta cheese, 1/2 pound browned lamb sausage, about 1 T. minced garlic, 8 large basil leaves (julienned), 1 green onion, two eggs and two slices of dried toast bread crumbs. I wasn't happy with the whey level in my ricotta cheese so I added bread crumbs as an extra binder.
I wish you could smell this beautifully fresh, herby mixture of precious ingredients. I may start snorting the gateway drug soon - eek!
After staging the filling in the refrigerator, I turned toward my sauce decision. I decided to go for a traditional tomato-base sauce with this ravioli, although I was really tempted to go overboard on calories and use a cream base. Until the tomatoes start making, I resorted to one can of prepared tomato sauce. I added: 1.5 T fresh grated Parmesan, ground black pepper, more basil and oregano, and...garlic powder! (I used this because the sauce is a little runny). This will need to simmer for at least 15 minutes in order for the flavors to combine.
Now all I have to do is build. I took my chilled pasta out of the refrigerator and divided it into thirds. The trick to making ravioli (without a ravioli attachment or a crimping tool) is to get your dough as perfect as possible, then let the creation begin. Crank your setting to the thickest (mine is #7), and run the dough through once. Then fold it over long-ways, and run it through a 6, then 5, then 4 setting, keeping your dough in a long, skinny shape. Finally, a 3 setting is thin enough. Try to guide the dough so it's the right width for the tool you choose. I found a little shot glass that was about 2" across. Perfect for cutting raviolis.
This is only 1/3rd of my dough, but will make about 12-18 raviolis.


After I cut circles with my shot glass, I filled it with water. This photo is very blurry, but some of the secrets to building raviolis with strength are here. Fill the center with enough mixture to be substantial, but not to squish through your sealing area around the edges. Take the top, dip your finger in water, and run it around the outside edge of your "lid." This acts as a glue to the base. Lay the top over the filling, tuck around the sides (as you would a sheet on a bed) and press the edges together. Then crimp them with tines on a fork.
Argh - I don't have Rylee's camera with me right now, and my macro setting is auto-focusing on something weird? However, I think you can get the picture. Here's what a nice, tightly packed and crimped ravioli should look like. Some people like larger, flatter shapes. Just go with your own style!
I dust my plates with a bit of flour, then cover them and stage them in the cooler to air dry for a bit. You can cook them fresh, or let them air dry in the fridge overnight. It's up to you. After that, freeze them or use them - there's egg in tharrr!

Now, you’ve built the sauce, the raviolis, and your salad is clean and ready to go.  Making a meal is fast and easy from this point forward.  Because this lettuce is so tender and good, I decided to go with a simple vinaigrette dressing: 2 T. olive oil, just under 1 T. raspberry vinegar (I got this one from New Mexico – the raspberry is a delicate finish, not the first thing you taste), salt and pepper.  Just mix this up with a fork.  I love vinegars and am trying to build up my collection.   Any suggestions? I have balsamic, champagne, raspberry, white, cider, malt and sherry.  I want to branch out a bit!

Okay, you'll only need to boil your raviolis for about 2-3 minutes. When they float, they're done. Here's my meal. I'm hungry!
Here is my meal about 1.5 minutes later.
Two minutes later it's gone. While I'm taking this photo, I'm licking my fingers. Then wiping the plate, then licking my fingers, then wiping the plate again...

Okay, would I make this meal again?  Yes.  In a heartbeat.  All of it.  And I wouldn’t change my filling at all.  I’m a sucker for crab filling, multi-cheese filling, and now – of course – Sweet Italian lamb sausage filling!  So, let’s talk a little bit about Cordero Farms, shall we?

I mentioned in my plastic bag rant that I took a road trip to Tryon last Wednesday evening.  I’m so glad I did because I got to meet the co-owners of a beautiful little lamb raising establishment and have a good visit as well.  To get to their location, you go east of town, then south, then jog a bit, then south some more, then east again.  All told, it’s about seven miles from the downtown intersection of Tryon.  I say “about” because I really don’t know – I didn’t count.  But I think that’s close.

When I pulled up into the driveway, I got greeted by three Maremmas (Italian sheep-herding dogs). Their white fur is soft to the touch, and they ooze “gentle giant” demeanor.  After hanging out with Nancy and Sue for a bit while drinking some of their lovely tea, Nancy proceeded to help me learn about how those I grew up with in Tuttle were connected by family history.  It’s fun hearing someone with the same roots as yourself describe a different perspective, naming different families, with the same geographic connection.   I think I understand a little more about whose family belongs to whom, and how.  Fun farming family facts are always an extra treat for conversation.

Then we headed down to see the new baby lambs, and their mommas.  Here are a few photos from that particular part of our visit:

Here's "Flo," a fourth Maremma. I took a shot of her lovely face while patting her belly.

Here's a photo Sue shared with me of Nancy and little one day old twins.


And here is a photo of me holding one of the twins. Flo is making sure I'm holding it correctly. Nancy taught me how to rub their cheeks...that's a "feel good" lamb thing to do! Thanks, Sue, for this photo as well.

I loved standing out in the pasture on a cool day, listening to the little bleating of the babies looking for their mommas.  I learned about various challenges to raising lambs, how they got their Maremmas, and about the fact that you can make cheese from lamb milk.  I had no idea.  In fact, I feel like I was in Sheep School for a while.  It’s amazing to visit special places like this because each and every establishment is unique.  But also, similar in many ways.  Nancy and Sue are warm, sharp, highly intellectual producers who are contributing a great deal to our state by what they do.

And also…they make dynamite lamb sausage.

And an extra also…just for you two (Nancy and Sue)…I joined the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  Until now, I’ve ordered a few groceries to be delivered to my daughter’s drop in Norman.  And, I’m a farmer’s market frequenter.  However, I want to contribute to the establishment of a locally raised or grown food service delivery system, and I can best do that right now by becoming a member.

Are YOU a member yet?  Visit here to join…and, to order lamb sausage!

Next time, we’re going to go visit the Urban Agrarian and see what can happen on Sundays in case you miss the market on Saturdays.


My Little Victory Garden: Entry Six..O’Clock Dinner Secrets / My Little Victory Garden: Entry 8



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