Gourmet eats for under $20
By TODD RICHARD  |  May 17, 2006

This week my twenty-spot has a lot of work to do. I need something delicious and interesting enough to help my friends and me forget about our miserable losses and subsequent hangovers from the Phoenix Best Music Poll award show the night before. A formidable challenge, indeed.

With the persistent rain dampening my sense of adventure and spirits, I consolidate my shopping in the best guaranteed all-you-need-in-one-place market, the Rosemount Bakery on Brighton Avenue. My appointed shopping supervisor enthusiastically reports prices of wines from across the store as I stand, motionless and transfixed, at the cheese counter. The curved glass case is better than any TV, and the cheese is certainly more compelling than recent programming. The revelation comes when, while tasting cheeses, my companion mentions pasta. There are little humbly packaged bundles of fresh pastas, delivered from Cinque Terre, the wonderful Italian restaurant in the Old Port. In front of the ravioli are pasta sheets, for things like lasagna, at $2.69 for a package of three 13”x9” sheets. We’re making ravioli. Added to the cart are a cluster of perfect greenhouse cherry tomatoes, a shallot, a bundle of fresh sage, and an artichoke as big as a baby’s head. The winning cheese, after the lengthy deliberation, is Mahon, a delicious raw (unpasteurized) cow’s milk cheese from Spain. To accompany our ravioli, there's the Piemonte, a light white wine I’ve enjoyed before that seems to have a creaminess to it, with some ripe fruit notes, and at $7.99, it’s pretty hard to beat. As we’re checking out at the register, I gaze over at the shelves of fresh breads and pastries made fresh there. I feel a serious pang of guilt having to pass them up because, by the looks of it, I’m close to maxing out my twenty spot.

We head home and set the saucepan, with about an inch of water, on the Magic Chef range. This is where the gargantuan artichoke is going to take its final bath, with the last bit of a stick of butter and the somewhat unusable end of a lemon. They are thrown in the water, which is starting to simmer. To prepare the ’choke for its swan song, trim off the stem and the top half-inch. It will be at least 25 minutes before that big boy is done. While he is doing his thing, I begin the filling for the ravioli, shredding my entire quarter-pound chunk of the Mahon, chopping a handful of sage, half of the shallot, and a beaten egg. Add some salt and pepper, and this is good for now.

After enjoying the artichoke and a glass of the Piemonte, I chop its heart and add it to my filling. Unrolling a pasta sheet on to a cutting board, we spoon the filling on to the sheet in eight evenly spaced piles. We place another sheet on top, and slice it into eight even squares using a pizza cutter. My lovely assistant takes the job of crimping the edges of these beautiful little pasta pillows with a fork, dipping the tines in the artichoke broth as she goes. We repeat this with the last pasta sheet, cutting it in half to give us four more ravioli. Pulling the lemon parts from the broth, we add some more water, bring it to a boil, and begin cooking the ravioli, three at a time. As they boil, I put a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick sauté pan, and get the oil to sizzling. I toss in the remainder of the chopped shallot and the halved cherry tomatoes, mixing them in the pan so it is coated in oil, and immediately turn off the heat. Ripe tomatoes only need to be warmed, hit with a little kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and they are good to go.

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