Sunday, November 20, 2011

Heirloom Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

This past week I made a Squash Puree from one of the heirlooms we had harvested, Marina di Chioggia, and posted the recipe here . I froze all but 3 cups in order to make ravioli. Two days ago I made the pasta dough (refrigerated), one batch with durum semolina and a second with regular unbleached flour. My intention was to only make the former, but due to its coarseness, I opted to do the other batch, just in case. After all, the food processor was already out and surely with this amount of squash more dough would be required. So I made the first batch of ravioli using the dough with unbleached flour.

Today I decided to make the second batch of ravioli using the durum semolina dough. A thought and then discussion with my husband was wouldn't it be nice to have a pasta attachment for our mixer, and so we began calling/searching to see who might have one locally. None to be found, and that is a good thing because once we saw the cost, my rolling pin was adequate. Besides, I suddenly realized I had a pasta roller, and he was just in the next room. Note: What fun we had making ravioli today.

I found the following recipe from Scala's Bistro in San Francisco, CA, for Butternut Squash Ravioli, but made modifications this evening and may make further ones the next time. For us the zest from one orange was overwhelming even though I used 3 cups of puree. We wanted to enjoy more of the squash.

Marina di Chioggia Squash Ravioli from Diana's kitchen

Ravioli Filling:

3 cups of Marina di Chioggia Squash puree
2 cup Ricotta Cheese
2 teaspoons orange zest
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Nutmeg, freshly grated and to taste

Mix all the above ingredients and set aside. Note: This amount of filling required doubling the pasta dough recipe below. The total yielded 8 dozen ravioli.

Fresh Pasta Dough
(makes 4 dozen ravioli)

3 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
2 TB water
1 TB extra virgin olive oil

Combine the flour and salt in your food processor and pulse several times to combine. Whisk the eggs, water and oil together, and while pulsing the machine, pour in the liquid in a steady stream. Continue to run until the dough pulls away from the side. Remove, roll into a ball and knead for a few minutes. If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of water and continue to knead, or if too wet, add a touch more flour. Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and set aside and allow it to rest for about an hour. (In our case I refrigerated overnight and then allowed it to warm back to room temperature to make the ravioli.)

Egg Wash

1 egg, slightly beaten
few drops of water

Sage Brown Butter Sauce

10 fresh sage leaves, sliced thinly
3 TB butter

Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Making the dough and rolling it out was rather straight forward, and having recently purchased an inexpensive mold (under $20) proved beneficial. We have always made ravioli the old fashioned way: cut each one out by hand using a small water or juice glass dipped in a bit of flour_ then crimped by hand. Oh, the wonders of technology.

Divide the ball of dough into fourths. Take one-fourth and roll out into a large rectangular sheet, one that is double the size of the mold and with some overlap. Spray the metal part of the mold with olive oil. Cut the sheet in half and place it loosely onto the mold. Insert the plastic mold to make the indentations. Brush the egg wash atop the dough. With a teaspoon, fill the pockets with the squash filling. Place the other half of the sheet on top, press down to allow any air pockets to escape. With your rolling pin, press against the entire mold so as to seal the edges.

Pull away any excess dough, turn the mold upside down and gently release each ravioli and transfer each to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Note: since I freeze most of them, pop the cookie sheet into the freezer. When the ravioli are frozen, place them in your freezer bags and label for later use.

Sage Butter: In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and add the thin strips of sage. Cook over medium heat until the butter begins to brown.

Ravioli: Cook the ravioli in batches in boiling salted water for 4-6 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the ravioli. (ours were rolled out fairly thin)

Remove from the water, drain and place them in the sage butter and saute until slightly browned. Remove to a platter, and pour any remaining sage butter sauce over the ravioli. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and enjoy.

Note: We used the durum semolina dough to make the ravioli tonight, and it rolled out beautifully. It is a much courser dough, but those strong arms next to me had no difficulty.

We pulled a few of the first batch from the freezer that were made with the unbleached flour in order to do a taste test, unbleached vs durum semolina. Hands down, we preferred the latter. In our estimation, there is a marked difference in flavor.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stack with Balsamic Reduction

Pictured below are the various eggplant we grew this year and about which I wrote here: Long Purple, Ichiban, the Italian_ Melanzana 'Violetta lunga', and this lovely heirloom Solanum melongena 'Rosa Bianco'.

Rosa Bianco
came on so slowly that we feared we would have very few, and that we did, but enough so that we thoroughly enjoyed them. Once they began to produce later in the season, this variety made for the best grilled eggplant. This past week we picked the last of them from the hoop house.

Solanum melongena 'Rosa Bianco'

Fortunately we still have some tomatoes that were picked several weeks ago and have been ripening in the pantry (each individually wrapped with a piece of newspaper). We now have what is a simple-to-prepare and favorite dish.

Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stack with Balsamic from Diana's kitchen

Heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced (3/4 of an inch)
Rosa Bianco Eggplant, unpeeled and thickly sliced
1 egg, slightly beaten
Panko or bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh mozzarella, sliced
fresh basil, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic reduction (see below)

Heat oven to 450F.

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle each with kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper; set aside on a platter. Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg, then into the panko; sprinkle with salt and pepper and transfer to frying pan with just a little bit of olive oil, and saute until golden brown, several minutes on each side. Remove and transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a fork, check following the first 5 minutes; these were best when the slices maintained just a bit of firmness.

Assemble: grilled eggplant, slice of mozzarella, basil strips, a tomato, basil, mozzarella, and top with another grilled eggplant. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Note: Several of the long eggplants were tried on separate occasions, but our favorite was this one. I can still taste it... like a big thick portobello mushroom.

Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Place the vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan. Heat on medium-high until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vinegar becomes a syrupy consistency. Set aside to cool.

It will become slightly thicker when cool; if it is too thick, I add a touch more balsamic; if it is too thin, put it back on the stove for further reduction. 1/2 cup of vinegar should yield slightly over 1/4 cup. I keep it stored at room temperature.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marina di Chioggia Squash Puree and Gnocchi

It has been an exciting year watching the beautiful heirloom squash grow. Our intention was to have these age for several months, but after having to take one of the three Cucurbita maxima Galeux d'Eysines (top left) to the mulch pile, Marina di Chioggia (top right) was not going to face the same destination. Fruit flies circling had my attention and as a portion of the stem was beginning to soften, it was time.

The deep dark green of the newly harvested squash quickly began to fade over the last month toward a softer blue-gray tone. Interesting turban-shaped bottom, don't you think?

The outer shell is quite hard, so a very sharp knife is needed. Carefully cut the squash into sections, remove the seeds (set aside... see below) and scrape away the filament. Line cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper, and place the squash cut side up.

Heirloom Squash Puree
from Diana's kitchen

extra virgin olive oil
8.5 pounds roasted Marina di Chioggia squash
4 TB softened butter
1 TB raw unfiltered honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 TB heavy cream

Brush the flesh with extra virgin olive oil. Roast the squash 45 to 90 minutes at 375°F (190.6°C) or until the squash is fork tender. It depends upon the size and variety as to the length of cooking. Roasting this one took all of 90 minutes. This 24 pounder filled the entire oven.

Once the roasting is complete, allow to cool slightly, then scoop the flesh out and into a large bowl. Add all the ingredients, combine and puree in food processor in increments. The 24 pound Marina di Chioggia yielded slightly over one-third or 8.5 pounds of puree. I must say that we could eat it just like this. The flavor is so fresh and gently sweet, almost seductive.

What will I do with the puree? Squash ravioli is at the top of my list, followed by a bit more soup per dear husband's request, will freeze some and perhaps I will try my hand at some gnocchi.

Note: All the seeds were soaked in water for about 15 minutes, washed and dried. Half are still drying for next season's garden and for anyone who would like to try their hand at them. Robin, Thomas... ?

The other half was roasted in the oven: toss with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt, sprinkle of cumin and bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce  from Diana’s kitchen

1 egg
1 cup Galeux d'Eysines (Butternut or any other favorite) squash puree
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
zest from 1 small lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
10-12 sage leaves, thinly sliced

Transfer the puree to a fine sieve, set over a bowl and let drain for about an hour.

Slightly beat the egg in a large bowl; add the puree, ricotta, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest and cheese. (Be careful to not get the white of the lemon, only the outer zest.) Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the semolina and stir until a soft dough forms. Do not overwork the dough.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Lightly dust a work surface with semolina and roll each piece of dough into a 1-inch-thick dowel. Cut the dowels into 1 inch pieces. You can press the gnocchi lightly against the tines of a fork to make a ridged pattern or role them upward on a grater for small indentations.

Freezing: line a baking sheet with waxed paper and arrange the gnocchi in a single layer. Once they are frozen, remove each one and place them in freezer bags for cooking at another time.

Refrigerate those you will be cooking for several hours. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Sage Brown Butter Sauce

In a large skillet, melt the butter, add the sage and cook over moderate heat until the sage becomes crisp and the butter begins to brown.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until they float to the surface_ about 4 minutes. Drain the gnocchi in a colander and immediately transfer them to the skillet with the sage butter until lightly browned. 

Full Beaver Moon

The fog rolled in and moved about
we prep for winter, no doubt.

10 November Full Beaver Moon

If you have an opportunity, visit SkyWatch for skies from around the world.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Green Tomato Salsa

Yesterday we awoke to our first frost of the year, and due to that forecast, all the green tomatoes were picked the prior day.

Last year I posted the following recipe for Green Tomato Salsa, but yesterday made a slight modification while making the salsa. Since we only planted Hot Hungarian Wax peppers this year, 8 of those were substituted for the 4 jalapeño and I increased the cilantro a bit.

Canned Green Tomato Salsa from Diana's kitchen

3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil
11 lbs green tomatoes, chopped
3 extra large sweet onions, chopped
3 sweet red peppers, chopped
3 sweet green peppers, chopped
8 Hot Hungarian wax peppers, seeds removed, finely chopped (+/- according to personal taste)
8 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 TB sea salt
1/2 TB black pepper
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 tsp Cumin
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 TB raw honey

Add olive oil to an extra large kettle and heat on medium. Add tomatoes, onions, peppers and stir. Add and combine the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well, heat slowly to simmer, and cook uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Stir frequently and be careful so as not to burn the mixture.

Ladle the hot simmering salsa into hot sterilized pint jars (or quarts), and fill to within 1/2 inch from top. Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth. Place sterilized flat lid on the jar and adjust the ring. Place in a boiling water bath; water should cover the lids by about an inch. Bring the water back to boiling and process for 15-20 minutes.

When complete, carefully remove each jar from canner with a jar lifter and place onto a thick towel or mat and in a draft free area. Gently lay a hand towel over the top of the jars, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Do not touch the lids, but allow them to seal over a period of hours (overnight). In the morning check seals, label, date and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Makes 14 pints. PS: if any happen to not seal, put it in the refrigerator, buy some chips and enjoy!

Important Note: If you are just starting out, first read about the basics of home canning. Here is a place to begin, a simple overview, and from the Culinary Arts College, a list of 50 websites for learning self-canning. One of the first things I learned to can as a youngster was how to process tomatoes, a good place to start because of the high acidity. Tools were few, and an inexpensive water bath canner was used.

By the way, we love the salsa, as do our family and friends who have received it as a gift. They say it's the best they have eaten. (wink) I'm not sure it's the best, but that comment will get them more. Don't forget, if you like it with even more heat, simply add a little cayenne and that will kick it up a notch.