Friday, September 30, 2011
The very first thing I think of when I hear the world is fall is pumpkin. It embodies so much of what I love about this season. The seasonal foods, the hint of cinnamon & nutmeg, jack-o-lanterns... Besides colorful crunchy leaves, what says fall is here more than pumpkins?
Lately, I have been on a real pumpkin kick. Maybe it is because I am so excited for the fall (if you haven't guess it yet, fall is my favorite season!). Maybe it is because I have been having hormone-induced cravings for the orange fleshy stuff (Yes, pumpkin IS a pregnancy super food! BabyMed- Pumpkin During Pregnancy ). And yesterday evening I embarked on an adventure to make homemade pumpkin ravioli.
Yes, I did venture to make my ravioli dough from scratch. I found an easy and fantastic recipe for the dough from the Food Network's Tyler Florence here- Tyler Florence's Ravioli Dough Recipe , but I am going to suggest that you do not go this route unless you already own a pasta machine. I do not own one and try as I may, I was not able to roll out my pasta dough thin enough using a rolling pin. But it is a great upper body and arm workout! ;) Until I own a pasta machine (which my husband now knows is on my Christmas wishlist this year), I will stick with the wonton wrappers you can find in your grocery store's frozen food section.
If you do own a pasta machine or if you just have incredible upper body strength & feel you can dominate the dough to the right thickness, you should start your dough first. The recipe above calls for the dough to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before you begin rolling it out. If you are opting for the wonton wrappers, make sure you thaw them out in the fridge or on the kitchen counter before using them.
While your pasta dough is in the fridge, you can go ahead and make the pumpkin ricotta filling for the ravioli. I kept the filling very simple since we will be topping the ravioli with a rich and flavorful sauce at the end. To make the filling, scoop about 1 cup of canned pumpkin into a small mixing bowl. Add 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese, and mix together. Next add 1 egg and beat into the pumpkin/ricotta mixture until well incorporated. To season the filling, just add a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix well and set aside.
Now prepare your ravioli dough (using the instructions in Tyler's recipe) or take out your wonton wrappers. No matter which you are using make sure to brush the edges of the ravioli squares with an egg wash (just beat an egg with a little bit of water). The egg wash will make the edges stick better and keep your pumpkin filling from spilling out. I would also suggest at this point you start a pot of salted water to boil. Drop a little less than a tbsp of the pumpkin ricotta filling into each ravioli, but make sure not to overfill. Fold over your wrap or dough, seal the pocket of filling with your fingers, and cut the edges of each ravioli. You can easily do this with a pizza cutter. But if you want to be fancy, you can pick up a pasta dough cutter with the crimped edges like the one I have pictured below. ;) Set aside your assembled ravioli.
At this point, your water should almost be at a boil. While you are waiting, go ahead and start the Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut sauce. You will start by heating about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Finely chop 1 small shallot and add to the pan once the oil is heated. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of flour to the shallot and cook for another minute. The flour will work to thicken the sauce and cooking it first will make sure there isn't a raw flour taste to your sauce. Pour 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream into the pan with the shallot and the flour and whisk often. Once the cream is heated through, add about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and continue to whisk until well mixed and creamy. Your water is probably boiling now. Add your first round of ravioli to the pot. Do not overcrowd them. Your ravioli are done when they float to the surface. Now, let's finish the cream sauce. :) Continue whisking and add 1 tsp of dried tarragon, a few dashes of cinnamon, and a few sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg. Whisk in 1 tbsp of sugar. By now your sauce should really be thickening up. If it is too thick for your taste, just whisk in a little water to thin it out a bit. Throw in about a 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Never forget to taste your sauces! To finish the sauce, add 1 tbsp of butter and whisk until melted and well incorporated.
Drain your ravioli. Plate 4-5 ravioli and cover with the your Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut Sauce. Enjoy and say hello to fall!
P.S. The Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut sauce is so good that I also suggest just making it and serving it over prepared, store bought cheese ravioli or over a spinach fettuccine. :)
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Fall is just around the corner. College football season is already upon on us. And here is a fresh new twist on a cooler weather, game day favorite- an Italian Chili. The addition of basil, oregano, orzo, and red wine gives this chili it's Italian flare.
This is actually a crock pot recipe (perfect for your game day get-together!), but can easily be adapted to the stove if you don't have the time for the slow cooking or if you don't have a crock pot in your kitchen. But I think every well-equipped kitchen should have a crock pot. ;)
First start by browning 1 lb of ground beef in a large frying pan with 1 tbs of olive oil. Once browned, drain the beef of any fat and place into the crock pot. In the same frying pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil. Add 1 medium onion, chopped and 1 medium green pepper, chopped to the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft. Add 4 cloves of garlic, minced to the pan. Saute for another 1-2 minutes. Place the sauteed veggies in the crock pot with the ground beef. Pour one 29 oz can of tomato sauce and one 29 oz can of crushed tomatoes (diced tomatoes will also work) into the crock pot. Using one of the empty cans, pour 1 can full of beef broth and 1 can full of water into the crock pot. You could use 2 can fulls of water, but your chili will be much richer with the addition of beef broth. Drain and rinse a 15 oz can of cannellini beans in a small colander. Add the beans to the crock pot. Sprinkle in 2 tsp of dried oregano. Add salt and cracked pepper. Add in 3/4 cups of red wine. You could also use 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in place of the wine. I actually used a little of both in mine. ;) At this point, you could sneak in some extra veggies by adding some fresh or frozen spinach leaves to the chili. Mix all the ingredients together in the crock pot and turn it to the low setting. Let it cook in the crock pot on low for at least 6 hours.
When you are about 30 minutes from serving your chili, turn the heat setting up to high. Add 1 1/2 cups water to the simmering chili. Now pour in about 8 oz of orzo or any other small pasta. Chop up about 8 fresh basil leaves and add to the crock pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Before serving, taste your chili! Add more salt or pepper to taste. If the chili seems to be missing a little something, add a few tbsp of sugar. Just a touch of sweetness can bring out the robust flavors.
Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a crusty Italian bread. Touchdown!
P.S. If you happen to have a lot of leftovers with this chili (like I did), this dish freezes well. Just pour into freezer safe containers and freeze up to 2 months.