Mar 6, 2010

Butternut Squash 'Something'

Here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, looking at my 'coming soon board'. When I have ingredients that I need to use up or if I have a craving to make something in particular, I jot it down on this board. If I don't, I forget.  I'm cursed with the memory of a goldfish. Right now the board says 'butternut squash something'. I had bought a particularly nice looking butternut squash at the Los Gatos farmers market last weekend when the sun finally graced us with its presence.... for all of maybe 24 hours. First thing I did when I got back home... wrote 'butternut squash something' up on the board. If I hadn't, that pretty squash would have become a pretty decoration on my kitchen counter for far too long.

After searching through three and a half cookbooks for inspiration on what to do about the 'something', I had nothing. Then I saw my favorite Italian cookbook sitting there on the shelf, looking neglected. Before I even opened it, my little light bulb of inspiration turned on in my head. Ravioli! I had not made ravioli in ages and it felt like the perfect day to make it. I was feeling particularly creative at that moment so I decided to create something on my own. No cookbooks. I just followed my foodie instincts into the fridge and got to work. The dish came together perfectly as the wheels were turning in my head. Here is what it sounded like in my there:

mmm SWISS CHARD! ya chard! chard with ricotta! yummm! 
Gosh there's so much freakin Parm in here! I'll add Parmesan too!! 
hmm...this thyme needs a serious trim. ok, stop! ravioli's are done. move on!
OH OH rosemary!
NO you crazed foodie! NO MORE.


ok, I know I want to puree the squash, but I'll need to add some garlic. ROASTED GARLIC. oh yeaaah. roasted garlic!!! And I'll use the rosemary if I remember it.

Then my chaotic stream of thought came to a halt.  In my head there were nothing but delicious ideas. As if those little keebler elves were working at the speed of my thoughts and created the meal for my brain to approve before relaying the message to me that this would be perfect.

This is a great dish when you want to make something ahead, AND it's impressive. I roasted the garlic and made the ravioli filling in the afternoon and the butternut squash sauce about an hour before dinner time. I was having a friend over who I had lived with in Italy, so I thought it would be nice to make the ravioli together over a glass of vino and reminisce about our times abroad. 

This dish is really simple to make. It may seem like a lot of steps, but take it slow and get it done all ahead of time and when it comes time to putting it all together, it will be stress free. Nothing is worse than stressing over dinner... it leaves a terrible aftertaste. 

Ravioli with Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Sauce

For the Ravioli:
    1 ½ lbs. swiss chard, leaves cut off from the stems
    1 c. whole milk Ricotta cheese
    ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    1 egg
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Wonton wrappers

Fill a large pot with about ¼ c. of water, and bring to a boil, this will happen fairly quick since the water just barely covers the surface of the pot. Once it is at a boil add the stemmed swiss chard. Cover the pot and let steam for a couple minutes, until it is bright green. Let it drain until it is cool enough to handle. In the mean time, in a medium bowl, mix together the Ricotta, Parmesan, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the chard has cooled, squeeze out at much of the water as you can and chop really fine. Once chopped, place all of it onto a dish towel and wring out the water again. The drier the swiss chard the better. Add this to the ricotta cheese mixture and combine well, taste for more salt or pepper, then add the egg and combine well.

To assemble the ravioli:
Take one wonton wrapper and place about 1 Tbls. of the filling in the center. Dip your finger in some water and wet the edges, then place another wonton wrapper on top. seal the edges tight with a fork or by pinching the edges. If the filling is coming out the edges, use less filling.

Butternut Squash Sauce
Butternut Squash Puree
     1 Butternut squash, peeled (watch lasts posts video).

Cut the squash into 1” pieces.  Put on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Roast in the oven at 375 for about 30 mintues, or until very tender and starting to brown around the edges. Let them cool for a bit, then I used a food mill to make a puree. You could use a food processor too.

Roasted Garlic

     1 head of garlic 

Peel the papery skin off the outside of the garlic. You want to keep the head of garlic in tact so don’t go to crazy with this. Just remove as much as you can without getting obsessive about it. Cut the top off the garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves within the head. In a small baking dish drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the dish. Add the head of garlic and drizzle the garlic with more olive oil. Cover with tin foil and pop in a 375 oven for about 40 minutes.

    ½ an onion diced fine.
    2 sprigs of rosemary
    6 cloves or 1 Tbls. roasted garlic, mashed
    2 c. Butternut Squash puree
    1-1 1/2 c. water

Saute the onion and 2 sprigs of rosemary in about 2 Tbls. of olive oil until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown up.  Remove the rosemary. Add the roasted garlic and stir around to combine. Add the squash puree and mix them all together. Add 1 cup of water and mix till combined. Add more water until the sauce is the consistency that you like. Add salt and pepper.

Boil the ravioli in a large pot of water until they float to the top, just a a couple of minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ravioli and serve on individual plates (if you drain them all into a colander, they could get stuck together and form one very large ravioli! Lay the left overs flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment). Spoon the sauce on top. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Mar 5, 2010

Food For Thought Friday

Butternut squash. As much as people love it, they hate it.  When it comes time to peeling the thing, it has a rep for being hard to work with, stubborn, and an over all pain in the you-know-what. Sound familiar? 

If peeling vegetables were a video game, butternut squash would be the Boss level. I have had my fair share of battles with the butternut squash, vegetable peeler in hand… and I end up being the one getting peeled. So Instead of going out and purchasing steal mesh gloves, I came up with a game plan. I started by cutting off the top and bottom of the squash, then cutting it down the middle lengthwise. Here is a video (so cool right?!?!?!) of what you need to do next to avoid serious injury and beat the butternut squash. All you need is a cutting board, a horizontal vegetable peeler, and Nora Jones… no steal gloves necessary. 

The Practicing Foodie Peeling a Butternut Squash

TADA! So that’s your food for thought Friday! Tune in again soon to see what happens to the butternut squash next!