Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lucille Ball-Worthy Valentine's Day Ravioli

I had the brilliant idea of making homemade butternut squash ravioli for the Cute Gardener on Valentine’s Day. I make a great version of this, tweaked just a bit from my friend Chef Aaron Kiefer of East Meets West Catering’s original recipe, and have had much success cooking this before.

Of course, this time I had one of those inspired and bright notions that comes from the pleasurable thought of doing something nice for someone you’re fond of, which I realize now with keen after-sight wasn’t so bright, to make the dough from scratch and roll it out myself because I didn’t have the typical pasta rolling machine that I am used to using. I semi-blame this inspiration from the latest Anthony Bourdain rerun that I watched, in which he stood around a room full of Italian grandmothers whipping out strands of angel hair, nubs of gnocchi and knots of tortellini as if it were no big thing. My boyfriend later reminded me that these women have probably been doing this for many more years than I have been alive.

Not even one square foot of the mess that REALLY surrounded this innocent looking dough ball.

Even though we planned on cooking dinner together at his house, I made the dough at home first. I didn’t have the typical mechanical dough mixer that I am used to and knew it would be a mess, plus, we both know what a dervish I am in the kitchen compared to the calm, cool and collected precision-maestro he is in his. This was a good idea because all you really have to do is imagine the I Love Lucy episode with Lucy stomping grapes and replace her feet with my hands and the grapes with flour to get an idea of what my pasta dough-making efforts looked like. They tell you to make a mountain of the sifted pile of semolina and all-purpose flour in which you create a nice deep well. Then they tell you to put the eggs and olive oil in there, and slowly with a fork whisk the flour walls into the well little by little as you create a sturdy ball of dough. Yeah, my mountain and well turned more into a river over sand while I stabbed my frantic fork down over and over again as a dam before quickly whisking spot to spot. The dough turned out fine nevertheless.

Once at his house, we made a gorgeous salad of artisanal greens, tomatoes, filberts, feta cheese, fresh snap peas and homemade garlic balsamic vinaigrette. He contributed some arugula from his windowsill planter and a gorgeous sprig of broccoli flowers that are edible, sweet little yellow things that spruced up the looks of our bowl.

Then part two of the pasta torture arrived as I strived to hand roll out small balls of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness for the raviolis. Not possible. My raviolis were thick and an hour of newly tortured biceps, elbow grease, and an egg’s worth of wash for glue later, we were cooking up the miniature dough bombs in a pot of boiling, salted water.

I will say that my butternut squash filling was an absolute delight, a recipe worthy of sharing.

  • Cut up one large butternut squash into one-inch chunks, place on roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Let cool and peel all the squash from the skin. Mash the squash loosely in a large bowl.
  • Heat up a large sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of butter and put in 2 tablespoons of minced shallots.
  • Once shallots are wilted, place in the pureed squash and cook for two minutes to dry out its wetness then mix in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and mix all together while cooking one more minute.
  • Place on ravioli dough squares or circles in 1-2 tsp. amounts. 
And how can anything really go wrong when the sauce served atop it is a stick of butter cooked down to brown with twelve leaves of fresh sage?

I am going to make this again for my boyfriend when I own a pasta roller as it’s worth a second try. 

He made the dessert with proper machinery, perfect little peanut butter cookies with cacao nibs that went so perfectly with the dessert cocktail of rum and orgeat almond syrup.

Apparently, I am not the only one who strives to be more Italian grandmother-esque in my cooking. Mo Rocca, one of my favorite old cast members from the John Stewart Show, is apparently starting a food travel show on the Cooking Channel soon called My Grandmother’s Ravioli.

Molto interessante!