Valentine’s day! Beet Ravioli!

 I was originally planning on celebrating valentine’s day this upcoming Saturday - at work we’re doing a tasting for the holiday and I usually work Tuesdays anyway. But I got a text a little after midnight on Saturday with a schedule change.  After I groggily figured out what day it was (Sunday morning) and which week my boss was referring to (this one) I realized I’d be around for valentine’s with my partner and started thinking up a menu.  Beets are Sam’s favorite and since I had one dish pretty down pat (red wine-braised tempeh with apples and bowties), I figured I could go out on a limb and do some beet-filled agnolotti which I had never done before. The look is great for valentines day, but the flavors are immense anyday.

 

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pumpkin and lentil ravioli

I made this the first time for an anti-thanksgiving party I had for a bunch of friends.  For 10 people I made forty of these along with two other mains, a soup, and some sides.  Sam made corn bread and dessert.  Most things were good, even though at the last minute I overcooked a few things, but the raviolis and the chocolate cake were easily my favorites.  I took the basic recipe from the dumpling book, but I tweaked it and then the sauce is a standby of mine, especially in the cooler months.  The combination of mushrooms and autumn squash is really refined and comforting at the same time.  it’s a bit late for pumpkins, but i like to experiment this time of year with all the different squashes the farmstand carries.

Pasta dough (it’s just a link to an earlier recipe on this very same blog)

Filling:

1 large Pumpkin

¼ cup dried black lentils

2 Tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted and crushed

2 teaspoons white miso

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

Zest and juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon.  Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30 minutes or so, until tender. Put the lentils in a small pot and cover with water by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat until tender.  Drain and cool.  Toast the almonds in a dry pan over  medium heat and when cool, crush them.  When the squash is cool, scrape out the flesh into a bowl. Mix all the ingredients with a potato masher.

Roll out your rested pasta dough to the thinnest setting on your machine, or as thin as you can get it with a rolling pin.  Cut out circles using a ring mold or round cookie cutter, or even a small glass.  Dollop some filling into the center.  For a nicer presentation, I like to lightly pinch the edge of the dough halfway around the circle, and then fold the other edge up and over the filling, and then pressing to seal the dumpling.  From the pinching you can get a certain pleated look.

Sauce:

2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced

2 t coriander seeds

1 cup blanched almonds

1 T White wine vinegar

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sautee pan.  Add the coriander and cook for 20 seconds, rolling the pan around so the seeds don’t burn.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring over high heat until they’re browned pretty thoroughly, but not burnt.  Remove from the pan.

Cover the almonds with water in a sauce pot and boil for 5 minutes, then drain.  

In a blender, combine the almonds, vinegar, and onions and turn it on, adding water as needed and scraping down the sides to get it all pureed.  You want a relatively thin sauce so don’t be too careful with the water.  Adjust the seasoning with vinegar and salt.  When it is thoroughly pureed gently pass it through a fine mesh strainer.

To Serve:

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Heat a sautee pan with olive oil.  Add your mushrooms and sautee until they’re really aromatic and browned a good bit, about 4 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium.  Drop your ravioli into the pot.  Add your sauce to the pan with the mushrooms and cook it relatively gently, just to heat up and reduce a bit.  When your raviolis are ready, after about a minute (2 minutes if frozen), take them from the water and add to your pan with the sauce.  Toss gently and cook for 30 seconds longer, then plate.

Olive-stuffed ravioli with fresh spicy tomato sauce

When people stuff pasta with tofu I gag a little bit.  I have no problem with tofu, in fact good fresh home-made tofu is one of my favorite things. But with ravioli filling you want a strong taste as well as some texture.  In this puree the flesh of the olives, the richness of the almonds, and the fluffiness of the bread come together really well.  The key is balancing the flavors: depending on your olives you may want to add a little lemon juice or vinegar to balance the richness.  The sauce is just like a Mexican salsa, but you don’t want it to taste that way so don’t use a jalapeno.  There are innumerable varieties of chilis and if you have access, I would experiment but you basically want a chili that’s not too spicy and also has a good flavor - padrons are good and add some green, dulces are good, or you can use a nice chile flake, like Aleppo or a nice nice Italian one.  This recipe yields enough for about 3 hungry people, but the raviolis also freeze well, so keep that in mind.

For the pasta:

  • 200g semolina flour
  • 3g salt
  • 80g water
  • 5g olive oil

Filling:

  • ½ cup Oil-cured olives
  • 1 ½ cups slivered almonds
  • ½ cup fresh torn bread
  • ¼ cup packed picked parsley
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small chili, preferably padron, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Use a food processor, a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, or a large table and your hands. Mix the semolina and salt. Pour in the water and mix until it becomes a firm ball. Keep kneading for a few more minutes until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is hard.  Rub the dough with the oil.

Wrap it in plastic wrap and let sit for about 45 minutes. During this time you may want to make the sauce and filling (directions below).

Dust a surface with flour. Roll out large bubblegum-size pieces of the dough as flat as possible using a pasta machine or a rolling pin. Square off your sheets. Then ball the scraps back up and roll them out again. Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled-out dough and hang it up on your clothes dryer rack from target, or clean shower curtain rod so that they don’t stick to anything as you keep rolling out more.

For the filling:

Puree all the ingredients except the oil together in a food processor.  While the machine is running, add the oil.  Puree thoroughly, scraping down the sides to make sure that everything is mixed in.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the sauce:

Mix everything together in a bowl and let sit.  You may want to be careful with the chili if you don’t like things too spicy, maybe start with a half. This is best at room temperature, so leave it sit out while you make everything else.

To construct the pasta, lay your sheets out on a clean, floured work surface. Dollop a teaspoon of filling onto a sheet in regular intervals, leaving a little more room than you would think is necessary.  Take another sheet and lay it gently over top the first.  Press down in between the dollops of stuffing to seal the filling in. with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut out squares.  Make sure they’re sealed by pinching the outsides.  You can stop here and leave them as ravioli or you can continue to make a more intricate shape that, in my opinion, shows off the pasta a little bit more.  Turn over your ravioli so that it is sitting on the bulge.  Fold up two opposite corners and pinch them together to seal them.  Then do the same with the other two corners. it’s sorta like a backwards tortolloni, but i don’t know what it would be called, i was just messing around and i sorta liked it.

To finish:

Bring a large pot of water, with lots of salt, to a light boil.  Drop in your raviolis and let them cook for a minute and a half or so.  Italian ladies used to repeat different church prayers or hymns to count off the correct time for boiling different kinds of pastas, so i recommend memorizing your favorite Mao Zedong quote and repeating it for the appropriate amount of time. You can also check them by poking them in their centers with a cake tester and touching that to your lip.  If it’s warm, you’re ready! With a slotted spoon, fish out your pasta and lay them in bowls.  Spoon your tomato mix into the center of the bowls.  Eat.