03 October 2009

Pumpkin Ravioli

Is it really fall? With temperatures in the seventies and all this sunshine, it's easy to think that it is still summer in Santa Barbara. This morning I went for a walk at Butterfly Beach and felt pretty warm in shorts and a tank top! But weather aside, the changing produce availability is telling me that summer truly is merging into fall. Just this past week, a friend of mine gave me a pumpkin that he picked over in the Valley (that is, the Santa Ynez Valley), and I have been thinking about what I most want to make with it. I love pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin soup, but with this first pumpkin of the season, I decided to make pumpkin ravioli. With onion, sage, and rosemary straight from my garden, the savory goodness of the pumpkin filling was irresistible.

Last year it struck me how little we appreciate this fruit of the vine. Certainly there is a huge market for the pumpkin in America, but the pumpkins we buy generally go to the front door with a jack-o-lantern face, doomed to a mouldery demise. Many Latin American cultures, however, prize the pumpkin as a culinary delight, which moved me to make a last minute decision not to carve my Halloween pumpkin but instead send it to the roasting oven. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed the pumpkin on a baking sheet, cut side down. After one hour roasting at 420 F, the flesh was soft and the rind easily peeled away. This left me with fresh pumpkin, all roasty and golden, primed for a plethora of creative uses in the kitchen or ready to eat with just a simple sprinkling of sea salt. Who wants canned pumpkin now, with the abundance of fresh pumpkins available today? And who wants to stick to the trite pumpkin pie, when there are so many other great things you can do with pumpkin?

Pumpkin Ravioli
(makes 16)

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. minced fresh sage
1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup white wine (my standby is pinot grigio)
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups roasted pumpkin flesh (from a 2-lb. pumpkin)
32 Won ton wrappers

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add herbs, wine, salt, and pepper, and cook until liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add roasted pumpkin and puree with an immersion stick blender until all ingredients are well blended. Continue cooking 5 minutes until liquid no longer gathers.

To assemble ravioli, place 1 rounded tablespoon of pumpkin filling at the center of a won ton wrapper, moisten the edges with water, then place a second wrapper over the filling and press firmly to seal edges. (While working, keep stack of won ton wrappers covered with a damp cloth to prevent premature drying.)

Cook ravioli in batches in gently boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. Avoid overcrowding the ravioli in the cooking water so that they don't stick together. Toss with a simple sauce of browned, melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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