Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Ravioli with Carmelized Onions with Pecans, Pears and Cranberries


I have not made ravioli in many years but am occasionally tempted by some of the fresh ravioli at Whole Foods. My favorite is sweet potato and pumpkin/squash with caramelized onion. I serve as follows:

Heat water to boiling and cook:

1 package sweet potato, pumpkin and/or squash ravioli. According to instructions on package [I am careful not to boil ravioli hard as I find this breaks up the pasta and causes the filling escape].


Meanwhile in a large wok heat:

2 t olive oil

When oil is hot add:

1/3 c pecan halves

Saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly then add:

1 pear, thinly sliced
1/3 c dried cranberries                                                      
3 T maple syrup (or more to taste)

Mix to coat fruit and nuts thoroughly with syrup then simmer until ravioli is cooked. Drain ravioli well then add to wok. Mix thoroughly but gently being careful not to tear the ravioli. Serve on warm plates making sure that most of the pecans, pears and cranberries are on top of the ravioli.



Ravioli - Traditional

Ed's introduction to ravioli was Chef-Boyardee from the can when cruising on Alised. My first memorable ravioli came from Biaggi's in Boston's North End. Biaggi's, made plain cheese ravioli and also sold fresh pasta cut to one's preferred width. Biaggi's along with all the cats that used to snooze in the shop window is long gone as is the original Trio's that followed some years later on Hanover Street. All time best ravioli was at a small trattoria in Venice; ravioli with a chestnut filling served in in a light cream sauce with shelled fresh peas. Hmmm think I will try to make something like that soon.... stay tuned.

Back in the 70's, inspired by Betsy who brought homemade ravioli when she and her husband came to cruise on our first Condor, I made my own ravioli for a while. For the record, with thanks to Betsy, here is her recipe (serves 6).

FILLING

Break up and place in a small skillet:

1/2 lb ground beef

Cook and drain [blot off as much fat as possible on paper towel(s) - see Scrambled Hamburg]. Mix with:

1/4 c well-drained chopped cooked spinach
1/4 c Parmesan cheese [grated]
2 T finely chopped parsley
1/3 c fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 finely chopped salami [don't think I've ever added this]
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 t salt
Pepper to taste

PASTA

Sift into mixing bowl

2 c all-purpose flour

Make a well in the center and add:

3 egg yolks
3/4 t salt
3 T lukewarm water (more may be necessary)

Mix to a smooth dough [adding more water if necessary] that can be shaped into a ball. Knead on a well-floured board about 10 minutes. Brush with oil and let stand, covered about 10 minutes. Divide in half. Roll one half until paper thin. Turn dough frequently and gently stretch with fingertips. Cut into strips 2 inches wide. Place 1 tsp ["1 tsp" is what Betsy's notes say, she may mean 1 small teaspoonful; I haven't made this in a while but I think I used more than 1 level t] filling at 2 inch intervals. Brush around filling with beaten egg. Lay a second strip of dough over the filling. Press around the filling to seal. [I use a 2 inch square "ravioli maker/press" I bought in the North End.] Cut between mounds of filling. Cook a few at a time in boiling broth or water for 15 minutes. Repeat with second half of dough.

When ready to serve, heat up the ravioli in hot tomato sauce. In a medium to large pot combine:

1 onion, chopped
Several cloves of garlic that have been previously cooked in 1/2 T olive oil
2 [small] cans tomato paste
5 cans [from the tomato paste] of water
Flour to thicken if necessary
Salt, pepper, oregano and basil to taste

Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes before adding the ravioli.

Betsy adds, "Ravioli can be refrigerated overnight after cooking. Can also be frozen, but they loose a little in translation."

Anyway, I have not made ravioli in many years. I am occasionally tempted by some of the fresh ravioli at Whole Foods. For my current favorite recipe see: Sweet Potato and Pumpkin with Caramelized Onion Ravioli with Pecans, Pears and Cranberries.

Sort of Pears Helene

If you've had this dessert before or seen it on a menu and wondered where the Helene came from, here is the definitive answer compliments of Wikipedia:

"Poire belle Hélène (German: Birne Helene) is a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup and served with vanilla ice, chocolate syrup, and crystallized violets. It was created around 1870 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.Simpler versions replace poached pears with canned pears and crystallized violets with sliced almonds."

All news to me. I've always thought of Pears Helene as half a poached pear with vanilla ice cream, raspberries and chocolate sauce on top in that order.... Hmmmm, maybe I'm confusing peach melba. At any rate, here is a dessert I made recently using Stoneyfield Farm After Dark Non-fat Chocolate Frozen Yogurt - not as rich as ice cream but the best non-fat yogurt I have found.

Peel, halve and carefully core:

1 fairly hard pear (for each 2 persons to be served)

Place in a sauce pan with water to cover (~1 cup per pear) and add per cup of water:

1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice

Bring to boil then add pear(s) and simmer 2-3 minutes or until pear is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve, remove pear halves from liquid and place each half center side up on a dessert plate. In a small dish place:

1 T Ghiradelli 60% cacoa bittersweet chocolate chips per pear half

Microwave on high for 30 seconds then stir. Check and  stir at 30 second intervals until chocolate is smooth.

Top each pear half with:

Scoop of chocolate frozen yogurt
1/2 cup raspberries or marionberries (fresh, or frozen thawed to room temperature)
Hot melted chocolate

Serve immediately.

HINT: If you melt chocolate frequently (as for dipping strawberries when they are in season), or Dark Chocolate Drizzle, of which this dessert is a variation, cover and leave the small bowl used to melt the chocolate with any unused melted chocolate in the refrigerator.