Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A hint of autumn......

From what I'm told....there's a hint of autumn in the air...everywhere but here in Florida. Here, it's still "Africa hot" (as a friend of mine says) and we're sweltering away in the 90's. However, there is a breeze in the air that hints at autumn (1. I hate the word "fall" and 2. that might be the 3 hurricanes out in the Atlantic making that breeze, but I prefer to think positively).

One thing that begins to tell me autumn is in the air is that seasonal fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear. This is my favorite time of year, and the appearance of squash, figs, and best of all pumpkins, gives me that "warm and fuzzy" feeling. It won't be long and my favorite holiday of all year, Thanksgiving, will be here.

And so, with a tip of my hat to the upcoming cooler (thank GOD) weather and autumnal holidays...here is today's recipe; which incorporates pumpkins...the epitome of autumn vegetables. Pumpkins are versatile; in fact, from blossom to flesh they are mostly edible. The blossoms (which pumpkin growers often pluck to encourage growth on other vines) taste wonderful on salads or deep fried as appetizers and it is well known that the salted, roasted seeds of a pumpkin are a favorite of just about everyone.

Pumpkin Ravioli

1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp, plus 1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. blanched almonds, toasted
1 1/2 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1 c. canned pumpkin (be VERY careful not to buy "pumpkin pie filling"--but make sure the can says only "pumpkin"...pumpkin pie filling is already spiced for making a pie..and is not the flavor you want here)
1/4 c. finely shredded Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for garnish (if you cannot find this particular type of cheese, just grate regular parmesan....these can be found in your supermarket either in the deli section or in the cheese aisle---with regular parmesan you will lose some of the "richness" of the flavor that you would get with parmegiano-reggiano, but it can be substituted)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper--plus additional to taste
20 wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen

In a medium skillet cook onion and garlic in 1 tsp hot butter over medium heat..only until onion is softened, about 3 minutes

In a food processor (or blender) combine 1/4 c. of the almonds and the rosemary. Cover and pulse with several on/off turns until nuts are finely ground. Add pumpkin, 1/4 c. of the cheese, the onion mixture, salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Cover and pulse until just combined.

Working with 2 wonton wrappers at a time, top wrappers with one tablespoon of filling. Brush edges of wrapper with water and bring one corner of wrapper to meet the opposite corner to form a triangle, pressing down around filling to force out any air and to seal edges well. Cover filled ravioli with a dry kitchen towel while you repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and filling.

Coarsely chop remaining 1/4 c. of almonds. In a medium skillet heat remaining 1/4 c. butter over medium heat, add chopped almonds and cook, stirring until butter begins to brown on bottom of skillet (do not allow to burn)....note here: if you have made my "Ravioli with Browned Balsamic Butter Sauce" recipe...this is basically the same procedure in cooking the butter. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.

Bring water to a boil and cook ravioli for 2-3 minutes or until tender, gently stirring occasionally. (Keep water at a low boil to prevent ravioli from breaking) Drain.

Drizzle ravioli with almond-browned butter and sprinkle with additional parmesan and pepper to taste. Makes about 20 raviolis.

This is an awesome "meatless" meal...but can also be used as a side dish and goes nicely with pork or lamb chops. Either way, pair with a salad and add pumpkin seeds to that as a garnish...it makes it fun and ties everything together.

Pumpkins (fresh ones) can be roasted exactly the same way you do any other squash, by scooping out the seeds (save those for roasting too) and cooked in the oven. Scoop out the flesh and it can then be used in place of any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin--in the making of pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins or cake. If you season it with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc, you can go ahead and make your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. Make SURE, however, that when you are doing this, you are buying a "baking" or "pie" pumpkin. They are MUCH smaller than the "jack o'lantern" variety. They are small, round and plump and vary in size, usually from 2 to 5 pounds. Choose one that feels heavy for its size and is blemish free. If stored away from direct light they will keep for about a month, or can be kept chilled. Go ahead and give it a try...it's not that hard. The kids can have a GREAT time scooping out the seeds for you (and eating them after they've been roasted) and the difference in flavor between this and canned will be PHENOMENAL!!)

Tomorrow, along with a couple more "autumn recipes, we'll talk about how to go about roasting those pumpkin seeds so that you'll get top notch flavor.

Today's food quote: "I cook with wine....sometimes I even add it to the food" W. C. Fields, American comic (1880-1946)

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