Here we have a cheese ravioli from my store’s refrigerated section. (GASP!) Yeah, yeah. Remember? Nothing fancy for the sake of fancy? And frankly, I don’t have a ton of time to make homemade ravioli. If you do, make it rock!
Oh yeah…the dish. It’s a pumpkin, sage, and nutmeg puree with a little bit of cream, and some Romano and Parmesan for some extra saltiness. Since its the fall and everyone wants to make pumpkin pie, it was pretty easy finding some quality pumpkin puree.
You warm up about a half a stick of butter and finely chop a shallot. Cook the butter on a slow to medium flame, just until the butter foams. If you’re a little worried about overcooking the shallot while waiting for your butter to foam, and it can happen….just keep the flame at ‘low’ and constantly stir the butter and shallots. Shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, once the butter is melted completely. If in doubt, time yourself to 3:30 on a watch. You won’t destroy anything if you slightly undercook the shallots here. They just add flavor, and the goal is to not have them remain ‘crunchy’ in the puree.
Take the butter/shallots off the heat. Add about a full can (12-14oz) of pumpkin puree. Salt/pepper to taste, and incorporate into the butter/shallots. Then add about 1/4 cup of each of the listed cheeses. That will typically give the puree the consistency you see in the pics; fairly thick, but still easily spreadable.
If you need to thin it a bit, you can add some heavy cream, but be sure to incorporate it completely. Put it back on the heat and gently simmer to make sure the cheeses all melt. While you’re doing that, put on a pot of water to boil, salt it, and cook the ravioli to the instructions on the packaging. If you’re good enough to make ravioli from scratch, my guess is you have a better idea than yours truly for how long it’ll take to cook through. 🙂
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, pre-heat your oven to 325-350, and add some whole pecans on a cookie sheet with either some aluminum foil, or if you have a Sil-pat sheet, that’ll work just fine. Put in the pecans for about 5 minutes. Take them out, and move them around the sheet and put them in for another 5 minutes. Then take out the pecans and let them cool on the counter, or put them in a bowl and let them sit in the microwave, just so they’re out of the way.
But Mario….what about the salad? It’s nothing fancy. Just a buy-in-bag salad from the grocery store. My selection was mixed Italian greens, but if you like a spinach-heavy salad, that’s a winner, too! Be sure to rinse out the greens before plating.
You’ll notice the pear on top of the salad, so here’s what we need to do. Slice a pear in half, from top to bottom. Seed the fruit without gouging it too much. Now, lie one of those sections on a cutting board, and cut lengthwise through the thickest part of the fruit. Cut it fairly thinly because you’re going to want to take 3-5 sections and fan them out when you start plating.
Speaking of plating, here we go:
Drain your ravioli. Make sure your pumpkin sauce is up to temperature before you begin plating. For me, it was easier starting with the salad portion of the plate. I took one of the corners, and put a little bit of the washed salad greens on there. I topped off the salad with the pear slices, and added a cinnamon-pear balsamic vinegar.
That balsamic comes from the good people at Ojai Olive Oil (www.OjaiOliveOil.com). They’re open for tours in their plant just outside of Ojai, California most weekends. The proprietress is a wonderful woman and this is a family owned, completely self-sustaining enterprise. I buy all of my olive oils and balsamic vinegars from there. Any recipe you see from me that features an olive oil or balsamic vinegar, you can bet money it came from Ojai Olive Oil.
Add a drizzle of good balsamic to the salad. If you get the cinnamon-pear, I promise it’ll be even better as it will really make that pear-topped salad ‘pop!’
Now, on to the main event. Add some of the pumpkin sauce to the other end of the plate before adding the ravioli. Add 6-8 ravioli to the plate in layers, like shingles on the roof of a house. Add a little sauce in between layers so the ravioli doesn’t stick together. Throw on a little finely chopped parsley for a garnish along with some hand-crushed pecans you left in the microwave.
Then for a little ‘flash,’ take a full spoon of the sauce and put it between the salad and ravioli. Then lift the spoon until only the forward tip or so is touching the plate in the middle of the sauce you just set down in the middle of the plate. Now quickly pull the spoon away from the main dollop of the sauce and drag the spoon about 3-5 inches, depending on the dimensions of the plate.
Now you’ve got a well plated vegetarian dish that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. Lots of good colors here, and a little ‘flash’ of presentation to make it look like something you’d get in a top restaurant!
The second variation is an easy way to completely fill the plate, and make your guests really look forward to a highly satisfying meal. For the first plate, I left off the obligatory bread stick (served in another dish), but you can easily add it to the plate itself by adjusting the layout a bit. Both presentations are easily done in less than 3 minutes once the cooking is complete!
This dish would work very well with a mushroom ravioli, and if you want to make it completely vegan, take out the cheese, the cream, and substitute a little almond milk to thin out the pumpkin puree to the desired consistency. That will also bring out the nuttiness of the pecans in the dish. You may have to salt/pepper the pumpkin a bit more to compensate for the saltiness of the cheese which will be missing.
There’s nothing outlandish about the plating either. All you’re using to really plate this is your hands, a good sized spoon, and a quality kitchen knife. You have all of those things in your kitchen already, so a meal like this is just a few minutes away!
This meal should be ready in well under 1/2 an hour so that “other” cook could do it on her show, too. 🙂
Vegetarian dishes are pretty awesome. Throw in some easy plating techniques, and you can impress several guests at a nice dinner party, or your sweetheart after a long day at the ‘salt mines.’
So go give this bit of plating a try. My goal in sharing my own recipes, or things I’ve cribbed from this thing called the “Internet”(you may have heard of it) is to take something that you know would be delicious, and make a feast for your eyes. We’ll help you make it beautiful in a short time.
Now go enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, and I’ll start work on a few other interesting things. Maybe there’ll be an upcoming post on how to handle the turkey-day leftovers you’ve got piled up in your refrigerator right about now!