Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli, Caramelized Onions and Brown Butter Sauce

finishedI started making pasta years ago to satiate my carb cravings. No boxed pasta could ever mimic the taste and texture of a homemade dough so I set out to make my own. After rolling out a dozen or so pasta doughs by hand, I was given a beautiful pasta maker as a birthday gift from a dear friend. My pasta was instantly transformed. No more thick, gummy strands—I could roll the pasta dough out so thin that it would melt in your mouth.

egg&dough

After many batches of linguine and spaghetti, I tried ravioli. Making your own ravioli is so satisfying—you can make them with anything you have lying around the house and the result is usually heavenly. I tried them with cheese, vegetables, meats and even fruit.

rollin

When I set out to do my pantry inventory as described in a previous post, I found a can of pumpkin puree left over from Thanksgiving. I mixed the pumpkin with leftover ricotta from pizza making and whipped up this delicious ravioli. I finished it with balsamic glazed caramelized onions and a thyme brown butter sauce. Decadent and delicious!

brown butter

I used the ‘Poor Man’s Two Egg Pasta Dough’ from Lidia’s Family Table. It’s one the easiest and most delicious dough recipes I’ve come across.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Caramelized Onions and Brown Butter Sauce

Ravioli

1 lb. Lidia’s ‘Poor Man’s’ pasta dough, rolled for ravioli

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. fresh thyme
Caramelized onions
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
splash of balsamic vinegar
Brown butter sauce
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. fresh thyme
toasted pine nuts (optional)
grated Parm (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Ravioli instructions
Mix together pumpkin, ricotta and fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Dollop one heaping tablespoon of filling as per Lidia’s instructions. I used a 2″ biscuit cutter for my ravioli because I don’t have a pastry cutting wheel. In the past, I’ve just cut them in squares with a sharp knife. The shape doesn’t matter so much, just make sure you’re consistent and you’re leaving enough dough around the filling to egg wash and seal. I dusted with flour and stuck them in the fridge on a baking sheet until I was ready to eat. You can freeze them as well and just pop them in a pot of water for an easy weeknight meal.
Caramelized onions instructions
In a medium frying pan, combine the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir frequently until browned and soft, about 20 minutes. Add a quick splash of balsamic vinegar and stir until almost all liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
When you’re read to eat, put on a big pot of boiling, salted water. Drop the little pasta pillows in and let cook for about 3 minutes or until they start to float to the top of the water. The time depends on how soft you like your pasta and how big you made your ravioli. I would start with 3 minutes and take one out to test if you’re not sure.
Brown butter sauce instructions
While your ravioli cooks, start your brown butter sauce. In a lightly colored, small pan over medium heat, melt your butter. The butter will start to foam up but will quickly subside. This is where it gets tricky—the butter will go from a yellow to a light brown to a toasty, caramel color. Swirl the pan around once or twice to make sure the butter is being heated evenly. Once the butter hits that toasty darker brown, immediately remove it from the heat and transfer to a bowl leaving as much of the dark solids in the bottom of the pan as possible.  The solids won’t hurt but they can give an odd flavor to your butter.  The butter can go from perfect to burnt in seconds so it’s important to keep a careful eye on it. Once the butter is transfered to a bowl, I stirred in my fresh thyme. If you’re not sure what color it should be, check out these great photos on Bon Appetit’s website.
Top your cooked ravioli with caramelized onions and brown butter. I sprinkled mine with toasted pine nuts and grated Parm. Enjoy!
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Tips on meal planning and food budgets

Hopefully you’ve all begun to recover from your holiday gluttony and are well on your way to a healthier and happier 2013. This week has been all about exercise, raw vegetables and as little cheese as possible (I’ve still had some cheese—I mean, come on, I’m only human). But one of my biggest resolutions has been focusing on my food budget. I often find myself SO excited about a new recipe that I’ll run out, buy a bunch of ingredients and get cracking. Sometimes, these dishes only yield a serving or two, leaving me with no leftovers and another trip to the grocery store in my near future. Since my current salary doesn’t allow for this, I’ve started carefully planning my meals and grocery trips. If you’re in the same boat as me, here are a few tips on how to make your groceries stretch without emptying your wallet.

First things first—do a quick inventory of your pantry. It’s easy to forget about that bag of rice or those cans of garbanzo beans leftover from a hummus making spree. With each new grocery trip, they’re just pushed further back into the dark corners of your pantry. Now, that’s not to say that you should be using anything that’s been in your cabinet since the ’60s, but you catch my drift (I’ve gotten into the habit of writing the date when my grains were first opened—that way I can eliminate any stale flavors). Once you know what you have, you can start to split the portions up into meals. Half cup of quinoa on Tuesday, half pound of pasta for Wednesday… Next, I’ll take a look at any dairy, veggies or other goods in my refrigerator. Is there anything a few days away from the sell-by date? Those items should be first priority on your menu. The key is to limit the amount of waste and get the most out of your purchases.

Now comes the fun part. Sit your butt down (maybe with a favorite cookbook or food blog) and start brainstorming recipes. I tend to look for meals that will make good leftovers or ones that can be reworked into new meals. For example, a roast chicken is your best friend. The first night you get the real deal. Then the remaining chicken can be used for sandwiches, hash, tacos, soups—use your imagination! After you’ve cleared the leftover meat from the carcass, you can boil down the bones with leftover veggie ends and VOILA!-chicken stock that can be frozen and repurposed for soups, braises, or cooking liquid for your grains. (Tip: When I’m chopping up my veggies, I toss onion ends, carrot peels, mushroom stems or whatever other veggie ‘waste’ is lying around in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for future stock making. Chances are, you would have thrown them out or composted them anyway so why not use them for another meal?). That brings me to another point—your freezer is crucial to making meals last. No one wants to eat a bowl of chili every meal for a week. Just take half that pot, split it into a couple of containers or bags, date it and pop it in the freezer. That’ll give you a quick, homemade meal you can defrost a week or two later. The Brown Eyed Baker has a great post on organizing your freezer here.

Last but not least, do a little deal hunting. I’ve never been a coupon cutter or circular browser but sometimes you can find a great sale on that perfect cut of steak or your favorite brand of canned tomatoes just by looking around. Whole Foods, for example puts their weekly circular online so you can see what’s on sale before you leave your house—this is especially helpful for us North Brooklyners who are a hike and an L-train ride away from the closest location.

Don’t worry, we can get through this together. Happy Austere January!

Adventures in cheese-making

Whew! I don’t know about you but I’m still full from my back to back Thanksgiving feasts. I’ve had so many cooking adventures in the past few weeks, I don’t even know where to begin. For now, I’ll focus on the latest and most exciting-my first time making cheese! I’ve been dying to try a fresh mozzarella or ricotta but was a little intimidated by the process. With the help of some good friends, we tackled it step by step and ended up with enough cheese for three homemade pizzas. Yum!

stretching

I picked up some fresh unpasteurized milk, rennet, and citric acid from the good people at The Brooklyn Kitchen and used a helpful tutorial from Food52. I read through each step and prepped all my ingredients and tools before getting started. One gallon of milk yielded about a pound of fresh mozzarella and about a 1/4 cup of ricotta.

And now, some tips for when you’re ready to tackle your own cheese-making:

-The steps happen rather quickly so I would definitely have all of your tools at hand when you begin to heat your milk

-Food-safe gloves could really come in handy during the stretching of the mozzarella. The water is very hot and this will help you to keep the cheese curds submerged long enough to stretch to the right consistency.

-Cannot stress this enough (and if you’ve read any cheese-making recipes, you already know) -the right milk makes all the difference. Most grocery stores sell ultra-pasteurized and homogenized milk to extend the shelf life but this heat treated milk will not yield good cheese. The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a great list of where you can find raw cow, goat, and sheep’s milk in your state.

margherita

After finishing up our cheese, we rolled out a few pizza crusts and got to toppings. We had a classic or two and a tribute to my favorite pie from Saluggi’s in Tribeca.

fresh tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella

fresh ricotta, garlic infused olive oil, wilted spinach

balsamic roasted brussels sprout, bacon, caramelized onions, mozzarella

brussels