Friday, September 4, 2009


My seemingly endless flow of zucchini has finally, sadly dwindled down to just one or two squash per week now, lately being outshined by the just-hitting-their-stride Delicata Squash.

As the Delicatas start rolling in, I am increasingly under the gun to find ways to put them to good use. It has been on my to-do list for a little while now to put my trusty-dusty Kitchenaid stand mixer and its pasta roller attachment to work, and make up a mega batch of Delicata squash ravioli. I had no illusions about the amount of time and labor that would be involved in bringing these to fruition, so I held off on starting raviolifest until I knew that the time was right.

Today was the day.

Our computer had suddenly, mysteriously died the night before (just as suddenly and mysteriously as it seems to have resurrected itself today), removing a major time-eating distraction from my day. I had to seize the opportunity.

I even had grand plans for documenting the entire process to share here. Oh, but you know what they say about the best laid plans! In keeping with my ill luck where technology is concerned, my camera unfortunately ran out of batteries midway though my ravioli making process. (And wouldn’t you just know that I am flat out of batteries, courtesy of my kids’ energy gobbling toys?) At any rate, I will still show you what I do have, and share my yummy squash ravioli recipe with you. Please keep in mind that I am not the best measurer/documenter/writer when it comes to recipes. My cooking is highly variable, depending upon what’s in the kitchen, my mood and any other number of semi-random factors, so please bear with me if this or any of my recipes contain any gaping holes, horrendous grammar or other offensive gaffes. ;)

Delicata Squash Ravioli

3 lbs (more or less) Delicata squash
2 shallots
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp real maple syrup
Pinch of fresh lemon thyme (or any complimentary herb, fresh or dried, to your taste)
Salt & Pepper

Egg Pasta:
4 cups unbleached white or whole wheat flour (white provides a more delicate texture)
2 whole eggs
6 egg yolks
½ tsp coarse salt
½ to 1 cup of cool (not cold) water

Starting with the filling –
First, halve lengthwise and seed the squash, drizzle with olive oil and season with fresh ground salt & pepper. Bake them for about an hour in a 375 degree oven.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop and “sweat” 2 shallots in 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Shallots should be slightly caramelized, but still soft in texture.

Allow both squash & shallots to cool while starting the dough.

After the filling ingredients have cooled, scoop out the squash into a large bowl. Mash well. Add the cooked shallots, maple syrup (or sweetener of your choosing), salt, pepper & thyme and mix thoroughly.

The evolution of the squash.

The dough –
(Note: I use my stand mixer for this, as it is far easier on the hands/upper body) ;)

Put 4 cups of flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add eggs and salt. Mix well. Begin to add the water one tablespoon at a time until dough comes together well and has a firm, slightly sticky feel. You may not need all of the water.

If you are using a pasta roller: divide your dough into manageable pieces, (about a fistful at a time) and put through your sheet roller. (I prefer to then fold the pasta sheet in half and pass through the roller again repeatedly until I get the texture and general shape that I want.) Flour your finished dough sheets and set aside for cutting.

If you are rolling out by hand: divide your dough into quarters (or smaller), flour well and roll out as thin as you like. The thinner you can roll the dough, the more delicate the pasta will be.

Use a small cookie cutter or other “stamp” of your choice to cut your sheets of dough into the desired shape and size of your ravioli. (I used a small, square Rubbermaid container with a fine edge as my stamp – about 1¼” x 1 ¼”.)

Place ¼ to ½ tsp of filling mixture (depending on the size of your ravioli) on each of your dough cut-outs. Wet the edge of one side of the round/square of dough and fold in half. Pinch edges together to form a firm seal. Lay finished raviolis on a cookie sheet and freeze solid, then bag and label and return to the freezer. Yields are variable, but for me, this worked out to make 8 dozen ravioli.

Whew! It was a long day of slaving over a hot oven and whirring mixer, but I am relieved to be able to scratch “Make Delicata Raviolis” off of my list. However, the squash still cometh and they cometh big time. I don’t think that I have it in me to devote another whole day of my life to this particular recipe again any time soon. Sooo… does anybody need any squash?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wave 358 of the Tomato Bonanza

The tomatoes this year are as close to a bumper crop as my wee little garden can ever claim to have had. We’ve had an oddball summer here in Washington State; lots of record-breaking hot days and reasonably high humidity. This seems to be the magic combination where tomatoes are concerned, and so, to date, we’ve harvested over 30 pounds of ‘maters from our single 4x8’ raised bed – and they’re still coming.

As you can imagine, I’ve had to employ a little creativity in using all of these beautiful tomatoes. So far, I’ve made pasta sauce, fresh salsa, pizza sauce, dehydrator “sundried” tomatoes and about a million salads. For those of you also lucky enough to have a tomato surplus this year, I offer the first of what is likely to be a tidal wave of tomato-gobbling recipes.

Chelle’s Pizza Sauce
(Adapted from a recipe at MyKitchenGarden.)

*4-5 lbs blanched, peeled, cored & seeded cooking tomatoes
*4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced (feel free to use more if you like it zesty)
*Assorted herbs to taste – I used a few pinches of each of fresh rosemary, oregano, basil and lemon thyme, all chopped.
*Salt & Pepper
*Splash of red wine
*Splash of good balsamic vinegar
*One or two tablespoons of organic sugar
*Tablespoon of olive oil

Roughly chop the tomatoes and stew them and all of the remaining ingredients in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally for at least an hour, or until the flavors begin to blend and the tomatoes start to break down. If you like your sauce on the chunky side, then it is done! If you prefer a more uniform consistency, use either an immersion blender
or standard blender to puree your sauce to your liking. This recipe yields about 6 cups of sauce, about 3 or 4 pizzas worth. ;)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"You're being like a squirrel!"

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently in the grip of what might be fairly called a harvest mania.

Besides some of the great books that I have read on the importance of good food and living sustainably, and a natural inclination to take advantage of Mother nature’s offerings (free is good!), I am very lucky to have several like-minded friends who have abetted and otherwise encouraged my grow it/pick it/freeze it/can it frenzy this year.

I guess I should have noticed the warning signs that I was spinning a little out of control when I would post to my Facebook page “Going back to the blueberry patch today!” and my friends would playfully harass – You’re obsessed! You’re addicted! Out of control! Maybe when I nearly put my shoulder out of joint grinding tomatoes, or, when I began obsessively scouring Craigs List on a daily basis in the hunt for an affordable chest freezer… I probably should have realized that things were getting a little nuts.

As it was, it wasn’t until I was weighing, measuring and preparing for freezing yet another small mountain of zucchini that I was brought up short by my 9 year-old.

O: “Mama?”
M: “Yes?”
O: “You’re collecting a lot of food for the winter. You’re kind of being like a squirrel.”

It wasn’t an accusation; it was most certainly a fact. She was trying to let me know, in as gentle a way as she knew how, that I needed to put the zucchini down and back away slowly.

Since our little chat, I have tried to take it down a notch. I scrapped the spaghetti sauce canning and opted for bagging and freezing it. I have completely stopped my jam-a-thon – for now, and I’ve been giving away increasing amounts of tomatoes to friends and neighbors instead of trying to consume, dehydrate or can every last one by myself. The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Therefore I say with a mixture of pride and shame: I, Michelle, am being like a squirrel.