A few years ago one of my childhood-memory-bubbles was burst. We grabbed autumn by the horns and went to one of those apple orchard/fall festival farm/corn maze/petting zoo/pumpkin patch bonanzas that are all the rage these days. Oh it was fun; we drank hot apple cider, took silly pictures in the haunted corn maze, and noshed on cider donuts (which alone makes the trip worth it).
But there was one devastating discovery on this trip: the pumpkin patch. If you can even call it that! Where the pumpkin patch should have been, we instead found a big, plain dirt field with a bunch of cut pumpkins scattered throughout. They were actually price-tagged and bar-coded. WHAT? This was no pumpkin patch! This was merely the midnight work of someone with a truckload full of foreign pumpkins! Uh. The horror.
For the kids out there who are missing out on one of the time-honored Great American traditions, let me just tell you, this is no pumpkin patch. A real pumpkin patch is a tangled mess of prickly leaves and gnarly vines that trip your small feet as you wade out into the very middle (at least a 30 minute walk) to find the very very best one. Your Dad basically needs a machete to cut the one you’ve selected from the vine. And your hands actually get dirty. The field is peppered and tangled with gourds of all colors and sizes, most looking like they came straight from the moon. And if you didn’t complain too much on the walk back to the car, you could even pick out one of these to have too. And there were no cider donuts. You had the perfect pumpkin! What else could you possibly need to be the happiest kid on Earth?
Flying Feather Farm had a real pumpkin patch. They grew those pumpkins the old skool way – from seeds and dirt and water, not the flatbed of a Ford 150. And I spent a lot of October afternoons picking up as many of those pumpkins as I could in search of the ultimate one to bring home to carve.
Bleh. I guess those days are over. Now it’s: “Hey honey, grab that one with the pink price tag sticker. Those are three for $20. Stick another cider donut into Johnny’s mouth so he stops complaining. And flag down the truck, there’s no way I’m carrying an 8 lb. pumpkin back to the Mercedes!”
But, being the eternal optimist that I am, I do have a little silver lining from my new millennium pumpkin patch experience – and that’s Festival Squash. They had them at the produce stand (right next to the blue grass band and the balloon-making clown) and I was captivated. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, walking through the Ballard Farmer’s Market, and I find the allusive festival squash again. I bought two.
If you are a devout Seattle Palate reader, you know that my two favorite things are soup and squash. The festival is a little bigger than an acorn squash, and tastes like a mix of butternut and acorn. It’s nutty and sweet and has a wonderful texture that’s smooth enough to melt on your tongue, but gritty enough that you know you’re not eating baby food. It’s delicious.
You can crack one in half, remove the seeds, and roast face-down on a baking sheet at 425 for 30 minutes or so. Then scoop out the meat and eat it just like that. Or add just a bit of cream and seasoning for delicious mashed squash. Or dice it up and roast or boil it for a lovely topping for salad, or a great side dish. Or throw the roasted flesh in the blender with a little chicken stock and puree until really smooth and then sit a pork chop or chicken breast on top of it, and you have the homemade equivalent of those purees that are all the rage in restaurants right now.
I was feeling particularly fancy, so I decided to use it as ravioli filling, mixed with cheese and herbs. The parmesan, squash, and fried sage really sing together. This time I used won ton wrappers instead of pasta because it’s easy, but next time I will probably use fresh pasta sheets for a really special treat. Either way, it’s a bit of a process to make these, but if you like experimenting in the kitchen, you might even think it’s fun. You can freeze the extra raviolis on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, then transfer to a zip-top bag and pull them out for a super-quick (and delicious) dinner, or as a great addition to a simple stock soup. Enjoy!
Festival Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
Click here to print this recipe.
From: www.Culinate.com, Caroline Cummins, adapted from Chow Magazine September/October 2005
Serves: 4 – 6
Time to prepare: 4 hours (including roasting & cooling the squash), 1 hour to prep and cook ravioli and sauce
2 medium autumn squash such as: acorn, festival, butternut, delicata or pumpkin – enough to yield 4 cups roasted flesh
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten in a small bowl
1 package wonton wrappers (found in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores)
Flour for dusting
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 large handful fresh young sage leaves
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Roast the Squash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spray sheet with cooking spray.
Halve the squash using a large serrated knife, sawing back and forth. Discard the seeds (or toss with olive oil and kosher salt and roast for a great snack).
Place the halves cut side down on the oiled sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on squash size, until flesh is soft and slightly caramelized. If you’re making the dish over two nights, let the squash cool, then remove the flesh and store in the fridge overnight.
Make the Filling
Put the cooled flesh in a large bowl and crush it with a fork until there are no large lumps remaining.
Sprinkle the ½ cup grated cheese, nutmeg, thyme, salt, and pepper over the squash and mix it all together evenly.
Assemble the Ravioli
Lightly dust two baking sheets with flour.
Place a single wonton wrapper on a wooden cutting board and dollop about 2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of the wrapper. (Keep the package of won ton wrappers covered with a damp cloth while working to prevent them from drying out.)
Using a pastry brush, brush a bit of the egg wash along the four edges of the wrapper around the filling.
Place another wrapper over the first and carefully seal the edges, making sure no air pockets remain.
Use a glass or a cookie cutter to cut the edges off the ravioli so that you have circular ravioli instead of square ones if you like.
Place the finished ravioli on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat until all the wonton wrappers are gone; you may have filling left over (you can heat it up and eat as a side dish the next day).
Cook the Ravioli
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the ravioli in batches, about 6 to 8 at a time – they will float when done, about 3 to 5 minutes total.
Scoop the ravioli out of water with a skimmer and drain them briefly on a clean dishtowel. If not serving immediately, layer them with a little olive oil drizzled in between the layers to prevent sticking.
Make the Sauce
While the ravioli are cooking, melt the butter in a pan over medium to medium-low heat until the butter starts to brown.
Add the sage leaves and cook for a few minutes (don’t let the butter burn!) and then add the stock. Simmer the sauce to reduce it while the ravioli finish cooking.
Place 3 to 5 ravioli on a plate and pour some of the butter-sage sauce over them. Pass the remaining grated cheese at the table.