Serrano Ham & Ricotta Ravioli

Friday, November 4, 2011

Serran Ham & Ricotta Ravioli

It's no surprise; if I could have picked my ethnicity, there's a pretty good chance that I would have chosen to be born Italian. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Italian cuisine is the world's greatest cuisine.

Who needs ultra rich French food when you've got the luxuriously comforting Italian food? From the hearty pasta dishes to the fun and simple pizzas, Italian is unbeatable.

I've always wanted to try to make ravioli and never really gave it a shot. Since I've been pregnant, my cooking has kind of taken a back seat. Well, not really a back seat, I've just gotten more Nigella Express and less Domestic Goddess in the last few months. That said, I couldn't be bothered to make my own ravioli pasta. Instead, I popped into the closest Chinese supermarket in Chinatown on my lunch break and spent less than a quid on a pack of wonton sheets.

Yup, this is wonton ravioli: super simple and super tasty.
pack of wonton pastry
pack of serrano ham
tub of ricotta
salt and pepper
lemon zest
cheese to top

Okay, let me set the record straight, I used serrano ham although it's Spanish and not Italian, simply because I like the earthy taste of serrano. I think it's a bit more rustic than prosciutto, which would have been my choice of cured meats for this. The serrano adds an extra bite to the dish, I think. It helps to deepen the flavors, plus it really works nicely against the lemon zest.

So, here's what you do. Combine the ricotta, serrano ham, cut into bits, lemon zest, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. Lay your wonton sheets out and place a small dollop in the middle of the pastry. Dip your finger into a shallow bowl of water and dampen the edges of the ravioli. Fold over or place another wanton sheet over the top. Press and then boil.

Once the water has come to a rolling boil, it should only take three minutes to cook the ravioli. I did it in batches, made up about four to six, then cooked them while I made up another for to six. It was a simple conveyor belt process. :)

When the last batch of ravioli was cooking, I dumped the spinach into the wok to wilt the leaves as well as popping about two tablespoons of margarine into a bowl and melting it in the microwave for the sauce. I served the ravioli on a bed of spinach and drizzled the butter over the ravioli, topped with cheese and sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. Easy peasy and tasty, too!

All Things Orange & Pumpkiny

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I do not know what I discovered first--the salty crunch of sunflower seed or the heady, balmy feel of softball. No matter which came first, both became big parts of my life. It's true, if I have to pick a favorite snack, I might be tempted to say sunflower seeds.

My love of sunflower seeds gradually evolved into a slight infatuation with other seeds and nuts. Such was my rapture, that I embarked on what could very well be a lifelong love affair with seeds and nuts, quite squirrel like, to be honest. Eventually, sunflower seeds gave way to pumpkin seeds. In fact, I can still remember the day I first tried pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.

We, the seven year olds who made up my elementary school class were sitting in a circle on the carpet, minutes away from starting our Harvest Festival. Parents had come to school carting Tupperware boxes of goodies or plastic bags of store-bought treats. The classroom had been divided--Indians sat on the floor in a way that was deemed ethically correct and fat-faced Pilgrims with white nun habits on their heads sat across from us. We were divided by an impressive cornucopia of festive fall foodstuffs.

Amongst that autumnal spread lay something I had never tasted, though I had known much about it. I could spell it; could tell you what color it was; knew that it belonged to the squash family, but never until that day had I ever eaten a pumpkin.

My first taste of it was in the form of pumpkin pie. One of my classmate's moms served me up a thick slice. It was a beautiful rich color, like the sweet potato pies my mother would make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mouth watered as I lifted the fork. The texture wasn't too different from sweet potato pie, just a bit more stringy, but it was lovely and delicious. I finished the pie and the whipped cream, dazed by the new food I'd discovered.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, someone was passing around pumpkin seeds. I had never seen pumpkin seeds but I was intrigued. Their pale white shells and teardrop shapes were enthralling and I peeled one apart after sucking the salt from its hull to find a curiously colored green seed. They were divine and so it began.

I became (as I guess we all have to be) a seasonal pumpkin consumer. It was never big in my family, my mom never really cooked with it, nor did she make pumpkin pies. But everywhere I went that was serving something pumpkin related, I devoured. In college, I discovered one of the best restaurant desserts ever: Olive Garden's pumpkin cheesecake.

One of my roommates and close friends and I would go to Olive Garden repeatedly in the autumn to devour the massive servings of pumpkin cheesecake. It became a rather pointed ritual--if the leaves we were changing we were sure to be found in the bistro sitting area of the Greensboro Olive Garden, sipping Venetian sunsets, waiting for our two course meal: a shared plate of spinach artichoke dip and a piece of pumpkin cheesecake each. It's amazing the things you can live off of in college. :)

Anyway, pumpkins and I, we have a lovely relationship. I keep licking my fingers as I type this, shoveling in helping after helping of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. The fiance and I, per our ritual, bought a pumpkin (two pumpkins, actually) last week and carved one into a rather whimsical jack o'lantern. Of course during the gutting process, we reserved the seeds, left them to dry out for a day or two in a bowl covered with Saran wrap.

This afternoon, I dumped the seeds onto a baking sheet, doused with generous helpings of salt and olive oil and roasted for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When they were finished roasting (and still warm) I tossed them in cinnamon, poured them onto a plate and sat down to eat and write this entry.

There's not much better in the days surrounding Halloween than pumpkin seeds and pumpkin recipes. As I type this, rough wedges of sliced pumpkin with skin and seeds intact are roasting in the oven in a bath of olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, sage and garlic, waiting to be transformed into a roasted pumpkin risotto and the next entry. :)