I Won This Ravioli. It Rocks.

Okay, so remember that review I did a couple of weeks ago of the butternut squash seed oil?  Well, if not, here’s a link that will bring it all rushing back with amazing clarity.  That particular post was part of a contest that was being sponsored by Marx Foods, and the winner was awarded their choice of six pounds of Pumpkin or Butternut Squash ravioli.

Guess who won?

Yep – it was I.  Little old me.

And on Thursday, I was greeted by a friendly delivery man dropping off a large box full of frozen squares of pumpkin-sage deliciousness.  Not that I ate them frozen.  That would be weird.

Despite the fact that pumpkin-sage ravioli is really more of an autumnal pasta, I decided to serve it for dinner last night with a mushroom/goat cheese cream sauce.  And let me just tell you – it was pretty amazing.

I mean, you can’t really go wrong with piquant goat cheese and earthy, deeply browned cremini mushrooms.  That combo would be tasty over just about anything.  But, when you pair it with this ravioli – this beautiful, colorful pasta, which is slightly sweet and a little nutty, bursting with robust savory richness – it is elevated to a whole new level.  This is a marriage of flavors, y’all.

To make the sauce, I browned a pound of sliced cremini mushrooms in about a tablespoon of butter over high, high heat.  You want those babies to get brown, brown, brown.  I waited to add salt until they had achieved the level of brown-ness I wanted, since salt draws out moisture, which is the enemy of browning.  I also added a minced shallot toward the end and just let it soften.

Once the mushrooms got good and brown, and the shallots had softened, I reduced the heat to low and added a cup of cream and 4 oz. of goat cheese to the mix.  I tasted for seasoning and added a little more salt and some cracked black pepper.  Once the goat cheese melted and became incorporated,  I added the cooked pasta and it was done.  It was about 15 minutes, start to finish (which is just about how much time it took for the water to boil and the pasta to cook).

If you have an occasion to taste this ravioli, I encourage you to take advantage of it.  I realize that the price on the Marx Foods website seems a little high, but when you consider that it includes overnight shipping and handling, it doesn’t seem so bad.  You get about 16 portions, which breaks down to 6 pieces per person (which is more than enough) for an entree portion, but you could easily extend it by serving it as an appetizer and only serving 2 or 3 pieces per person.  And my experience with the folks at Marx Foods has been nothing but positive.  They’ve been very helpful and quick to respond to my emails.

I do recognized that it’s unseasonably warm in most areas of the country, and pumpkin sage ravioli may be the last thing you want to think about right now.  However, this was too delicious not to share.  And as I said, this sauce would be tasty over just about anything – on scrambled eggs for breakfast, over papardelle for dinner, on crostini as an appetizer (you might want to reduce the cream for that last one).   It’s good stuff.

Pumpkin Sage Ravioli with Mushroom Goat Cheese Cream Sauce
prep time: 2 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil.  Add the frozen ravioli and stir immediately to avoid sticking.  Cook 4-6 minutes, or until they float.  Remove from the water using a strainer or large slotted spoon.  Add to the sauce.
  2. While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, heat a large, heavy bottomed saute pan over high heat.
  3. Add butter and sliced mushrooms.  Cook over high heat until mushrooms are browned.
  4. Add shallot and cook until softened.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add cream and goat cheese.  Stir to melt goat cheese.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add cooked pasta and stir to coat.
  8. Enjoy!

Note:  I received this ravioli free from Marx Foods as an award from a contest in which I participated.  I was not asked to write a review in return for the product.  The opinions in this post are mine.

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Soda Crackers for Days

Do you know Martha Hall Foose?   I don’t, not personally at least, but I wish I did.  She seems like the kind of woman I’d want for a friend.  Warm, welcoming, funny, full of stories to delight your soul and your senses.  Plus, we’re both from Mississippi, and that’s an automatic bond in and of itself.  Us Mississippi gals have to stick together.

I was thrilled to be offered a review copy of her latest cookbook, A Southerly Course, in which she shares recipes and stories of life in the South.  As I flipped through the pages, I was struck by the sense of ease and comfort that seeps from the pages.  Her words are effortless and her recipes are inspiring.  She offers passages that are juicy, concise in their construction, yet rich in meaning:

Peeking beneath the table’s pall in the mythic South to see how its patent qualities of deep involvement with family, observance of ritual, and celebration of eccentricity play out around Southern food today has been quite a trip.  It has taken me on an inner journey as well.  My ambition to understand this mythologizing to which we Southerners are prone has had me up nights in the kitchen.  The myths themselves seem to begin with stories told around tables.

There’s a sense of front porch simplicity, of Sunday dinners on the farm, of family traditions passed down through generations.  She writes of a life with which I’m familiar, of hardship masked by the fortitude and grace of the people of this region.  My people.  Her people.  If you’re from the South, or even if you’re not (maybe even especially if you’re not), I highly recommend this book.  Even if you never attempt one of the recipes, you’ll delight in the stories behind them, and in the insight into this strange and rich subculture of America.

I really, really, really wanted to try the Skillet Fried Corn recipe.  When I first got the book, I flipped through the various sections, and the book just sort of naturally fell open to this page.  For years, my mother and I have romanticized my paternal Grandmother’s fried corn.  It’s what many people have come to call creamed corn, but it’s a far cry from what we know today as creamed corn.  I can picture it now, golden kernels of corn, dotted with a surplus of black pepper, fried in bacon grease.  The “cream” came from scraping the milk from the cob after you’d cut the kernels off.  Ms. Foose’s recipe is the closest I’ve come to something similar.  Hers calls for butter in addition to the bacon grease, and garlic (which I’m pretty sure my Grandmother never used), but otherwise it’s close.  Unfortunately, corn season has passed in these parts, so it will have to wait until next summer.

As it turns out, the first recipe I decided to test was used more as a guideline than as a formula.  I needed a soda cracker recipe, and hers was the first I came to.  I followed her ratios, but the ingredients are mine.  It was nice to find a simple, straightforward recipe for a cracker in a modern cookbook, though.  I think so many of us have come to rely on store bought crackers that we forget that they can be made at home.  And perhaps they should – there’s something personal about serving guests crackers that didn’t come from a sleeve in a cardboard box.  Plus, you can store them in adorable mason jars – there’s not much cuter than that.

Sage Cornmeal Soda Crackers
adapted from A Southerly Course by Martha Hall Foose
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
yields: 180 crackers

  • 3 1/2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3/4 cup expeller-pressed (non-hydrogenated) vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Combine dry ingredients
  3. Cut shortening into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until it resembles course meal
  4. Make a well in the center and add the milk
  5. Stir to combine and knead to form a stiff dough.  If it’s too wet, add some more flour or cornmeal
  6. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and roll to a 1/8-inch thickness
  7. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into one-inch squares.  Prick with a fork and sprinkle with sea salt
  8. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
  9. Allow to cool before serving.

They were crisp and light, if a little dry.  As I recall, though, that’s a feature of soda crackers.  The cornmeal gave them some texture, and the sage was subtle but still noticeable.  They paired very nicely with a sweet potato bisque that I served for dinner.  I think they would also be good smeared with goat cheese and topped with tomato jam.  I was pleasantly surprised when the recipe yielded almost 180 crackers – Ms. Foose’s version says it only makes 60.  Not sure why the discrepancy, but I’m certainly not complaining.  We’ll have soda crackers for days.