September 20, 2017

Dear friends,

Imagine toasted butternut squash ravioli with a warm ricotta-Parmesan-sage dip. Keep on imagining, because I didn’t get around to creating that recipe last week. Maybe someday. I’ve been so busy (or lazy maybe) I instead splashed the ravioli with brown butter and topped them with frizzled prosciutto and fried sage.

You may already know how to make this classic dish, but I’m going to tell you anyway. For a dish so simple— it has just four ingredients — it sure tastes spectacular. Of course, you could turn it into a day-long project by roasting and pureeing the squash, making the pasta, and stuffing it with the butternut puree. But let’s not. I bought excellent butternut ravioli at Sam’s Club and spotted some the next day at Whole Foods. I’m sure Earth Fare carries them, too, and regular supermarkets may as well.

With that out of the way, all you have to do is brown some butter and fry some prosciutto and sage leaves. Seriously, this dinner almost qualifies as fast food.

A word about browning butter: You should barely sizzle it until the solids drop to the bottom of the pan and turn brown. The butter itself will look brown, but the toasted solids are what actually give it color. If you don’t pay attention, the solids will go from golden brown to black and the flavor will be ruined. Use a shiny pan so you can see the solids turning brown, and stand over the pan while the butter heats.

Frying fresh sage is easy; telling when it’s done is not. If the leaf turns brown, it is overcooked. You might have to sacrifice one or two leaves before you can tell just when to remove them from the oil. The leaves will shrink and ruffle a bit, but the centers will still look greenish and pliable. As they drain and cool on paper towels, they will crisp up.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI WITH PROSCIUTTO AND SAGE

  • 10 tbsp. butter
  • 20 large sage leaves
  • 4 oz. paper-thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1 package (18 oz.) uncooked, refrigerated butternut squash ravioli
  • Coarse sea salt, fresh-ground pepper
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter until melted and sizzling. Fry sage leaves, a few at a time, over medium-high heat until they begin to shrink and look crisp. Transfer to paper towels. In same skillet, fry prosciutto slices in batches until they shrink slightly and begin to pucker. Drain on paper towels.

In a small shiny pan, melt remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir until the butter turns golden brown. Do not allow the solids that drop to the bottom of the pan to burn. Remove from heat.

Drop ravioli into boiling water and cook according to package directions, about 5 minutes for al dente. Drain. Divide ravioli among four shallow bowls. Pour brown butter over pasta and top with the sage and prosciutto. Season to taste with a pinch of the salt and some pepper. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I ate out last week:

Baked lemon chicken breast, mashed potatoes at St. Thomas Hospital cafeteria in Akron; wedge salad with white French dressing, filet mignon, sautéed spinach with garlic at Wise Guys in Akron; potato samosa, chicken vindaloo, curried chickpeas, basmati rice at Whole Foods 365 in Akron; thin-crust vegetable pizza from Earth Fare; cheeseburger Happy Meal from McDonald’s.

What I cooked at home last week:
Pressure-cooker venison pot roast (awful; first attempt at pressure cooking); Spicy New England Pot Roast with carrots and onions (great); chocolate pudding; raspberry sugar-free gelatin;  grilled t-bone steaks, baked potatoes.

 

TIDBITS

For my birthday Tony took me to Wise Guys restaurant in the North Hill area of Akron. A friend had recommended it for steak and I’m glad she did.

I had eaten there several times when the restaurant was Nick Anthe’s, the latest about eight years ago with a friend, Joe Crea, the former food editor of the Plain Dealer. He was reviewing, I was eating — an alternate universe kind of situation for me. Even then the restaurant was a throwback to another era of crystal chandeliers, thick carpeting, polished woodwork and a menu of steaks, chicken picatta, Caesar salad and the like.

After it closed, gunsmith Tom Procaccio drove by the empty restaurant for two years before he rescued the landmark from oblivion.

“I just couldn’t stand seeing it sit there empty,” Procaccio says.

For never having owned a restaurant before, Procaccio has done a commendable job. He freshened the restaurant while keeping the best elements of the grand old Akron restaurant tradition — the cushy decor, special-occasion menu and a kitchen that has a way with steaks.

While the small filet I had was fine, I hear the ribeye is the bomb. At 22 ounces it is way too large for me, but I’ll coax Tony into ordering it the next time we go. I loved a side dish of garlicky, almost creamy sautéed spinach, and the white French dressing on a wedge salad was spot on.

Check out the menu at  wiseguys.us. Then visit one evening after a trying day, when all you want to do is sink into a booth, snap open a snowy white napkin and immerse yourself in some culinary deja vu.

TIDBITS II

It’s autumn to most people, but to me it’s Asian pear season. I’ve already eaten a half dozen of the crisp fruit, and that’s only the beginning. I got a whole boxful last weekend at Weymouth Farms and Orchard in the southern reaches of Hinckley, the epicenter of Asian pear deliciousness as far as I’m concerned.

Brenda and Paul, the proprietors, have branched out (no pun intended) the last few years to apples and grapes for wine making, Paul’s latest passion, but the pears are what keep me coming back. Wow. They are crisp but unreasonably juicy. I will have no trouble polishing off that case.

The various varieties are ripening and selling quickly this year, Brenda notes, so if you want some, visit soon. For details, see www.weymouthfarms.com.

THE MAILBAG

Dear readers: Somehow I lost several of your emails. I remember the gist of one of them and will reconstruct it below. If you sent me an email question or comment that I haven’t printed or responded to, please send it again if you have time. Thanks.

Q: You used a “dry white wine” in a recipe recently. What kind of wine do you buy?

A: All kinds, but usually a brut Champagne. I don’t buy any wine specifically for cooking unless I’m making a dish such as boeuf Bourguignon that uses an entire bottle. I can rarely polish off a bottle myself anymore, so I usually have leftover wine on hand for cooking. When I used to drink every bottle to the dregs, I would keep a bottle of white vermouth in the cabinet for recipes that called for less than a cup of white wine. Vermouth is a fortified wine (sugar is added), so it keeps for a long time.

To subscribe to this newsletter, please click here.

Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then click here to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s