Here it is Halloween again! This year I’m not taking on any extensive cooking projects – I think I’m going to do a risotto with some pumpkin and the chanterelles a friend gave me yesterday, and (by spousal request) a pecan pie. That should be festive enough.
What’s everyone else eating tonight? Besides tiny Twix bars, of course.
For years we’ve eaten pumpkin on Halloween. Often in the form of soup, with Yorkshire pudding and sausages alongside, and sometimes in ravioli. This year we decided to take a complete break from it. Instead I made an equally autumnal supper of pan-fried rainbow trout and a rather successful melange of Brussels sprouts, onion and bacon, which worked extremely well. The trout was from Skagit’s Own Fish Market and was just beautiful, lightly floured and fried in a bit of bacon fat. The bacon itself was from Skagit River Ranch, and I wish I could say I liked it better. Everyone we know has been raving about it for the last year, and I finally got hold of some (whoa! expensive), but good lord it’s sugary. It smells wonderful in the pan, like smoke and maple syrup, but it burns really easily, and after a few bites I feel like I’ve eaten a candy bar. Brussels sprouts made the perfect vehicle for it, giving the sugar somewhere to go.
We drank a bottle of Sones Cancion del Mar white wine, gave out a few Butterfingers to the neighbor kids, and didn’t miss the pumpkins at all.
There are certain colors that food just isn’t supposed to be, particularly blue and black. Admittedly there are some black foods that most people don’t have a problem with, such as licorice or caviar. But when a food that isn’t normally black suddenly is? It’s really hard to convince yourself that it’s OK to eat – some sort of primal response to Bad Food. Someone brought these black devilled eggs to a Halloween party we went to, and it seemed to take the guests quite a while to work themselves up to trying them. Once they did, though, they disappeared rapidly.
Or as I originally wanted to title this post, The Annual Pumpkin Ravioli Cock-up. It seems like we get worse at this every year.
The first thing that went wrong was the pumpkin. As usual we cut in in half, scooped it out, rubbed it with oil and stuck it in the oven. Instead of getting soft and caramelized, however, it dried out and got stiff. It was too hard to mash by hand, so Jon ran it through the Cuisinart. A little balsamic vinegar and grated Parmesan and it seemed fine, but it was much more work than usual.
Then the pasta. I made one egg’s worth, using all-purpose flour and semolina, and it felt fine. But it dried out very quickly, and once again the #5 setting on our Atlas pasta maker seemed to rip the sheets to shreds (I wonder if the calibration is off?) When we tried laying a sheet in our ravioli mold and added the squash filling, the pasta cracked and tore under the weight. We dumped the broken ravioli into the compost and cut up the rest of the pasta into ribbons. I cooked the pasta ribbons and served them with a scoop of pumpkin puree on top, with a hot Italian sausage on the side and a spinach salad. It was delicious. But it was assuredly not ravioli.
Here’s to a fun and safe Halloween evening – what’s everyone dressing up as? We’re doing something piratical, but details are still getting ironed out.
You may be interested to know that I have once again lost my mind and signed up for NaBloPoMo, so I will be posting every single day for a month, starting tomorrow. Stay tuned!
My original plan for Halloween dinner was to try a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi from the penultimate issue of Gourmet (sigh), but the little sugar pie pumpkin that I bought at Gordon’s was looking at me reproachfully. Right. I put off the gnocchi in favor of a sort-of repeat of last year’s pumpkin ravioli. Why did I think it would be less painful this time?
Last week I went out and got us a carving pumpkin (not yet carved) and our annual sugar pie pumpkin at Gordon’s. I have a plan for Halloween dinner, but we’ll see if I change my mind before I get there.
And coming soon: NaBloPoMo!
“Maybe I should have started with linguine instead of ravioli.” I was trying to remember how to make pasta, and beginning to wonder if, instead of pumpkin ravioli, our Halloween dinner was going to consist of pasta shreds with mashed pumpkin on top. Fortunately for us, and for those of you looking at the photos of our final product, it did finally come out.
I used to make ravioli and other filled pastas, back when I was young and unemployed and had more time in the kitchen, but it had definitely been a while. And I never did get the hang of squash-filled pastas – it seemed like I always overfilled them or the filling was too watery, and the pastas always self-destructed in the pot. I’m happy to report, though, that this recipe (from Mario Batali’s Babbo Cookbook) worked beautifully. I only had to wad up the pasta scraps and reroll them once! And the pumpkin didn’t cook evenly, so we ran it through the cuisinart to get rid of the hard chunks. But the result was very, very delicious. I did skip the amaretti cookies on top, though, because that just sounded disgusting.
Here’s the main ingredient in tonight’s dinner – a cute little pumpkin from Blue Heron Farm. This year we’re doing something a bit different than our usual soup – stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Happy Hallowe’en, Samhain, and Dia de los Muertos to all!