Every Wednesday I volunteer at Burning River Farm in Frederic, WI. I love being on the farm, learning how to pick vegetables, conversing with Adrienne the Market/Harvest manager and Mike the owner, and generally feeling more connected to my food. Chris said, when I told him I was going to start volunteering there on my days off, "we could have just started a garden, wouldn't that make you feel closer to your food?" The truth is, I love to garden, but being a part of a farming operation - one that provides a hundred-plus member CSA, vegetables to local co-ops, and a few farmer's markets - was different. While I do not live there and I do not get up at 5AM every day to work, I feel that spending this time at Burning River has made me extremely appreciative of what small farmers do, thus making me all the more thankful for the delicious food they provide.
Today, while helping pack CSA boxes brimming with sweet corn (which I helped pick), squash, onions, basil, carrots, beans, and tomatoes, I started thinking about what I wanted to cook for dinner tonight. I actually spend a lot of my time there thinking about cooking, and my meal plan for this evening changed at least three or four times. Mike and Adrienne pay me in produce (SO nice of them!) so I left with, among other things, a huge patty pan squash and a beautiful bunch of fresh rainbow chard. It is moments like these when I wish this blog application would allow me to post more than one picture so I could show you this beautiful bounty prior to cooking, but alas you just get a photo of the end result.
I really wanted to focus on making as much from scratch as I could for this meal, as a true homage to the hard work that goes into the produce I was using. I decided to make ravioli with homemade ricotta (I admit I cheated on the pasta dough and used egg roll wrappers, as I am moving and trying to clean out my fridge) and toss it with sauteed chard, then top it with crispy roasted patty pan, toasted hazelnuts, and this delicious Argentine Parmesan we picked up from The Wedge over the weekend. I also baked up some cast-iron pot bread, since I had been craving it for several days.
After prepping the bread dough, I started on the ricotta. You can use store-bought ricotta, but if you haven't made ricotta and want to try it out, I highly recommend it. It is a great starter cheese, since it is really easy to make and requires ingredients and tools you probably already have in your kitchen. While the ricotta was cooking, I packed a little, then started in on the raviolis when the ricotta was fully drained and properly salted. I decided to cut the egg roll wrappers into circles to make them smaller, and did so using an inverted drinking class and a table knife. I put a small dollop of ricotta in the middle and sealed the two pieces with a bit of water. I should note that you can also substitute any pasta into this recipe that you want, filled or not, but if you can get fresh pasta I would recommend it.
Chris and I enjoyed this with a lovely Amador County Zinfandel (a little homage to my soon-to-be new home) while watching the newest episode of Top Chef. How appropriate, right?
Homemade Ricotta Raviolis with Swiss Chard and Patty Pan "Croutons"
Serves four (or two with delicious leftovers!)
Enough fresh pasta for four people (filled or not filled), cooked
1 large patty pan squash, cut into small cubes (you can also substitute summer squash, zucchini, or even butternut squash)
1 c hazelnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease or place a non-stick mat on a cookie sheet. Toss the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto prepared cookie sheet into a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, turning the squash over halfway through to ensure even cooking and crispness.
Place hazelnuts on a dry cookie sheet. Place in the oven with the squash and toast for 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a clean dry dishcloth; fold the dishcloth over the nuts and roll your hands over the nuts for 20-30 seconds to remove the skin. Transfer the nuts back to the pan, clean off the dishtowel, then move the nuts back to the towel and fold the dishcloth over them. Using a rolling pin, roll over the nuts to break them into smaller pieces.
While the squash is baking, chop the stems of the chard the short way; set aside. Lay the leaves of the chard on top of one another, then roll tightly the long way. Slice the roll of chard leaves the short way; set aside.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet at medium-heat. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes. Add the chard stems and saute for 3 minutes, or until they are starting to get soft. Add the chard leaves and saute until wilted. Transfer from a skillet to a large bowl and set aside.
Keeping the stove at medium heat, add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add the pasta, chard, and squash; toss until heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Transfer to individual bowls (or serve family-style in a large bowl) and top with shaved Parmesan and toasted hazelnuts. Feel free to add a sprinkle of fresh basil as well!