Monday, March 7, 2011

Dark Days #14: Fresh Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce

Last month I had a flurry of Dark Days Meals and then I kind of petered out for these last two weeks (since the Eggs Benedict adventure). By my count, I'm still working on an average of one per week, and we're now on week #14.  Six to go to take me to the middle of April, which was my original committment.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, our winter farmer's market is taking the month of March "off". This will make fresh greens slightly more challenging, but not impossible (I still have Finger Lakes Fresh for lettuce and basil). Potatoes are also getting hard to find; my source in Moravia has all but dried up, and I didn't stock up at the market before they closed. Still, I think we can finish this out strong!

In my fridge from my last trip(s) to the market though I had a few items hanging about, including fresh spinach and bok choi. I also had some dried shiitake mushrooms from Blue Oyster Cultivation that I wanted to use. Together with some fresh mushrooms that I found at Wegmans, and the cheese I'd just made, I had the fixin's for ravioli with spinach ricotta filling and a mushroom sauce on top.

For the ravioli, I used my usual recipe from Lidia Bastianich, but for the first time I actually made a whole batch not a half, with hopes of freezing leftovers for another meal. For the filling, I mostly followed suggestions from Miss Bastianich, but I left out the parmasean and the egg.  For the sauce, I more or less used a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook, but used a lot more mushrooms than he called for.

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • I certainly broke my 50-mile radius ring this time around, but I tried to make up for it by buying organic and trying some other new local items.  Outside of my usual exceptions of spices and oil, the most frustrating culprit was probably the fresh musrooms (Shiitake and Portabellas). They were organic, but from a place called Phillips Gourmet, in Kendall Square, PA. From what I can tell, it's just outside my 200 mile radius ring. Had I planned better, I might have been able to get fresh mushrooms from our local grower.
  • I did top the sauce with a little freshly grated romano (from Italy), and some chopped parsley (from I don't know where) for color. If you can believe it, I'm still  working on that same buch of parsley from over a month ago. It's kept amazingly well in my produce drawer simply wrapped in a plastic bag!
  • The pasta was made with truly local grains this week though, as I used some "All Purpose" flour grown by CPO and milled by FGF. However, I'm not sure I'll do that again. That AP flour worked and tasted great in my english muffins last weekend, but for some reason it made for very tough, not at all elasticy pasta dough. They do claim that although the protein content is right where AP flour should be, it has more whole grains and germ in it than is typical (which you can see from the brown flecked color).
  • Tough pasta dough is not a good thing when working with ravioli, or so I learned. You can perhaps see in the picture that I had to do a few "polish patches" to keep the filing from leaking out!
  • I used local eggs, fresh butter I made from local milk, my own onions and garlic from my dad's garden.
  • I learned that the greens I normally buy at the grocery store must arrive to me already quite old. At least that's all I can figure based on how quickly they go bad compared to the fresh things I've been getting at the market. My spinach was over two weeks old and I had to toss one, yes one piece that was starting to get a little funky. Fresh food rocks.
  • I learned that like eggs benedict, at least for now, ravioli falls into the category of a "good thing to go out for dinner and have someone else fix for you". It's really delicious, but a lot of work!!

In other, non-Dark Days news, we had major snow here last night! So much for maple sap flow for a while, unfortunately. Here are a few shots from the scene outside my "office" window this morning.  Note the progression, and the item ultimately borrowed (at the "price" of a dozen fresh eggs) from our neighbor!!

Finally, since today is the 7th of March, it was time to start planning for Saint Patrick's day. For the first time ever, I'm making corned beef from (local) scratch!!  I hope to serve it with my own sauerkraut and local potatoes in a couple weeks. I didn't have/use saltpeter (potassium nitrite), but I think there is enough salt in my brine to keep things safe. I can't wait to see how it comes out!

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