Monday, October 29, 2007

Stuffed Enough

When I returned home from my business trip/vacation, I couldn't believe how quickly, it seemed, the trees had shed their lush green hues and replaced them with luminous golds and reds.

Autumn had definitely slipped in while I was away, and it greeted this wayward traveler with brisk winds and bone-chilling mornings that make me reach for my woollies.

But that's OK, because I'm Ohio-born and -bred, and I'm tough enough to withstand this change in the weather. (At least that's what I tell myself.) The key to warming up outside is to warm up inside, and I've been enjoying lots of comforting pasta and all the hearty fall vegetables I can take. And once the Chef Mother made it home from another stay in the hospital, I wanted to share the same sort of comfort food with her.

Since My Wonderful Parents had so enjoyed the lasagna I'd made upon their return, I decided to pull out the trusty pasta dough recipe once again and make ravioli. While I made the same homemade cheese for the filling, I also sauteed some garlic and threw in a bag of spinach from the Madcap Farmer, cooking it down and then pureeing it with the cheese for a brilliant green stuffing.

Instead of opting for a traditional marinara sauce, though, I decided to carmelize thin slices of red onion before adding garlic, rosemary, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the mix. Then I tossed in small slices of steamed butternut squash, letting it cook with a splash of homemade black raspberry vinegar until the whole mixture smelled heavenly and hit the right balance between firm and mushy.

The Chef Mother found the entire combination thoroughly impressive -- she is feeling better! -- and she appreciated the simple lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes on the side, along with tender green beans dressed simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I shared a bottle of White Menagerie wine from the local vineyard, and its crisp notes of fresh apples and peaches highlighted the rich flavors on the plate to perfection.

She was also impressed to know that almost the entire meal was local: all the vegetables came from the farmers' market; the cheese was made from local milk; the pasta used local whole wheat and spelt flours plus a local egg; and the wine was made just down the road. In fact, the only items not locally sourced were the olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

With a small dish of apple crisp made by My Dear Papa to round out the meal, we enjoyed a delicious dinner, made even more delightful by watching the Chef Mother's renewed interest and appetite.

They graciously ceded the leftovers to me so that I can enjoy them another night, especially as the temperatures are expected to dip again soon and I'll be wanting more comfort food. And as the leaves continue to drift earthward with each passing frosty night, I'm sure I'll revisit this sort of dish again to keep my cozy on a cold evening.


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