It’s adorable to watch the Mrs. get all enthusiastic about dinner while in the throws of our weekend food shopping, sometimes even on the subway ride. Keeping her in suspense is easier than you might thing since typically I have no idea what I want to make until I’m wherever we’re going. It’s a bit existential, I know, but lately I’ve felt compelled to well… not plan anything. I think being in a new place has something to do with it. I also think that it’s almost impossible to get used to something as large and multifaceted as NYC. As far as choice goes, I feel literally spoiled by it. This makes for some wonderfully spontaneous evenings in the kitchen, but pulling a culinary Hail Mary carries some amount risk.
I try to offset that risk by incorporating new ingredients into traditional preparations, or vise versa. Back at the Union Square Fresh Market (on a lovely day this time) last weekend, I got the sensation that the harvest season was about to provide bounty as in times of old. I was impressed by the semi-unusual fall veggies piled high on the stands: multi-colored carrots, pig-tailed fennel, lovely purple onions (called ‘torpedos’, they are originally from Italy), and the return of the sweet potato, a recently-added personal favorite. I got it into my head that I wanted to do a very simple oven roast of as many of these as I could get away with. Elizabeth runs hot and cold on huge helpings of roasted veggies, depending on more factors than a husband should have to keep track of.
Having firmly placed the cart before the horse, I set to composing a main dish. Elizabeth suggested fennel raviolis from a recipe she had seen that week. Unwilling to part with my roasting notion, I countered with mushroom raviolis. I thought the earthy little guys would compliment the autumn veggies well. I knew I had some uncooked turkey burgers I had made that could also serve as the center of a few meat-filled offerings as well.
I have made ravioli dough several times now, and it comes out great… sometimes. There are quite a few variables to optimize and not making it every day or week makes it tough to track what works and really, what doesn’t. As a scientist, if I can’t be 100% sure about these things, I don’t bother, it just gets too frustrating. Rigorous training in empirical logic notwithstanding, I have picked up one or two things. I tend to be too cautious when adding water to the dough. Most recipes do not stress that the dough can be really dry sometimes and I think I overwork it rather than just making it stickier with water. I let it rest for more than 30 minutes also, and one of these things seems to have helped (but which??!! See the problem???).
No matter, I guess. This time around the dough came out beautifully: not too sticky, not too dry, and very easy to roll out with the pasta machine. The fillings were a snap to bring together, as we sauteed a selection of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms with some olive oil and butter, and then added some table wine Elizabeth had picked up earlier in the week that wasn’t as good as expected (but I liked it well enough). Roasting the vegetables, of course, was also a cinch to prepare (what could be easier than quartering some veggies, drizzling them in olive oil, sprinkle a little salt on them, and roast them in the oven?) and the meal we completed was ample reward for the work that is required in making homemade ravioli.