Orange Is the New Dinner Color (+ a recipe)

by Nicole Walker (guest blogger)

It was one of the battles my sisters and I usually hold. When my sisters and I get together, we choose a theme and have a contest to see who wins or who kills the guests by over stuffing them with too much food.

In June, we played Battle Yellow. I should have written down what we made because I forget the details of most battles. I think I made Elote. Valerie (my sister) painted a cake with gold flakes. Paige (my sister) made popcorn which, of course, won because popcorn is everyone’s favorite food group.

But this October visit, we planned Battle Orange. Paige stayed home in Salt Lake with the dogs since she had to work. We were all supposed to have driven to Mexico but Erik’s (my husband) passport didn’t show up in time for us to get our money back on the house we rented. Good thing we canceled. His passport arrived on Saturday–what would have been the last full day of our trip. Still, we made do here in Flagstaff, visiting Page Springs winery and eating dinner at Shift.

On Saturday, I wanted to host my friend Beya and her family, so my dear friend could meet my dear sister. Beya is mostly vegetarian, but she’ll eat fish sometimes. I saw the Arctic Char at Whole Foods. It’s a little pinker than orange but close enough. I had egg whites at home. We had mangoes. Butternut squash. Frank’s hot sauce. Oranges. Orange cheddar cheese.

Besides the Arctic char, we bought nothing besides carrots, cream, and chicken wings, which we sent our now-driving daughters to the store to pick up. My point? I didn’t leave the house except to watch Max’s football game all day Saturday, and yet Val and I made an pretty fine dinner for 11 for $32 plus whatever stuff we had in the house.

It turns out orange is the easiest color of food to imagine a menu. We’ve done Battle Green–which was also pretty easy. Battle White was great fun but trickier. I made hamachi crudo (again, remembering nothing else). Battle Blue was the hardest one because, as I shucked Blue Point oysters, I also shucked my own hand. Valerie took me to the ER even though she tells all of us she doesn’t do Emergency Rooms on the weekend, so you had best be careful. Battle Citrus was probably the winner. Paige made an excellent citrusy Cosmo, and Val made lemon capellini with caviar. I made duck with an orange sauce.

But the Battle Orange required very little effort of imagination. Butternut squash–what can we make? Ravioli with butter sage sauce. Mangoes and oranges? Add some jalapeno, onions, avocado, and strawberries and make a salsa topping for the Arctic Char. Of course, Valerie won with the Buffalo wings She cooked them in the oven for almost two hours, then she tossed them in a bucket of butter and Frank’s hot sauce. Beya, as a vegetarian, didn’t eat the wings, but they were the first to go. She has two teenage boys.

For vegetarians, I almost always make a souffle, so why not make a souffle? I already had separated egg whites in the fridge. The girls brought home the carrots–which are orange. Cheese is orange. Eggs are yellow and white, but we can work with that. I made a souffle from mostly memory.

The ravioli was the big project. I had to climb up and over the fridge to summon the pasta machine. I don’t make pasta nearly enough. Why don’t I? A holdover from Keto days? Flour all over the kitchen? Probably time, but with this recipe, it’s so easy. I stole the whole kit and kaboodle (I originally wrote cat and caboodle) from the Internet, as one does. I didn’t read until just now that the lady who makes this freezes half of the ravioli and the sauce is only enough for 4. But actually, I didn’t read how much sage-butter sauce to make. I just put a stick of butter in a pan, as I did for the souffle. I had planned to make an orange beurre blanc for the Arctic Char but sometimes, a stick of butter in every other portion of the dinner is enough.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Ingredients

PASTA

  • 1 ½ cups Semolina Pasta Flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose Flour
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

FILLING

  • 2 ½ lbs butternut squash (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 8 whole garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

SAUCE & GARNISH (SEE NOTES BELOW)

  • 4 tablespoons butter ((½ stick))
  • 10 whole fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

TO MAKE THE PASTA DOUGH:

  • Combine all pasta ingredients and mix together to make a stiff dough. Knead by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook on medium low speed for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 20 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out to desired thickness and cut as desired.

TO MAKE THE FILLING:

  • Toss the squash with the garlic in a bowl with just enough olive oil to evenly coat everything. Roast on a baking sheet at 400oF for about 45 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and mix in a food processor to combine – slowly pouring additional olive oil into the mixture until the consistency is smooth. Add parmesan, dried sage, and salt and pepper, to taste. Use this filling to make the ravioli.

TO MAKE THE SAUCE:

  • Combine butter and fresh sage leaves in small sauce pan. Heat over low heat for at least 15 minutes to infuse the butter. Then, increase the heat just a bit (take care not to burn) and stir continuously until the butter browns slightly and the sage leaves crisp. 

TO PREPARE:

  • Use a ravioli press to add and seal one teaspoon of filling in between each pasta sheet. Dip finger in water and wet edges of pasta before adding second sheet to allow for a nicely sealed ravioli. Use a roller, gently pressing down, to seal them up. Be sure to heavily flour the outside of your pasta to enable easy release.
  • Boil the ravioli in plenty of salted water until just done. This will only take a short time! The ravioli will float on the surface of the water when they are finished. Carefully remove and drain. Serve with sage butter, a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, and a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

NOTES:

 recipe makes 6 dozen ravioli

  • To cook: toss the ravioli in salted boiling water for just a few minutes until they float.
  • To freeze: line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add a single layer of the homemade ravioli. Set in freezer and once completely frozen, they can be added to a resealable plastic bag. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Making the pasta: I prefer an even mix of semolina flour to all-purpose flour. It gives the pasta great texture and chew, plus it’s insanely easy to work with. The addition of olive oil to the dough can be tasted in the final pasta – YUM! You must kneed your pasta dough for a solid ten minutes. If you want to do this by hand, more power to you, but pasta dough is not a soft dough like bread dough, so you’re in for a workout. I highly recommend using your Kitchenaid mixer. You have to be sure to cover the dough and allow it to rest. This process allows the gluten to do whatever gluten does to make pasta wonderful.
  • To roll out the sheets of pasta dough to make your homemade ravioli, you can roll it on the counter by hand, but I highly recommend using a pasta roller. I’ve used the KitchenAid pasta attachments before, and while they certainly are easy to use, there is something so satisfying about rolling pasta dough in a quality made in Italy pasta roller. Just be sure you use enough flour to avoid any sticking in your pasta machine.
  • When forming the ravioli, be sure to have floured all of your dough generously so that it releases easily from the mold.
  • Sauce amount – Since I typically don’t cook all of these ravioli (I cook some and freeze the rest), the amount of sauce in this recipe is perfect for my family of four. If you’re planning on cooking ALL of the ravioli at the same time, you may want to double or triple the sauce amount.

If you made it to the end of the recipe, fine reading work, friends. You have been indoctrinated in the 14-page essay before the recipe. Also, because I’m not a pure plagiarist, I linked to the original ravioli recipe. But one of the goals of this blog post is to get you to Valerie’s mustard-selling website, The Curvy Spoon, because Battle Mustard is coming, and we want you to be prepared.

The Exhausted Parents’ Guide to Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

by Heidi Skurat Harris, guest blogger

Every year, I take my son to pick a pumpkin at a local church fundraiser. He uses two criteria for selection:

  1. The pumpkin must be perfectly round and unblemished.
  2. The pumpkin must be perfectly clean.

As anyone familiar with pumpkins knows, those criteria make the perfect pumpkin as common as the Great Pumpkin.

This October 16th, 2021, we found the perfect pumpkin in about 20 minutes. In truth, we found it in the first 5 minutes, but we had to look at all of the rest of the pumpkins (and some twice) before my son could, with confidence, select said pumpkin. I tried to convince him to pick a lumpy, gnarly pumpkin that looked really cool, but apparently because I’m in my mid-40s, I don’t actually know what “cool” means.

(I mention the date because I would like credit for taking the boy pumpkin hunting a full two-weeks before Halloween while there were still a lot of pumpkins to choose from, which almost never happens.)

For the remainder of this blog, I will call the perfect pumpkin Phyllis and my son Darby.

Darby clocks in right at the 25th percentile for height and weight on the pediatrician chart. He can still fit into some 4T clothes and has trouble meeting the height requirements on fair rides.

He’s a little guy.

Phyllis, on the other hand, would clock in at 75th percentile for weight and height at the gourd doctor. If she were a cat, she’d be a chonk. If she were a Starbucks drink, she’d be a trenta–a full 31 oz. of pumpkin spice love. 

She’s a hefty girl.

I paid by circumference, so by my estimates, Phyllis was approximately $10 more expensive than a grocery store pumpkin with similar qualities. But I shop local.

Phyllis and her favorite reading material–photo courtesy Heidi Skurat Harris

Pumpkin carving is an activity that  parents both cherish and dread. It’s the fall version of egg dyeing at Easter–fun in theory but the clean up makes you thankful that you don’t have to do it again for another year. My kids pester me to do it for about two weeks leading up to the event and then lose interest about 2 minutes into the work because “This is hard!” and “I HAVE PUMPKIN ON MY HANDS! GET IT OFF RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT DESTROYS ME!!!”

The first step in our pumpkin transformation is scooping out the guts. Unlike human guts, Phyllis’s guts are delicious (unless you’re a zombie, and then the former are more satisfying).

While Darby is slashing at Phyllis (supervised, of course), I bake Phyllis’s delicious innards, in particular, her little pumpkin children. My favorite part of Halloween is not dressing up or handing out candy. My favorite part is roasting pumpkin seeds. I have often thought about buying 12 pumpkins just to get the seeds, but the carving…

Here’s how I roast pumpkin seeds. It’s not an old family recipe that reminds me of my grandma Hattie’s house and her checkered apron. You’d probably get about a dozen better recipes just by Googling “roasting pumpkin seeds.” But it works for me and probably will for you as well.

Recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1. Rinse all the pumpkin intestines off of the seeds in cold water. Like dealing with your Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner while he tells the same story he told last year, seed rinsing takes time and patience. And just as you won’t be able to stop Bob before he gets to the dicey part of his story, you won’t get the seeds fully clean, and, in either case, it really doesn’t matter.

(At this point, you can brine them with salt and water at a boil for 10 minutes, or you can just be lazy like me and skip this step.)

2. Dry the seeds.

3. Season the seeds. Because I am, according to my children “basic,” I use olive oil and salt. You can get fancy, though, and use paprika, black pepper, cumin, garam masala, rosemary, thyme, pumpkin spice, or cinnamon.

For a lower sodium version, you can season them with the tears of your children when their Phyllis-o-lantern doesn’t turn out exactly like the photo on the pumpkin carving instructions.

4. Bake the seeds. I always forget what temperature and what time to bake them for, and every year I promise to write it down and don’t. I have a gas oven, and I bake them slowly at low heat (300 until they’re crispy, flipping once). You know your oven better than I do. So set some heat and watch them until they are done, which will be at least 20 minutes.

5. Let the seeds cool.

6. Store the roasted seeds in a bowl with a tight lid on a high shelf so your kids won’t sniff them out and eat them all in 10 minutes.

My roasted pumpkin seeds are best served with pumpkin ale or spiced cider or a glass of white wine or red wine or, let’s face it, pretty much any beverage that makes you feel better about scraping pumpkin innards off your ceiling fan.

Enjoy!