Monday, February 8, 2010

Tiny Bubbles

Valentine's Day is quickly upon us. I can't think of another "holiday" which evokes such a wide range of attitudes. For some it is dreaded, for others it is revered. I, myself, will be stag this Valentine's Day while my husband is on a flight back from San Diego. Nonetheless, Valentine's Day is typically a day I enjoy. For me, it is really just an excuse to share some superb bottles of wine and an exquisite meal with my hubby.

Like flowers and chocolate, Champagne is a must-have for Valentine's Day. This is a day that screams for a bottle of Rose - I don't know why, but there is something more "romantic" about it. People often think of Champagne as a libation to "toast" with, or to enjoy before a meal. But it is also one of the best accompaniments to the meal itself. Experiencing a superb bottle of Champagne with a delectable dish is truly one of the great luxuries in life. There is just something so satisfying and special about bubbly and a perfectly paired meal.

Dining at home is a popular option these days as many are watching their wallets. So, we thought we'd give you all the necessary ingredients to creating a special night at home with your love! A bottle of bubbly is the first place to start. My absolute favorite Rose Champagne is from Ruinart. This Champagne house is the oldest in France. Fine, elegant, and powerful, this Rose is an incredible match for food. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it is actually better when enjoyed with food than casually sipped. Domaine Ruinart Brut Rose will work particularly well with a "rich" dish. It is full of wild cherry notes and is wonderfully concentrated.

While a bottle of Ruinart sells for $70, there are plenty of more affordable options. At $59, Taittinger Brut Prestige Rose is another great option (although it is still a bit pricey, it is actually considered a great value). With fine bubbles and a brilliant pink hue, it has a velvety mouthfeel and wonderful fresh fruit flavors.

Still, there are great values for sparkling Rose outside of France. Many can be found in California, for very affordable prices. In this category, I would recommend the Chandon Blanc de Noirs for only $15.99 per bottle. This bottle of bubbly is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. With dominating rich fruit flavors of black currant and strawberry, there is such a delightful creaminess on the palate making this an ideal "food" partner.

These wines are definitely worth seeking out for this special day! To complete our recipe for a great night in, I will turn to Deb for food advice. Deb - these are three incredibly food-friendly choices. I would say a dish with some richness would be ideal. What special recipe would you recommend pairing with these celebratory, romantic sparklers?

Champagne sipped with a rich meal is one of my favorite treats! Valentine's day is as good an excuse as any to indulge yourself and loved ones with a great dinner. I have been noticing pumpkin ravioli popping up on menus and in markets for awhile and have tried it once or twice in restaurants, but never made it myself. It seems like a rich and special-enough dish to perfectly compliment any of the sparkling Rose wines Amanda has suggested.
To make the recipe, I started with fresh pumpkin and roasted it for extra flavor. My first thought was to use walnuts in the recipe, but then I decided to go with pepitas (pumpkin seeds)  instead. I toasted the seeds with some seasoning and ended up with plenty of extra to toss on salads or to snack on, a nice treat in itself! To continue with the filling I ground the toasted pepitas in a food processor then added some scallions, sage, goat cheese and the roasted pumpkin and blended till smooth.
Wonton wrappers make easy work and very tasty ravioli! They seal easily with a little water.
For the sauce I decided rather than introducing more ingredients I would use the same elements that were in the filling as a compliment to the dish. Cubing up some of the roasted pumpkin to add to the sauce adds color and texture and it is in keeping with the sauce that mirrors what is going on inside the ravioli.
 Toasted pepitas and fried sage leaves make a really pretty garnish
There was a fair amount of pumpkin filling left over so I decided to follow Jacques Pepin's lead by using it in a gratin, similar to the one he made on Fast Food My Way last week.  I ended up with three recipes in the quest for one: the toasted pepitas, the pumpkin ravioli and the pumpkin gratin. I guess this becomes a fair amount of work. If you want to kick back and be taken care of on the big V-day then make reservations and enjoy! But if you happen to be feeling plucky and inspired and want to lavish a little love on yourself and a special someone then GO FOR IT! Call it a labor of LOVE.

Pumpkin Ravioli with a Creamy Goat Cheese & Sage Sauce 
For the Ravioli:
2 cups of fresh pumpkin 
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup *toasted pepitas -see garnish recipe below
1 scallion minced
2 Tbs minced fresh sage
1/4 cup goat cheese
3 Tbs. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1package of wonton wrappers
2 quarts of salted water
Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and toss with the oil. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cooked pumpkin for the sauce. Put the pepitas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse till finely ground. add the pumpkin, scallion, sage, heavy cream and goat cheese and pulse till well blended. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.
Lay wonton wrappers on a flat surface and put 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each one. With your fingertip run a bit of water around the edge of the wrapper and fold the wrapper in half to seal the filling inside. Figure on about 10 raviolis per person. There will be enough filling to make enough for 8 people (that is a lot of Love!) Use the left over filling to make the pumpkin gratin recipe that follows. Boil the water in a large pot and carefully drop the raviolis into the pot. They will cook in about 5 minutes and come bobbing up to the surface. Gently strain. Toss with the sauce (below) and garnish with the pepitas and sage leaves before serving. 

for the Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce:

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin cut into small cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Goat Cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
1 scallion cut into small rings
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat till simmering. Allow sauce to gently simmer for 5- 10 minutes till the goat cheese melts and the flavors develop. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add the cooked ravioli to the sauce and gently turn them so they are covered with the cream sauce.

For the Garnish:
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
1/4 teas. ground allspice
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
2 Tbs. flour
3 Tbs. Olive oil.
Toss the pepitas with the cayenne, allspice, salt and oil and lay on a flat cookie sheet. Place in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes till toasted. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. They can be stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks.
meanwhile- dredge each sage leave in flour and shake off excess. Heat olive oil in a small skillet and cook the sage leaves quickly in the oil till they crisp up and the color darkens, about 30 seconds. They will burn so watch them carefully. Drain on a paper towel.

Pumpkin Gratin:
Take the leftover pumpkin filling and add 1 beaten egg for every cup of filling you have. Butter a baking dish and pour the pumpkin egg mixture in. Top with some more cheese if you like. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the filling sets. 

1 comment:

  1. This looks delicious! Why wait for Sun? I'm gonna give it a try tomorrow. I don't have to make a separate trip to the market, as I have everything already in the fridge!


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