Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Michelin Stars and a pot luck

What a week! Cooking lunch in a public school kitchen everyday is hard work! For my day off I was invited to a pot luck supper and naturally I needed to COOK. Well, I am never happier than when I am in a kitchen (unless I am laying on a Caribbean beach or sipping wine in a Paris cafe) so it was a natural transition to the weekend to be ruminating on what to make for this LOCAL ingredients pot luck party.

Pumpkins were floating in my head and I had a vague notion of making a pumpkin lasagne. My husband took pity on me when I crawled home Friday evening and he whisked me out to dinner to our favorite restaurant in Queens- Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen on Metropolitan Avenue. We had been dying to get over there to help them celebrate their recently awarded Michelin Star!!!!! They truly deserve it (delectable food and impeccable service.) On their menu Friday night was a special: PUMPKIN RAVIOLI- well, it was all meant to be. I tried it and loved the dish and knew that was indeed what I wanted to make for Saturday's pot luck.

Saturday's party in Nyack, NY had a harvest festival theme and was hosted by Pam and Charlie of Hook Mountain Growers.  The fall colors inside and out were a perfect reflection of the season.
Pamela and I check out what is growing at her fabulous homestead micro-farm, still in full production this late in the season.
The sun was already beginning to set when I got there so these photos don't do justice to the crops.
clockwise from top left: Passion fruit, celeriac, cayenne, fennel and chard

And inside at the party:
wonderful local cheeses!
 Delicious homemade dishes beautifully arranged, made from local ingredients.
clockwise from top left: beet salad, yogurt and herb dip,
beet and pasta salad, farro pasta with white beans

The wine was great too. Hudson Wine Farm's Red Banks Red Blend and their Chardonnay were the selections and they went perfectly with the meal. Someone even brought a venison stew made from a deer they had shot with a bow and arrow themselves, braised with shitake mushrooms they found growing right on their lawn (what don't they do in the Hudson Valley?)
My pumpkin lasange was a success. I found some local pumpkins at Gourmet Garage and I raided my herb garden for the sage. It is more laborious a recipe than I usually feature here but the procedure is not complicated and it makes a great seasonal dish.

Pumpkin Lasagne

• quarter a whole small pumpkin and scoop out the seeds,
sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a hot 400 degree oven for about 25-35 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.
• scoop the flesh away from the shell of the pumpkin with a large spoon and put into a food processor (about 1.5 cups)
• add a quarter cup of apricot jelly or a fruit chutney (I used mango chutney, yeah, I know, not local. If I had been more energetic I would have used very tart homemade applesauce)
• add 4 oz. goat cheese and continue to blend till smooth

• make a beshemel sauce with 4 Tbs. butter melted in a sauce pan, add 4 Tbs. flour and mix well with the butter to create a smooth paste. Add 2 cups of milk and bring to a low boil to thicken sauce, whisking constantly. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, freshly ground nutmeg and 4 or 5 torn up fresh sage leaves and allow flavors to blend at a simmer for a few minutes.
• toast in a small saute pan 1/2 cup of peppita seeds and 3/4 cup of bread crumbs in 1 Tbs. butter on a low heat until golden. Process the peppitas and bread crumbs in a food processor till finely ground, then set aside.
• assemble lasagne by covering the bottom of a baking dish with some of the beshamel sauce, followed by a single layer of large sheets of wonton wrappers lined up edge to edge to cover the entire surface of the pan. Add a layer of the pumpkin puree, the beshamel and then the bread/peppita crumbs. Repeat to make two more layers, ending with the wonton wrappers, beshamel and crumbs.
• Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes till hot and bubbly.
• garnish with fresh sage leaves that have been dusted in flour and then fried for 30 seconds in hot olive oil in a shallow pan.

I know it is a lot of steps, but it is a recipe that can be played with when you are relaxed and have the time. Adding the fruit jelly or chutney will give the pumpkin some needed sweetness. Danny Brown garnished his pumpkin ravioli with pomegranate seeds, which was an inspired choice. The tart fruit is a great counterpoint to the earthy depth of the pumpkin.

That dinner sounds amazing! Right up my alley.  Love the pics too! Yes, the pumpkin lasagne definitely requires more work than most of your recipes - but I wouldn't say it's labor intensive - which is a nice thing! I have to make it a point to get out to Hook Mountain Growers - seems like a fabulous place!

The pumpkin lasagne looks to me like the ideal Fall dish. I think a variety of wines would work well. My first choice for white would be a dry, crisp Riesling. I think the vibrant acidity of the Riesling would be great paired with the sweet flavors Deb incorporates into the lasagne. It would also serve to cut through the rich characteristics of the bechamel sauce. Be sure to pay attention to which Riesling you are buying - stay away from anything sweet. A dry Riesling is what would work best here.

A red would also work well with this wonderful recipe. An Argentine Malbec would be a great accompaniment, with its lush texture and ripe fruit flavors. Malbec from Argentina will not have the same tannic structure as one from France, which will tend to be more "rustic" in style. I would prefer something a bit more fruit-forward to sip with the lasagne. Argentine Malbecs tend to be "juicier" and softer as well - qualities that will marry perfect with Deb's dish. Susana Balbo, an outstanding producer in Argentina (one of my favorites), makes an affordable line of wines called "Crios", meaning "offspring". The Malbec is a delicious, everyday wine and can be found for around $11.99.

I think I'd like to plan a dinner party around this recipe! Looks so delicious - perfect to share with friends!


  1. Hi Deborah. As the "thrower" of the party I can tell you it was an amazing local culinary showcase. Besides the venison, it was entirely vegetarian and as a non-vegetarian, the best compliment I can pay the spread was that I forgot I was eating almost entirely veggie! Your pumpkin lasagna was amazing. Loved the sage on top. I truly appreciated it when I sat down the next day and was able to enjoy it with no distractions. My only disappointment with the dish was that there was not enough left for me!
    Thanks again. Charlie

  2. Thanks Charlie- so glad you enjoyed the lasagne! The evening on Saturday was indeed an "amazing local culinary showcase." I was so impressed with the breadth of local ingredients and the creative dishes they inspired. A wonderful party!


Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!