M. Andrew Gordon

Japonesa squash ravioli

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Side Dishes on October 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I have written at great length about my love of the abobora japonesa, a wonderful specimen of squash, its warty green skin hiding the stunningly delicious interior.  It offers a more intense squash flavor than butternut with a dense texture similar to a buttercup squash.  Unlike many squashes, it can really stand on its own with little help from butter, brown sugar, maple, etc.  When I conceived this dinner, born on the idea of crafting a ravioli from scratch, the japonesa came to mind immediately as offering a unique filling for the ravioli.

To round out the filling, I knew I would want some other flavors (despite the squash’s inherent deliciousness) and would need something to thin out the texture for ease of filling the ravioli.  Caramelized onion provides additional sweetness and depth; fromage blanc, a simple fresh cheese, gives the filling a more creamy texture; chile and cumin powders give some heat and spice; and a touch of porter (just add beer!) lends some additional caramel notes.  It just so happened that there was a growler, or 64 ounce bottle, of Cambridge Brewing Company’s Charles River Porter in my fridge and as I poured myself a glass, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head: a small addition of porter would really be good in the squash filling!

Making pasta is still something I am adjusting to and learning each time I make it.  I followed a simple recipe this time that called for doing most of the mixing in a food processor with just a minimal amount of kneading.  It worked out very well and I thought the ravioli stayed tender, so I will likely go back to that recipe.  However, I do not feel strong enough in my convictions to link to anything in particular.

My plan had been to make an arugula and pumpkinseed pesto to go with this.  However, I did not find arugula the morning of at my usual market for produce.  In hindsight it would have been smart to try several other stores as I imagine Whole Foods might have had arugula.  But instead I made a snap decision to try using dandelion greens instead.  The other diners all said they enjoyed the dish and thought the pesto was good; I’m still disappointed with it and as such do not fully feel comfortable posting it here.  But the ravioli were excellent and any pesto would work well with these or some sort of brown butter sauce as well.

Update: I had forgotten to write about the beer pairing for this dish, a new release from Peak Organic Brewing, the Fall Summit Ale.  Like the Mayflower Autumn Wheat, this seasonal beer is a step away from the more typical seasonal offerings.  Showcasing the Summit hop, this amber-pale ale has a lot of hop presence without delving too much into overly bitter and resiny hop characteristics.  I think Peak Organic has made a fine beer and one that I will be looking forward to next autumn as well.

Japonesa Squash Ravioli

Serves 10

  • 1 large japonesa squash (or butternut or buttercup)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • ½ cup fromage blanc (goat cheese or queso fresco would be good substitutes)
  • ¼ cup porter or stout
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder (or more if you desire a spicier dish)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.  Cut squash from stem to blossom end, quartering.  Scoop out seeds and place in a baking dish and add one cup of water.  Roast, uncovered, for 1 hour or until squash is tender.  Let cool and scoop flesh from skins.
  2. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil.  Add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, for 20-25 minutes.  Be careful to not let the onion brown from burning but to slowly brown as it caramelizes.  When cooked, transfer to cutting board and let cool.
  3. Finely dice onion and add to squash.  Add fromage blanc, stout, cumin, and chile powder and stir to incorporate.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place on rolled out sheets of pasta and make ravioli.  Cook according to directions.

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