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Entries in pecans (2)

Friday
Aug122011

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad

Fresh greens, crunchy and tender. Crisp apple and carrots, nutty toasted pecans, and tart dried cranberries, brought back to life. Dubliner cheese, thinly shaved, and beautiful butternut squash ravioli that’s been cooked to perfection, with hints of sage coming through. Top all of this with a maple balsamic vinaigrette, and you have this delicious Autumn inspired salad.

Ravioli in a salad? Sure, why not! We put tortellini in salads, right? Not only do they add great texture, but they turn a salad into a hearty meal!

I was contacted a short while ago by Sarah, representing Pasta Prima.  She wanted to know if I’d be interested in participating in their “Reinventing Ravioli” promotion. The idea is to kick traditional sauce to the curb and put a new spin on ravioli. I’m in! We love ravioli. I don’t make it myself, but I always find the fresh ravioli you can buy at the store to be such a treat. Not to mention a great quick meal. 

UPDATE: So...this Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad recipe won the contest! I was so thrilled! Pasta Prima kindly furnished $1,000 worth of kitchen essentials from Williams Sonoma. A huge thanks goes out to them!

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad

I’d never tried Pasta Prima! Mainly because they’re not in my regular grocery store (Yet. I may have to throw a fit until they start stocking it!), and we don’t have a Costco that’s quite local. The good news is that I’ve found a store right in my area that does carry their line, so now we can have it anytime. Check the Store Locater on the right hand side of the home page to see if it’s in your area.

Their ravioli are just fantastic! We’ve tried the Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella ravioli, the Butternut Squash, and the Wild Mushroom. They also offer Gluten free and Organic options, too!

Oh! Pasta Prima also uses 100% natural ingredients just like we would use in our own kitchens. Their products are all made in small batches and minimally processed. We did a side by side taste test with some of Pasta Prima’s ravioli, and a favorite from a store we frequent. Not only did Pasta Prima’s taste better and fresher, but they were also more plump and pillowy, with more filling compared to the others. We’re sold!

Now, I know what you’re thinking about the salad. I do! You’re thinking: “That salad looks great, but it’s screaming for some bacon!” Right?

It is, isn’t it? And I had the bacon, just in my reach. It was perfect. Oven baked, crispy, deep golden brown, salty, savory…perfect. It was on the kitchen island, just waiting to be crumbled into that pretty salad. I had moved it too close to the edge, I suppose. Making room for the youngest kid to have his dinner. I walked away, foolishly. Next thing I heard was the plate hitting the floor. Running in, I found not a kid that had elbowed the plate. No. I found four very happy Corgis having the best “dog treats” ever made for dog treating. Little buggers! How could I get mad? It was my fault.

MY BACON!!! My perfect bacon. Gone in ten seconds flat. My advice to you? If you make this salad, add the crumbled bacon. It was delicious as is, but I just know that salty bacon would have been perfect. In fact, I made the croutons in the bacon fat! So we still had a bit of bacon flavor in there. I’m adding the bacon to the ingredient list since it was supposed to be in there in the first place. Ok? Ok.

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad

Feeds two for a main dish or three to four as a side dish.

Salad:
1 (10 oz) bag ready to use Romaine
2 cups (loosely packed) fresh baby greens (I have these in my garden, but you can use any other green you like)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, plumped in hot water and drained
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, julienned
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 (8 oz) package Pasta Prima Butternut Squash Ravioli, cooked and cooled (I saved the flavor packet for another day.)
bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled (keep out of dog's reach)
sharp cheddar cheese, for shaving over the top

Croutons (optional)*

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1 1/2 tsp Deli Mustard (spicy mustard)
2 pinches of apple pie spice (or more to taste)
1/4 cup golden balsamic
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tsp lemon juice
2 pinches ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


For the salad:

First, cook the bacon. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lay the bacon slices on the pan, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned and crispy. Remove the bacon from the sheet and set on paper towels to cool. SAVE the bacon fat for the croutons! Lift the foil, and tip the bacon fat right on to the baking sheet to cook the croutons in. Discard the foil. I had just enough bacon fat to nicely coat the bottom of the pan. Leave the oven at 400.

Croutons:

I had about 1/3 (approx. 4 cups when cubed) of a nice artisan Italian bread sitting on the counter, so I cubed it for croutons. Toss the bread cubes on the baking sheet with the bacon fat and drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle the cubes with salt and pepper, then some garlic and onion powder-just a nice sprinkling, don’t coat them in the the powder. Toss all of this with a spatula. Bake for 7-9 minutes, stirring halfway through, until they're golden brown and toasty on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside. Bacony croutons!! (If you’re opposed to using the bacon fat, just use all olive oil.)

Vinaigrette:

At this point, make the vinaigrette. Combine all ingredients except the oil. Whisk to combine. Add the oil and keep whisking until everything's nicely blended. Set aside.

Assemble the salad:

In a large bowl, toss all of the greens with the cranberries, pecans, carrots and apples. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette, toss, and taste. Adjust and add more if needed. Remember-start with less than you think you need-you can always add more, but you can't take it away once it's in there. Add some of the salad to each serving plate.

Divide the ravioli and place over each salad. (I kept them mostly whole for the photos, but to serve, cut each ravioli in 4 pieces for good distribution in the salad. Also more graceful to eat this way, ha!)

Top each salad with crumbled bacon, shaved cheddar cheese, and croutons. Serve.

  • I hope you’ll give this salad a try--with the bacon! It was fantastic without it, but would be even better with it, of course.
  • If you’ve seen Pasta Prima products in your local grocery or Costco and wondered how they are, give them a try! They’re packed with flavor, and all natural. Two very important things.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to serve ravioli without the sauce! I’m sure if you think about it, you can find different ways to use them.
  • Oh--the apple pie spice in the vinaigrette. It adds a nice warm, spicy taste to the dressing. My advice is to add a couple pinches, and them taste to see if you want more. If you don’t have apple pie spice, you can use cinnamon with just a touch of nutmeg. Just a touch!

Autumn Butternut Squash Ravioli Salad



Monday
Sep132010

Fig Nut Bars

Fig Nut Bars

Date bars are one of my all time favorite treats.  Some of you may remember when I posted my grandmother’s date nut bar recipe.  If not, have a look.  I’d do anything, or drop whatever I was doing to have some of those when I was a kid.  Come to think of it, I still would--but now I’m the one that makes them. 

So I still have a huge amount of dried figs hanging around, and although eating them straight from the bag is one of the best ways to enjoy them, I felt like I needed to do something else with them.  Yep, you can see where I’m going with this.  Fig Nut Bars!  They adapted beautifully to the date bar recipe, and are insanely good! 

I have yet to find a date nut bar (or fig, for that matter) recipe that can stand up to my grandmother’s recipe.  And trust me when I say this--I’ve tried a lot.  If someone’s got them on the menu, I’m trying them.  I’m always disappointed.  They’re usually hard (maybe they sit around too long?), very dry, too sweet--whatever--just gross.  These bars won’t disappoint.  They’re tender, not overly sweet, slightly salty in the crust, and perfect.  Yes, I’ll go as far as to say these are perfect!  I had to play around with the filling a bit to adapt it to the figs, but I made it work.  For you guys.  Oh, the things I do for this blog. Haha!

Fig  Nut Bars

Fig Nut Bars

makes one 9x13 pan

For the Figgy Filling:
1 lb dried Black Mission figs, stems removed and chopped (I used kitchen shears)
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup water
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1  tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Make the filling: Boil dates, sugar, and water until thick, about 5-10
minutes. 
Note:  You want the final fig mixture to be thick, not leaky--and spreadable, because you have to layer it over the bottom crust.   Also, I chopped the figs into quarters.  They didn't break down as much as I'd hoped, so before stirring the vanilla and pecans in, I ran the fig mixture through the food processor, just enough to break them up--you still want a few chunks in there.

Add 1 TBSP butter, the vanilla, and the walnuts, and set the filling aside to cool a bit.

Prepare the crust: Combine all dry ingredients with the melted butter.  Firmly press half of the mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan.

Carefully spread the filling evenly over the bottom crust, to within about a half inch of the edges--a rubber spatula works great for this.  Sprinkle remaining crust over the filling, and again, press firmly--but be gentle at the same time.  Press just enough to give it a good hold on the filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, and I'm serious when I say this, no longer than 25 minutes!  As long as your oven is running at the correct temperature, that's all the time these need.  Cut into squares when cool, and store in an airtight container.

  • Note:  I always get impatient and cut a little corner out to try while they’re still warm. That’s ok!  But it’s so important that you let the bars cool before you cut them, or they’ll probably fall apart.  You need to let that bottom crust cool and set up.

Fig Nut Bars