Toast is very hot right now. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s hearkening back to comfort food… but comfort food with a grownup twist.
Now, when I say “toast,” I should be very clear–I’m not talking about the sad pieces of bread that you slather with jam or peanut butter in the mornings, and then eat in the car on your way to work.
Nope. I’m talking about something much fancier. Much more elevated.
There’s avocado toast, which has taken Instagram by storm. It has quickly become the most photographed, and the sexiest snack on the interwebs.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. Crostini and Bruschetta are neither new, nor are they boring. Pesto on toast? Oh yeah, sign me up.
I was inspired on the weekend to create some fancy toast after watching my friend Desiree’s show, The Urban Vegetarian, on Gusto TV. She did a thing with ricotta toast, and I didn’t have any ricotta, but I did have chevre, and that got me to thinking….
This is less of a recipe and more of a guideline. The key to good toasts is good, fresh ingredients, and a nice mix of colours and textures.
Goat Cheese Toasts
a nice baguette
cherry tomatoes or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
good quality olive oil
fresh herbs like italian parsley, thyme, or basil
Toss the cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a small pan in a hot oven (400 degrees) for about 10-15 minutes, until blistered and soft. Allow to cool slightly. Alternatively, you can use sundried tomatoes packed in oil instead of roasting the tomatoes.
Slice the bread on the diagonal and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. You want them to be lightly toasted, but not too crispy.
Remove from the oven and place 2 cloves or roasted garlic on each toast. Mush the garlic in and spread it around. Next, top with a wodge of chevre, and spread it out all over the toast. Top with 2-3 roasted cherry tomatoes.
Drizzle the toasts with balsamic reduction, a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with chopped fresh herbs and serve.
In general, I’m a pretty experimental gal. It’s my policy, when having dinner at a new restaurant, to order the craziest thing on the menu, and in the kitchen, I like to challenge myself to make new dishes I’ve never made before. This becomes more challenging when those dishes require some technique.
Writing the cookbook took this “challenging myself” thing to a whole different level. I was suddenly called upon to create recipes with a brand-new ingredient I didn’t know a ton about, about which there was very little information online, and that required me to learn some new techniques as well (I failed at making macarons 50 times).
But there’s nothing quite like the rush of figuring something out for the first time. It feels, I imagine, like planting your flag on the summit of Everest.
One of the recipes in my book is for a homemade vegan pasta. I figured the recipe out for that one pretty quick, actually, and I was quite happy with it. But I don’t own a pasta maker, so the first time I made it, I just rolled out the pasta with a rolling pin. It’s hard to get it thin enough that way.
I have to give it back (even though I don’t want to–I think I might be time to invest in one of my own), but before I did, I wanted to attempt to make ravioli.
I’ve never made ravioli. Ever.
This time of the year begs for squash, pumpkin… gourds of all kinds. They make a perfect ravioli filling, as their subtle sweetness plays well off of the pasta.
The final result? Delicious. Though not entirely pretty. I believe in the industry, they would call these “rustic.” 😉
I need a few more goes and maybe a proper ravioli cutter (a round cookie cutter would have done the trick) to get these looking professional, but they tasted amazing.
I have a ton of sage right now, so I finished these really simply in a frying pan with butter, fried sage and shavings of pecorino.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage
5 large eggs
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading by hand and while rolling pasta)
pinch of salt
1 cup peeled and cubed pumpkin or squash
1/2 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
2-3 cloves garlic
3 sprigs fresh sage
1/4 cup butter
pecorino or similar cheese
1. To make the pasta, crack the eggs into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
2. Turn mixer to speed 4, and then whisk until smooth.
3. Remove whisk attachment and replace with the dough hook.
4. Add 1 cup of flour and turn mixer on to speed 2.
5. While the mixer is running, add the flour in ½ cup at a time.
6. Once all the flour is added and the dough has formed a ball on the dough hook, knead for 2 minutes.
7. Remove dough from the mixer and place on a floured work surface. Knead by hand for 2 more minutes.
9. This step is VERY important: wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour.
10. Prepare the filling: place the peeled and cubed squash or pumpkin in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover them with water, and season with a pinch of salt. Place on the stove and bring to a boil, then allow to simmer until the pumpkin is soft. *NOTE* you could just use a cup of pumpkin puree for this step if you wanted to skip this. Drain the pumpkin and mash well, or push it through a ricer or a food mill for the best results.
11. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, place 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of EVOO. Place the garlic in and stir well. Don’t allow the garlic to burn. Add a half dozen chopped sage leaves and the nutmeg as well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pureed pumpkin to this, and season well with salt and pepper. Mix well and allow for any extra water to evaporate. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool so you can handle/work with it.
12. Once the pasta has rested, remove it from the plastic wrap and divide into 4 sections. Roll each section out roughly with your rolling pin, then begin to run each section through your pasta roller. Start at zero and work your way up, one number at a time, passing the pasta through each time, to 6.
13. Lay your sheets of pasta on a large work surface. Using a teaspoon, dot the pumpkin filling at regular 2″ intervals all the way down. Using a pastry brush, brush water around each blob of pumpkin, then lay a second sheet of pasta on top. Using a round cookie cutter or a pizza cutter, cut each ravioli out. Carefully push out any air pockets, and then seal the edges of each one by crimping with your fingers.
14. Place the ravioli on a floured baking sheet until you have them all done.
15. Bring a large, well-salted pot of water to boil, and heat up your frying pan again over medium heat, this time adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of EVOO. Drop the ravioli individually into the boiling water, and allow them to cook. Don’t crowd the pan, just cook maybe 6-10 at a time. This will take 4-6 minutes. Once they are cooked, pull them from the water with a slotted spoon, and drop them into the warmed frying pan with the butter & EVOO. Add some sage leaves and allow them to cook for 3-5 minutes more and get all coated in butter and yumminess.
16. Remove to a plate and top with the melted butter. Shave cheese overtop. Repeat with remaining ravioli.