Throughout all of the seasonal upheaval, one thing that cooks and connoisseur both look forward to with a certain child-like glee is the return of the pumpkin. Like clockwork, the blogosphere will be inundated with pumpkin soups, pumpkin cakes, and pumpkin smoothies and in no time at all, the sting of losing summer will begin to fade. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. For the past couple of years though, mother nature has thwarted this comfortable transition, finding new ways to wipe out the current crop of pumpkins and create mass panic amongst foodies everywhere. This year it’s the devastation of hurricane Irene that’s driving shoppers to wipe grocery store shelves of canned pumpkin clean, stock piling for the inevitable shortage – Mostly caused by other people stuffing their pantries as well, rather than any actual scarcity.
Very reluctantly using one of my last remaining and so very precious cans of the orange squash puree, I set out to ease the pain of entering into full fledged autumn and create something special. Pumpkin ravioli, each delicate envelope of thin pasta packed with savory, slightly cheesy pumpkin goodness, sounded like the perfect option. The good news and bad news is that the pumpkin element ended up being pushed out of the spotlight, upstaged by the unassuming supporting actor; the sauce. Yes, it was all about the sauce.
A simple “cream” sauce enriched with chopped mushrooms for that extra umami umph, it’s a versatile accompaniment that wears many hats. Pairing beautifully with all sorts of autumnal dishes, you could also pour a generous dollop over fluffy, homemade biscuits and call it gravy, and it takes on that extra role without missing a beat. It may not be particularly innovative, but with so much seasonal upheaval, sometimes classic comfort food really is best.
So the ravioli were a bit disappointing, but by no means bad. The good news in this situation is that since the pumpkin didn’t stand out, you could seamlessly substitute pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnips, or pretty much any slightly sweet winter squash or root vegetable. Just mix 1 cup of puree with 1/4 cup of vegan parmesan, plus a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and stuff about 1 – 2 teaspoons between two wonton wrappers, dabbing the edges with water to seal. Simmer the ravioli very gently for just 2 – 3 minutes, until the wontons are al dente. Toss with mushroom creme sauce, and forget all about that awful pumpkin shortage.
Mushroom Creme Sauce/Gravy
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
16 Ounces Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Roughly Chopped
2 Cups Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/4 Cup Vegan Parmesan
2 Tablespoons Chickpea Flour
Salt and Pepper, to Taste
Set a large skillet with high sides or a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot before adding in the onion, and sauteeing it for 8 – 10 minutes so that it softens and begins to barely take on color. Add in the minced garlic along with the chopped mushrooms, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 – 6 minutes. The mushrooms should reduce significantly in size.
Separately, whisk together the “milk” of your choosing, thyme, “parmesan,” and chickpea flour until smooth. Pour this mixture into the skillet or saucepan, and stir well. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan frequently to ensure that nothing burns. Cook for another 6 – 8 minutes, or until the liquid thickens and bubbles begin to break on the surface. Turn off the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve while hot!
Makes Enough for 3 – 4 Servings of Ravioli