27 October 2011

butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter sauce

It's true that just about every culture has some sort of stuffed pasta or dumpling -- wonton, pierogi, kreplach, and the grandaddy of them all, ravioli. Ravioli are probably the most versatile and most creatively modified of them all.

With fall upon us, squash is plentiful and fitting for the season. If I had the time and patience, I'd make ravioli by hand. But I have neither, so I cheat and make this quick, elegantly simple week night dinner. The richness of butter and subtlety of sage is a perfect complement to the sweet, complex flavor of butternut squash.

1 package Trader Joe's butternut squash filled triangoli
1/2 stick unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
2 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp lemon juice
toasted pine nuts

Toast pine nuts and set aside. Melt butter until beginning to brown. Add sage leaves and fry on medium to medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until butter froth subsides. Remove leaves with slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Lightly salt the sage leaves. Add shallots to butter; saute about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Meanwhile, add ravioli to boiling water. Be careful to not overcook ravioli! Drain and add ravioli to butter. Crumble sage leaves and add pine nuts to mixture and serve.

05 October 2011

seared tuna with olive tapenade viniagrette and arugula-stuffed ravioli

Man, Do I ever miss Trader Joe's.

Living as an ex-pat in Canada for the past five years, I've almost become reconciled with the fact that there are a lot of things I gave up in moving from my native country. Yeah, I sometimes still long for the warehouse-sized wine and liquor stores I took for granted while living in Chicago. I miss shopping at CB2, Crate & Barrel Cost Plus World Market, and Target (!). Though not happy to have lost them, I can (mostly) live without.

But Trader Joe's, that's a different story.

Culturally deprived in the great white north, I've made semi-regular forays across the border to stock our cupboards with necessary provisions. I can't seem to get out of Trader Joe's these days for anything less than $200. And it amazes me even more that there are so many incredible items for so little money.

Take tuna, for example. TJ's sells frozen ahi tuna at a ridiculously low price of $5.00 for two steaks. Up here in Vancouver, ahi is largely unavailable. Even the locally fished albacore is hard to find, and it's just not as good anyway.

Since we stopped off to fill up at TJ's on the way back from a weekend in Seattle, the first thing I made when we were back home was a dinner sourced from some of my latest finds.

1/4 cup Trader Joe's mixed-olive tapenade
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 6-ounce ahi tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick; available frozen from Trader Joe's)
2 cups (packed) baby arugula
Classico sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce
Trader Joe's Arugula & Parmigiano Reggiano Ravioli
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 red pepper, chopped
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Mix tapenade, onion, basil, 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and lemon peel in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle tuna with salt and pepper. Heat butter and olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tuna to same skillet; cook 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Divide arugula among 2 plates. Cut tuna into slices; arrange atop arugula. Spoon tapenade vinaigrette over tuna.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta sauce. First saute garlic in olive, adding chopped red peppers. Add using Classico sun-dried tomato alfredo and pasta water. Cook ravioli in boiling water until they float to top of water; drain and add to pasta sauce. Serve and sprinkle chopped parsley on top.