There is something uniquely wonderful about creating a meal around ingredients that you find appealing at the market that day. And so I found myself at the Ardmore Farmers' Market on a beautiful fall afternoon, making impulsive decisions with no agenda other than enjoying the process of cooking. The resulting meal was a mouthful, both in name and flavor: Veal Chop, Roasted Garlic, and Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli topped with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage with Leek, Parsnip and Ginger Soup. (I'm not entire clear on why I'm capitalizing these words, but perhaps the cooking effort merits such treatment).
After fortifying ourselves with interesting cheeses and champagne ginger cocktails, DCWB and I embarked on, for lack of a better term, making stuff. Bulbs of garlic were thrown into the toaster oven, butternut squash was cut up (much to the detriment of DCWB's hands, with the squash's apparently common skin irritant reaction) and roasted, and the Kitchenaid was removed from its shelf to make the pasta. The following recipe emerged on the spot:
Veal, Garlic, and Mozzarella Ravioli with Butternut Squash and Sage
1 veal chop
2 heads garlic
1 med. ball fresh mozzarella
fresh pasta sheets for ravioli (semolina preferred)
1 large butternut squash
1 container fresh sage leaves
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp your favorite salt blend
Begin by cutting the heads off of the two garlic bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and salt, wrap in foil and roast (375 degrees or so) for 1 hour+, until the garlic starts to become soft and slightly caramelized. Do essentially the same with the butternut squash: Peel and chop butternut squash. Wear latex gloves to avoid skin reaction. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast until golden and slightly browned.
Make the pasta (Use your favorite recipe here).
As the garlic and butternut squash are finishing, combine the last three ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Find the strongest person around to mortar and pestle them all together and dust the veal chop with the spices. Broil the chop, flipping mid-way, until nicely browned on both sides. Let rest for 5 minutes and finely chop. Shred the fresh mozzarella. Combine the mozzarella, chop, any remaining spices and the roasted garlic. This is your ravioli stuffing. At this point, stuff away! (Boil your water to cook the ravioli).
While the water is boiling, heat the butter with a splash of oil in a pan until hot and then add the sage. Cook for several minutes and add the chunks of the roasted butternut squash. Add more butter, sage, or squash to taste. Top the cooked ravioli with the squash.Light some candles, open the windows, put on a sweater, and voila, a perfect meal. I've skipped describing the soup, which is always a good fall fall-back, ahem, but any squash soup will be a great accompaniment, albeit unnecessary.
The experience affirmed my longstanding intuition that the best meals come out of seasonal ingredients and a willingness to depart from recipe and routine long enough to create something great.
The Ardmore Market is located at Anderson and Coulter Avenues, Ardmore, Pa.