Cooking Columbus Day Dinner

It probably will not surprise you that — after seeing all those marvelous ingredients in New York last week — I couldn’t wait to cook again when I got back home.  One night I cooked the Umbrian lentils with cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes and onion.  It came out fine, and it was even better the next day with some cilantro purchased from the Asian gardeners at the Sunday farmers’ market.  Sunday I also baked a very good Tartine bread with Semolina flour (70% semolina, 30% white bread flour).

Nor will you be totally amazed that some of my fantasies about all the terrific dishes I will cook at the next meal are totally unrealistic, given time constraints and my inefficient ways of doing things.  Such was the case tonight: Columbus Day Dinner.  Our friend Laura came for dinner, and my original menu was more ambitious that what we finally ended up with.  However, the Cappellacci di Zucca, made from scratch with butternut squash from her garden, was my main target, and it was very successful.  Here is the final menu, with the wishlist items crossed out due to lack of time and energy.

You can see from the original list of tasks where I ran out of steam and what got dropped.

The Cappellacci recipe was adapted from Bugialli’s cookbook on Pasta.  I love using the fresh butternut from Laura’s garden, and I particular enjoyed reading the descriptions online and in my cookbooks about the origins of this dish in 16th century Ferrara, Italy, where the Jewish community flourished for a period and has been maintained to this day since the Middle Ages.  Of course, one always starts a big cooking day with an espresso, made with Organic Tuku beans from Conscious Coffee in Boulder:

I roasted the squash at 425 degrees for an hour until tender.  After it cooled a bit, I scooped out the flesh and put it through my Mouli with the medium sized holes in the disk.  Then I added my own secret mixture, ground Rancho LaVina organic walnuts, grated lemon peel (no Citron readily available), and a tablespoonful of Corn Butter.

If you are really astute, you may notice that there are several shapes of stuffed pasta in the dish.  The Cappellacci are the most interesting and intricate, but it took me 15 minutes to make a dozen of these, so I switched to Tortelli and Ravioli, which I could make more quickly with the same ingredients.

Appetizers included the fried Padron Peppers and toasted Semolina bread with chopped fresh tomatoes, marinated in olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Li Velli Verdeca was the right accompaniment.

The final discovery of the night was Porcini-Dusted Tofu, sauteed in olive oil and served with salt-roasted red potatoes and beets from Sunday’s farmers markets, plus a few turnip and beet greens salvaged from the tops of that produce used earlier.  Porcini dusting is very easy if you have:

  1. high quality imported Italian dried porcini mushrooms
  2. an excellent spice grinder

Results look like this:

A box of Poco Dolce Bittersweet Tiles with Burnt Caramel inside provided the perfect dessert with almost no effort.  Once again I drew upon Jan D’Amore for the wine: a 2009 Dolcetto Superiore from Flavio Roddolo in Piemonte.  It went beautifully with the pasta, the porcini, and the chocolate.

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