Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Pumpkin: Beyond the Pie

04 Oct

Homemade Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

With my steady stream of sweet Summer heirloom tomatoes coming to an end, I’m turning my attention now to some of Autumn’s bounty, not the least of which is that very symbol of the season – the pumpkin.  Long treasured by American children as the medium for their annual knife-wielding artistic expression, the sudden arrival of the ubiquitous pumpkin patch is a sure sign that Autumn is nigh.

For most Americans, of course, pumpkin as an ingredient is associated almost exclusively with the obligatory Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, an ordinarily dense layer of canned pumpkin filling in a store-bought graham cracker crust sprayed liberally with whipped cream from a can.  If that is the kind of pumpkin recipe you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place.

2007 Chateau St. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot

If you are instead in search of a really satisfying Sunday afternoon project that has the added benefit of resulting in a sophisticated and savory meal (plus extra to freeze and gift or use later), then look no further.

My Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the time and patience, it will warm your very soul the way only Autumn and Winter cooking can.

While I usually prefer to cook dishes around wine rather than coming up with a wine pairing after the fact, the star of this show really is the dish.  That said, it’s not a good meal without a good wine, and I paired this dish with the Chateau St. Michelle 2007 Indian Wells Merlot from Columbia Valley in Washington.  Smooth and light with just enough spice to play off of the nutmeg and cinnamon, the crispy prosciutto/pancetta brought out a savory note in the middle palate of the wine.  All in all, a pretty good pairing, especially since I had never actually tried this particular wine!  If you don’t want a Merlot, I might suggest a Grenache or a Pinot Noir.  Avoid really big, heavy reds like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, as they will overpower the delicate flavors of the dish.  Likewise, I would say that most white wines would detract from the earthy flavors of this dish.

Now for the food!

Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Makes about 50 ravioli and enough sauce for 4 servings (in other words, you’ll have plenty of ravioli to freeze for later!)

Ingredients for the Ravioli

  • 1 medium (about 2 pounds) pumpkin, seeds and stringy pulp removed (as if you were going to carve a Jack-o-Lantern)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (I prefer whole milk ricotta, but low fat will work)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • Ice cold water*

Ingredients for the Sauce

  • 4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto ends, chopped**
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh sage, plus a few unchopped sage leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • A pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the pumpkin into several long pieces, much as you would a cantaloupe.  Carefully remove the skin as well as any remaining stringy pulp from the flesh.  Chop the pumpkin into relatively equally sized pieces, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches each.  You want them to be about the same size so that they cook evenly.  In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin pieces with the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and anise (if using), along with enough olive oil to nicely coat each piece.  Spread the pumpkin out on a non-stick baking sheet or in a roasting pan.  It’s alright if the pieces are a bit crowded, but they should be a single layer.  Place in the oven and allow to roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the pieces are soft and golden brown.  Allow to cool.

If you are making your own pasta dough (as opposed to using wonton wrappers), you’ll want to do so while the pumpkin is roasting, as the dough needs to chill for at least 30 minutes.  In another large bowl, slowly add ice cold water to the flour in small amounts (a couple of ounces at a time), using your hands to incorporate the water each time before adding more.  Stop adding water as soon as the flour has begun to come together into a dough and before it becomes wet and sticky, as you cannot simply fix it by adding more flour once you’ve past the proper amount of water.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Once the pumpkin has cooled slightly, puree the pieces using a food processor or hand mixer (a blender won’t really work, as the pumpkin is not wet enough).  If you don’t have either of those, you can mash the pumpkin by hand with a potato masher or fork, although a smooth puree is really the most ideal, as it gets rid of any remaining pulpiness from the pumpkin.  Once the pumpkin is smooth, use a spoon or spatula to mix in the ricotta cheese.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and then the prosciutto/pancetta.  Cook until dark brown and crispy (like bacon), about 7-8 minutes.  Remove to a paper towel to drain and cool.

If you made your own pasta dough, now is when you’ll need to start rolling it out.  Pinch off a small piece (about the size of a golf ball) and use your fingers to flatten it out to about 1/2 inch thick or less.  With your pasta roller on the widest setting (mine goes from 1 to 9, with 1 being the widest), roll the piece of dough through the roller.  Fold it in half and roll it through again once or twice on the widest setting.  Adjust the rollers to the next widest setting, and roll the dough through.  Repeat until you’ve got a length of dough about the thickness of 3-4 sheets of regular paper.  In other words, you want the dough to be as thin as possible but be able to hold filling.  You can experiment with different thicknesses, but I’ve found that the ideal setting on my pasta roller is 6.

Take the length of dough and place it on a cutting board dusted with flour.  Place about a tablespoon of filling near the end of the dough.  Fold the end of the dough over the filling and press the dough together around the edges of the filling, sealing it inside.  Using a ravioli cutter, cookie cutter, jar or knife, cut around the sealed edge, leaving about 1/4 inch of sealed dough as a border.  Repeat until you’ve used up the length of dough.  You can return the unused dough scraps to the dough bowl and send them through the pasta roller again, provided they don’t have any filling on them.  (Note: If you’re using wonton wrappers instead of your own dough, just take a wonton wrapper, place a small amount of filling in the middle, and fold the wrapper over the filling.  Seal the edges tightly with your fingers.)

Whether you’re using your own dough or wonton wrappers, do not set the ravioli on top of each other or they will end up sticking together and getting ruined.  Lay out the ones you’re going to eat immediately on a flour-dusted surface.  For any you want to save, place them in layers in a freezer-safe airtight container with pieces of wax paper between each layer.  They will keep for weeks in the freezer.  Do not defrost before cooking however, as the moisture will likely cause them to fall apart.

Once you’ve made it through your dough and filling (or have made as many ravioli as you want), get a large pot of salted water boiling.  Turn the heat down to medium once it has started to boil, as you do not want to put your delicate ravioli into a violently rolling boil.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the butter and allow it to melt.  Add the chopped sage and lemon zest, along with a pinch each of salt and pepper.  You want the butter to brown but not burn, so be sure to keep a sharp eye on it, stirring it around often and turning the heat down while the ravioli boil

While the butter is browning, pinch again around the edges of each ravioli to ensure that they are still sealed.  add the ravioli to the boiling water in batches of 5-6 so as not to crowd the pot and risk them falling apart.  Gently stir them with a slotted spoon.  After about 2 minutes, remove them gently one by one from the water with your slotted spoon and place them flat side down in the brown butter, turning the heat up slightly under the butter pan so that you can get a mellow sear on the ravioli.  Flip the ravioli over after 30 second or so to slightly sear the other side.

Remove the ravioli from the butter sauce and arrange in large pasta bowls for serving.  Scoop a bit of the brown butter and prosciutto/pancetta over each bowl, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese and garnish with a sage leaf or two.

Yes, you have spent several hours cooking, but you took what was once this…

And made it into this…

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


* Note: In order for homemade ravioli to really taste right, the dough has to be extremely thin.  If you don’t have a pasta roller like mine, you can try to roll out your dough using a rolling pin.  Another (possibly better) alternative, however, is fresh wonton wrappers, which can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores.

** Prosciutto ends are exactly what they sound like – the end of the hock of prosciutto in your grocer’s deli case.  They can’t slice the tiny end of the prosciutto using their industrial slicers, so they will often package up the ends for sale.  These are perfect substitutes for pancetta or bacon, as they have less fat but are every bit as salty and delicious.


Week 50: What to Eat with the 2007 Syncline Subduction Red

16 Aug

It has been a delicious week for the CorkPopper Project. All three of this week’s Washington red blends (see the reviews here, here, and here) were truly solid, though the 2007 Syncline Subduction was the clear winner with its perfectly balanced yet complex flavor profile, especially at the bargain price of just $17.99/bottle from When deciding what to cook for the Subduction, I knew I wanted to highlight some of Washington State’s other delicious agricultural products (aside from grapes, I mean). Washington is, after all, one of the nation’s leading producers of everything from apples to onions to potatoes. So, why not a perfect meal for the Syncline Subduction with Washington apples, onions and potatoes?!?! Genius!

Better yet, that Summer has FINALLY decided to grace Southern California with its presence, J and I hosted my neighbors, JC and GR, as well as LoSo and JSo and their brand new puppies, Guido and Penne, for a lovely garden dinner party in my front yard!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Washington Apples and Onions

Serves 6


  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 4 Washington apples, sliced (use whatever variety you like)
  • 3 medium Walla Walla sweet onions, sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup apple cider


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread the apples and onions in a large roasting pan. Toss with olive oil, 1 tablespoon thyme, and some salt and pepper. Roast the apple and onion mixture for about 20 minutes until almost soft, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mustard, garlic and the remaining thyme and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Pat the pork dry with a paper towel and then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick frying pan. Add the pork and sear on all sides. Remove the pork to a cutting board and allow it to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before covering it with the mustard mixture. Place the pork atop the apple-onion mixture and roast for an additional 15 minutes or so, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork reads 150 degrees. Transfer the pork to a platter and tent with foil, allowing it to rest at least five minutes.

While the pork is resting, add the apple cider to the apple-onion mixture and stir over high heat until slightly reduced. This shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes.

Slice the pork on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Spoon the apple-onion mixture onto 6 plates and top with 2-3 slices of pork. Serve with Mashed Cheddar and Chive Potatoes (recipe below) and a simple salad of mixed greens with an apple cider vinaigrette.

Mashed Cheddar and Chive Potatoes

Serves 6


  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk (even lowfat, if necessary, but you will sacrifice flavor)
  • 1 cup good aged white Cheddar (Tilamook, for example)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Sea salt


Boil a large pot of salted water. While the water is heating up, peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters or smaller. Once the water boils, add the potatoes to the boiling water. Once the potatoes are tender, strain them and then return them to the pot. Add the butter and cream and, using a hand mixer, blend until smooth. Add a little more cream/butter if you want creamier potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheddar and stir in a figure eight pattern until the cheese is melted. Add the chives and stir further. Season further if desired.

4.5 forks!

And 4 corked forks!!


NOTE: This recipe was adapted from one I found over at Epicurious. Great site….


2006 Bergevin Lane Calico Red

13 Aug

This week’s final Washington Red is the 2006 Bergevin Lane Calico Red.  Bergevin Lane was founded in 2001 by Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane (together with Gary Bergevin, Annette’s father).  According to their website, they ended up in the wine biz in Walla Walla, Washington after escaping the “rat race” in California.  Hmmmm……  I know nothing about rats or races……  Anyhoo, I digress……

Though the Bergevin Lane winery is located in Walla Walla, this blend is made from grapes throughout the Columbia Valley, hence the Columbia Valley AVA designation.  It is a blend of 36% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, and a bit of Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc to round out the remaining 9%.  It is dark, brilliant garnet in color with a big aroma of dark, juicy berries, cedar, vanilla, and a bit of earthy soil.  On the palate, it is medium-bodied and juicy, although it definitely needs a bit of time to breathe so that the various notes can balance out a bit.

A solid red blend to be sure, although not quite as stunning at $19.99/bottle as the Syncline Subduction Red.

3.5 corks popped!



2006 Robert Karl Horse Heaven Hills Claret

12 Aug

This week’s second Washington Red is a 2006 Robert Karl Claret, which is made from grapes grown in the smaller Horse Heaven Hills AVA within the larger Columbia Valley AVA.  “Claret,” of course, is the term used by the British when referring to traditional Bordeaux blends.  It’s a label not often seen these days and perhaps indicates Robert Karl’s desire to associate his wines with those of Bordeaux (at least the way the British see Bordeaux?).  This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec.  All grapes permitted for use in Bordeaux blends.

Dark purple in color, this wine has an interesting aroma with notes of the usual suspects – dark berries, dried purple flowers, spice, and fennel – as well as a (some might say odd) scent of uncooked bacon.  While it doesn’t necessarily smell or taste bad and has a pleasantly long finish, it simply isn’t as balanced and smooth as the Syncline Subduction.

Worth a try?  Sure.  A new favorite?  Not quite, especially at $19.99/bottle from

3 corks popped!



2007 Syncline Subduction Red

11 Aug

This week’s first wine, a 2007 Syncline Subduction Red, is a blend of 35% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 16% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, and 13% Counoise from Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA.  The winemaker calls it a “Washington version of a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages,” and at first sniff/sip you can easily see why.

A brilliant dark garnet in color with rich aromas and flavors of juicy black cherries, blackberries, pepper and nutmeg, this is a wonderfully complex yet balanced blend.  Though it drinks remarkably easily (I had to remind myself to save some for J, who was working late that night), this is nothing short of an example of blending at its best, where the winemaker has managed to find that perfect sweet spot so that the unique characteristics of each of the grapes in the blend compliments the others, such that the end product is far better than the sum of its parts.   Indeed, when I took my first sip I had to check to see if my notes were correct that this bottle is really only $17.99 because, to be perfectly honest, it blows away red blends I’ve had from certain other wine-producing countries that retail for upwards of twice the price.

Don’t believe me?  Check it out for yourself at

4 corks popped!



Week 50: Washington Reds

11 Aug

For this, the 50th week of the CorkPopper Project (yikes!), I leave California once again to head north to the great State of Washington.  As my regular readers will recall, I was there (in Walla Walla)  in June for the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference and am actually headed up again (to Seattle) at the end of this month for the 2010 International Food Bloggers’ Conference.  I was truly impressed by the Washington wines I was able to taste while in Walla Walla – especially the reds – and, as such, decided that there absolutely needed to be a week in the CorkPopper Calendar dedicated to Washington reds.

All three of this week’s wines hail from Washington’s Columbia Valley, a huge AVA that actually includes the smaller Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Walla Walla, Horse Heaven Hill, Rattlesnake Hills, Lake Chelan, Snipes Mountain, and Wahluke Slope AVAs.  The Columbia Valley AVA stretches along the Columbia River Gorge from Goldendale in the West to past Walla Walla in the East, crosses the border into Oregon in the South and reaches up past Grand Coulee in the North.  It is huge.  Period.  As such, it encompasses a number of different microclimates, which accounts for the creation of the more specific sub-appellations.  The Columbia Valley AVA spans the 46th and 47th parallels, which just happen to be the same lattitude as the famous French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and the northern reaches of the region receive a full two hours’ worth of extra sunlight during the summer growing season that vineyards in California.  In addition, although the region is certainly diverse, one common characteristic is its cool nights and warms days with little to no humidity, a combination that allows the grapes to ripen fully while maintaining a near-perfect acid-sugar balance.

With that, let’s meet this week’s contenders…..

First, we have a 2007 Syncline Subduction Red, which earned 90 points from both Wine Enthusiast and Stephen Tanzer. This wine is available for $17.99/bottle at

Second is a 2006 Robert Karl Horse Heaven Hills Claret, which received 90 points from Robert Parker and is also available at for $19.99/bottle.

Finally, I'll be tasting a 2006 Bergevin Lane Calico Red, which also garnered 90 points from Robert Parker and can be purchased at for $19.99/bottle.



WBC10 Photos!

27 Jun

For your viewing pleasure, the following are a few of the photos I managed to take in beautiful Walla Walla, Washington at this weekend’s Wine Bloggers Conference.

Main Street, Walla Walla, Washington

The Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, Washington

Washington wine, anyone? Why, yes please!

2010 Wine Blog Awards.... on ice....

White Wine Liveblogging Session..... and go!

The school buses line up for Saturday morning's Magical Myster Winery Tour.

Grapes aren't the only things growing in the Walla Walla AVA. How about some Oregon Ranier cherries?

Is a wine better when you're drinking it while standing next to the vines from which it came? Perhaps...

The barrels at Forgeron

Lunch in the sun at Waters.

Not to be forgotten, a vertical tasting of Waters' Forgotten Hills Syrah.

I can’t wait to see what Charlottesville, VA has to offer for WBC11!!



WBC Dispatch #3: That’s a Wrap

27 Jun

The 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington has come to an end, and it’s been a whirlwind weekend full of amazing wine and fantastic people. I didn’t blog as much as I thought I would, though I was inspired by a number of people to finally and truly embrace Twitter. As you can see, I’ve added a widget to the right with my CorkPopper Twitter feed. If you’re a Twitter fan yourself, you can follow me @corkpopperblog.

As for the wine, though I’ve certainly read my fair share about the recent boom in the area’s wine industry, I have to admit that I was blown away by the quality and variety of the wines. Literally dozens of wineries have popped up in Southeast Washington over the past two decades, and I think I can safely say that some true artisans have been drawn to the area by the opportunity to truly experiment and build something from scratch. Though many will stumble, and some will ultimately fail, it is already clear that plenty will thrive and will produce the kinds of quality wines that will truly put the Columbia Valley, Walla Walla, and Red Mountain AVAs on the map. They made a convert of me, in any event. I’ll be doing another post shortly with some of my favorites.

But while the opportunity to explore Washington’s wines was fantastic, the best part of the conference for me has been the opportunity to interact with so many other wine bloggers. There were apparently over 300 citizen and industry wine bloggers in attendance, and the myriad perspectives and opinions I encountered over the course of the past three days has served to remind me of one of the things I (and, in all likelihood, most of the others in attendance) love most about wine and wine writing – that there is truly something for everyone. Most of us will never make any money, and very few of us will ever wield any true influence in the industry, but we each have a unique voice that we work every day to craft and hone. I appreciate all the encouragement I’ve received and will take what I’ve learned from my peers this weekend to continue to make this little blog of mine better and more interesting with every post.

So, cheers and farewell to WBC10. I’ll see you all next year in Charlottesville, VA!


WBC Dispatch #2: How About Another South African Sauvignon Blanc?

25 Jun

How’s this for serendipity? This afternoon over some delicious tacos I met Tom Lynch, the founder of Worthwhile Wines, which imports Fair Trade Certified wines from South Africa. I told him about the CorkPopper Project and how this month’s focus is on South Africa, and, lo and behold, he pulled out a bottle of 2009 Partnership Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa’s Riebeek Valley (which he was going to be pouring anyway for this afternoon’s liveblogging session). Partnership Vineyards is a partnership between farm and cellar workers (40%), farmers (40%), and Riebeek Cellars (20%), which is pretty awesome in a country where, until the lifting of Apartheid in 1994, was a severely segregated society both racially and economically. I, of course, am a sucker for socially responsible businesses, and I just think this one is especially cool.

Better yet, the wine is good. It has a nice aroma of grapefruit, pears, and a little minerality. The mouthfeel, however, is what I really like. It is surprisingly creamy for a Sauvignon Blanc, with some lemon zest and a nice herbaceous note right in the middle that made me want some seared scallops with just a touch of garlic, white wine, and cream sauce. Yum.



WBC Dispatch #1: Wine Tasting Personalities and Highlights from the Morning Wine Tasting

25 Jun

Aah….. There’s nothing like starting your day with a little wine tasting. There are about a dozen or so tables set up in the north lobby of the Marcus Whitman hotel with representatives from various wineries/associations pouring their wares, and it’s already been an interesting experience.

Wine tasting in a group setting is always a sort of anthropological journey for me – watching the way people navigate through their surroundings, especially when there is wine at stake – is just fascinating. There are those who stand timidly at the back of the crowd, hoping someone will notice that their glass is empty. There are those who like to park themselves right in front of the table and chat – with the people pouring, with those around them, with themselves – such that you wonder not only how they ever manage to taste anything but also how the hell anyone else is supposed to get to the table. There are those who push their way to the front and crowd everyone else out, occasionally pouring for themselves when they feel that the person behind the table is wasting their time by having the audacity to try to talk to someone else. And then there are those like me. When I approach a busy table, I look for a chance to squeeze in, introduce myself to the pourers, ask a couple of questions, and then step back and make room for other people. I notice other tasters like me and feel like we have a special bond, even if it is just common courtesy.

In addition to the people watching, of course, there’s the wine. While there are a few non-Washington wines present this morning, it’s mostly area vintners pouring today, which is a great way to start off, and there have definitely been a couple of highlights so far. First, a 2008 Cuvee Rouge, a red blend by Vin de Lac, a winery in the Columbia Valley area. The winemaker, Dreaux, hit the mark with his blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. J would love this wine, with its savory, bacon-y palate that just screams for some tender BBQ pork. Second, a Merlot from Mercer Estates in the Yakima Valley. Smooth, with just the right amount of smokiness, I wanted some carne aside tacos like no one’s business. And what do you know? They’ve brought in several local taco trucks for lunch! Perfection!


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