The “In NYC But Would Rather Be Upstate” Dinner
I just returned to Berlin from a whirlwind ten days in the US, mostly New York. Unfortunately the trip’s purpose was not leaf-peeping. Nor was it shopping, as the officer at the security check leaving Berlin simply assumed of my travel plans! No, I flew back to be with Paul, after he learned the sad news that his father would not make it to 12-12-12, when he would have turned a century old.
It was a quiet week, not at all like my usual trips back to New York, which consist of round-the-clock running, in order to see everyone and eat everything. Even at the time, it seemed to us a shame not to at least drive for a day upstate to see the brilliant red maple trees, pick pumpkins and eat apples. But it just wasn’t on the agenda; there were more pressing things. On my last night in town, though, Paul cooked up one of his signature dishes, inspired by the season and flavored with his very unique touches.
I think if any born and bred Italian would see how Paul prepares his ravioli, they would sneer at the disregard of the purity of ingredients. But it tastes fantastic so, in the end, I simply like it. My best way to describe how he cooks is a fusion of Japanese and Italian, using some elements of the macrobiotic movement. His telling is much more poetic: “Fat is seared. Moisture is driven out. So all is delicious in the end.” Which, let’s be honest, are really tenants of so many wonderful dishes from all kinds of cultures. So, keep an open mind and follow along.
Recipe: Cinnamon-Pumpkin Ravioli with Orange Garlic-glazed Kale
-enough pumpkin ravioli for four (either store-bought fresh ravioli – which we used – or homemade)
-one large bunch of green kale
-½ head garlic (yes, this much!)
-3/4 cup orange juice
-umeboshi plum vinegar
-brown rice vinegar
1. Peel and chop the cloves from ½ head of garlic coarsely. Wash kale and remove leaves from the stems. Chop leaves coarsely.
2. Warm a large pan with high sides and a lid with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and ½ cup of orange juice. Add garlic and simmer for a few minutes until reduced (see photo). Add a small knob of butter and simmer a couple of minutes more on low heat.
3. Add chopped kale, in batches depending on the size of your pan and stir to coat in sauce. Sprinkle in a tiny bit of tamari, umeboshi plum vinegar and brown rice vinegar to taste (these are pretty intense, but go ahead and add a few splashes). Cover and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, checking and stirring every couple of minutes to be sure it doesn’t overcook.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook only a few minutes, just until they float. Drain well and set aside for one minute.
5. Heat a non-stick frying pan with a tablespoon of butter and ¼ cup of orange juice. Add drained pasta and sprinkle with cinnamon. Stir together gently and let fry over medium heat until browned. When you see it beginning to dry out, add a bit more butter, a splash of tamari, a drop of the two vinegars and a pinch of powdered ginger. Continue to cook until seared/well-browned.
6. Serve a few (or in our case, more than a few) ravioli next to a heaping portion of kale.
You really can’t imagine how satisfying, yet surprising this meal is. The browning of the carbohydrates in butter makes it generally savory, but it is prevented from burning through the orange juice, which doubles as a nice sour-sweetener. Despite all the fats and salty vinegars, the meal still doesn’t feel too unhealthy. Kale is a superfood, after all, something to feel good about.
Though we cooked a meal for four, all of our friends in the neighborhood have either babies or stressful jobs or both, and were too tired to join us on short notice. Deciding to turn our attempted dinner party into an early birthday party for each other, Paul and I ate nearly the entire meal for four between us, and even whipped up a couple of mini flourless chocolate cakes for the finale.