Roasted sweet potato with white bean ravioli

After a crazy fall 2011 that kept me away from cooking and playing with ingredients, I found a weekend to check out what was hiding in my fridge and to experiment.

I tried this two ways: the filling and pasta were the same, but first I tried a tomato/basil sauce. The tomato competes with the delicate sweetness of the ravioli stuffing – I don’t recommend going the tomato sauce route.

Second try: I created a cream sauce with a twist beyond the usual. Instead of loading a cream sauce with a heavy base of parmesan and salt, try a teaspoon of white miso paste into a cup of cream. This sauce rocks! and lets the oniony/sweet potato centrepiece do its job.

As for the filling for the ravioli, I peeled three small sweet potatoes, oiled them, and roasted them for 20 minutes. Once cooled, I pureed the potatoes in a processor with half a cup of rinsed, white kidney beans, a quarter cup of cream cheese, and finished with diced green onion (3 or 4 stalks).

Here’s a video link to my raviolis getting stuffed. I used a Jamie Oliver recipe for the pasta (it’s pretty much just flour and four eggs, but I added a dash of black truffle olive oil).

Stuffing the ravioli

…other than a filling for ravioli, the stuffing makes a great hummus-like dip for veggies or crackers!


Aspiring to do more with what we have

Pulling over his vehicle on a Cape Breton roadside to take my phone call, Chef Ardon Mofford is in the homestretch of sourcing the local Nova Scotia products that will be diced, seared, pureed, and certainly transformed by visiting Michelin-star chefs starting in one week (August 25) for the Right Some Good culinary event.

The event has multiple locales throughout Cape Breton Island during the next few weeks. Ingredients going into the menus are just as rooted, coming from farms across the island.

“I’m sourcing all vegetable products from local farmers as well as lamb, duck, foie gras, caviar. I’m still sourcing protein right now,” Ardon says.

Chef Ardon had just recently driven through Iona and popped in to see a couple of farms. Going to farmers’ markets, driving around the island to meet new people, and finding out first-hand what’s in season is what he’s been doing since January 2011 for the Right Some Good menus.

“What stands out is just how many farmers are on the island committed to growing product. I’ve been a chef for so long and we don’t really appreciate what they are doing until you go out and visit the farms and get the farm-to-table feel.”
– Chef Ardon Mofford.

As a chef in the second-generation, family owned Governor’s Pub and Eatery in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Ardon is also drawing on his existing, deep connections, especially to source dockside-fresh fish from Louisbourg Seafoods.  And speaking of family and deep connections, Ardon’s sister, Pearleen Mofford, is the founder of the Right Some Good event on Cape Breton Island.

Pearleen tells me she remembers as a child watching her father, as a chef, fillet and portion halibut the size of a tabletop. “He spent three hours cutting it down to pieces, and he used to share with his line cooks how to do that as well,” she says.

“That’s why we are doing Right Some Good – it is about sharing, and collaborating, and learning from each other.”
– Pearleen Mofford.

In this day and age where fish is often pre-filleted, skills like this still need to be shared today to pass along generations of knowledge and technique, which is part of the behind-the-scenes benefit of Right Some Good. 

Teaming up with the ten visiting Michelin-star chefs  are local Cape Breton chefs and junior chefs (enrolled or recently graduated) from culinary programs across Canada.
“Just to work with every one of those chefs is just going to be amazing for me,” says Chef Ardon. “I’d have to travel to ten different countries to experience this, so as a chef it’s amazing and a wonderful opportunity for all of us.”

And what local menu item, soon to be in the hands of a visiting Michelin-star master and team of inspired Canadians, has piqued particular pondering and culinary curiosity…

Pearleen? — “Nobody locally prepares the sea cucumber. I’m really looking forward to seeing it prepared and tasting it.”

Ardon? —  “The sea cucumber is very unique to me. It’s about the size of a cucumber and the yield is about a tablespoon of meat.  I can’t wait to work with it because it is a product we have in Cape Breton, but I’ve never seen what chefs do with it.”

I completely agree! Check out sea cucumbers, and then the menu of Chef Alvin Leung of Hong Kong who will use them while in Judique, Cape Breton.

Summer sweet peas and umami richness

With our wet early summer 2011, my kitchen garden was off to a stunted start.  But recent weeks have been a perfect incubator for these fat little babies — sweet summer peas, beet greens, and a chard that impersonates spinach!

Borrowing from Tom’s last post’s inspiration — raiding the refrigerator — I wanted to do a raid, too, but of the raised vegetable beds.

The fresh peas are blanched, retaining firmness and sweetness, but popping green from behind a once-downy pale. Beets, too, are sweet. But their greens have more of that umami, earthy flavour.  The chard/spinach greens also add that slightly mineral flavour once cooked.  So… sweet and savoury will be this recipe’s main characters for a basic pasta dish with a pan sauce of juices, pasta water, tomato paste and aged balsamic.

For a base note to run throughout the upfront flavours, I’ve raided my oils cupboard. Weeks ago, I picked up a bottle of black truffle-infused olive oil from Liquid Gold in our fab Halifax Hydrostone Market (insert nod here to the Bostonians for their rebuilding help of this end of town after the WW1-era explosion).

…Completely experimental and made up without measurement, just tasting along the way.

  1. fresh shelled peas, blanched and set aside
  2. beet greens, torn and set aside
  3. spinach, torn and set aside
  4. roasted red pepper (freshly done or use from jar if you want it fast and easy), sliced and set aside.
  5. grated or shaved parmesan cheese, set aside.
  6. keep at the ready a bottle of truffle oil for a last minute splash.
  • cook pasta (choose your favourite shape) in well-salted water.  Time the cooking to about one minute shorter than al dente instructions because you will finish cooking the pasta in the pan sauce.
  • reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy, salty pasta cooking water to use as part of pan sauce.
  • meantime, using regular olive oil, pan fry one minced clove of garlic, adding beet and spinach greens, and peas.
  • add red peppers.
  • add a splash or two of old, sweet balsamic vinegar, and let evaporate for a few seconds in the hot pan.
  • add 1/2 cut of reserved pasta cooking water.
  • dissolve tomato paste into liquid.
  • add pasta to the wet pan and allow to cook and absorb liquid for a couple of minutes.
  • add your parmesan to the pan.
  • finally, splash with truffle oil (approximately a tablespoon. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want to overpower the finished dish).
  • mix and plate it up.

P.S. Aside from wine, an ideal pairing is music from The National’s High Violet: ‘Wake Up Your Saints’