Dressing Up The Weeds With Wild Ravioli
Cropping up through the sidewalk cracks, edging out your flower beds, pushing through the hardened sand in your driveway… weeds. Some of the first greenery of early spring are those hearty and determined plants that show up where they aren’t always welcome. These weeds go by many names - dandelion, nettle, purslane, chickweed, lamb’s quarters, plantain, miner’s lettuce, etc. To most people, they’re an annoyance, something to be sprayed or pulled up or chopped down. But to foragers, they are easy nutrition and spring’s first harvests!
Weeds like those listed above have hitch-hiked their way across the continent, sometimes carried purposefully and other times as seeds embedded in animal fur or fabric belongings. They’re tenacious and adaptable, which is why you’ll find them just about everywhere - even in the compacted and polluted soil of a spare lot where nothing else would dare to grow. (Or sometimes deep in the woods far from any human settlements, past or present.)
I think it’s just about time these weeds got a little recognition. They may be an annoyance in your garden, but they can be glorious on your plate! Plus, you can harvest heartily, as you won’t be disrupting native plant populations in doing so. Each of these weeds has a different texture and flavor - the juicy crunch of purslane, the satin powder on lamb’s quarters. They also all have different nutrients but in general, all have plenty of nutrition to share. Besides, if you are what you eat, certainly consuming some of these strong little plants will make you a bit more resilient, right?
It’s time to dress up those weeds into an elegant spring dinner, bursting with newfound flavor. When you gather, make sure to harvest your greens from a clean, un-sprayed environment. As tempting as those spare lot weeds are, you might be better off looking for patches at the side of your favorite hiking trail instead. But I’d bet most people wouldn’t have to go so far. Start in your own backyard and you might be surprised at what’s been hiding in plain sight all along. (Also note that not *all* weeds are edible; being 100% sure of your identification of any plant is one of the most important cornerstones to foraging. Pick up a plant ID guide or search the web for more resources.)
And as you harvest, think of what it means to be a weed - to be underappreciated, hard working, flexible, tenacious, world traveled. To be both eyesore and invisible in plain sight. To be misunderstood. To be strong. Perhaps you can relate to some of those qualities yourself, or you can think of someone you know who might fit part of that description. Maybe it’s someone who would appreciate a home-cooked dinner of elegant ravioli.
Finally, one last thought: I have a foolproof way of telling hikers and foragers apart. The hikers will notice the nettles and do whatever they can to give them a wide berth, and the foragers will pull out gloves and clippers and eagerly begin to harvest.
Loving the Weeds Ravioli:
This stunning pasta dish is both beautiful and delicious. It gets a strong umami boost from aged cheese in the filling and miso in the sauce, which is balanced out perfectly by the sweetness of raw edamame and spring greens. This recipe makes 4 hearty servings, or could be the pasta course for a dinner party for 8 or so easily.
Green Pasta Dough:
Based on a recipe in Pasta, Pretty Please by Linda Miller Nicholson
4 c. chopped weeds (or kale or spinach)
1 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups pasta flour
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
Bring a large saucepan full of water to a boil, then add in the salt and baking soda. Once it’s boiling, add the greens and blanch for 15 seconds. Immediately strain and press out the water.
Let the greens cool, then add them to a blender along with the eggs. Blend on low to combine, then increase the speed until the mixture is a smooth puree
Strain the puree with a fine mesh sieve to remove any threads that may not have broken down completely. Measure out 1 c. puree for the pasta dough.
Whisk together the flour and turmeric. Make a well and add the puree. Mix with a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on low until a ball of dough forms. Knead by 3 more minutes (either by hand or with a mixer). Dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
Cover the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling:
1 c. pine nuts
2 Tbs. cooking oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
7 oz. soft chevre goat cheese
1 c. grated pecorino romano
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then add the pine nuts. Stir often until the pine nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, then pour them into a small mixing bowl.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the oil and the chopped shallots. Stir often until the shallots have softened and become slightly transluscent. Pour them into the same bowl. Add the chevre and pecorino romano and mix well.
To Make The Ravioli:
Dust your pasta dough with a little flour and press it out to be slightly flat using your hands.
Set a pasta roller on its largest setting and run the dough through. Fold it in half, dust with a bit more flour, and repeat. Repeat this step a couple of times until the dough is smooth and soft.
Turn the pasta roller to the next small setting and run the dough through once. Then, do the same with smaller settings until you reach the second thickness from the bottom.
If you have a ravioli press, dust your sheet of pasta dough with more flour and place it over the metal bottom. Gently press the hole press into the mold to form indentations in the dough. Sprinkle a little flour into each indentation. Fill to the top with filling - about 1 tsp. Per ravioli. Use a clean paintbrush to brush the areas around the filling with water, then fold another piece of sheeted dough over top. Roll over the top of the mold to cut the raviolis into individual pieces. Lay them out on waxed paper while you repeat the process once or twice more (depending on the size of the mold, how thin your dough is, etc.)
If you don’t have a ravioli press, gently cut your sheeted dough in half to make 2 equal lengths of wide sheeted pasta. Set one half aside. Dust the other with flour and lay it out flat. Mark where you’ll be placing your filling with a pinch of flour - spaced out enough to comfortably be able to cut raviolis with a round cutter of choice. (My pasta machine makes sheets about 5” wide; I’ve found that to be perfect for 2 rows of ravioli, spaced evenly.) Scoop 1 ½ tsp. Of filling onto each pinch of flour, then use a clean paintbrush to gently moisten the dough around the filling so the top layer will stick. Lay the other half of dough on top of the piles of filling and gently press around them so the two doughs stick together. Cut out your ravioli shapes using a round pastry cutter or sharp knife.
Let rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and salt it enough to taste like sea water. Then start on the Miso Butter sauce and topping prep.
Miso Butter Sauce And Toppings To Finish:
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/3 c. miso
½ c.pasta water
5 tsp.lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1 ⅓ c. unshelled edamame beans
Clean greens to top (like mallow or miner’s lettuce)
Melt the butter and miso in a small saucepan and whisk to break up the miso.
Place the lemon juice and lemon zest in a high-speed blender. Set out the edamame and greens.
Once the pasta water is boiling, add half of the raviolis. They should only take minutes to cook - my preferred level is around 2 minutes, which keeps them al-dente while still melting the cheesy filling. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl. Repeat with the second batch.
Take ½ c. of the now-starchy pasta water and add it and the butter/miso mixture to the blender. Blend on high speed until the sauce has emulsified; it should be slightly thick, creamy, silky.
Dress the fresh pasta with a little bit of the butter sauce, then top with ⅓ c. edamame beans for each bowl. Add a few cleaned greens leaves and serve immediately.
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