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November, 2009

Squash Ravioli: An Appetizer from the Kids' Table

By Dennis Linden

The Thanksgiving meal provides both an opportunity and a dilemma when trying to include your children in the holiday food preparations.

Cookin with the Kids Image
Your dual roles of hosting a houseful of relatives as well as being the executive chef trying to bring together several dishes at the same time for the family feast, leaves no time for a one-on-one cooking lesson. Not to mention that a kitchen full of “how can I help” relatives, all expecting to be your sous chefs, leaves no room in the kitchen for the kids. However, since this kitchen crew lives on the premises, how about gathering them together a few days beforehand to prepare a dish that they can take credit for during the festivities?

This ravioli won ton recipe has two definite stages that you can take advantage of so that your children can contribute to the menu. The kids can mix up the simple stuffing ingredients and then do the fun part of making the raviolis. You finish off that day’s preparation by sautéing all the raviolis in the butter and oil mixture per the recipe and freezing them. Lay them out individually on a wax paper covered cookie sheet until frozen, and then transfer them to a freezer bag until ready to use. To make the raviolis, you can set up an assembly line operation, or each child can make his or her own raviolis, depending upon their age and capabilities. Get them started by demonstrating how a square won ton wrapper can be folded several ways (two ways are shown in the dish picture). Encourage each child to make differently shaped raviolis so that they can tell them apart when serving, just to add a little more fun and pride of ownership to the process.

While your children may have to be exiled to the traditional “kids’ table” on this day, at least including them in the menu credits will offset their segregation by giving them the bragging rights for being responsible for one of the dishes. Plus, discovering that cooking for a group can garner accolades of appreciation and a few minutes in the culinary limelight definitely builds self esteem; it might even provide a ready-made social tool for a shy child. On Thanksgiving Day, just pop the frozen raviolis in the oven for a quick reheat. There was plenty of oil absorbed during the sautéing process, so just lay them out on a cookie sheet. There are two options for this reheat, considering that there is probably a turkey occupying the oven at 325°F. If you put the tray(s) of raviolis in the oven with the turkey at that temperature, they will be sizzling hot to serve in about fifteen minutes; if you take the bird out, turn the oven up to 400°F and bake them by themselves, the cooking time is five minutes faster but you’ve saved no time at all with the hassle.

Once heated up, let your ravioli makers now turned waiters, take over again in plating these tasty finger food appetizers as they put a few on each plate, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve to each guest. And, of course, make a big announcement as to just who prepared this treat to everyone in the room!

Won Ton Squash Ravioli
Won Ton Squash Ravioli (Makes approximately 50 Ravioli)

Ingredients

2 cups Melissa’s Butternut or Acorn squash, 1 squash baked
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
¼ cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced very fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
50 Melissa’s Won Ton Wrappers
¾ cup vegetable oil
5 oz. butter
8 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation:

What adults should do
:
Bake and cool squash. Supervise kids with the making of the raviolis. Sauté and freeze raviolis until serving day. Reheat in oven and supervise kids in plating and serving.

What children can do:
Scoop out and measure squash into a bowl. Add cheese, egg, sage and garlic. Mash stuffing into a smooth mixture similar to mashed potatoes. Make the raviolis using a teaspoon of stuffing for each.

Prep Notes:
Place a quartered squash in a baking pan, skin side down. Put about 1 Tbsp. of butter in the hollow of each quarter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the squash with a sheet of aluminum foil to seal in the steam. Bake in preheated 375°F oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 45 to 65 minutes. Let the kids scoop from the shell and measure the cooked squash into a bowl and mash with other ingredients until smooth.

Demonstrate to your kitchen crew how to make ravioli:
Using a clean, dry, flat surface, lay won ton wrapper out flat, dip finger in small bowl of water, wet all four edges of each wrapper. Place one teaspoon of stuffing slightly off center on one half of each wrapper. Fold other half of wrapper over filling and seal edges with finger pressure and a little more water on all the edges. Raviolis should be plump with no air pockets sealed within the filling. Depending on which corners are folded together, the won ton wrapper will form a triangle or rectangle. Repeat with the remaining won ton wrappers and squash mixture until all have been used. In a large pan, sauté raviolis in about ¼ inch of oil and the remaining butter until browned. Drain on paper towels and then lay out raviolis on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper; freeze on this sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag for more convenient storage until ready to use. Reheat in oven at 325°F for 15 minutes or at 400°F for 10 minutes. Serve 3-4 on a small plate sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.