I came at this food challenge thinking about similar types of foods to those ingredients given to me. For example, I thought about other recipes I've made with squash - butternut squash soup, roasted squash; or with citrus, because kumquats are in the citrus family. This helped me to come up with the dishes I made on Friday night!
Friday Night "Chopped" Challenge: Roasted Squash and Citrus Spinach Salad; Kubota Squash Ravioli with a Citrus Butter Sauce, Seared Shrimp and Asparagus; Citrus Shortbread Cookies with Candied Kumquat!
I will admit that this meal was a lot of work. It definitely wouldn't be a good meal for a simple weeknight dinner, but it would be great if you're looking for a special occasion or entertaining menu. I started cooking around 3pm and we were eating by about 7pm, though I had made the cookie batter earlier in the day and didn't get to baking the cookies until after dinner.
Roasted Kubota Squash
The first step in this meal is to roast your squash. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Rinse off the squash and cut in half, along the stem line. Spoon out the seedy flesh on the inside. Place the 2 halves in a glass baking dish. In each of the squash halves, place a TB of butter and a couple zests each, of both lemon and orange. Place squash in the preheated oven and bake for 55 minutes! After taking the squash out of the oven, let the halves cool.
Another step that can be done ahead of time is the candied kumquats. I garnished the ravioli dish with a spoonful of these candied kumquats, which added a nice sweetness to the dish and I also topped the shortbread cookies with them as well.
You'll need: 1 cup chopped kumquats, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, dash of salt.
The first thing to do is get the kumquats ready. This is the first time I've used them in my cooking - they were a little difficult to get the seeds out, but I cut them in half lengthwise and used a knife to pick the seeds out, then chopped them into smaller pieces.
Heat water and sugar to a boil over med-high heat. During this step you can add the piece of fresh ginger to the pan, which will infuse that fresh ginger flavor into the syrup. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove the ginger and add the chopped kumquats. Simmer for another 10 minutes and drain over a bowl. Return the drained syrup back into the pan and simmer to reduce and thicken. Then you can combine the kumquats with a TB or 2 of the thickened syrup.
Roasted Squash and Citrus Spinach Salad
1/2 of the Roasted Kubota Squash
Bag of baby spinach
Bag of frozen, cooked extra-jumbo shrimp (which you'll also use for the ravioli dish)
2 kumquats, seeded and chopped
Fresh Lemon Juice (squeezed from 1 large lemon half)
2 TB White Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Dash of Salt and Pepper to taste
3-4 tsp. Honey
1. Take one of the roasted squash halves and peel off the skin (you should be able to do this with your hands if the squash is cooked enough). Simply cut the squash into 1-inch bite-size pieces and you can put it aside for now.
2. For the dressing, put the chopped kumquats, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and honey in a food processor and blend well. Using the spout/hole on the top of the processor, add the olive oil gradually while the processor is running. Taste the dressing and if it is too sweet or salty for your taste, feel free to adjust with extra salt or extra honey! (Put aside 3 TB for main course)
3. In a large non-stick pan, turn heat to med-high. Add the shrimp to the pan with couple teaspoons of olive oil - you won't have to heat them for very long because they are already cooked. After a couple minutes, turn the shrimp over, add the cut up squash to the pan and also add a couple TB of the dressing to add some flavor and moisture to the pan!
4. To plate, simply put some of the baby spinach in the bowl first and top with some of the roasted squash and 2 shrimp per plate. Then drizzle with some of the dressing!
Kubota Squash Ravioli with a Citrus Butter Sauce, Seared Shrimp and Asparagus
1/2 of the Roasted Kubota Squash
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. salt
A couple grinds of pepper
1 minced kumquat (seeded)
Nasoya Wonton Wrappers
1/2 stick of butter (4 TB)
1/4 cup whole milk
5 kumquats, seeded and chopped
1 TB fresh lemon juice
3 TB of the citrus dressing (from above)
Bag of frozen, cooked extra-jumbo shrimp
1. Take the other squash half, peel skin off and empty the squash flesh into a large bowl. Mash this squash with a fork (you should have about a cup and a half of squash puree).
2. Add all of the ravioli filling ingredients to this bowl - sage, ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper and kumquat. Mash together and mix well.
3. Next we'll work on getting the ravioli assembled. I used Nasoya Wonton Wrappers, found in the produce section with the tofu. It definitely has a different taste than pasta, but for this dish it was a light, delicate flavor that didn't overwhelm the squash inside, which was great! The wonton wrappers can dry out fast, so you'll want to do this process all at once. You can even do them ahead of time and then put the ravioli in the fridge. Sometimes this step can actually help dry them out, which will, in turn, keep them firm and together during the cooking process.
4. Sprinkle some flour out so that the wonton wrappers don't stick to the table or plates. Lay out wonton wrappers and put a spoonful of the squash filling in the center of each wrapper. Get the egg wash ready but simply beating the egg and adding a couple TB of water, beating again. Use your finger to put the egg wash along the outer edge of the wonton, top with another wonton wrapper and press the edges together, trying your best to make sure there isn't a big air pocket in the center with the filling.
5. Heat a large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat with a TB of butter and add the rest of the shrimp that was left after using a few of the shrimp for the salad. After a couple minutes, turn the shrimp over, turn down the heat to medium and add the rest of the butter to the pan.
6. While the butter is melting, puree the kumquats with the lemon juice in a food processor to puree. Once this is pureed you can add this mixture to the pan with the shrimp and butter, as well as the citrus dressing. Turn the pan down to low and let this simmer while you are getting the ravioli cooked.
7. In a shallow pan heat about an inch of water and a TB of oil to a boil. Add just 4 ravioli at a time to this pan to steam/boil. The ravioli shouldn't be submerged in water, but rather sitting in the water and steaming. Cover the pan and cook for just a couple minutes until the wonton seems more translucent than when it went in. It will cook very quick and because everything in the filling is already cooked you don't need to worry about anything be uncooked.
8. Just before you are ready to serve, add the milk to the sauce pan with the shrimp and stir to blend. Use a slotted spoon to take the ravioli out of the pan, and to plate, simply serve the ravioli with a few of the shrimp, some sauce spooned over the top, steamed asparagus on the side and with a spoonful of the candied kumquat to add sweetness to the dish!