“Food is good.” The answer to what FIG Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina stands for.
Four million people flock to Charleston every year for its beautiful weather, scenery and history – but most visitors come to this picture-perfect city with one thing on their mind – food. Now burgeoning with world-class cuisine and award-winning restaurants, it’s hard to conceive that Charleston wasn’t always a foodie Mecca. Dining out in restaurants is actually a fairly new trend in the Holy City because the greatest Southern cooking, revered with an almost mythical reputation, was always in private kitchens in homes of the wealthy. (Cue visions of ladies clad in velvet evening gowns and gentlemen languidly sipping bourbon in their proper tweed jackets on their piazzas before their supper was served.)
In the 1920’s, the city enjoyed a remarkable cultural revival, called the Charleston Renaissance, which embraced artists and writers and even managed to invent a funny little dance craze that swept the nation. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the city underwent another revolution of sorts – a food revolution that had critics and savvy foodies running to sample the coastal city’s newest offerings that can be described as Old World ambiance meets New World cuisine. After being declared a gastronomic destination, Charleston was officially on its way to being a serious food capital. I suppose you could say that Charleston, this gorgeous, living museum, tastes as good as it looks.
Many restaurants have yielded to the new era of re-imagined Southern fare while still embracing the roots of its regional cuisine. However, with this dynamic and promising epicurean scene, and, despite the ambitious and modern approach to the Lowcountry’s rising stars, Charleston will always be full of reverence for its rich culinary heritage.
After falling in love with the Sweet Potato Mezzaluna at FIG Restaurant on our last night in this magnificent city, I had to rush home and make my own version.
This recipe is based on my original one made with fresh pasta with a roasted sweet potato filling. I decided to revisit it and make it much easier with wonton wrappers. Although I loved the sweet potato filling, I switched it out for pumpkin instead. Both Adam and I agree that the pumpkin filling is superior. I did, however, keep the brown butter sauce. One would be hard-pressed to improve on that.
The folks at FIG are spot on. Food IS good! Until next time, Charleston!
Easy Pumpkin Ravioli with Walnuts and Sage
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for the table
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- 2 (12-ounce) packages wonton skins
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
- Chopped, fresh sage, for garnish
- Place the pumpkin in a large bowl. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat, add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and pour into the pumpkin. Combine the maple syrup, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and cheeses. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Dust a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with cornstarch. Brush the perimeter of the wonton skin with the beaten egg. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Top with another wonton skin. Press firmly to seal. Place the ravioli on the prepared sheet. Repeat with all the wonton wrappers and filling. Separate layers of ravioli with parchment paper.
- Bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add half the ravioli; cook until ravioli float and are al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally so the ravioli don’t stick together. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer the ravioli to a bowl. Cook remaining ravioli.
- In a large sauté pan over medium, heat the remaining butter until frothy and it begins to turn light brown, about a minute (watching carefully so as to not let it burn). Immediately remove the pan from the heat, add the ravioli and toss to coat. Using a large spoon, evenly divide the ravioli among the plates and garnish each with some Parmesan, walnuts and sage.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: The easiest and quickest way to make the raviolis is to set up an assembly line. I work with 6 wonton wrappers at a time on my board. You can make the ravioli 8 hours in advance. Wrap the pan well with plastic and refrigerate.
Product Purity: Use pure maple syrup – I love the superior flavor of Grade B. Pecorino is an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is similar to Parmesan, but has a sharper taste. These two cheeses together in this pasta are a dynamite combination.
Presentation: I use a fluted pastry cutter to give the edges of the “pillows” a nice design.